Baked Mac and Cheese gets a simple comfort food twist by adding chicken, crispy bacon and ranch seasoning! Easy to make and family-friendly!
If you love mac and cheese and the flavors of chicken, bacon and ranch, you are in luck. This cheese lovers meal is simple to whip up from scratch. This amazing Chicken Bacon Ranch Mac and Cheese is some serious comfort food. It’s the stuff dreams are made of!
The idea for this dish is a Chicken, Bacon and Ranch flavored pizza I made. Instead of traditional pizza sauce I substituted ranch dressing. Being low on mozzarella, I added shredded cheddar cheese to make the pizza nice and cheesy! My guys went crazy for it! (I think I’ve mentioned before that I live with a houseful of hungry men – husband, two grown sons and my grandson.)
Wanting to keep that warm glow of success, I added most of those same ingredients to my homemade mac and cheese, and created this dish. It’s awesome that it was a huge success, mainly because it’s so easy to make, not to mention the recipe can be easily doubled to freeze one for later!
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HOW TO MAKE CHICKEN BACON RANCH MAC AND CHEESE
This easy, flexible recipe can be whipped up and baked right away, or assembled from ingredients you made ahead of time.
To make this delicious casserole, you will need:
- Macaroni pasta
- Bacon – cook your own or use the pre-cooked variety to save time
- Cooked chicken – rotisserie chicken tastes amazing in this recipe and saves time
- Ranch dressing seasoning mix
- Parmesan cheese
- Mozzarella cheese
- Cheddar cheese
- Preheat your oven to 375°. Butter a 9 x 13 baking dish, or one of similar size.
- Get started by frying your bacon, or buy pre-cooked. After cooking, dice the bacon and set aside. Pour off the bacon drippings and wipe out the skillet. *I resisted using the pre-cooked bacon variety for a long time. A friend recommended that I at least try it…and now I’m hooked! It’s shelf stable and a HUGE time saver.
- Meanwhile, cook the macaroni according to the package directions until just al dente. Drain and set aside.
- Melt 1 TBSP of butter in the skillet over medium-low heat. Throw in the chicken and stir to coat with butter. Sprinkle the ranch seasoning mix over the chicken, tossing to coat. Transfer chicken to a plate and set aside.
- Melt remaining 2 TBSP of butter in skillet over Medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the flour and whisk until flour and butter form a paste.
- While continuing to whisk, slowly pour in the cream and milk. Bring to a low boil and cook over medium-low heat until the cream mixture starts to thicken about 3 minutes. Whisk occasionally to keep the mixture from sticking to the bottom.
- Over Low heat, stir in all of the parmesan and half of the mozzarella and cheddar. Stir until the cheese is melted. Remove the pan from the heat. Add the chicken and all but 2 TBSP of the bacon, then stir to combine.
- Pour the cream mixture over the cooked macaroni. Gently fold to combine, then transfer to the buttered baking dish.
- Sprinkle the remaining half of the mozzarella and cheddar cheese over the cream mixture. Dot the top with reserved bacon. Add another sprinkle of parmesan to the top (optional).
- Bake on center rack of oven for 30 – 35 minutes, until the cheese is melted and bubbling.
- Let the pan sit a few minutes before serving.
PRO TIPS FOR MAKING AMAZING CHICKEN BACON RANCH MAC AND CHEESE
- Only boil the pasta to the just barely al dente stage. You’ll be baking the pasta further so you’ll want to leave a little cooking time left.
- Try out different types of pastas. Macaroni is the bomb, but there are others that will work too. Penne, Farfalle and Shells are good choices. They are all short cut pasta but have enough surface area to support the sauce.
- Whisk vigorously when adding the cream and milk to the flour paste. This will prevent lumps in your sauce.
- Grate your own cheeses. I know it’s harder than grabbing a bag of shredded, but it will payoff in a creamier sauce. Most bags of pre-shredded cheese at the grocery contain anti-clumping agents to keep the shreds from sticking together. These agents also prevent the cheese from melting completely.
- Speaking of melting cheese, keep the heat on Low while melting the cheese and remove the sauce from the heat entirely right after the cheese has melted. Overheated cheeses may curdle or “string”.
BEST CHEESES FOR MAC AND CHEESE
- Cheddar Cheese – melts easily with a smooth, sometimes sharp flavor.
- Mozzarella – soft texture and milky flavor, can be fresh or short aged
- Gruyere – hard cheese that add nutty taste and depth of flavor
- Monterey Jack – mild flavor and buttery texture that melts like a dream
- Brie – rich, buttery cheese that ranges from mild to tangy
- Goat Cheese – tart, earthy flavored cheese made form goat’s milk
- Parmesan – salty and nutty, with a slightly gritty texture
- Smoked Gouda – smooth, subtle smoky flavor
- Fontina – a melty cheese that combines earthy flavor with a buttery texture
TOOLS USED TO MAKE THIS RECIPE
Clicks the links below to see the items used to make this recipe.
- Large Frying Pan – any large frying pan will do, but this affordable pan is also oven-safe to 500°.
- Whisk – made with a comfy, soft handle making it easy on the hands.
- Boiling Pot – comes with an insert that makes draining your pasta a breeze!
- Baking Dish – Any 3 – 4 QT dish will work, but I love the easy cleanup of this brand.. I’ve had mine for over 20 years!
- Wooden Spoons – beautiful teak spoons that make you feel like a master chef!
- Pro Box Grater – the best mac and cheese starts with grated cheese! This one has 6 sides including a convenient zester and grater!
CHICKEN BACON RANCH MAC AND CHEESE
Baked Mac and Cheese gets a simple comfort food twist with chicken, bacon and ranch seasoning!
- 16 ounces macaroni pasta, cooked according to package directions
- 8 slices thick cut bacon, cooked and diced,
- 3 cups cubed chicken, cooked
- 2 TBSP ranch dressing seasoning mix
- 3 TBSP butter
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup flour
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 2 cups 2% milk
- 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
- 1–1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
- 1–1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided
- Preheat the oven to 375°. Grease a 9 x 13 or similar size baking dish.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook pasta according to directions until just al dente. Drain and set aside.
- Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook the bacon over Medium heat until crisp. Remove to a plate, pour off grease, leaving 1 TBSP bacon drippings in the pan.
- Add cooked chicken to the pan. Over medium heat, stir chicken until heated thru. Sprinkle ranch seasoning over chicken and stir to coat. Remove chicken from pan.
- Over Medium heat, add butter to pan. Once melted, add garlic and cook 30 seconds until fragrant.
- Add flour and whisk to form a paste. Slowly add in heavy cream and milk. Whisk to combine. Bring to a low boil and cook 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally until the liquid is thickened.
- Turn heat down to low. Stir in the Parmesan cheese, and half each of the mozzarella and cheddar cheeses until melted. Remove the pan from the heat.
- Add chicken and all but 2 TBSP of diced bacon to the cream mixture. Stir to combine. Reserve 2 TBSP diced bacon for garnish.
- Pour the cream mixture over cooked pasta and stir gently to coat. Scrape into prepared baking dish.
- Evenly sprinkle remaining mozzarella and cheddar cheese over the cream mixture. Dot with reserved bacon.
- Bake on center rack of preheated oven for 30 – 35 minutes until cheese is melted and bubbly.
- Let pan sit for a few minutes before serving.
Keywords: macaroni,cheese,bacon,mac and cheese,oven
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