Copycat J Alexander’s NYO (not your ordinary) Mac n’ Cheese

Have you ever ordered a dish at a restaurant, took one bite, and said to yourself “I just gotta try making this at home?” That’s exactly what I said about J. Alexander’s NYO Mac n Cheese.  NYO meaning… Not.Your.Ordinary!  They should just cut to the chase and call it what it really is. Freakin’ awwwwesooooome! Its smooth, silky creamy texture pops in your mouth the minute it hits your taste buds. It’s just the right amount of richness with a hint of onion flavor. It has a crunchy topping of panko breadcrumbs that lend the perfect complement.  I personally would call this the best mac n cheese E.V.E.R!

I won’t usually order mac and cheese out because it’s always such a disappointment. Except when I go to J.Alexander’s…this is the only side dish I ever order.  I was making a meatloaf one afternoon and thought that mac n cheese would be a great comfort food side dish.  I started googling copycat J Alexander mac n cheese recipes and after what turned out an arduous task came up with this copycat recipe over at T’s Recipes which seemed to have the most responses of people who tried it that commented it was very close.

After making this a couple of times now, and adjusting just a few things from the other recipe, I think I have perfected my own personal copycat recipe of this magnificent mac n cheese dish.  Given I have a serious obsession with ramekins these days, I made individual portions just like they serve at the restaurant. By all means feel free to bake it in one dish.

*Update February 19, 2014: I recently made this and made some adaptions based on a reader’s suggestions below, and it came out even more delicious than before. The tips really helped and got closer to the recipe. The best part was it stayed creamy and smooth and leftovers the next day were just as delicious!

3.5 from 8 reviews
Copycat J Alexander's NYO (not your ordinary) Mac n' Cheese
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
Copycat J. Alexander's Not Your Ordinary Mac n Cheese
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) Cavatappi or pasta of your choice
  • 1 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • ½ cup chicken stock
  • 2 cubes chicken bouillon
  • 1 Fresh lemon slice
  • 1½ tsps sugar
  • 3 tablespoons butter -- divided plus extra for greasing pan
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • ½ cup half and half
  • ½ small yellow onion minced
  • 1clove of minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon Tabasco (more if you prefer a spicy kick)
  • heaping ½ cup fresh grated Gruyere cheese
  • 2¼ cups fresh grated Parmesan cheese
  • Freshly ground black pepper (this dish does not need salt as there is plenty in the chicken stock. bouillon and cheese)
  • ½c Panko bread crumbs
  1. Bring 6 cups water (no salt) to rolling boil in medium saucepan.
  2. Add pasta and cook until al dente, 6 to 8 minutes. (I like it to have a little hard bite bc it get's baked it in the oven.)
  3. Drain and put in large baking dish. Toss with Extra Virgin Olive Oil. If using ramekins, divide into 3-4 small ramekins.
  4. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in large saucepan over medium-low heat.
  5. Sautee onion and garlic in butter for a few minutes to draw out the flavor
  6. Whisk in flour and cook, whisking constantly, 2 minutes.
  7. Gradually whisk in chicken stock, 2 cubes chicken bouillon, heavy cream, half n half, and sugar.
  8. Simmer gently, stirring often, 15 minutes.
  9. Remain on low heat and stir in 2 cups parmesan cheese and most of gruyere. Reserve a small amount of the gruyere with the remaining parmesan cheese. Set aside for now.
  10. Season to taste with pepper.
  11. When cheese has completely melted add lemon slice to mixture. Remove after a couple minutes.
  12. Remove pan from the stove. Fold in sour cream and tabasco.
  13. Pour half of mixture slowly, divided into 3-4 ramekins or your baking dish, over macaroni. Stir to incorporate.
  14. Now sprinkle remaining cheese mixture over macaroni.
  15. Top with remaining cheese sauce mixture.
  16. Melt remaining 1 tablespoon butter in small skillet over medium heat.
  17. Add panko and toss to coat. Do NOT brown.
  18. Sprinkle buttered panko and over top of macaroni.
  19. Bake at 350: F. until panko is golden brown and mixture is bubbly, about 25-30 minutes.
  20. Let stand 5 minutes before serving. Makes 4 servings.

Have you every tried a copycat recipe of your own?


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  1. avatar
    Kevin Collins

    I’ve always dreamed of copying a recipe from a dish I ate at the restaurant but I just can’t find my ways to start. So how’s the not so ordinary mac n cheese went? Does it taste good? I hope it does, the pictures says it does! Thanks for sharing the recipe. Now I am thinking of creating one. Will I make it this time? 🙂


    • avatar

      Yes Kevin. Very delicious. Best of luck on your creation. However, I have to set the record straight, this isn’t my own creation. I adapted it from another copycat recipe.

      Thanks for dropping in and commenting.

