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Barbecue Chicken Mac and Cheese

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Hey my foodie friends! Jeviko here, coming to you live from my sunny kitchen on this gorgeous summer day. I’m so thrilled to share with all of you my latest culinary creation – a skillet of pure comfort food bliss. Get ready for some serious drooling over today’s recipe starring crispy chicken, ulta-creamy mac & cheese and the ultimate crowdpleasing flavor fusion – sweet and tangy barbecue sauce!

Yep, you read that right – today I’ll be guiding you step-by-step through how to make my famous Barbecue Chicken Mac and Cheese. It all started on a hot summer night much like this one when I had a major hankering for some down-home comfort food. I wanted melty, nostalgic mac and cheese but also craved juicy barbecue chicken fresh off the grill. And then it hit me harder than the summer heat – why not combine the two? Before I knew it, I was tossing chicken, macaroni and barbecue sauce into a hot skillet, eager to see if my flavor fantasy would pay off. Oh boy, did it ever! One bubbly, golden-brown straight-from-the-oven bite and I knew this creation was destined for cookout greatness. Sweet smoky barbecue sauce blanketing tender chicken and elbow macaroni, all topped with a crispy layer of panko breadcrumbs and cheddar cheese. It was love at first cheesy, saucy bite!

Now, I present my masterpiece to you. Consider this your new go-to potluck recipe for summer parties, backyard BBQs and family gatherings. Even the pickiest of eaters won’t be able to resist digging into this fun twist on everyone’s favorite cheesy pasta. The best part? Thanks to just one skillet, prep and cleanup are an absolute breeze. I promise that as soon as you pull this straight from the oven and get hit with that incredible aroma of cheese, chicken and charred corners of crispy baked macaroni, you’ll know this was all worth it!

So let’s get cooking, friends! Grab your skillet, turn up some summer tunes and let me teach you how to make my famous Barbecue Chicken Mac. Just be warned – after one bite, you may never go back to the boring blue box again! Now, who’s ready for some cheesy mac goodness?

Let’s start with the FAQs:

What type of macaroni works best?

For the perfect tender-yet-toothsome pasta, I recommend using elbow macaroni. The short, tubular shape catches all the gooey cheese sauce in each little nook. Plus its fun scooping up those cheeky elbows!

Can I substitute the barbecue sauce?

Feel free to use your favorite brand or variety of barbecue sauce. For bolder flavor, try chipotle barbecue or honey bourbon barbecue sauce. For milder flavor, classic Sweet Baby Ray’s works great. Avoid super spicy varieties, as that heat will intensify when baked.

What cheese should I use?

This flexible recipe works with any melty cheese you love! Sharp cheddar gives that nostalgic mac and cheese vibe. For a tangy twist, try Monterey jack or pepper jack cheese. You could also use a blend like cheddar-Colby-jack. The choice is yours!

Can I make this ahead of time?

Absolutely! Assemble the entire casserole, cover and refrigerate up to 2 days before baking. When ready to serve, add about 10 extra minutes to the baking time to ensure it heats through.

What protein can I use instead of chicken?

For a veggie version, this bakes up great with browned mushrooms or crumbled tempeh. The smoky barbecue sauce pairs nicely with smoked tofu too. For a meaty twist, try chopped bacon, diced ham or cooked Italian sausage.

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes


  • 8 ounces uncooked elbow macaroni (about 2 cups)
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 3⁄4 cup barbecue sauce (your favorite kind)
  • 1⁄4 cup whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • Chopped chives for garnish (optional)


  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta al dente according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, pat the chicken pieces dry with paper towels. Toss together in a bowl with olive oil, garlic powder, onion powder, smoked paprika and a generous pinch of salt and pepper.
  3. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, cook the seasoned chicken pieces until browned and cooked through, about 5-7 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate and cover to keep warm.
  4. Melt the butter in the same skillet. Stir in the barbecue sauce and milk, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the cooked drained pasta and 1⁄2 cup of the cheddar cheese. Toss everything together until the pasta is coated.
  5. Return the cooked chicken pieces to the skillet along with any accumulated juices. Sprinkle the remaining 1⁄2 cup cheddar over top. Continue cooking for 1-2 minutes, until the cheese is fully melted.
  6. Serve immediately, garnished with chopped chives if desired. Enjoy this saucy, cheesy, chicken-y skillet of goodness!

Cooking Tips:

  • Leftover rotisserie chicken works great here too. Shred into bite-size pieces in place of raw chicken.
  • Not a barbecue sauce fan? Swap it out for your favorite pasta sauce variety instead.
  • For extra richness, stir in a spoonful of cream cheese along with the milk and butter.
  • Kick up the smoky flavor with a dash of hot sauce.
  • Bulk it up by adding sauteed vegetables like onions, bell peppers or broccoli.
  • Customize the cheese – a blend of cheddar and pepper jack is amazing.

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