Who doesn't love a good creamy, savory dish that reminds them of one of the most popular meals at KFC? This Easy KFC Mac + Cheese Bowl [Copycat] is sure to taste just as delicious as the real thing without the dairy and it's the perfect addition to your lunch or dinner menu for the entire family. Made with a creamy, cheesy mac + cheese base and topped with crispy chicken tenders that are chopped to perfection, this bowl is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser for every eater! All dairy-free. Meatless + gluten-free options.
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I don't know what to say about this Easy KFC Mac + Cheese Bowl [Copycat]. It's truly something special and if you've once coveted the delicious one-bowl meal at KFC over the years, then this recipe is one that will fulfill your tastebuds. While I normally don't do copycat recipes on a regular basis, I had to make this one because it's such a delicious comfort food staple that your family will thank you for! The best part about re-creating recipes from your favorite restaurants is that you can be more in control of the ingredients and adjust them based on your personal preferences or diet restrictions. It allows you to make the most perfect dish that meets all of your needs without compromising the flavor!
Matter of fact, I re-created my childhood fave, Copycat Broccoli Mac + Cheese to pay homage to the amazingness that was/is mac + cheese. Haha. But if you're a fan of this bowl recipe, then you'll want to try these comfort food staples that you'll love without a doubt: Southern Chicken and Waffles, Crispy Buffalo Popcorn Chicken, Vegan Pot Pie, Healthy Weeknight Shrimp Fried Rice, and Creamy Garlic Chicken Gnocchi Soup. So whether you want to make this rich and flavorful dish for an easy summer meal or just in time for the Back to School season ahead soon, it won't disappoint.
I had to of course keep it truly Southern with the mix of cheeses and ultra smoothness + gooeyness with extra crispy chicken on top. It's just a MUST. Besides, you can enjoy this since it's all dairy-free with a meatless and/or gluten-free option if you need to. It's purely indulge worthy for the entire family----kids + adults alike!
If you're used to making mac and cheese on the stovetop, this recipe will be pretty much the same process, unless of course, there aren't particular ingredients that you are accustomed to using. Once you boil + drain the pasta, you'll start things off by sautéing the butter, flour, and seasonings a bit together so that once you pour in the milk, you can whisk everything to a thickened, smooth consistency for a good base.
Then, you'll add in the grated dairy-free cheeses, stir until melted and then add in the cooked pasta. Stir, stir, and wallah! You'll finish things off by assembling your chopped crispy chicken tenders atop spoonfuls of mac + cheese with a garnish of cheese shreds. Enjoy!
Basically, the KFC Mac and Cheese Bowl is an individual serving of creamy + rich mac and cheese topped with crispy popcorn chicken and sprinkled with a three-cheese blend. In this recipe, I chose to use chicken tenders chopped into medium-sized chunks, however, you can cut the chicken pieces into popcorn sized bites and make them that way for a more authentic feel.
The ingredients for this KFC Mac + Cheese Bowl recipe is pretty standard (besides the cheeses), and you may have most of them at home right now:
If you want to ensure that you make the creamiest stovetop Mac + Cheese every time, I've gathered a few of the tricks + tips that I've learned along the way that can help you to achieve this:
Use cream. While I like to use Almond milk as the base for most of my recipes (especially when dairy-free like this one), if you're not restricted to dairy-free, then feel free to use a creamier base like half + half (even a dairy-free one works).
Add a bit of yogurt. You'll need a plain creamy yogurt and adding just a few dollops to your sauce can add extra creaminess. Dairy-free for recipes that require it!
Use premium, high-quality cheeses. This is my major tip! Using high-quality cheese (especially dairy-free ones) is super imperative and as I've stated before, using brick cheeses that you grate yourself creates the best results opposed to pre-shredded packaged cheese, but they still work!
Boil your pasta in milk. This one is such a simple tweak but it does wonders to create fluffier and softer pasta shells. Plus, the starch in the pasta helps to thicken the milk, which you can later use for the base of your sauce.
Always carefully add your flour and butter. I like to start with the lower end of the amount of flour to be used and then add a pinch more to the maximum amount. In doing so, you ensure that your roux isn't too thick which will make your sauce not the creamiest.
To make sure your Crispy Baked Chicken Tenders get as crispy as possible with the use of a “coating”, follow these simple tips:
To make your crispy chicken tenders in an air fryer, it's very similar to doing it the oven. The only difference would be the cook time and adding them to a basket versus a baking sheet. Once you've seasoned, dusted, and coated your chicken tenders, add them to your air fryer basket, spray with cooking oil, and cook them at 360 degrees for 10-15 minutes. NOTE: You might want to spray your basket with cooking oil to ensure that your chicken doesn't stick to it during cooking.
When it comes to elevating the taste and flavor of mac and cheese, it's all about the seasoning. I love adding herbs + seasonings for added flavor and it usually consists of salt, black pepper, garlic powder, smoked paprika, mustard powder, and cayenne pepper. Just by adding these handful of seasonings, you're guaranteed to be satisfied.
Just in case you make this Easy KFC Mac + Cheese Bowl more than once and just need a good switch up or you prefer to not eat chicken, here are great meatless options that can be in substitution to my Crispy Chicken Tenders (and still be just as delicious):
Leftovers can be stored in an air-tight container (separately for chicken + mac and cheese) in the refrigerator for 3-4 days and reheated when ready to serve. To re-heat, add each serving to the oven, microwave, or stovetop (for mac + cheese) until warmed through.
Nope. If you don’t want to use all-purpose flour, feel free to substitute with regular starch or arrowroot starch, tapioca flour, which all act as a thickening agent.
Absolutely! To ensure that this recipe is GF, be sure to use GF-friendly pasta and flour. Also, be sure to make the GF option for the crispy chicken tenders also.
Yes! All ingredients can be made and individually stored as meal prep (up to 2 days prior) and assembled when ready to serve. For the chicken tenders, be sure to store crushed corn flakes + seasoning mixture in a nicely sealed zip loc bag, kept at room temp.
Believe it or not, this has happened to me plenty of times. Moisture is the worst enemy in frying chicken. This is why dusting your chicken with flour as I've mentioned before should be enough to create a moisture barrier around the chicken; otherwise, the moisture created during the cooking process is going to create steam that will cause your breading to flake off.
If you're looking to reheat your fried chicken in an air fryer, it's by far the easiest to do.
Here's the steps:
Preheat your air fryer to 360 or 370 degrees Fahrenheit.
Lightly spray the basket of your air fryer and add the chicken tenders to the basket in a single layer. No overcrowding!
Cook for about 5 minutes and then flip chickens to their opposite sides and cook for another 5 minutes.
Of course! If you aren't restricted to dairy-free ingredients, you can totally use regular cow's milk in sub of the plant-based milk, unsalted butter, and regular cheese. The following cheeses are great for mac + cheese: Mild, Sharp cheddar, Gruyere, + Muenster cheeses, Fontina, Monterey Jack, Gouda, Mozzarella, American cheese, Havarti, and Parmesan cheese.
Now that you're on a comfort food kick with this KFC Mac and cheese bowl recipe, give these recipes that your entire family will love a try next:
If you tried this Easy KFC Mac + Cheese Bowl [Copycat] recipe or any other recipe on my website, please please leave a 🌟 star rating and let me know how you go in the 📝 comments below. I love hearing from you.