  2. avatar

    oh wow, this looks amazing! mac + cheese is one of my all-time favorite comfort foods. gotta try this soon!

  3. avatar

    I have one from Crackerbarrel restaurant, it was when they use to make chocolate Coca Cola cake. Totally decadent! I will look it up and share. 🙂

    • avatar

      Jenny, please do! I did google it because I have a copycat recipe board on Pinterest. I found one and pinned it, but I would love for you to leave me the recipe or link so I can compare ingredients.

  4. avatar

    This is the best comfort food possible! Looks so creamy, cheesy and delicious!

    • avatar

      Hi Asmita. It really is comfort food that is sure to please. Thanks for stopping by. I checked out your blog earlier when I approved your comment. Going back to peruse your recipes. 🙂

  5. avatar

    hey thanks for the recipe post, I live in Rome now, and it is ridiculous to try and get cheddar here. That being said the fourth is tomorrow and me and the american bunch are having a Fourth Of July party with this to bring, thanks again…. side note the NYO Mac from J’s has bacon in it.

  6. avatar

    Made this today and taking it to thanksgiving dinner at the in,laws…. Tastes Amazing! I sure hope everyone else does as well!!!! I did deviate a bit from the receipe but tastes wonderful!!!!!

    • avatar

      Hi Wendy. Thanks for trying out the recipe and giving some feedback. I appreciate any feedback at all. It also let’s others know that a recipe is legit!! Heheh.

      It’s ok to deviate from a recipe. I do it all the time. That is what makes it uniquely yours!!! I hope your family enjoys it as well. Happy Thanksgiving! Gobble gobble 🙂

  7. avatar

    So excited to try this! My friend and I ate the real thing just this week.

    • avatar

      Thank you Kayla. Of course, nothing tastes as good as the original NYO Mac n Cheese, but this is a very close second. My daughter is coming from college in Ohio to visit me in Florida for Thanksgiving and requested this as this as one of the “must make” dishes while she is here (among her other favorites.)

      Thank you for dropping by and taking the time to comment. Would love for you to drop by again and tell me if you loved the recipe or not or tweaked it to make it even better.

  8. avatar

    A THOUSAND THANKS !! I live in Chicago and love JA’s mac & cheese. We are going to a “Comfort Food” Party and this will be PERFECT ! Happy Holidays

  9. avatar

    LOVE THE RECIPE!!! You go girl!!! That is darn close!

    Has anyone tried to freeze it? How does that work out? Usually heavy whipping cream doesnt feeze well…. Appreciate any feedback.

  10. avatar

    I am eating this as we speak and it is AWESOME. I made a few changes – I subbed veggie broth for the chicken stock, left off the panko (couldn’t find any), and couldn’t find Gruyere so I used an Italian mix. It turned out amazing. My kids are scarfing this. I am definitely making it again.

    • avatar

      Thank you so much. Your nice compliment makes posting this recipe so worthwhile. Thank you for taking the time to comment. Please stop back for more recipes.

  11. avatar

    My husband and I are BIG J Alexander’s fans – and this recipe could fool me! I’m making it for the second time right now (it’s in the oven) and the first it was amazing! I read a lot of recipes for this dish and decided on yours – glad I did, I think it is the best one out there. Thanks!

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  13. avatar

    Pretty close! the only thing is that i ate here last night to compare, and mine had a tiny bit of bacon in it and green onions instead of red. You are still way closer than i could have done!

  14. avatar

    I made this once before and LOVED it!!

    Have you ever made it the day before and just bake it on the day needed? I’d like to make it ahead, but I wasn’t sure how it would do.

    • avatar

      Eleanor, no I haven’t.
      I think this dish is best prepared the day of. The cheese tends to harden when left in the fridge. I have heated it up the next day as leftovers, while still tasty, I prefer the day of.

  15. avatar

    Hey! You’re incredibly close to the real recipe just a couple things from a former employee …..they actually sautee yellow onion and build the rioux in the same pan ……the chicken stock and base are used in the beschemel and the pasta is just boiled in water. And they actually add the lemon juice to the beschemel as well but at the very end so you don’t break the cream sauce…..they fold the hot sauce and sour cream in off the heat at the end and if you can believe it the ratio of cheeses is about 75% parmesan to 25% gruyere (which can be quite strong in flavor and expensive). If you want to make in advance boil your pasta and cool it quickly with ice and running water and drain it…make the cheese sauce and chill it separately and mix the two together immediately before baking. never do your pasta more than one day before you bake it. To freeze I recommend making the cheese sauce and freezing it then making pasta before you actually intend on baking it….ive done this many times and it works great

    • avatar

      Shelley, so great to finally here from a top authority on this copycat recipe. I will try your tips. Thank you for stopping by and sharing them!

      • avatar

        I make this recipe all the time and everyone loves it! I would love to see an updated one based on Shelley’s comments. I also sauté the red onions in a little bit of bacon fat to increase the flavor. But maybe I need more Parmesan instead (or in addition?)

