Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese Recipe

5 from 1 vote
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This creamy, cheesy buffalo chicken mac and cheese is made with sharp cheddar cheeses, buffalo sauce, shredded chicken, and buttered panko crumbs for a crunchy finish! It’s rich, delicious, and the ultimate comfort food.

Golden baked buffalo chicken mac and cheese in a cast iron skillet.

Why I Love This Recipe

This recipe was born from simple homemade skillet mac and cheese. The mildly spicy buffalo sauce infuses the dish with buffalo flavor that compliments the blend of sharp and mild cheddar cheese.

The chicken is finely shredded for an ultra-tender and nearly undetectable texture that nicely incorporates throughout the dish. But the best part is the crispy, buttery panko crust that adds a crispy crunch to every bite.

If you enjoyed this recipe, try my other unique buffalo chicken recipes such as my skillet buffalo chicken dip, buffalo chicken rangoons, buffalo chicken calzone, or buffalo chicken pizza. For a sweet and spicy kick, try my honey buffalo chicken wings!

Ingredients

Raw/uncooked buffalo chicken mac and cheese ingredients laid out on a cutting board.
  • Elbow macaroni: elbow macaroni is best for classic macaroni but you can also substitute for mini shells.
  • Shredded chicken: a standard chicken breast yields roughly two cups of shredded chicken. If you’re in a pinch, rotisserie chicken works well too.
  • Buffalo sauce: look for Frank’s RedHot Buffalo Wing Sauce. If you can only find their regular hot sauce, you can make your own buffalo sauce by adding melted butter. Leftover hot sauce? Try my spicy chicken sandwich recipe.
  • All-purpose flour: flour is critical to making the roux for the cheese sauce in this recipe.
  • Milk: look for 2% or whole milk for best results. Warm milk works the best because it will more easily blend with the roux.
  • Extra sharp white cheddar cheese: I like to use a blend of mild and sharp cheddar cheeses. Look for Cabot Seriously Sharp or Extra Sharp.
  • ‘Yellow’ cheddar cheese: a mild or medium yellow cheddar adds color, but it’s not necessary. If you can’t find a block of yellow cheddar, look for pre-shredded cheese.
  • Fontina cheese: fontina is the base cheese for this recipe. It has a similar texture to mozzarella but melts more evenly. It’s creamy, slightly nutty, and mild.
  • Japanese-style panko crumbs: the perfect topping for added crunch. I like to mix it with melted butter so it gets crispy and golden in the oven. Look for unseasoned panko crumbs for best results. You can also use crushed croutons.

See the recipe card for full information on ingredients and quantities below.

How To Make a Roux

A roux is a very important thickening agent consisting of melted butter and flour. It helps the cheese sauce yield a creamier texture. Start by melting butter on low heat and slowly whisking in flour, one tablespoon at a time, until a thick paste forms. The key is low heat and constant whisking. You don’t want to burn the flour.

Add warm milk, one cup at a time, whisking out lumps until smooth. The sauce will resemble a golden light gravy-like consistency. This sauce becomes the perfect homogenous mix of cheese, butter, flour, and milk, forming a very smooth and creamy sauce. Shredded cheese melts quickly and evenly.

How to Make Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese

Step 1.

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Step 2.

Add chicken breast to a small lidded saucepan. Fill with cool water to cover and add a generous pinch of salt. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a low boil. Cover with a lid and cook for 12-15 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 165°F.

A saucepan filled with water and an uncooked chicken breast for boiling.

Step 3.

Shred the chicken on a cutting board with two forks. Be sure to finely shred for best results.

Two forks shredding boiled chicken on a wooden cutting board.
Finely shredded chicken laid out on a cutting board.

Step 4.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook elbows until al dente. Strain and set aside.

Overhead view of elbow macaroni noodles boiling in a large pot of water.

Step 5.

With chicken and macaroni boiling, melt butter over medium-low heat. Add the flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, whisking constantly until incorporated and roux has formed, about 1-2 minutes.

Butter slowly melting in a cast iron skillet.
Whisking flour into melted butter in a cast iron skillet.
Stirring a golden roux with a whisk in a cast iron skillet.

Step 6.

Slowly whisk in warm milk, one cup at a time, whisking out any lumps if they form. Heat until the sauce just starts to bubble in the center. The sauce should be smooth and creamy and will have a similar consistency to thickened gravy. Whisk constantly to prevent burning.

A lumpy roux forming with milk in a cast iron skillet.
A creamy roux in a cast iron skillet.

Step 7.

Add half of the cheese to the skillet and whisk until nearly all is melted and smooth. Add the remaining cheese and whisk until smooth. Add the buffalo sauce and mix until fully incorporated.

Adding shredded cheddar cheeses to a roux in a cast iron skillet.
A creamy cheese sauce in a cast iron skillet.
Whisking buffalo sauce into a creamy cheese sauce in a cast iron skillet.
A creamy orange buffalo and cheese sauce cooking in a cast iron skillet.

Step 8.

Stir in cooked elbows and shredded chicken until evenly distributed. This may be easiest in batches so the pan isn’t overcrowded.

