How To: The Tricks to Making Boxed Mac & Cheese Even Better

The Tricks to Making Boxed Mac & Cheese Even Better

For foods that encompass both tastiness and convenience, it's hard to beat boxed mac and cheese. Mac and cheese in a box takes 15 minutes to make, dirties only one dish, requires no skill, costs only two bucks, and is, despite all of the above, wildly delicious. Yet it can get even more delicious just by adding a few more ingredients.

In fact, one of my earliest food memories is of a mac and cheese addition. My sister had made a box of Annie's Macaroni and Cheese for us to share at lunch and had given me half. She scooped the other half into her bowl, crumbled some blue cheese on top, added a few dashes of Tabasco, and stirred in some balsamic vinegar. I tried a taste, and was instantly hooked.

It only takes a few extra minutes to elevate boxed mac and cheese. Here are seven of my favorite ways to do so.

1. Bring Some Fire to the Party

It can't get easier than this: hot sauce. I've never met a hot sauce that didn't get along with mac and cheese. From Sriracha to wing sauce, the heat in hot sauce pairs perfectly with the rich, creamy cheese. Plus, this addition takes only 10 seconds to do.

2. Make It Italian

It sounds a little silly to say that you should make macaroni Italian. I mean, it is pasta we're talking about. But let's be honest: boxed mac and cheese is about as Italian as cheap wine coolers and Domino's pizza. Yet, even though boxed mac and cheese doesn't resemble anything you'd ever find in Florence or Naples, it still works brilliantly with Italian flavors.

I love to mix some garlic paste and chili flakes in with the noodles, then top it off with freshly grated Parmesan cheese, basil leaves, and olive oil.

3. Add a Little Bacon

Need I say more?

4. Make It an Herbaceous Medley

I'm not sure if there are two food categories that I love more than cheese and herbs. Naturally, these two go wonderfully together. My all-time favorite mac and cheese is one that is jam-packed with herbs. I don't mean garnished with herbs, or even featuring herbs. I mean a whole cup of two or three different minced herbs mixed with a box of mac and cheese. Adding a large amount of herbs will bring enormous life to any bowl of cheesy pasta.

5. Make It Mexican

When I make mac and cheese from scratch, I usually make it with Mexican flavors. I recently found out that this works well with boxed mac and cheese as well. Add some jalapeños and paprika (or chipotle) to the pasta, then top with avocado, cilantro, and hot sauce, and you've got the ultimate meal in front of you.

6. Invite the Veggies

Don't worry, I'm not going to waste your time telling you that Kraft Macaroni and Cheese isn't a super food. And I'm not going to remind you that you need at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. But I am going to tell you that vegetables can add new life to a box of mac and cheese.

All you need to do is chop up your favorite veggies, stir them into the pasta, and devour (this is a great time to use frozen veggies). You'll enjoy the flavor more, and you'll feel better afterward, too.

7. Put an Egg on It

I have a habit in the kitchen. When I have a simple meal and I want a simple way to make it better, I put an egg on top. Fried, sunny-side up, poached—it doesn't matter. I love eggs, and I firmly believe that a creamy yolk will add much-needed richness to almost any savory dish. Mac and cheese may not be lacking in richness, but it still benefits from the luxurious addition of an egg.

Do you have any go-to tricks for souping up boxed mac and cheese?

Get More Boxed Food Hacks

We're no food snobs: convenience foods can taste good on their own or as part of a recipe. Here are our secrets to improving boxed cake mix, using instant mashed potatoes as your go-to ingredient, making store-bought pasta sauce taste homemade, and creating fun food and drinks with instant coffee.

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Photos by Brady Klopfer/Food Hacks


I love adding a can of drained Rotel tomatoes

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