This buffalo chicken mac and cheese is crispy chicken tossed with pasta in a spicy and creamy cheese sauce, then garnished with chopped celery. A unique take on macaroni and cheese that’s sure to be a total crowd pleaser!
Mac and cheese is great on its own, but it’s even better when you amp up the flavor with crispy chicken and a generous amount of hot sauce. This buffalo chicken mac and cheese is so fun to eat, and it happens to be quite easy to make too!
How do you make buffalo chicken mac and cheese?
For this recipe you want crispy chicken, which means that the first step is to bake frozen pre-prepared chicken fingers. While the chicken is cooking, you can prepare the pasta by simmering it in a mixture of milk and water that’s been thickened with a little butter and flour. When the pasta is done, stir in cheese and buffalo sauce. All that’s left are those chicken fingers. Chop them up and stir them into the pasta. Serve the mac and cheese with celery and green onions on top, along with a generous drizzle of buffalo sauce.
Tips for buffalo chicken mac and cheese
- I use corkscrew pasta in this recipe, it’s sometimes called cavatappi or cellentani. These noodles are heartier than standard elbow macaroni and don’t get mushy as they simmer in the sauce.
- I recommend using freshly grated cheese for this recipe. The bagged pre-shredded cheeses are coated in anti-caking agents and just don’t melt as smoothly.
- I find that whole milk works best for the creamiest sauce.
- I prefer to use Frank’s Red Hot buffalo wing sauce for this recipe as it has the best flavor.
- This recipe makes a mac and cheese with a medium heat level. If you prefer a spicier dish, increase the amount of hot sauce to 1/2 cup.
Macaroni and cheese variations
This buffalo mac and cheese is amazing. However, you can mix things up a bit by adding other ingredients to your dish.
- Meat: You can use popcorn shrimp instead of chicken fingers for a seafood twist.
- Cheese: Feel free to add in different types of cheese like Gouda, Fontina, Mozzarella or Gruyere. Just make sure that your cheese melts well.
- Pasta: Almost any short pasta shape works for this dish. I prefer cellentani because it retains its shape well. However, you can use macaroni, fusilli, penne or small shells.
- If you like the taste of blue cheese with your buffalo sauce, feel free to crumble some blue cheese over the top when you serve the dish.
WHAT IS THE BEST CHEESE TO USE FOR MACARONI AND CHEESE?
For macaroni and cheese, the best cheese is a combination of cheeses. I like to use cheddar for color and flavor and Monterey Jack for texture mixed with cream cheese for smoothness. Be sure to use a medium or sharp cheddar cheese, but you won’t want to veer into the territory of the extra sharp aged cheeses. Aged cheeses tend to separate when they melt, and are not a good candidate for this recipe.
This buffalo mac and cheese recipe is a fun way two take to favorite foods and blend them together. Give this mac and cheese a try, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
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- Slow Cooker Mac and Cheese
- Buffalo Chicken Tacos
- Buffalo Chicken Nuggets
Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese
- 12 ounces frozen breaded chicken tenders
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 2 1/2 cups water
- 4 cups milk
- 16 ounces short pasta such as cavatappi or elbow macaroni
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon ranch powder
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 3 cups shredded cheddar cheese
- 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
- 2 ounces cream cheese cut into cubes
- 1/3 cup buffalo wing sauce plus 2 tablespoons for garnish
- 1/4 cup diced celery
- 2 tablespoons sliced green onions
- Bake the chicken fingers according to package directions. Coarsely chop the chicken. Reserve 1/2 cup of chicken pieces for garnish.
- Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the flour, then whisk until combined, about 30 seconds.
- Pour in the water and whisk until smooth and just thickened.
- Add the milk and whisk until combined.
- Stir in the pasta, salt, ranch powder and smoked paprika, then bring the mixture to a simmer.
- Cook for 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until pasta is done.
- Turn the heat to low, then stir in the cheddar, Monterey Jack and cream cheeses, along with 1/3 cup of buffalo sauce. Keep stirring until the sauce is smooth. If you need to thin the sauce, add more milk, 1 tablespoon at a time, until desired consistency is reached.
- Stir in the diced chicken.
- Drizzle the remaining 2 tablespoons of buffalo sauce over the mac and cheese. Add the reserved chopped chicken, celery and green onions on top, then serve.