Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese
Buffalo chicken mac and cheese is a perfect make ahead one dish dinner. Kick things up with plenty of buffalo sauce and your favorite cheeses like sharp cheddar and blue totally from scratch. This one is sure to be a family favorite!Jump to Recipe
Mac and cheese is a perfect make ahead dinner. When you’re cramped for time, having one in the fridge ready to bake takes the worry away from busy nights.
I particularly love mac and cheese that doesn’t use canned soups (who does that?), Velveeta, or eggs. There’s just zero reason to use any of those when you make a simple butter/flour/milk sauce.
Make this one your own with some vegetables thrown in, vary the cheeses and fall in love with a new version of an old classic.
What cheeses are best in buffalo mac and cheese?
It is best to start with a good melting cheese and to add a small amount of another variety that has some spunk to it, such as blue cheese. Monterey Jack and fontina are great options when it comes to melting cheeses.
If you are feeling adventurous and in the mood for a little spice, pepper jack is another great option.
Remember to buy cheese on a block only and not to use pre grated bagged cheeses here. The anti-caking agents they are coated in can cause your sauce to seize.
Check out this guide to creamy mac and cheese for more information. It lays out some of the best melting cheeses as well as my favorite cheeses for adding flavor.
For this buffalo mac I have used both Monterey Jack or white sharp cheddar with crumbled gorgonzola and I like the cheddar/gorgonzola blend the best.
Tips for making a smooth and creamy sauce
Everyone wants that silky smooth mac and cheese sauce. It is very achievable if you make sure to follow a few simple tips and tricks.
- Quality of cheese makes a difference. Pre-shredded cheese often contains additives, so buy a full block and grate it yourself.
- Stir constantly. When heating the butter, flour, and milk, make sure to stir constantly. This will prevent the mixture from clumping and burning.
- Select a heavy bottom skillet. It will distribute heat more evenly and help prevent overheating, which isn’t the end of the world but it will cause your sauce to separate and clump. Keep your heat down to medium/medium low.
- Warm the milk slightly before adding it to your roux. This will allow it to incorporate smoothly.
Make buffalo chicken mac and cheese gluten free
This recipe is easily adaptable to a gluten free diet. Just swap the mac and cheese noodles for a gluten free brand (I like Jovial).
In the conventional version of this recipe, wheat flour is used to thicken the sauce. You will need to substitute a different thickening agent. I suggest 1:1 gluten free flour, but arrowroot and potato starch are also good options.
You could just swap the cheeses in this gluten free macaroni and cheese recipe with great success.
Do not use a nut flour. It will not thicken the sauce properly. Here are some informative articles on how to use each gluten free thickening agent:
Melt butter over medium heat. Stir in the flour of your choice. I used gluten free here.
Whisk over medium heat 1 minute to cook out the flour. You should have no dry pockets of flour remaining.
Add your milk of choice. I use raw for the health benefits. Heat, whisking constantly over medium low heat until the mixture bubbles and is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
Turn off the heat and add the hot sauce and cheeses and whisk until the cheese melts.
Add the chicken and the pasta and stir to combine. I sometimes make a bit more pasta just in case I want to add a little extra.
If your skillet isn’t oven safe, transfer the mac and cheese to a baking dish. Bake if you want to or broil just the top until bubbling around the edges.
Can I use almond milk in this recipe?
You can! I have not personally used almond milk, but in lots of other versions of this mac and cheese that I’ve made readers have done it successfully.
Other unsweetened, neutral milk substitutes such as unsweetened cashew milk or oat milk might work too.
Ensuring the best pasta to sauce ratio
There are always people who think there needs to be less sauce and more pasta. If you are using a very large pasta like bow ties or cavatappi (pictured) use closer to 3 cups.
You can even cook another half cup and hold it back until you get the other ingredients then see if you have enough sauce to add it.
What chicken is best?
It is tempting to use rotisserie chicken, but I suggest baking or boiling a large batch of breast meat yourself and shredding it.
It will take a little extra time, but you will spare your body all of the hidden ingredients in many store-bought rotisserie chickens.
Check out my recipe for baked shredded chicken and for boiled shredded chicken. Either will do perfectly in this recipe and can be used in other dishes as well if you make extra.
Craving something crunchy? Air fry your favorite chicken tenders. If you mix the tenders in, they will get soggy, so just lay them on top of the mac and cheese before digging in.
Does mac and cheese need to be baked?
Baking mac and cheese is optional. It gives it that nice, bubbly quality that many love, but it is just an added flare.
This mac and cheese is equally delicious right out of the skillet but you can also just broil the top if you’d like a bit of browning on the top.
How to store buffalo mac and cheese
Allow the mac and cheese to cool to room temperature before storing it in an airtight container and placing it in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
To reheat, place the desired portion in a pot or pan at medium heat and stir until heated through. Add a bit of milk if the consistency is too thick.
Can mac and cheese be frozen?
Macaroni and cheese isn’t the best frozen. You can do it after assembling the dish but before baking, but know that as the noodles freeze and thaw the texture can change and be much softer.
If you are okay with that, double wrap your cooled mac and cheese in a layer of plastic wrap and foil and freeze for up to three months. Thaw in the fridge and then bake covered to rewarm or toss it in a skillet as mentioned above.
Ingredient add ins to spice things up even more
This recipe provides a wonderful canvas for creative additions. Think about adding jalapenos or a spicy cheese like habanero jack if you are looking for a kick.
You can also mix in some veggies. I enjoy broccoli or peas.
A breadcrumb topping is a classic choice for mac and cheese lovers. Just add breadcrumbs before baking.
Other mac and cheese recipes to try
Mac and cheese is one of those classic dishes loved by just about about everyone. This is just one spin on it. There are so many other renditions you can try if buffalo chicken isn’t your thing. Here are some of my favorites:
- Gluten free mac and cheese
- Baked macaroni and cheese
- Mac and cheese with tomatoes
- Cheesy ham and sage casserole
- Lobster mac and cheese
Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese
- 2 3/4 cups cavatappi pasta gluten free works
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons all purpose flour gluten free or regular
- 2 cups milk raw preferred; almond milk also works
- 1/2 cup buffalo sauce
- 2 cups white cheddar grated off a block
- 1/2 cup Gorgonzola
- 2 cups chicken cooked and shredded
- salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees if you are planning to bake your mac and cheese. If not, you can skip this step.
- Bring two quarts of water to a boil. Add a big pinch of salt if desired and add the pasta. Cook 1 to 2 minutes less than the package directs. Drain and set aside in the colander while you make the sauce.
- In a heavy bottomed 10 or 12 inch skillet, melt the butter over medium heat and add the flour. Stir to combine with a whisk and cook 1 minute. There should be no pockets of dry flour left.
- Add the milk and stir constantly until the mixture starts to bubble and thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon.
- Turn off the heat and add the hot sauce and stir well.
- With the heat still off add the grated cheeses. Stir until the cheese melts. The blue cheese may take longer to melt. It's okay to leave some small chunks.
- Taste the sauce and add salt and pepper if desired. This depends a lot on how salty your cheeses are.
- Add the pasta and chicken and fold everything together. Transfer to a baking dish if your skillet isn't oven safe. Bake 15 to 20 minutes until bubbling around the edges or you can just broil the top if you want it to stay creamier.