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The Daily Dish Top Chef

Padma Lakshmi Puts This Secret Ingredient in Her Mac and Cheese (Get the Full Recipe)

The Bravo's Top Chef judge likes to spice up her comfort food.

By Jenny Berg

On a cold and wintry January day, Padma Lakshmi knows just where to find warmth and comfort. And that is, of course, in a bowl of macaroni and cheese. But while some of us fire up the microwave or scrounge through the cupboard for the boxed version when a craving hits, the Bravo's Top Chef judge makes her own ooey, gooey version of the comfort dish from scratch. And luckily for us, Padma just broke down exactly how she makes her mac. 

How to Watch

Watch the Top Chef Season 21 premiere on Wednesday, March 20 at 9/8c on Bravo and next day on Peacock.

In a January 22 Instagram post, the foodie came at her followers live from behind her stovetop. "A lot of people get macaroni and cheese from a box, but it's so easy to make from scratch, and I'm going to show you how," she promised. We'll paste Padma's full, step-by-step recipe below. But first, here's a little spoiler: The dish contains a secret ingredient. And nope, we're not talking about that entire stick of butter. 

This version, which Padma calls "Mexican Mac & Cheese," has a little spice courtesy of chili peppers! Keep scrolling to see what else goes into the comfort dish to beat, exactly as written out on Padma's website


2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cups whole milk
1/2 cup diced shallots
2 cups ditalini or other very small elbow macaroni
3 to 4 pickled jalapenos or pickled serrano chilies, minced
1 1/3 cups grated cheddar cheese
1/2 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
1 cup grated mild jack cheese
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon turbinado or raw sugar
3 ounces (1/3 cup) goat cheese
8 tablespoons (or 1 stick) butter


In a large ovenproof skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallots and chilies, and stir. After 2 minutes, add the oregano. Lightly sprinkle the raw sugar over the shallots, and stir for 3 minutes.

Once the shallots begin to caramelize and lightly brown, turn the heat to low, and add the stick of butter to the pan, chopping it and stirring it in.

After 2 minutes, add the milk and stir. Add the macaroni, and turn the heat back up to medium or medium low, being careful the milk doesn’t curdle. After another minute, sprinkle in 1 cup of cheddar cheese and then the mild jack cheese.

Stir gently and add the goat cheese, slicing it with your spatula. Continue to stir gently, trying to prevent the cheese from clumping and increasing the heat as you see fit to speed the process. Heat and gently stir for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Remove the skillet from the heat and sprinkle the rest of the cheddar cheese over the top to form a layer.

Put the skillet in the oven for 10 minutes, then broil for 3 to 4 minutes, until the cheddar is lightly browned, forming a crust. Serve immediately."

Now, peep Padma making the mac and cheese live. 


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