The Dairy Needed For The Creamiest Copycat Outback Steakhouse Mac And Cheese

If you're dining at Outback Steakhouse, chances are you came for its namesake meat, but one of the nice things about this mid-priced chain is that the entrees come with your choice of a side. The macaroni and cheese, while it is considered a premium side and comes with an upcharge, is nevertheless a fairly standard example. What sets it apart from most typical boxed mac and cheeses (like the Kraft kind used by rival Texas Roadhouse) is that the pasta is thick and chunky rigatoni noodles rather than the smaller, more slippery elbow noodles. The sauce, however, is made with a well-known name brand: Velveeta, a product famous for easy melting.

Mashed developer Kristen Carli has created a quick and easy copycat version of Outback Steakhouse's mac and cheese that comes together in just 20 minutes and involves only half of a dozen ingredients. In addition to the Velveeta and rigatoni, you'll only need flour, butter, milk, and salt, plus two pots to cook it all in. Add one pan-seared steak and a baked potato, then you'll have an Outback-style dinner for less than half of the price. (Don't forget to leave yourself a generous tip, though.)

What to do if you don't care for processed cheese food

While Velveeta is a whiz at melting, there is one problem with it, as far as food purists are concerned: Technically, it isn't really a cheese at all. Because of the way Velveeta is made, it is actually what the USDA classifies as "pasteurized processed cheese food."

Now, this needn't present a problem if you enjoy the flavor, since American-style macaroni and cheese isn't haute cuisine, nor is Outback Steakhouse likely to earn a Michelin star anytime soon. If, however, you've always thought that the chain's mac and cheese could use an upgrade, there are a few ways you can swap out the Velveeta for a different cheese while still retaining the creaminess.

One option is to make a homemade version by heating and stirring 8 ounces of cheddar with ½ cup of milk until they combine into a smooth, homogenous substance. No, this DIY substitute won't set up like a solid block of Velveeta — for it to do so, you'd need to add gelatin, but since you'll be melting the cheese anyway, why bother? Another way is to combine equal parts of cream cheese and shredded cheddar. If you prefer a different type of cheese such as Colby, pepper Jack, or Swiss, then you could use those in place of cheddar, but be sure to stick to a semi-soft cheese, since one that's dry and crumbly might not melt the way you'd like.