Easy Chicken Mac and Cheese

Kid-friendlyChickenMac CheesePasta

Chicken and cheese are made for each other in the ultimate comfort food — easy chicken mac and cheese. Top with crispy breadcrumbs for the perfect finish!

Photography Credit: Nick Evans

As I’ve grown as a home cook, prioritizing flexibility in recipes is something I’ve learned to truly cherish. Especially now that I’m a busy parent, I find myself asking a series of questions any time I approach a recipe:

Can I substitute leftovers for an ingredient in a recipe I want to make? Can I serve this meal in a variety of ways? Is it doable to make this on a weeknight, or can I change it a bit to make it special for a weekend dinner party?

When it comes to this Easy Chicken Mac and Cheese, the answer to all of those questions is “yes!”

We make this recipe frequently at my house because it’s so flexible and delicious. My kiddos like it right out of the pot—it’s so creamy and cheesy!

Meanwhile, my wife and I usually like it dressed up a bit, either by adding a handful of crispy breadcrumbs as a topper over each bowl for a little texture, or by mixing in some roasted veggies.

The leftovers also reheat well. Add a splash of milk and heat it in a pan over low heat until it’s melted and creamy again, or microwave to reheat.

What to Serve on the Side!

Easy Chicken Mac and Cheese Recipe

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  • Prep time: 20 minutes
  • Cook time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: 4 to 6 servings

For the chicken, you can use leftover chicken, a rotisserie chicken from the deli, or quickly poach a few chicken breasts.

Oven-baking instructions: If you’d prefer a casserole-style mac and cheese, you can transfer the contents to an 8x8 baking dish, top it with breadcrumbs, and bake it at 350°F for 20 minutes. This is a great option if you want to make the dish in advance.

 

Ingredients

For the Chicken Mac and Cheese

  • 8 ounces dry macaroni
  • 1/2 sweet onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole or 2% milk
  • 2 cups grated cheddar cheese
  • 1 teaspoon dried mustard (optional)
  • 2 cups shredded cooked chicken (See Recipe Note)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

For the Crispy Breadcrumbs:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup breadcrumbs, such as panko

Method

1 Cook the pasta: Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta until al dente, or according to package instructions. Drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking and keep the pasta from sticking together. Set aside.

Stove Top Mac and Cheese with Chicken cook the pasta

 

 2 Cook the onions and garlic: In a large pot over medium heat, add butter. Once the butter is melted, add chopped onions and cook for a few minutes until they turn translucent. Then add garlic and cook for another 30 seconds. Stir the flour into the onion and garlic mixture and cook for a minute.

Mac and Cheese with Chicken cook the onions

3 Stir in the milk, mustard and cheese: Slowly add the milk while stirring. The flour and onion mixture will thicken as you add the milk.

Once all the milk is added, stir in the grated cheese and mustard. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the cheese has melted.

Stove Top Mac and Cheese with Chicken Make the Sauce

4 Stir the chicken and pasta into the sauce: Once the cheese is melted, stir in the chicken and cooked pasta. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.

Mac and Cheese with Chicken add the chicken to the sauce

5 Cook the breadcrumbs: Whenever you have a few spare moments while assembling this pasta (like, while cooking the onions or while waiting for the cheese to melt), cook the breadcrumbs.

Melt the butter in a small skillet over low heat. Stir in the breadcrumbs until well combined. Continue to stir over low heat until the breadcrumbs are browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool. Breadcrumbs can also be toasted ahead of time and stored in an airtight container.

Macaroni and Cheese with Chicken cook the breadcrumbs

6 Serve: Ladle the cheesy chicken macaroni right out of the pot when it’s super creamy, and top it with crispy breadcrumbs.

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Nick Evans

Nick has been writing delicious recipes for the home cook for almost a decade. He lives in Denver, CO and embraces a delicate balance of diaper changing, trail running and beer drinking. His website is Macheesmo and his first book is Love Your Leftovers.

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9 Comments / Reviews

No ImageEasy Chicken Mac and Cheese

Did you make it? Rate it!

  • Christine

    8 ounces of dry macaroni by weight or is that a one cup measure?

  • Karen

    Followed recipe exactly using oven method… everybody loved it! Served with a salad.

    xxxxxyyyyy

  • tumble

    I add broccoli to my Chicken Mac and Cheese. Mac and Cheese is a base for any addition to dress it up, like ham bits, pimiento, green onion, beans, chili to name a few. Love it.

  • ronedee

    Also great with Tuna subbing for the Chicken.

  • Dr Martin Huang

    Nice! For me, I would just replace the chicken with Honey Baked Ham in cube size. So that when it’s eaten, there will be a chewy yet succulent texture.

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