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How to Make Box Mac and Cheese Better

Box Mac and Cheese
P Maxwell Photography/Shutterstock.com

Box mac and cheese is one of those simple pleasures that bring you back to the good ole days. It’s easy to make, only costs a few bucks, and kids can’t get enough of it.

Here’s the thing, though; the instant version is just meh once you’ve enjoyed a homemade baked mac and cheese. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to improve packaged mac and cheese. You just have to think outside the box.

Flavor Boost Your Mac

a container of franks red hot seasoning
Franks Red Hot

Something as simple as a little sprinkle of spices will help elevate the flavor of your mac in an instant. Franks Red Hot seasoning blends are a fabulous place to start. Flavors like buffalo ranch, honey garlic, and chile lime all taste amazing over that cheesy macaroni.

Otherwise, a simple garlic or onion powder will bring a little oomph to your bowl too. You can even try the famous everything bagel seasoning. That stuff is fantastic, and yes, you can absolutely throw it over your kraft mac and cheese.

Make it Extra Creamy

Creamy mac and cheese
Michael C. Gray/Shutterstock.com

The boxed stuff is mediocre at best when made following the directions on the back, but with a few hacks up your sleeve, you’ll never have to eat it that way again. One unique method to make it ultra-creamy is by using half-and-half or light cream instead of milk. Otherwise, a dash of heavy cream will surely add richness too.

Stacey Ballis from MyRecipes decided to give her Kraft Mac a “one-pot makeover” by adjusting ingredient amounts and throwing everything into the pot at once. She explains that the results are luxurious and that if you try this version, you might never go back.

Add Other Types of Cheese

A cutting board with freshly grated cheese on it.
Robert Stedman Pte Ltd/Shutterstock.com

Adding extra cheese to just about anything is always a good idea if you ask us. Whether you’re hoping for a gorgeous string pull in every bite or just can’t get enough of that dairy, throwing your favorite into the mix can amp things up.

Some cheeses that work well with boxed macaroni and cheese include sharp cheddar, gruyere, Colby jack, and even grated parmesan. For the best melt, always grate it yourself, as pre-shredded cheeses contain preservatives that can alter flavor and texture.

Bake It Casserole Style

Baked box mac and cheese

You can transform your favorite kid treat into a fancy baked mac with a bubbly hot cheese crust topping too. Prepare your favorite box mac and cheese brand like you usually would, but leave your noodles slightly undercooked. They will cook more when you bake the casserole in the oven.

OXO Good Grips Casserole Dish

Two Boxes of mac will fit snugly in this casserole dish.

To ensure it doesn’t dry out in the center, add a dash of heavy cream and some additional shredded cheddar. Sprinkle some more cheese over the top, then place in the oven until it reaches a golden brown crust topping. Just like that, you’ve got a tasty oven-baked masterpiece.

Add Broth, Stock, or Bouillon

A Jar of Better than Bouillon
Billy F Blume Jr/Shutterstock.com

Broth, stock, and bouillon do wonders in adding loads of umami (which our taste buds can’t get enough of) and help bring bland ingredients to life. A savory broth can even bring on that flavor if you feel like your box mac is missing.

You have a few options here. You can choose to boil your macaroni in broth or stock, make your cheese sauce with hot broth instead of milk, or do both. This works great if you plan to add protein to the mix.

For example, use a ham-flavored stock if you want to add shredded deli ham. If shredded chicken will eventually find its way into the mix, use chicken stock. We haven’t purchased bouillon cubes or premade stock in ages after discovering Better than Bouillon. The concentrated food base brings authentic and quality flavor every time.

Throw in a Little Protein

Bacon bits on a cutting board.

Finding little bits of savory meat in your dish adds flavor, positively contributes to texture, and overall brings great value to a boring bowl of mac. You have lots of options here, depending on what you enjoy most.

Hormel Real Bacon Bits

Bring on the bacon!

Briny bacon bits are always a win— I mean, who doesn’t love bacon? Shredded ham, turkey, or any deli meat in the fridge usually pair well too. Feel free to try sliced hot dogs, canned tuna, spam, or shredded chicken too.

Think Healthy with Veggies

Baked mac and cheese with broccoli and basil.
Liliya Kandrashevich/Shutterstock.com

You’ll also love the addition of wholesome vegetables. Cooked cauliflower, broccoli, and peas make lovely additions to box mac and cheese and add nutritious value. You can also try steamed carrots, asparagus, zucchini, and squash. Cook them separately, then add them in right before eating.

One way to amp things up in the flavor category is by using roasted or grilled veggies. The crispy char flavor you get from roasting or grilling tastes terrific with any pasta or noodle dish.

If you love box mac and cheese as much as we do, then you’ll appreciate these flavor-add ins. When you are ready to move on to dessert, try these five box cake upgrades!


Emilee Unterkoefler Emilee Unterkoefler
Emilee Unterkoefler is a freelance food writer, hiking enthusiast, and mama with over ten years of experience working in the food industry. Read Full Bio »
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