Applebee’s Copycat 4 Cheese Mac & Cheese with Honey Pepper Chicken

Applebee’s is one of the usual chain restaurants Husband and I go when looking for a night out.  Their 4 Cheese Mac & Cheese with Honey Pepper Chicken is one of my usuals there.

So I started with this recipe but the lack of flour in the cheese sauce confused me so I switched and used this one for the cheesy part.  Below is the mix of the two…although I also changed something major, discussed in the notes below.

Ingredients

1 lb chicken

3/4 cup honey

1/3 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup pineapple juice

Juice from 1 lemon

1 Tbsp vinegar

1 tsp black pepper

1/4 tsp cayanne pepper

1/4 tsp garlic powder

1 box (16 oz) spiral pasta – used cavatappi

1/2 stick butter (8 Tbsp)

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 Anaheim pepper (optional, I didn’t end up using)

2 cups heavy cream

1/2 cup grated Parmesan

3/4 cup shredded Mozzarella

1/2 cup shredded Romano

1/2 cup shredded Asiago

5-6 strips of bacon, cooked and crumbled

Directions

Add all the ingredients for the honey pepper sauce (everything below chicken and above cavatappi) into a saucepan. Bring to a boil.  Reduce to low and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until thickened.  Set aside to cool.

Cut chicken tenders to bite sized pieces.  Place in a sauce pan to cook through.  Once cooked through, add the honey pepper sauce and toss to coat.

Cook pasta to al dente.  Drizzle with a bit of olive oil after straining.

Add butter to a saucepan; melt over Medium/Low heat.  Add garlic to pan and saute for 2 minutes until softened.  Add in flour and whisk to combine.  Pour in heavy cream while whisking.  Heat for about 5 minutes or until thickened, stirring often.  Add in cheese and stir to melt.

Add cooked pasta to  cheese sauce, mix well.

Add pasta to serving bowl, top with chicken.  Sprinkle bacon on top of it all with optional drizzle of the leftover honey pepper sauce.

Notes

I forgot the bacon.  I don’t know how I did that.  I’m so upset.

This would’ve been first thing’s first (but then I freakin realized about the bacon) – Applebee’s and both copycat recipes use fried chicken tenders.  I opted to save calories where I could; I know there’s only so much I can do with a 4 cheese meal but figured it couldn’t hurt. Husband was funny though – he commented that the chicken wasn’t as good as in the original – that’ll happen when you’re comparing deep fried with absolutely anything else.

And I cut the chicken to bite size pieces rather than kept as whole tenders because every time I order it, I try cutting the chicken on a bed of pasta and it’s easier said than done.

I started writing down the ingredients for the first linked recipe before deciding to switch to the other, which is how it became this mix and match thing.  Next time I’d probably just try the second one in it’s entirety.

The honey pepper sauce was a little soy heavy; the second recipe has less soy sauce in it so that might help next time.

The sauce also boiled over and made a hot sticky mess so something to be careful about next time.

I prepped the honey pepper sauce in advance and boiled the pasta at the same time; both finished at about the same time.  When I cooked dinner, I cut the chicken and started that and then began the cheese sauce immediately after and it worked out pretty well time well time wise.

Applebee’s serves this meal with a side of a breadstick.  We opted for green beans instead.  I really wanted a veggie somewhere.

This ended up being 4 servings for the chicken and about 6-8 for the pasta.

So as a copycat recipe, it’s pretty comparable. Applebee’s version is better but I didn’t for a second think it wouldn’t be (especially after the chicken decision).  Overall it was pretty good though and would be worth making again.

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