One-Pot Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese unites pub food with comfort food in one quick, easy dish!
Well, it's mid-October and we've already had our first bit of snow here in Wisconsin, USA. YUCK! It's time to break out the comfort food!
I've been on a one-pot dinner and mac and cheese kick lately (see Mastering Easy One-Pot Meal Recipes).
Mac and cheese, it turns out, is the perfect, fast one-pot meal. The fact that it also ticks the "comfort-food-fix box" doesn't hurt.
The idea for One-Pot Buffalo chicken mac and cheese came from Phil.
He is a master at making Buffalo chicken wings and loves just about everything with Buffalo sauce.
Last weekend, we indulged in homemade mac and cheese and Phil threw out an idea:
This would be awesome with rotisserie chicken tossed with buffalo sauce.—Phil
Of course, I agreed. I suggested that we also add blue cheese crumbles to make it official.
So, One-Pot Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese became a team effort.
It's a much spicier, tangier version of Creamy One-Pot Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese.
It also serves the purpose of using up any leftover cooked chicken or turkey you might have laying around.
What is Buffalo chicken?
The famous snack is actually Buffalo chicken wings, the origin of which is hotly disputed (bad pun, sorry).
Some say they were developed at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, NY. Others vehemently disagree.
Regardless, Buffalo chicken wings are deep fried then tossed in a hot sauce. BOOM, Done.
They are typically served with blue cheese dressing and celery sticks on the side.
Let's turn that concept into mac and cheese...
One-Pot Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese Ingredients
Cheese for mac and cheese
I use a mix of cheddar and deli counter-quality American cheese.
If you use all cheddar, you run the risk of a broken sauce (particularly if that cheddar is aged). I would suggest a good, medium-sharp cheddar that isn't aged for more than a year.
American "process cheese" is actually real cheese. Importantly, it contains a magical ingredient—sodium citrate—that makes an incomparably creamy cheese sauce. Check out my Perfect Loaded Nachos for a more complete explanation.
Don't use pre-shredded cheese!
Pre-shredded cheese incorporates cornstarch to prevent the cheese from clumping. This will destroy any cheese sauce.
Instead, buy blocks of cheese and shred enough at a time to get you through a few days. It will taste better too.
Added bonus: You save money. Blocks of cheese are cheaper by the pound.
The Buffalo chicken
Any leftover cooked chicken from a previous dinner will work great.
We often simply buy a rotisserie chicken from Costco.
These chickens are insanely cheap and very versatile. They're perfect for this dish.
Simply cube the chicken and toss it with your favorite Buffalo sauce.
I keep it traditional here and use elbow macaroni.
I do prefer to use the high fiber and protein type: the family doesn't know the difference, but it is a bit healthier.
How to make One-Pot Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese
Once you grate the cheese and cube the meat (both of which can be done in advance!), this dish comes together in just about 25 minutes.
First, bring the liquids to a boil and mix in some salt and pepper.
Then, add in the dried pasta.
Let it simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until al dente. This will be about 10 minutes, but always check your package directions.
It should still have a tiny bit of chew because it will continue to cook as we add our cheese.
Add the mustard, onion powder, and American cheese. Stir until melted.
Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the cheddar.
After fully mixed together, lid the pot and let sit for 3 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the broiler on your oven.
Toss the chicken in Buffalo sauce, then gently fold it into the pasta.
Drizzle the top with Buffalo sauce and blue cheese crumbles.
Place under the broiler long enough to soften the blue cheese, rotating as needed.
One thing I love about One-Pot Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese is that no two bites will taste the same.
Some will be straight mac and cheese, while other bites will have the spicy buffalo chicken. And some will have it all. YUM.
Leftovers heat up well in the microwave: just heat at 50% power until warmed through and stir well.
Make sure to follow the recipe card: there are a few more moving parts to One-Pot Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese, but it's still incredibly easy.
Side dishes for mac and cheese
Green vegetables or salads are perfect as a side for mac and cheese. For example, try Green Beans with Bacon and Onions, Easy Microwave Brussels Sprouts, Easy, Zippy Coleslaw, or Meal-Prep House Salad & Homemade Thousand Island Dressing.
I promise. Enjoy!
P.S. Need leftovers recipe inspiration? Check out Using up Leftovers! Or, for getting the most out of your pantry, have a look at Easy Pantry Meals – Living Out of Your Pantry (and refrigerator and freezer)!
- 3 cups water
- 2 cups skim milk
- ¼ teaspoon salt, (or to taste)
- ⅛ teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 bay leaf, dried
- 1 lb elbow macaroni, dry
- ½ tablespoon yellow mustard
- 8 oz American cheese, shredded (see Recipe Note #1)
- 8 oz medium cheddar cheese, shredded (see Recipe Note #1)
- 2 cups cooked chicken, cubed (or turkey)
- ¾ cup Buffalo wing sauce, divided (or to taste; see Recipe Note #2)
- ½ cup blue cheese crumbles , (or gorgonzola)
- Add the water, milk, bay leaf, salt, and pepper to a heavy-bottomed pot. Bring to a boil over high heat. Stir in macaroni and turn heat to medium-low. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the macaroni is cooked to your liking, about 10 minutes (or according to package directions) for al dente. DO NOT DRAIN.
- Add in the mustard, onion powder, and American cheese. Cook, stirring constantly, for about 1 minute or until the cheese is completely melted. Remove the pot from the heat and add in the cheddar cheese. Mix well (the cheese doesn't need to be completely melted). Cover the pot and let stand for 3 minutes.
- Meanwhile, turn your oven's broiler to high. Toss the cubed chicken or turkey with ½ cup of the Buffalo Sauce. Remove the lid from the pot and stir the meat mixture into the macaroni. Drizzle the top with the remaining wing sauce and sprinkle with blue cheese crumbles. Set under the broiler (6–7" away from the element), leaving the oven door cracked, until the cheese is softened, rotating once. Remove the bay leaf and serve.
- Don't use bags of pre-shredded cheese in this dish (or any dish involving the cheese sauce). These contain extra ingredients to prevent cheese clumping and will ruin your sauce.
- I like to use Frank's Red Hot Buffalo Sauce. If you're sensitive to spicy foods, use less sauce and add to taste as needed.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 6 Serving Size: 2 cups
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 562Total Fat: 31gSaturated Fat: 16gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 12gCholesterol: 119mgSodium: 1807mgCarbohydrates: 33gFiber: 2gSugar: 8gProtein: 36g
Nutrition data provided here is only an estimate: if you are tracking this information for medical purposes, please consult a trusted external source. Thanks!