Pub food meets comfort food in quick One-Pot Buffalo Chicken Macaroni and Cheese!
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 macaroni and cheese kick lately (see Mastering Easy One-Pot Meal Recipes). Macaroni 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 macaroni and cheese came from the hubster: Phil is a master at making Buffalo chicken wings. The last time we indulged in homemade macaroni and cheese (last weekend), Phil wondered whether it wouldn’t be awesome to toss some cooked chicken with Buffalo sauce, mix that into the mac and cheese, and then top it off with more Buffalo Sauce and blue cheese crumbles.
I knew right away that it would, indeed, be awesome.
So, One-Pot Buffalo Chicken Macaroni and Cheese became a team effort. It’s a much spicier, tangier version of Creamy One-Pot Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese that also serves the purpose of using up your leftover cooked chicken or turkey (hello, holiday dinner leftovers!).
What is Buffalo chicken?
I’m not sure how prevalent Buffalo chicken is outside of the US (if you’re familiar with it, skip down to the next subheading). The famous snack is actually Buffalo chicken wings, the origin of which is hotly disputed (bad pun, sorry). Most agree that they were developed back in 1964 at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, NY. But I don’t want to get bogged down in the controversy, so let’s move on to what they are:
Fried chicken wings tossed in hot sauce. BOOM. Done.
The chicken wings are typically served with blue cheese dressing and celery sticks. So, there you have the inspiration for One-Pot Buffalo Chicken Macaroni and Cheese—but with cubed roast chicken and minus celery sticks (although it would be cute to serve them on the side).
Notes about One-Pot Buffalo Chicken Macaroni and Cheese
Don’t use pre-shredded cheese. EVER!
If you’re used to buying bags of pre-shredded cheese, be advised that not only do you pay for the convenience of having your cheese shredded for you, but these bags also incorporate cornstarch to prevent the shreds of 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.
The Buffalo chicken
I almost always have leftover cooked chicken (for example, from Sunday dinner or from one of those grocery rotisserie chickens ). On the other hand, leftover turkey from Thanksgiving or Christmas Dinner would also be fantastic in this recipe. Simply cube the chicken or turkey and toss it with some Buffalo sauce.
Remove the pot from the heat before adding cheddar cheese
Cheddar cheese misbehaves if it gets too hot. As in, it breaks and turns into greasy, clumpy goo.
I melt the American cheese into the pasta and sauce with the pot on the heat. Then I remove the pot from the heat before adding the cheddar, and then lid the pot for a few minutes.
Then, I add in the meat mixture and give the pot a final stir: the result is magical, creamy deliciousness.
Making Creamy One-Pot Buffalo Chicken Macaroni 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 (it should still have a tiny bit of chew), about 10 minutes, or according to package directions.
Stir in the mustard, onion powder, and American cheese. Remove the pot from the heat and mix in the cheddar. Lid the pot and let sit for 3 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the broiler.
Toss the chicken in Buffalo sauce, then mix it into the pasta. Drizzle with more Buffalo sauce to taste (proceed with caution!). Sprinkle sparingly with blue cheese crumbles (blue cheese is strong!) and place under the broiler long enough to soften the blue cheese, rotating as needed.
One thing I love about One-Pot Buffalo Chicken Macaroni and Cheese is that no two bites will taste the same. Some will be straight macaroni and cheese, some will have the spicy buffalo chicken, some the tangy blue cheese—and some will have it all.
Leftovers heat up well in the microwave: just heat at 50% power until warmed through and stir well.
There are a few more moving parts to One-Pot Buffalo Chicken Macaroni and Cheese, but it’s still incredibly easy. 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)!
I’m sharing my One-Pot Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese recipe with:
- #CookBlogShare, a great food blogger recipe-share that I have the pleasure of hosting this week here at Flipped-Out Food!
- #CookOnceEatTwice, for recipes that are just as good left-over as they are when you made them, hosted by Searching for Spice.
- The What’s For Dinner Sunday Linkup at The Lazy Gastronome.
- The Delicious Dishes Recipe Party at Walking on Sunshine.
One-Pot Buffalo Chicken Macaroni and Cheese
- 3 cups water
- 2 cups skim milk
- 1/4 tsp salt - (or to taste)
- 1/8 tsp black pepper - freshly ground
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 bay leaf - dried
- 1 lb elbow macaroni - dry
- 1/2 tbsp 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)
- 3/4 cup Buffalo wing sauce - divided (or to taste; see Recipe Note #2)
- 1/2 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.
- 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 1/2 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.