Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese features tender macaroni and savory chicken in a creamy, cheesy buffalo sauce with a crispy Panko topping!
This Buffalo Chicken Pasta is a major win in my house, because not only does it have that buffalo ranch combo that I am obsessed with, it’s also macaroni and cheese!
Everyone loves mac and cheese in my house and adding buffalo sauce and tender bits of chicken just makes it more appealing!
When I was creating this recipe, I knew that I wanted a really cheesy, saucy, decadent buffalo mac and cheese. Not going to lie, but I think dry, bland mac and cheese is an affront to human kind.
It should come as no surprise that we’re sharing this buffalo chicken pasta recipe, because my love of all things buffalo sauce is well documented!
I have a buffalo chicken salad recipe that totally brings all the boys to the yard. I have these buffalo chicken sliders that are perfect for hungry football fans. And, of course, my buffalo chicken pasta salad which is the best thing to serve at any potluck ever.
Ranch Vs. Blue Cheese:
You’ll probably notice pretty quickly that I like ranch with my buffalo chicken.
I mean, look guys. I don’t want to alarm you, but did you know that blue cheese is moldy cheese? This is a fact. You go ahead and add blue cheese to these recipes if you want, but I’ll be over here with cheddar and mozzarella and lack of mold. 😉
For this recipe, to add blue cheese, I would just crumble it over the top before baking or stir it in with the pasta and cheese sauce. Either should be fine.
Best Tip for Creamy Mac and Cheese:
When it comes to mac and cheese, the cheese should really be the star of the show. The most important thing, whatever type of cheese you’re using in your , is that you grate the cheese yourself!
A freshly grated block of cheese will melt better a lot better than the pre-shredded cheese. The texture of the cheese sauce will be smoother and creamier too. The pre-shredded cheese comes out a bit grainy sometimes so it’s worth the extra effort to grate the cheese yourself.
What We Love AbouT BUFFALO CHICKEN MAC AND CHEESE:
- Spicy Cheese Sauce: The buffalo cheese sauce in this recipe has just the right amount of heat! Not too spicy and easy to doctor up with an extra drizzle of sauce when serving.
- Topping: The crispy panko topping in this baked mac and cheese recipe is also pretty amazing. It adds a nice crispy texture that contrasts well with the smooth buffalo cheese sauce and tender macaroni.
- Main Dish: We usually relegate macaroni and cheese to the side dish category, but this one is packed with protein and works beautifully as the main dish.
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Pasta – I’m sticking with classic elbow macaroni for this recipe but you could use other short pasta, such as shells.
Chicken – You’ll want to start with already cooked, diced or shredded chicken. Perfect way to use up our leftover Instant Pot Whole Chicken!
Roux – You’ll need butter and flour to make the roux, which is the start of the cheese sauce. Not to worry – it’s simple!
Cheese Sauce – Once the roux is made, you’ll whisk in some milk and Frank’s Red Hot Sauce. Once that thickens up you’ll stir in the grated cheddar and mozzarella cheese.
Dry Ranch Seasoning – The perfect way to season this buffalo mac and cheese with even more flavor is ranch seasoning! Make sure you use ranch seasoning powder and not ranch dip mix, which has a lot more salt.
Panko – These popular bread crumbs make the perfect crispy topping for this baked macaroni and cheese recipe!
Other – I like to top the mac and cheese with chopped green onion before baking. We also like to serve this with a drizzle of ranch dressing, and maybe some more hot sauce too!
Helpful TipS FOR MAKING MAC AND CHEESE!
- Pasta: Make sure to boil the macaroni a minute less than the instructions state or it could get overly tender and mushy when baking. Also, don’t rinse the macaroni after cooking. The starch will help the cheese sauce adhere to the pasta.
- Cheese: For best results grate your own! The sauce will taste better and be smoother. Use any variety or sharpness of cheese that you prefer!
- Heat: Make sure to remove the pan from the heat before stirring in the cheese or it could create a grainy cheese sauce.
- Mix It Up: Along with different types of cheese there are plenty of good ways to change this recipe up. Try it with crushed Ritz crackers instead of panko or mix some vegetables in with the pasta!
How to Make Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese:
Roux: To start melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat and then whisk in the flour. Cook for 2 minutes to cook out that raw flour taste.
Sauce: Slowly whisk in the milk and hot sauce. Let it cook over medium heat while constantly stirring for about 5 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened up. Remove it from the heat.
Cheese: After removing the pan from the heat stir in a cup of the cheddar cheese and all of the mozzarella cheese. Continue stirring until the cheese has melted into the sauce.
Combine: When the cheese sauce is ready you can pour it over the cooked macaroni and then add in the chicken and ranch seasoning powder. Give it a stir.
Baking Dish: Pour the pasta into a greased 9×13 baking dish.
Topping: Sprinkle the remaining cheddar cheese over the top and then sprinkle on the panko breadcrumbs and add a drizzle of melted butter to finish preparing the buffalo mac and cheese dish for baking.
Bake: Place the baking dish in the oven and bake the buffalo mac and cheese for 30 minutes or until the cheese is hot and bubbly and the panko topping is a light golden brown.
Make Ahead Mac and Cheese:
To prepare this buffalo chicken mac and cheese ahead of time follow the instructions to prepare the pasta and the cheese sauce.
Combine those in the baking dish and then cover well and store in the fridge until ready to bake, up to 2 days.
Add the panko topping just before baking and increase the bake time by 10-15 minutes, until the sauce is hot and bubbly.
It’ll take 30 minutes to bake this buffalo mac and cheese uncovered. You’ll boil the pasta first before baking so it’ll be good and tender by the time it has finished baking in all that cheese sauce.
You can keep any leftovers stored in an airtight container in your refrigerator for about 3 days. It can be reheated in the microwave or in the oven.
We would rate this recipe as mild when using Frank’s Red Hot Sauce. If you’re using another variety of hot sauce or buffalo sauce, your end result may be more or less spicy.
MORE BUFFALO CHICKEN RECIPES!
- Buffalo Chicken Sliders
- Baked Buffalo Chicken Dip
- Buffalo Chicken Burgers
- Buffalo Chicken Meatballs
- Buffalo Chicken Zucchini Boats
- Buffalo Chicken Casserole
- Buffalo Chicken Bombs
Buffalo Chicken Macaroni and Cheese
- 8 ounces macaroni
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1/3 cup flour
- 1 3/4 cups milk
- 3/4 cup Frank’s Red Hot Sauce
- 1 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese divided
- 1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
- 1 tablespoon dry ranch seasoning powder
- 2 cups cooked, diced chicken
- 1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs
- 2 tablespoons melted butter
- 2 tablespoons chopped green onions
- Ranch dressing for drizzling over the top
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9×13 baking dish with nonstick spray.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook macaroni for 1 minute less than the package directions state. Drain and set aside in a large mixing bowl.
- While the macaroni is cooking, melt the butter in a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook for 2 minutes.
- Slowly add the milk and hot sauce, whisking constantly. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, for about 5 minutes or until the sauce has thickened. Remove from heat.
- Stir in 1 cup of the cheddar cheese and all of the mozzarella cheese. Stir until the cheese melts.
- Pour the cheese sauce over the macaroni.
- Add the chicken and ranch powder to the cheese sauce and macaroni and stir well to combine.
- Pour macaroni and cheese into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle the remaining cheddar over the top. Sprinkle on the panko and drizzle with the melted butter.
- Bake for 30 minutes. Sprinkle with green onions.
- Serve immediately with ranch dressing and extra hot sauce, if desired.