Believe it or not, Panera Bread’s beloved mac and cheese has been on Earth for an entire decade, and to celebrate the milestone, customers will finally get to customize it. People who order takeout from the bakery-café through its website or mobile app can now add a mountain of lip-smacking toppings to the chain’s cheesiest chow.
Basics include apple cider vinegar barbecue sauce, cilantro, frizzled onions, and pico de gallo (tomatoes, jalapenos, green peppers, and red onions). Premium options include freshly-sliced avocado, applewood bacon, and smoked pulled chicken. You can order up to five toppings, including two premiums, per order. Price may vary by location, but in New York City one bowl is $10.69.
Panera is also offering three new curated macs on its permanent menu: Baja, barbecue chicken, and bacon, which was previously a limited-time-only item. A Daily Meal editor was able to sample the new flavors before they were made available to the public, and these are her thoughts:
The Baja — which is topped with pico de gallo, avocado, and cilantro — is basically mac and guacamole. The avocado and Vermont cheddar roux sauce create the creamiest concoction, and the pico-cilantro combo is perfectly mild but still flavorful enough to give the dish personality. Throw a margarita in the mix and we are in business.
The barbecue chicken variety it pretty self-explainable. It has barbecue sauce, smoked chicken, and frizzled onions, which are just battered and fried, and who doesn’t love those? To be completely transparent, we could eat them by the handful. Herbivores: Ask for this bowl without chicken and thank us later. Because if you don’t eat meat, how else are you supposed to get barbecue sauce into your diet? You can put it on broccoli, but that just tastes like sadness. This dish sans chicken is a great option for vegetarians.
If you’re a frequent flier at Panera, you’ve likely already had the bacon mac and cheese. It was offered nationwide temporarily earlier this summer — and obviously people loved it, because now it’s here to stay. If you haven’t had it, it’s not hard to imagine how this tastes. If you are one of a gazillion people who are obsessed with bacon, you’ll enjoy this simple mac and cheese mashup. And if you’re a true connoisseur, you’ll also appreciate this list of the very best mac and cheese dishes in America.