Everyone's favorite comfort food casserole gets a delicious upgrade with the addition of chicken, hot sauce, chopped onion, and celery. Pepper jack cheese adds another layer of pleasant heat to the cheddar sauce. If you like a strong kick, feel free to customize the cheese sauce with extra hot sauce or add a generous dash of cayenne. You can use poached or baked chicken or buy a fully cooked rotisserie chicken and shred it for the dish.
The panko breadcrumb topping includes some crumbled blue cheese along with parsley for color. If you prefer Parmesan cheese, use that instead of the blue cheese, or finish the casserole with a plain buttered breadcrumb topping.
- For the Breadcrumb Topping:
- 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1 tablespoon parsley (chopped)
- 1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese (or grated Parmesan cheese)
- 2 tablespoons butter (melted)
- For the Pasta:
- 8 ounces macaroni (or another type of small, tubular pasta)
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- For the Chicken:
- 3 tablespoons butter (melted)
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 1 cup chopped celery
- 2 cloves garlic (minced)
- 1/3 cup hot sauce (such as Texas Pete, Frank's, or Tabasco Buffalo)
- 2 to 3 cups chicken (cooked and shredded or chopped)
- For the Cheese Sauce:
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 1 teaspoon dry mustard powder
- 2 cups half-and-half
- 1/2 cup milk (or more half-and-half)
- 1/4 cup hot sauce (such as Texas Pete, Frank's, or Tabasco Buffalo)
- 2 cups sharp cheddar cheese (shredded)
- 1 cup pepper jack cheese (or Monterey Jack, shredded)
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1/2 teaspoon ground Black pepper
- Kosher salt (to taste)
Gather the ingredients.
Grease a 9- x 13-inch casserole or spray it with cooking oil spray. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
Make the topping. In a small bowl, combine the panko breadcrumbs with the chopped parsley, blue cheese (or Parmesan), and melted butter. Toss to blend the ingredients and set aside.
Place a large saucepan of water over high heat and bring to a bowl. Add the salt and pasta. Reduce the heat to maintain a boil and cook the macaroni following package directions for al dente. Drain the pasta and then transfer it to a large bowl; set aside.
Prepare the chicken. Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and celery; cook, stirring, for 5 minutes, or until the celery is softened and the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute longer.
Add the hot sauce and the shredded chicken to the onion and celery mixture and simmer for about 1 minute longer, or until hot. Transfer to the bowl with the macaroni and set aside.
Make the cheese sauce. Melt the remaining butter in a saucepan over medium heat (or use the same pan used to cook the macaroni). Add the flour and mustard powder and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.
Gradually whisk the half-and-half and milk into the flour and butter mixture along with the remaining hot sauce. Cook, stirring, until the sauce is thickened. Add the shredded cheddar and pepper jack cheeses to the sauce along with the sour cream. Stir until the cheese has melted and the mixture is smooth. Taste the sauce and add kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste.
Add the cheese sauce to the bowl with the macaroni and chicken mixture and stir until the ingredients are well combined.
Turn the macaroni mixture into the prepared casserole.
Bake, uncovered, for about 25 minutes, or until the breadcrumb topping is browned and the casserole is bubbling around the edges.
Serve Buffalo macaroni and cheese with carrot sticks and a garnish of parsley or a drizzle of hot sauce.
- For a pop of color and extra flavor, add about 1/2 cup of diced red bell pepper.
- This Buffalo chicken macaroni and cheese casserole is a wonderful freezer meal. To make the freezer version, skip the breadcrumb topping and prepare the casserole up to the baking step. Line the baking pan long sheets of foil. Freeze the casserole until solid. Lift the frozen casserole out of the pan using the ends of the foil as "handles." Wrap the casserole tightly and store it in the freezer until baking day. When you are ready to bake, put the frozen casserole back in the same baking pan. Cover the casserole with foil and bake at 400 F for about1 hour, or until hot. Meanwhile, prepare the breadcrumb topping. Remove the foil and sprinkle the breadcrumb topping over the casserole. Continue to bake until the topping is lightly browned.