Turn your favorite buffalo chicken dip into dinner with Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese! It’s a stovetop mac and cheese made from scratch with hot sauce and ranch dressing (no cream cheese or baking required).

White bowl filled with buffalo chicken mac and cheese with fork

I’ve been eating buffalo chicken dip and buffalo chicken wings for as long as I can remember.

I’m not sure what it is, but something about combining hot sauce and ranch dressing with chicken works.

It’s such a popular flavor combination that it’s not surprising to see anything and everything with a buffalo chicken twist – buffalo grilled cheese, buffalo chicken tacos, even buffalo chicken chili.

The idea for this Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese came to me when I worked at Target back in 2010.

Their store brand had several noodle and rice ready-to-go products. As I was straightening the shelves before closing one evening, their box for buffalo macaroni and cheese caught my eye (and my stomach).

Since I was still paying off student loans at the time, I decided to save some money and recreate it at home from scratch.

Buffalo chicken macaroni and cheese is a creamy, spicy mac and cheese that’s very comforting to eat and is a great way to use up leftover cooked chicken.

In fact it’s so good, one of my coworkers requested it for her birthday rather than a cake as she wasn’t a big dessert person.

Making buffalo mac and cheese is very easy! And since it’s all cooked on the stovetop, you don’t have to wait for it to bake.

While boiling the pasta, cook the chicken in a large skillet. Then you reuse that same skillet (less dishes!) and make the cheese sauce from scratch.

Instead of cream cheese like most recipes called for, I used ranch dressing. I always associate buffalo chicken pizza with ranch (plus now you don’t have to worry about using up the rest of the cream cheese block later).

For some crunch I added celery, an ingredient commonly associated with buffalo wings. Plus you need a little bit of vegetables to balance all the cheesy goodness.

From prep to plate, this buffalo chicken mac and cheese recipe can be ready in under an hour!

Close up of buffalo chicken mac and cheese

Ingredients For Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese

Here are the ingredients to make your buffalo chicken mac:

  • Pasta: Elbow macaroni is definitely the most traditional, but you can also use small shells.
  • Oil: To cook the chicken
  • Chicken: I cooked the chicken from scratch because I hardly have any pre-cooked. However, you can use 1 cup leftover cooked chicken to save time.
  • Butter: The fat used to fry your onion, celery, and garlic plus the base of your roux (flour paste) to thicken your sauce.
  • Onion and garlic: Aromatics to flavor the base of your cheese sauce
  • Celery: Adds some crunch
  • Flour: Part of the roux that thickens your sauce
  • Salt: Used to season both the pasta water and the sauce
  • Milk: Helps make a creamy sauce. I highly recommend using whole milk because the more fat you use, the creamier it’ll be. Using low fat or skim milk will lead to a lackluster sauce.
  • Cheddar cheese: Cheese commonly used in mac and cheese
  • Hot sauce: Use your favorite type of hot sauce. I used a Louisiana style hot sauce.
  • Ranch dressing: Helps cool down the hot sauce while also making the sauce extra creamy

Buffalo mac and cheese in a bowl with fork

How To Make Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese

To make your stovetop buffalo chicken mac and cheese recipe:

  1. Boil pasta in salted water as directed on the package until al dente.
  2. Cook chicken in a large skillet until internal temperature is 165F. Transfer to a bowl.
  3. Melt butter then cook onion and celery until softened. Add the garlic.
  4. Stir in flour and salt then slowly whisk in the milk. Bring to a boil.
  5. Cook until sauce starts to thicken then stir in hot sauce and ranch.
  6. Whisk in cheese until melted then stir in cooked chicken and pasta.

Serve with green onion salad as a full meal. Refrigerate leftover buffalo mac and cheese in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

Close up of buffalo chicken macaroni and cheese with fork

Why is my mac and cheese sauce grainy?

Sometimes if your cheese gets too hot while melting it separates and curdles, resulting in a grainy and broken sauce.

That’s why I like to remove my pan from the heat before stirring in the cheese. The residual heat is still strong enough to melt it.

If this happens to you, let your sauce cool down then add a splash of lemon juice or milk then vigorously whisk until smooth again.

If this still doesn’t work, you can trying using an immersion blender to smooth it back out.

Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese made on stovetop

Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese FAQ

Can you use rotisserie chicken?

Yes! Stir in 1 cup cooked chicken to the cheese sauce when finished.

Why is my sauce too thick?

The longer the sauce cooks, the thicker it’ll get so if it gets too thick, stir in more milk to thin it out.

Can you freeze mac and cheese?

Yes! Let it cool down completely first then transfer it to a freezer-safe container.

To reheat, thaw it overnight in the fridge then either add it to a saucepan or a microwave safe bowl. It should be creamy enough, but if needed add some milk to help thin it back out.

More Mac and Cheese Recipes

Close up of buffalo chicken mac and cheese

Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese (Stovetop)

Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes

Turn your favorite buffalo chicken dip into dinner with Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese! It’s a stovetop mac and cheese made from scratch with hot sauce and ranch dressing (no cream cheese or baking required).


  • 1/2 pound (8 ounces) uncooked elbow macaroni
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable or olive oil
  • 1 large boneless skinless chicken breast or 2 small boneless skinless chicken thighs*, patted dry and cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup diced yellow or white onion
  • 1 rib celery, diced (or substitute 1/2 cup diced green bell pepper)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (preferably kosher)
  • 3/4 cup whole milk plus more for thinning, room temperature
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup - 1/2 cup Louisianan-style hot sauce
  • 1/4 cup ranch dressing, room temperature


  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once boiling, add a big handful of salt then add macaroni. Cook as directed on the package until al dente, about 8-10 minutes. Drain into a colander.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large 12 inch skillet over medium heat, heat 1 teaspoon oil. Lightly season chicken with salt then add to hot oil and cook for 4 minutes. Flip and cook for another 3-4 minutes or until no longer pink with internal temperature of 165F. Transfer to a bowl and keep warm.
  3. In the same skillet without cleaning, add the butter, scraping up any brown bits left behind. Once melted, add the onion, celery, and a big pinch of salt. Cook until softened, roughly 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute.
  4. Stir in the flour and salt to coat. Slowly stir in the milk. Bring to a boil then cook until it starts to thicken, about 2-3 minutes.
  5. Stir in 1/4 cup hot sauce and ranch dressing. Taste and adjust for seasoning. If it's not spicy enough, add the remaining 1/4 cup hot sauce.
  6. Remove from the heat then stir in the cheese until melted. If you didn't add the extra hot sauce, you may need to add an extra 1/4 cup milk. It will be thick but still saucy.
  7. Once everything is cooked, mix together the cooked macaroni, sauce, and chicken.

    Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 4 days.


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First published January 29, 2010