When I think of nostalgic childhood meals, the first dish that comes to mind is the mac and cheese at the Outback Steakhouse. This mac and cheese was my absolute favorite meal when I was young. This was far before I learned to cook myself and far before I knew that I had celiac disease.
Now that I am older and I can cook whatever I want whenever I want, I sometimes like to revisit this childhood favorite. This recipe for copycat Outback Steakhouse mac and cheese is made with gluten free penne so it is one hundred percent gluten free. However, if you do not have a gluten intolerance you could also make it with regular pasta.
What makes Outback mac and cheese unique?
What makes this mac and cheese recipe different from other mac and cheese recipes? There are two main components that set this mac and cheese apart.
- Steakhouse seasoning. In this recipe we use a peppery seasoning that is similar to the seasoning used at Outback Steakhouse restaurants. In fact, most of the ingredients in this recipe are used to make the steakhouse seasoning. If you have any questions about this steakhouse seasoning, you should check out our dedicated recipe for copycat Outback Steakhouse seasoning.
- Velveeta cheese. This mac and cheese is made with Velveeta cheese. We will talk a little more about Velveeta cheese later on, but you really cannot replicate the flavor of the Outback Steakhouse mac and cheese without Velveeta cheese.
Why use Velveeta cheese in mac and cheese?
Why do we use Velveeta cheese in this recipe rather than a more common cheese like cheddar? There are two main reasons for this. The first is the taste. It is impossible to replicate the distinctive taste of the Outback’s mac and cheese without using Velveeta cheese. The second is the nice stabilizing properties that Velveeta has.
Velveeta contains emulsifiers that help to bind its ingredients together. The emulsifiers in Velveeta cheese also help to bind the melted Velveeta cheese to the other components of your cheese sauce. This helps ensure the sauce will be silky smooth and also protects the cheese sauce against curdling. Even if you are not making a Velveeta-based mac and cheese recipe, adding a dash of Velveeta to your cheese sauce is a great way to prevent it from curdling.
What is steakhouse seasoning made of?
What is steakhouse seasoning made of? This steakhouse seasoning is loosely based on the seasoning that is used at the Outback Steakhouse. Here are the ingredients for the base recipe.
- Black pepper
- Smoked paprika
- Brown sugar
- Garlic powder
- Onion powder
Cayenne is another ingredient that would go well in this mac and cheese. I excluded it for now because not everyone likes their mac and cheese to be spicy. If you do like spicy food, I would recommend adding 1/2 tsp ground cayenne to your steakhouse seasoning.
How can you use leftover steakhouse seasoning?
I love to make large batches of this steakhouse seasoning when I make Outback style mac and cheese. There are so many dishes other than this mac and cheese that benefit from a sprinkling of steakhouse seasoning. Here are a few examples.
- French fries (especially thick fries like steak fries)
- Onion rings
- Grilled vegetables such as asparagus
- Grilled steak
- Roasted chicken
Copycat Outback Steakhouse mac and cheese
- 8 oz gluten free penne pasta (2/3 of a standard 12 oz box)
- 12 oz Velveeta cheese
- 1 cup pasta water (reserve after pasta is done cooking)
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 tbsp cornstarch
- 3/4 tbsp steakhouse seasoning (see instructions below)
Outback steakhouse seasoning
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp onion powder
- 1/2 tsp brown sugar
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp turmeric
- 1/4 tsp salt
- Combine all of the ingredients for the steakhouse seasoning in a small bowl then set the mixture aside.
- Bring a medium sized pot of water to a boil then cook the pasta according to the instructions on the box. Dried pasta usually needs to cook for about 7-10 minutes.
- Combine the cornstarch and 1 tbsp of the pasta water in a small bowl to make a cornstarch slurry. Combine the cornstarch slurry, the heavy cream, and the rest of the pasta water in a saucepan over medium low heat. Stir the mixture for 2-3 minutes until it warms up.
- Cut the Velveeta cheese into small chunks that are 1-2 inches in size then mix the Velveeta and the steakhouse seasoning into the saucepan. Stir the sauce until the Velveeta cheese melts then combine the pasta and cheese sauce.
Other recipes you will love
If you have any questions about our copycat Outback Steakhouse seasoning then you should check out our dedicated recipe for the steakhouse seasoning. This recipe contains more ideas on how to use the seasoning as well as a few potential additions you could make to the seasoning.