Chef John's Macaroni and Cheese


This panko mac and cheese is an easy-to-make, old-school recipe with a perfectly crispy crust.

Prep Time:
15 mins
Cook Time:
45 mins
Total Time:
1 hrs
Close up on a large serving of macaroni and cheese on a plate

Dotdash Meredith Food Studios


  • 1 (16 ounce) package elbow macaroni

  • ¼ cup butter

  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour

  • ¼ teaspoon dried thyme

  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

  • teaspoon white pepper

  • 3 cups milk

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • ¼ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

  • 1 pinch ground nutmeg

  • 3 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese, divided

  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

  • ½ cup panko bread crumbs

  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted


  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).

  2. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Cook elbow macaroni in the boiling water, stirring occasionally, until tender yet firm to the bite, about 8 minutes. Drain and set aside.

  3. Melt 1/4 cup butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. When butter starts to foam and bubble, stir in flour; cook on medium heat until flour begins to turn pale yellow, 3 to 4 minutes.

    Overhead of a butter and flour mixture being whisked in a sauce pot.

    Dotdash Meredith Food Studios

  4. Add thyme, cayenne, and white pepper; cook and stir another minute, then whisk in 1 cup milk until smooth. Pour in remaining milk and whisk again. Bring sauce just to a simmer.

  5. Stir in salt, Worcestershire sauce, and nutmeg. Simmer, whisking often, on medium-low heat until thickened, about 8 minutes.

  6. Turn heat off, then add 2 1/4 cups Cheddar cheese; stir until melted and combined. Mix in Dijon mustard.

    Overhead of cheddar cheese being added to a creamy sauce.

    Dotdash Meredith Food Studios

  7. Transfer macaroni into a casserole dish, then pour in cheese sauce; stir to thoroughly combine pasta with sauce.

  8. Mix together panko bread crumbs and 1 tablespoon melted butter in a small bowl.

  9. Sprinkle mixture over macaroni and cheese. Sprinkle remaining 3/4 cup Cheddar cheese on top.

    Overhead of panko crumbs and cheddar cheese being sprinkled over macaroni noodles in a baking dish.

    Dotdash Meredith Food Studios

  10. Bake in the preheated oven until top is golden brown, about 20 minutes.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)

695 Calories
32g Fat
73g Carbs
29g Protein
Nutrition Facts
Servings Per Recipe 6
Calories 695
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 32g 41%
Saturated Fat 20g 100%
Cholesterol 95mg 32%
Sodium 928mg 40%
Total Carbohydrate 73g 26%
Dietary Fiber 3g 9%
Total Sugars 8g
Protein 29g
Vitamin C 0mg 2%
Calcium 572mg 44%
Iron 3mg 18%
Potassium 418mg 9%

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

** Nutrient information is not available for all ingredients. Amount is based on available nutrient data.

(-) Information is not currently available for this nutrient. If you are following a medically restrictive diet, please consult your doctor or registered dietitian before preparing this recipe for personal consumption.

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