Chicken Ranch Mac and Cheese Recipe photo by Taste of Home

Macaroni and Cheese with Chicken

Total Time
Prep: 15 min. Bake: 30 min.
Prep once and feed the family twice with this comforting, hearty macaroni and cheese with chicken. Pro tip: Double the recipe and freeze half for another time.

Updated: Jun. 12, 2024

This mouthwatering chicken ranch mac and cheese recipe combines classic macaroni and a three-cheese blend of Swiss, cheddar and Parmesan with the savory goodness of seasoned chicken and the zesty kick of ranch dressing.

Whether you’re craving a cozy weeknight meal or planning a crowd-pleasing dinner party menu, this recipe promises to be a surefire hit. The best part? It takes just 30 minutes from oven to table.

Ingredients for Macaroni and Cheese with Chicken

  • Macaroni: We used a classic mac and cheese noodle for this one, elbow macaroni, but you could also use tubetti, shells or a corkscrew shape. Even gluten-free pasta, if you prefer.
  • Butter: Butter is the key to an extra creamy mac and the basis for a roux, which helps create a silky cheesy sauce.
  • Flour: Along with butter, flour is also needed for the roux. We recommend all-purpose flour, but if you’re going for gluten-free mac and cheese you could substitute it with almond, buckwheat or brown rice flour.
  • Milk: Milk is the final ingredient for making a roux. For a richer texture and taste, we suggest using 2% milk, although low-fat and milk alternatives will work but may compromise the final flavor.
  • Cheese: It wouldn’t be mac and cheese without the cheese! We employed cheddar (opt for medium or sharp), Parmesan and Swiss for this extra cheesy dish, though you could also use Gouda, Gruyere or Monterey Jack.
  • Ranch dressing: The cult-loved dressing is the not-so-secret weapon for a tangy, herbaceous sauce. Ranch lovers, this dish is for you.
  • Chicken: Chopped cooked chicken works great here, but if you want to amp up the comfort-food factor big time, you can use panko-crusted chicken or fried chicken cutlets.

Topping:

  • Bread crumbs: Mac and cheese enthusiasts know the best macs have a buttery golden-brown crust on top. Breadcrumbs are essential for this topper.
  • Butter: Butter is also essential, acting as the binder for the bread crumb topping.
  • Bacon strips: The best way to elevate an already decadent dish? Stud it with crispy bacon strips.
  • Fresh parsley: Parsley provides a bit of green and freshness to balance out the decadence.

Directions

Step 1: Cook the pasta

Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a 6-quart stockpot, cook the macaroni according to package directions for al dente; drain the pasta and return it to the pot.

Step 2: Make the roux

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Stir in the flour, salt and pepper until smooth, then gradually whisk in the milk. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly; cook and stir until thickened, one to two minutes. Stir in the cheeses until blended, then stir in the ranch dressing.

Step 3: Add the chicken and sauce

Add the chicken and sauce to the macaroni, tossing to combine. Transfer to a greased 13×9-inch baking dish.

Step 4: Top with bread crumbs

Toss the bread crumbs with melted butter and sprinkle over the macaroni, making sure to coat every corner. Top with crumbled bacon, then bake, uncovered, for 30 to 35 minutes or until the topping is golden brown. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Macaroni and Cheese with Chicken Variations

  • Fry some chicken strips: Mac and cheese and fried chicken are two of life’s greatest gifts. Combine the best of both worlds by adding fried chicken strips to the top of this mac, instead of using chopped chicken inside.
  • Add veggies: Peas or broccoli would be great in this dish, and they allow you to sneak in some veggies. Blanche the vegetables while your macaroni is cooking in the same pot before adding them to the mac and cheese.
  • Spice it up: For a bolder kick, try adding a splash of hot sauce or Cajun seasoning to the sauce.
  • Try sour cream in the sauce: A dollop of sour cream or creme fraiche would elevate this sauce, giving it an even creamier, velvety taste.

How to Store Macaroni and Cheese with Chicken

Although it’s doubtful you’ll have leftovers with this mac and cheese—it goes that fast—you can place them in a sealed airtight container in the fridge to enjoy all week long. Macaroni with chicken and bacon will last for three to four days, according to the USDA.

Can you freeze chicken ranch mac and cheese?

Yes! Prepare the recipe as directed, increasing the milk to 1-1/3 cups. Cool unbaked casserole; cover and freeze. To use, partially thaw the dish in the refrigerator overnight. Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before baking. Preheat the oven to 350°, cover the casserole with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and continue baking as directed or until heated through and a thermometer inserted in the center reads 165°.

Macaroni and Cheese with Chicken Tips

What’s important not to do when making chicken ranch mac and cheese?

Be careful not to overcook your pasta when boiling it. Since the macaroni technically cooks twice (once in the water and once in the oven while baking), you want to undercook the noodles by a few minutes for a firm al dente bite, otherwise you run the risk of soggy noodles post-baking.

How can I make chicken ranch mac and cheese better?

Add extra cheese. A four-blend mix, for example, will give this dish a more complex flavor than the three blends we used. You can also add more spices or fresh herbs like thyme, oregano or crispy brown-butter sage leaves.

What if I don’t have ranch salad dressing on hand?

Make your own! Try our easy recipe for homemade ranch dressing that will make this mac even better in the flavor department.

Watch how to Make Chicken Ranch Mac and Cheese

Chicken Ranch Mac and Cheese

Prep Time 20 min
Cook Time 60 min
Yield 8 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 cup 2% milk
  • 1-1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded Swiss cheese
  • 3/4 cup ranch salad dressing
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped cooked chicken
  • TOPPING:
  • 1/3 cup seasoned bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 10 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°. In a 6-qt. stockpot, cook macaroni according to package directions for al dente; drain and return to pot.
  2. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Stir in flour, salt and pepper until smooth; gradually whisk in milk. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly; cook and stir until thickened, 1-2 minutes. Stir in cheeses until blended. Stir in dressing.
  3. Add chicken and sauce to macaroni, tossing to combine. Transfer to a greased 13x9-in. baking dish.
  4. Toss bread crumbs with melted butter; sprinkle over macaroni. Top with bacon. Bake, uncovered, 30-35 minutes or until topping is golden brown. Sprinkle with parsley.

Nutrition Facts

1 cup: 586 calories, 37g fat (15g saturated fat), 84mg cholesterol, 889mg sodium, 40g carbohydrate (4g sugars, 2g fiber), 25g protein.

Prep once and feed the family twice when you double this chicken mac and cheese and freeze half of it. I created it for the people I love most, using ingredients they love most. —Angela Spengler, Tampa, Florida
Recipe Creator