        • avatar

          I haven’t made this recipe in a while, but after reading Shelly’s comments and tips I had planned on using them and testing them out the next time I make it. I do plan to do an update. I too will adjust the cheese ratio, switch out the red for a yellow onion and add lemon slices to bechamel at the very end which will hopefully eliminate the cheese from later curdling. I did notice mine does that the next day after sitting in fridge all night. She gave so many great tips! I can’t wait to try them.

          Jackie, please feel free to come back and give us your thoughts on the changes as well. Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate everyone’s input and comments.


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  19. avatar

    I crossed my fingers and tried this tonight and I was delicious !!

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  21. avatar

    Hi Sherri … I have a blog I’ve been writing since late 2006. In October 2007 my wife took me to J. Alexander’s for my birthday dinner, and I did a post about it at … but it’s been coming back to haunt me as of late. At the top of the post is a pic of the NYO Mac ‘n Cheese which, for whatever reason, has become a go-to pic for that mac ‘n cheese on Pinterest. Seven years later, today that old post had a record 235 referals from Pinterest! I have no idea why, I’m not on Pinterest at all … What I did do today was add a link at the top to your page here, as I think the recipe you have above might be what they’re looking for. I also go through various iterations of recipes to get them right, especially when I do copycat recipes, and I know how nice it can be to see people appreciate your work. Thanks fot posting this, I think it will give people the answers they’re looking for.

    • avatar

      Hi Dave. I remember reading your blog when I was first searching for a copycat recipe! Thanks for the ping back. I’ve noticed a big spike the last few days from those referrals.

      This is probably one of my most pinned recipes. We love this recipe. It’s super close to the original. If I shut my eyes and ate both, I might have trouble telling the difference.

      Thanks again.

  22. avatar

    Just made it for friends. I had it a week ago at J. Alexanders so it was fresh on my mind. Girl I think with the changes you put up there it is a dead ringer. I am a good cook and was patient but oh man oh man oh man. The best 5,000 calories I just ate. I made it with the Pioneer Woman’s salsbury steak. Great comfort food for my Walking Dead dinner party!!

    • avatar

      Thank you for sharing your experience with this recipe Renee! I’m so grateful to that reader who helped make the corrections. They were spot on! I also thought once I adjusted her suggestions, that the recipe was spot on. I agree. So worth the 5,000 calories!

  23. avatar
    Paula Reiter

    Hi Sherri,

    This recipe sounds absolutely delicious! I can’t wait to make it, as mac ‘n cheese is my daughters favorite dish on the planet! I’m a terrible cook, so I need a little further instruction so I don’t mess this up! I don’t have ramekins & would like to cook this in a big glass baking dish, 9 inches by 13 inches. I was wondering how long I should bake it for since the size of my dish is so much larger than a ramekin? Should I keep the temperature the same too? Thanks for any advice you might have & for posting what sounds like an awesome recipe!

  24. avatar

    Is the recipe above the updated version from one of the replies from one of the repliers? Just so I know the amount and ratio of cheese to get. Thanks!

  25. avatar

    Just wanted to drop a note and say we LOVE this recipe. Making it today and we’ve had it too many times to count since discovering it a year ago.

    • avatar

      Hi Greg. I really appreciate you taking the time to comment on the recipe. It helps other readers decide on making the recipe or not. I often read the comments on recipe blogs and search for the commenters who have actually made the recipe. It helps tremendously.

      Admittedly, it’s one of my favorite recipes to make. As many times as I’ve made it, you would think I’d have memorized it by now. Nope. Gotta refer here.

      Thanks again and Happy New Year to you.

  26. avatar

    I work at J’s and if this helps, we use bellagio and Swiss cheese for the Mac!

  27. avatar

    This recipe is simply delicious. I omitted the bullion cubes due to the salt content and used reduced sodium chicken broth, but you wouldn’t know that due to the great taste.

    My little ones hate everything, and they ate the entire dish! i even used veggie rotini, and they could care less – it was that good.

    • avatar

      Thank you for leaving a comment about the recipe. It is much appreciated. I don’t use bouillon anymore either. I will edit the recipe to say optional. Since, I re-adapted the recipe, I don’t think there is any need for it. I love that you used veggie rotini, and your kids ate it up!

  28. avatar

    I am making this as we speak. I love J’s, the best macaroni and cheese ever. I hope it taste as good as it smells?

