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Chicken Mac and Cheese

Ramp up macaroni and cheese and make Chicken Mac and Cheese! All the beloved flavors of the classic dish are here, featuring three kinds of cheese, macaroni pasta, plus tender bites of chicken.

And while you’re at it, don’t pass up on making my Cheeseburger Casserole, Mexican Chicken Casserole, and Boursin Pasta for even more delicious and comforting meals!

Stirring through macaroni and cheese in a skillet.

Dipping a spoon into a creamy, cheesy casserole dish full of chicken macaroni and cheese always fills me with contentment. This chicken macaroni and cheese is such a flavorful and satisfying dish, with mozzarella, cheddar, and Parmesan cheeses turning into gooey, melty perfection in the oven. Then there’s the chicken, which adds heartiness. I know you’ll love this recipe as much as we do!

Why You’ll Love This Chicken Mac and Cheese Recipe

  • Filling comfort food. Mac and cheese is the ultimate comfort food! I love tucking in tender bites of chicken breast for extra protein. You can add more texture with the optional crunchy breadcrumb topping – it’s up to you!
  • Homemade is best! Skip the frozen or boxed mac and cheese; this recipe is worlds better than anything you can buy at the store. The sauce is fork-licking good, and you can make it as simple or varied as you wish.
  • Make it ahead. This is a great casserole to make in advance! Mac and cheese with chicken can be assembled up to 24 hours before you plan to serve it. It also makes amazing leftovers.
The ingredients for chicken mac and cheese are shown portioned out and labelled: macaroni, chicken, onion, garlic, olive oil, flour, salt and pepper, spices, cheddar cheese, mozzarella cheese, parmesan cheese, milk.

What You’ll Need

Here’s a look at the basic ingredients in this mac and cheese with chicken. The full ingredient amounts are always included in the recipe card at the end of this post.

  • Elbow Macaroni: This pasta shape is the classic type of pasta used in mac and cheese recipes!
  • Olive Oil: I prefer to use extra virgin olive oil.
  • Chicken: I use skinless and boneless chicken breasts to make this recipe.
  • Salt and Pepper: Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper season the casserole.
  • Butter: You can use salted or unsalted butter.
  • Aromatic Vegetables: Onion and garlic add a savory undertone to the sauce.
  • All-Purpose Flour: Flour helps to thicken the cheese sauce.
  • Milk: You can use either whole milk or 2% milk (I don’t recommend non-fat milk as it is not rich enough).
  • Nutmeg: Most mac and cheese recipes include a pinch of nutmeg for a bit of warmth.
  • Mozzarella Cheese: Grab a package of shredded mozzarella cheese.
  • Cheddar Cheese: I recommend using your favorite type of cheddar – mild, medium, or sharp all work well – and using a grater to shred it fresh for this recipe.
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • Fresh Herbs: As a garnish.
  • Optional topping: Butter and panko breadcrumbs.

How To Make Chicken Macaroni and Cheese

Get ready to enjoy all the classic flavors with a cheesy homemade touch!

  1. Cook the pasta. Cook the elbow macaroni to al dente and drain.
  2. Make chicken. Season the chicken with salt and pepper then cook it in olive oil over medium heat for about 5-7 minutes.
  3. Sauté the onion. Remove the chicken, melt the butter, and sauté the onion until softened.
  4. Cook garlic. Now add the garlic and cook for a few minutes.
  5. Make roux. Add the remaining butter to the skillet, let it melt, then sprinkle in the flour, stirring constantly to create a golden brown roux.
  6. Add milk. Slowly whisk in the milk and cook until the sauce thickens.
  7. Add the cheese. Reduce the heat to low and stir in the cheese until melted and the sauce is smooth.
  8. Combine. Stir in the cooked macaroni and baked chicken.
  9. Make topping. If you want to make the topping, melt butter in a skillet and add the breadcrumbs. over medium heat.
  10. Add breadcrumbs. Stir in the Panko breadcrumbs and cook them until they’re golden brown and toasted.
  11. Serve! Sprinkle the topping over the mac and cheese and serve it hot!
Close-up image of macaroni and cheese in a bowl, with a spoon stirring through it.

