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This Nashville Hot Chicken Macaroni and Cheese brings together a rich and creamy mac and cheese with the spicy kick of Nashville hot chicken to make the ultimate comfort food. Perfect for warming up the table when you’re settling into the winter months, or bringing to a barbecue to spice things up in the summer, there isn’t a time of year that this dish won’t have people coming back for seconds!

The base is a rich and creamy mac and cheese that is just a great recipe to have on hand on its own and yes, can be served without spicing it up if that’s what you’re looking for. The kick, however, comes from the Nashville hot blend that takes everything up a notch. What’s really nice about this is because you are working with such a creamy cheese blend, the kick on this blends itself in and doesn’t continue to bite after you’ve eaten, the way that some spicy dishes do. As with everything spicy, you can definitely kick it up or take it back a little depending on the taste buds coming to the table.

Nashville Hot Chicken Macaroni and Cheese

What’s the other thing we love about this dish? While yes, Nashville is known for its chicken, if you’re looking for non-meat options tofu is an awesome substitute for the chicken. We also absolutely love it with cauliflower instead of chicken if you’re looking for additional substance without the meat protein.

Ingredients for Nashville Hot Chicken Macaroni and Cheese

Just saying Nashville Hot Chicken Macaroni and Cheese is a mouthful, and that lets you know the ingredient list might be a bit full. We’re not talking a lot of exotic ingredients – a lot of what you need is probably already in your cupboard, but you’re most likely going to want a cart when you go to the store.

First off, you’ll need chicken tenders. As we mentioned earlier, if you’d prefer tofu or cauliflower, you can replace the chicken with one of those.

For your marinade you’ll need buttermilk, sriracha sauce, and pickle juice. The breading for the chicken is a fairly standard breading with flour, panko breadcrumbs, yellow cornmeal, kosher salt, and where you get your spice is through some cayenne pepper spice.

The macaroni and cheese comes together first and foremost with macaroni. The cheese blend in this is a mix of shredded cheddar, white cheddar, Pepperjack, and a mix of white and yellow American. Cheese tends to be a personal preference, and we like this blend for this mac and cheese, but if you’re feeling something a little different, of course mix it up! As a rule we like to use fresh grated cheese because the pre-shredded cheese has additives which make it perform differently. In this case fresh grated cheese will resist clumping better.

For the rue and cream sauce for the mac and cheese, you’ll need butter, flour heavy cream, whole milk, and some additional sriracha sauce.

Let’s Put it All Together!

OK, there’s a few parts to this so it takes a little more organization than some other mac and cheese recipes out there, but it’s worth it!

First thing you’ll do is make your marinade. Combine the buttermilk, pickle juice, 1/2 cup of sriracha sauce, and a 1/2 teaspoon of the Cayenne pepper. Mix all of this together to create your marinade.

Important note: Set aside 1/3 cup of the marinade to put into your cheese sauce later. You don’t want to put your chicken in this part of the marinade.

Put your chicken tenders into the remaining marinade, cover, and refrigerate anywhere from one hour to overnight.

Cutting Marinated Chicken

Once your chicken is finished marinating, you will cut it into roughly one inch cubes. If you prefer, you can cut the cubes prior to marinating to avoid some of the mess of cutting them with the marinade on them.

Now for the Breading

Before you get your self elbow deep in ingredients, turn your oven to 375 degrees so it’s ready for your mac and cheese when it’s time.

Mix the flour, cornmeal, salt, Panko breadcrumbs, salt, and the other 1/2 teaspoon of Cayenne pepper together.

Using a covered bowl, toss your cubed, marinated chicken in the breading until all pieces are evenly coated. The marinating and breading process are the same if you are using tofu or cauliflower.

Air fried Chicken

We use the Ninja Foodie Air Fryer for our chicken. Warm the air fryer to 360 degrees and cook your chicken tenders for about 15 minutes. Chicken needs to temp to at least 165 degrees and there shouldn’t be any pink in the center.

If you’re using cauliflower or tofu, check your air fryers settings for the timing and temperature for cooking these.

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Time to get the Mac and Cheese Going!

While your chicken is cooking, bring a pot of water to a boil and put in your macaroni. Check the directions on the macaroni you buy, and cook to the lower end of the recommended time, as the macaroni will continue to cook when you put it into the cheese sauce.

While your macaroni is cooking, start the rue for your cheese sauce. First, you’ll want your milk and cream mixed together as you will add these in together later in the process. You’ll also want to have your cheese grated and ready to add to the sauce.

Once your macaroni is finished, drain off the water and set the cooked macaroni aside.

Heat a sauce pan to medium and put your butter in the pan. Melt the butter completely, then slowly add the flour, one tablespoon at a time. Stir in as you go.