    • avatar

      I hope you enjoyed it Michelle. I made it last weekend and had leftovers the next day. OMG Yum. I swear it gets better every time. I prepared two small dishes and put one in the oven and covered the other and put in the fridge to pop in the oven the next day. Just as good! Even in the fridge all night it baked up perfect. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  29. avatar

    This recipe looks amazing and I can’t wait to make it today! I just have a quick question… I am making this for a Valentine’s day picnic with my boyfriend, and making two of his favorite foods: this and chocolate lava cakes. I want everything to come out of the oven at the same time so I can pack it up and leave and it stay hot. The problem is that the lava cakes call for 425° in the oven, whereas this recipe is 350° so I cannot bake them at the same time. Can I bake this Mac and cheese at a higher temperature or would that not be recommended? Thank you in advance and thanks for the recipe! I am so excited to try it!!

    • avatar

      Meaghan, I wouldn’t recommend that. Make the Mac an cheese first you can always warm it in the microwave, or wrap it in a tin foil and a towel to keep it warm. Hope this helps and Happy Valentine’s Day to you an yours!

  30. avatar
    Janet franklin

    A bit on the salty side. Wouldn’t make again due to the price of the cheese. Thanks for sharing.

    • avatar

      Hi Janet, you can pull back on the salt by eliminating the chicken bullion. Also, when I originally posted the recipe I used more gruyere cheese than parmesan. A commenter who used to work at J Alexander’s gave a suggestion to switch the proportions of the two cheeses and it made a huge difference in price and taste. That change was reflected in the recipe above. Just some suggestions; however, everyone has their own tastes. Thanks for commenting.

  31. avatar

    Quick question, can this recipe be made in a crock pot?

    • avatar

      Hello Aisha. I honestly have never even tried cooking pasta in a crock pot. I don’t think the béchamel sauce could be made in the crockpot but you might be able to prepare it first then put it in with the pasta to cook slowly. That’s the best advice I have. If someone has tried it, please chime in.

      Sorry I couldn’t give you the answer you wanted. 🙁 Please let us know if you have success.

  32. avatar

    Just made this…was looking for something like J. Alexander’s…This seems way too salty. I did not add any salt but the large amount of Parmesan seems to be the problem. Did anyone else have this issue?

    • avatar

      Hi India. Sorry you had such a salty experience. Did you use a quality freshly grated parmesan cheese? That could make all the difference than say if you used processed grated parmesan cheese from a can or container. Maybe you could switch up your ratio of parmesan to gruyere?

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  34. avatar

    My husband and I ate at J. Alexander’s/ Redland’s Grill just five days before I made this recipe, so the flavor was still fresh in my mind. This recipe was spot on! After reading through the comments, I omitted the bouillion, and I chose not to fool with the lemon or the Tabasco. But I did use a quality Parmesan and Gruyere and grated both by hand. Although this is too decadent and time-consuming for me to make for my family often, this recipe will be my new go-to for special occasions! DELISH!

  35. avatar

    Hi, We love J’s (which is now Redland’s). I need to make this for 8, do I just double everything? Thanks!

  36. avatar

    This dish came out so good for me that now I am forced demanded to make it for every Holliday. I’m almost tempted to tell my relatives I got the recipe here so I can free myself of this obligation. J/K I’ll never tell.

  37. avatar
    marc smith

    I worked at J’s for 5 years. You aren’t even close. Lol.

    • avatar

      Hi Marc. Thanks for taking the time to comment. Obviously, I’m not claiming to have the recipe. It’s an interpretation that is reminiscent of the original. So there’s that. You might be a little too tightly wound if you’re taking my interpretation as the gospel for the recipe and taking delight in the fact that the recipe is not the original. Blog etiquette goes a long way. You should try it sometime.

  38. avatar

    May I ask, several have mentioned bacon in the recipe and I seem to recall bacon in it at the restaurant but I see no comment from you. Have you used bacon? and if so how much did you use? I also wondered about the green onion. Would you say that 1/4 of a small yellow onion is about 1/4 cup? Thank you for your help. I am going to try to make this for a buffet for 35.

  39. avatar

    Made this two days ago because there’s no Redlands Grill anywhere near me and it’s one of my favorite restaurants. The flavor is amazing. A lot different from my cheddar based mac. I, mistakenly, used the whole onion, but it turned out fine. My only gripe is the amount of cheese sauce the recipe yields. I baked one large Pyrex dish and would’ve loved more liquid/sauce like at the restaurant. Should I just add more cream or scale up the entire roux/bechamel? Thanks for posting this most recent iteration!

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  42. avatar

    I didn’t use the cheeses listed because I happened upon this recipe when I thought about the amazing Mac and cheese at JAlexanders. I used a cheddar, Colby jack, and Monterey cheese blend as that’s all I had with me. It still tastes amazing despite also not having a few other ingredients like heavy whipping cream, or chicken stock (I just used bullion). I have two kids and wasn’t about to make a last minute shopping trip. I ate the Mac and cheese at the restaurant about two weeks prior and it did taste very close to it.

    Id love trying it with the cheeses listed, but I am glad to know it’s delicious with the cheeses I often have in my fridge as well.


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