Adding cooked macaroni elbows and shredded chicken to the creamy buffalo cheese sauce in a cast iron skillet.
Buffalo chicken mac and cheese in a cast iron skillet before baking with breadcrumbs.

Step 9.

Melt 1-2 tablespoons of butter in a small bowl. Stir in panko crumbs until thoroughly mixed. Top mac and cheese with buttered panko crumbs. Bake for 10 minutes or until the panko crumbs are golden. Serve immediately.

Melted butter and golden panko crumbs in a small white bowl.
Panko crumbs topped over unbaked macaroni and cheese in a cast iron skillet.

Expert Tips

  • If you’re a big buffalo sauce lover and want a pronounced buffalo taste, I would add 3/4-1 cup of buffalo sauce.
  • You can leave the chicken out with no further adjustments if you prefer to make the dish meatless.
  • Precooked rotisserie chicken works as a quick shortcut for tender flavorful chicken.
  • This recipe calls for roughly 16 ounces of cheese. Your typical block of cheese is 8 ounces. You want roughly 3 1/2-4 cups of shredded cheese, lightly packed (a little extra is always OK).
  • You can also add crumbled blue cheese on top for added flavor.
  • Crushed croutons make a great alternative to the crispy panko crumb topping.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many cups in 4 or 8 ounces of cheese?

4 ounces of shredded cheese renders roughly 1 1/3 cups of cheese. 8 ounces is 2 2/3 cups of cheese. The full recipe calls for roughly 3 1/2-4 cups of cheese.

Can I leave out the chicken?

Yes, keep the recipe the same and simply omit the shredded chicken.

Is buffalo mac and cheese spicy?

Buffalo sauce is pretty mild in terms of heat. The cheese will balance the dish, rendering a very mild buffalo flavor. I recommend Frank’s RedHot Buffalo Wing Sauce.

Close up golden baked buffalo chicken mac and cheese in a cast iron skillet with a large spoonful lifting away.

More Buffalo Chicken Recipes

Enjoy this recipe? If you made this recipe, please leave a ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ star rating in the recipe card below & a review in the comments!
5 from 1 vote

Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese Recipe

Servings: 6
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 25 minutes
Total: 45 minutes
Creamy, cheesy buffalo chicken mac and cheese made with sharp cheddar cheeses, shredded chicken, buffalo sauce, and buttered panko crumbs.

Ingredients 

  • 3 cups elbow macaroni
  • 2 cups shredded chicken
  • 1/2-1 cup buffalo sauce
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups warm milk
  • 4 ounces, extra sharp white cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 4 ounces, ‘yellow’ sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 8 ounces, fontina cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 cup Japanese-style panko crumbs, +2 tablespoons optional butter or olive oil

Instructions 

  • Preheat oven to 375°F.
  • Add chicken breast to a small lidded saucepan. Fill with cool water to cover and add a generous pinch of salt. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a low boil. Cover with a lid and cook for 12-15 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 165°F.
  • Shred the chicken on a cutting board with two forks. Be sure to finely shred for best results.
  • Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook elbows until al dente. Strain and set aside.
  • With chicken and macaroni boiling, melt butter over medium-low heat. Add the flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, whisking constantly until incorporated and roux has formed, about 1-2 minutes.
  • Slowly whisk in warm milk, one cup at a time, whisking out any lumps if they form. Heat until the sauce just starts to bubble in the center. The sauce should be smooth and creamy and will have a similar consistency to thickened gravy. Whisk constantly to prevent burning.
  • Add half of the cheese to the skillet and whisk until nearly all is melted and smooth. Add the remaining cheese and whisk until smooth. Add the buffalo sauce and mix until fully incorporated.
  • Stir in cooked elbows and shredded chicken until evenly distributed. This may be easiest in batches so the pan isn’t overcrowded.
  • Melt 1-2 tablespoons of butter in a small bowl. Stir in panko crumbs until thoroughly mixed. Top mac and cheese with buttered panko crumbs. Bake for 10 minutes or until the panko crumbs are golden. Serve immediately.

Notes

If you’re a big buffalo sauce lover and want a pronounced buffalo taste, I would add 3/4-1 cup of buffalo sauce. 
You can leave the chicken out with no further adjustments if you prefer to make the dish meatless.
Precooked rotisserie chicken works as a quick shortcut for tender flavorful chicken.
This recipe calls for roughly 16 ounces of cheese. Your typical block of cheese is 8 ounces. You want roughly 3 1/2-4 cups of shredded cheese, lightly packed (a little extra is always OK).
You can also add crumbled blue cheese on top for added flavor.
Crushed croutons make a great alternative to the crispy panko crumb topping.

Nutrition

Serving: 1gCalories: 596kcalCarbohydrates: 45.4gProtein: 43.8gFat: 26.6gSaturated Fat: 15.9gCholesterol: 152mgSodium: 828mgFiber: 1.5gSugar: 7.2g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Dinner
Cuisine: American
Tried this recipe?Mention @kitchenswagger or tag #kitchenswagger!

About Shawn Williams

My name is Shawn, author behind Kitchen Swagger. I'm a food & drink enthusiast bringing you my own simple and delicious restaurant-inspired recipes.

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