Tips & Variations

This is salty, hearty baked pasta goodness in every bite! If you’ve made homemade macaroni and cheese, you’ll have a good idea of what this casserole is all about. Add a few veggies like baby spinach or peas, or make the recipe as written using my tips below:

  • Don’t overcook the pasta: Cook the pasta until it’s al dente, meaning that it will still be slightly firm after being boiled. This will ensure that the pasta doesn’t turn mushy when it’s combined with the cheese sauce and baked.
  • Add a little more flavor: You can add a little more flavor to the casserole with about half a teaspoon of your favorite yellow mustard, spicy mustard, or Dijon mustard stirred into the sauce. Or if you like heat, add some chili powder or hot sauce.
  • Stir in the cheese in batches: For the creamiest sauce, stir in the cheese in batches. It will melt more evenly and create a much smoother sauce.
  • A different pasta shape: Elbow macaroni is the traditional pasta in macaroni and cheese, but you can use another pasta shape such as ziti, penne, or shells. Just make sure to use a pasta shape with “nooks and crannies” (not spaghetti!) so that it holds all of that creamy sauce.

Serving Suggestions

This chicken mac and cheese can almost be called a one-dish meal – you just need to add a few vegetables on the side to make it a complete dinner! Try a loaf of No Knead Bread, and add a side of green vegetables like Romano Beans in Garlic Butter, Sautéed Green Beans, or Roasted Brussels Sprouts to portions of mac and cheese with chicken.

A fresh salad with a rich main dish is a must. My Avocado Tomato Salad is packed with juicy flavors, or make a creamy Cucumber Salad for crunch.

    A spoon lifting up Chicken Mac and Cheese.

    Proper Storage

    Place cooled leftovers in an airtight container and store it in the fridge for up to 3 days. You can also store it in the freezer for up to 3 months, but thaw it in the fridge before reheating. You can also place individual potions in smaller containers for easier reheating.

    To reheat, place a portion of chicken mac and cheese on a microwave-safe plate and heat it in the microwave at 30-second intervals until hot. Or, place the pan of mac and cheese in the oven at 325°F and heat it until it’s heated through.

    More Easy Chicken Dinners

    Chicken Mac and Cheese

    Give your macaroni and cheese a delicious twist with Chicken Mac and Cheese! This dish combines all the beloved flavors of the classic with tender bites of chicken and a cheesy homemade touch.
    Prep Time15 minutes
    Cook Time20 minutes
    Total Time35 minutes
    Course: Dinner
    Cuisine: American
    Keyword: chicken mac and cheese, chicken macaroni and cheese, mac and cheese with chicken
    Servings: 8
    Calories: 440kcal

    Ingredients

    • 8 ounces dry elbow macaroni
    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size cubes
    • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
    • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
    • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
    • 3 cloves garlic, minced
    • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
    • cups whole or 2% milk, warm
    • pinch of nutmeg
    • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
    • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
    • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
    • fresh herbs, for garnish, optional

    For the Breadcrumbs Topping (optional):

    • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
    • ½ cup Panko breadcrumbs

    Instructions

    • Cook the elbow macaroni according to the package instructions until al dente. Drain and set aside.
    • In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the chicken cubes, season with salt and pepper, and cook until golden brown and cooked through about 5-7 minutes. Remove the chicken from the skillet and set aside.
    • In the same skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of butter over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and sauté until softened, about 3-4 minutes. Add the minced garlic and cook for another minute, or until fragrant.
    • Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter to the skillet. Once melted, sprinkle the flour over the onions and garlic, stirring constantly to create a roux. Cook for 1-2 minutes until golden brown.
    • Gradually pour in the warm milk, whisking constantly to prevent lumps from forming. Cook until the sauce thickens, about 4-5 minutes.
    • Reduce the heat to low. Add the shredded mozzarella, cheddar, and Parmesan cheese to the sauce, stirring until melted and smooth.
    • Add the cooked macaroni and chicken to the cheese sauce, stirring until well combined. Set aside.
    • In a small saucepan, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Add the Panko breadcrumbs and cook them, stirring constantly, until golden brown and toasted, about 2-3 minutes.
    • Sprinkle the toasted breadcrumbs over the top of the mac and cheese mixture. Garnish with fresh herbs and serve.

    Nutrition

    Serving: 1cup | Calories: 440kcal | Carbohydrates: 33g | Protein: 28g | Fat: 22g | Saturated Fat: 11g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 6g | Trans Fat: 0.2g | Cholesterol: 91mg | Sodium: 560mg | Potassium: 458mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 606IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 343mg | Iron: 1mg

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