Once the mixture starts to darken, gradually stir in the the milk/cream sauce and stir. Add the 1/3 cup of marinade that you set aside and continue to stir. The sauce will start to simmer and begin to thicken. Allow the sauce to continue to simmer, stirring occasionally until it has thickened to a consistency that will cling to your spoon. This should take about five minutes.

Adding Cheese to Cream Sauce

Once the rue has thickened, add the cheese a handful at a time, stirring in and allowing to melt between each handful. This will allow your sauce to slowly blend together and not clump or get grainy. When the sauce is done it will be creamy and able to pour out of the pan. This will have some to do on your personal preference and cheeses you chose to use. We have found we like it creamy enough to pour into the pan without it being runny.

Let’s Put The Nashville Macaroni and Cheese Together!

OK! Let’s layer this thing together!

First, pour a small amount of the cheese sauce into a baking dish. Layer on about half of the macaroni and the air fried chicken. Add another layer of cheese sauce, spread on the rest of the macaroni, then finish it off with the remaining cheese sauce.

Blended Nashville Hot Chicken Macaroni and Cheese

Stir everything together in your baking dish so your macaroni and chicken are evenly spread.

Cover with aluminum foil and put in the oven. Bake for 15 minutes, pull out of the oven, and you have got yourself a piping hot pot of goodness that is creamy, rich, and ready to eat!

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Nashville Hot Chicken Macaroni and Cheese
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Nashville Hot Chicken Macaroni and Cheese

Difficulty: Intermediate Prep Time 25 min Cook Time 15 min Total Time 40 mins Servings: 8

Nashville hot mac & cheese

Instructions

  1. In a medium bowl, combine the buttermilk, pickle juice, sriracha and 1/2 tsp Cayenne pepper. mix well.

  2. Add the chicken to the buttermilk marinade. Cover and refrigerate for one hour to overnight. Cut the tenders into 1 inch pieces for the breading process.

    Tofu or cauliflower can be substituted for chicken.
  3. In a bowl/tossing bin, mix the flour, cornmeal, salt, Panko breadcrumbs and a 1/2 tsp of cayenne.

  4. Preheat your air fryer to 360ยฐ.In manageable batches, toss the marinated chicken in the Panko/flour mix until well coated. Spray with vegetable oil.

    Breaded Chicken
    Chicken can be pan fried if you don't have an air fryer. If you are using tofu or cauliflower, check your air fryers settings for cooking times.
  5. Add the chicken to the air fryer and cook for 15 minutes, mixing the pieces halfway through to ensure even cooking. Chicken must reach an internal temperature of 165ยฐ.

  6. While the chicken is cooking, bring water to a boil and add the elbow macaroni. Cook until just under al dente. (generally about a minute less than the minimum time on the package) drain the pasta, and set aside. You may drizzle a little olive oil to keep it from clumping if necessary.

  7. In a sauce pan (you can use the same pan) not the butter over medium heat. Then add the flour 1 tablespoon at a time stirring constantly until your roux forms

    base for rue
  8. After a couple of minutes, the roux Will begin to change color. This is when you begin adding your milk/cream mixture. Add at about one cup at a time stirring constantly until mixture begins to simmer. Add the 1/3 cup of marinade to the mixture and simmer in additional 3 to 5 minutes until the mixture thickens slightly.

    Cream Sauce
  9. At this point, you can reduce the heat to low and begin adding your cheese. Add the cheese about one cup at a time stirring frequently to maintain a creamy consistency.

    Adding the cheese slowly and allowing it to melt gives your cheese sauce a creamy texture and keeps it from clumping.
  10. Once you have the desired taste and consistency, you can begin assembling your macaroni and cheese.

  11. Lightly grease a 9 x 13 casserole dish. Pour a little of the cheese sauce on the bottom of the pan. Add half of the pasta and half of that chicken. Pour half of the cheese sauce on top of this mixture. Repeat with the second half and stir to mix,

    Layering Mac and Cheese
  12. Once mixed, Cover with foil and bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes, or until your macaroni and cheese is bubbly in hot.

    If you like a crispy topping, you can combine 1/4 cup Panko breadcrumbs and 1/4 cup of shredded Parmesan cheese. Mix with a drizzle of olive oil to slightly coat, and sprinkle this over top of the mac & cheese and add before baking.
  13. Remove the foil, and enjoy!ย 

    Plated Nashville Hot Macaroni and Cheese
    For added crunch, you can turn the oven to broil after removing the foil and toast the topic for a few minutes until lightly browned.
Keywords: Nashville Hot Chicken Macaroni and Cheese, Macaroni and Cheese, Spicy Macaroni and Cheese
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