A creamy bowl of macaroni and cheese is a go-to comfort food. Preparing boxed mac and cheese is quick and convenient; just cook the pasta on the stove or in the microwave and add the included cheese packet. There's so much variety with mac and cheese; you can add in ground beef, vegetables, or even choose a vegan option. Whether you're looking for an easy kid-friendly dinner, searching for a cheesy high-calorie energy boost, or wanting a comfort food fix, there's a perfect box mac and cheese for you!
To make grocery shopping a breeze, we put together a list of our 10 favorite boxed mac and cheeses. Our favorite is Original Velveeta Shells and Cheese. The convenient pre-liquefied sauce means you don't need any extra ingredients to enjoy this creamy and cheesy mac, and the shells are perfect for collecting that delicious cheese sauce. We found nine other great options, and also created a buying guide reviewed by a chef so you can find the best boxed mac and cheese for you.
Jim Quast (JQ) is a lifelong professional restaurant and corporate R&D chef that loves everything food-related and the tools both big and small to make those great food memories. He's a super huge BBQ, grill, and kitchen gadget fanatic. JQ has spent the last 30+ years trying to figure out what works to make your kitchen life easier and fun. If you can use it to slice it, dice it, cook it, smoke it or store it, he's been there checking it out. Food = Life! https://www.linkedin.com/in/jim-quast-59769011/
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Boxed macaroni and cheese is a convenient meal. To find your favorite, consider different factors such as the pasta shape, type of cheese, as well as the ingredients and nutrition.
The type of cheese plays an important part in the texture and taste of the sauce. Cheddar cheese is commonly used in box mac and cheeses since it melts easily, thoroughly coating the pasta. You can choose between a mild cheddar taste or a bolder flavor with sharp cheddar.
Cheddars might taste different based on the type of milk used and how long the cheese has been aged, but there is actually no difference between white and yellow cheddar except that yellow cheddar is often colored with annatto, an orange-red food coloring. Younger cheddar does melt better than aged cheddars.
Depending on what type of flavors you like, you might want to choose a mac and cheese that uses sauce made with a non-cheddar cheese or a blend of multiple cheeses. Alternative cheeses that range in taste from buttery or nutty to smoky or tangy include Parmesan, Gouda, Gruyère, Havarti, and Monterey Jack.
Different pasta shapes will provide different mouthfeels and soak up the cheese sauce differently. The best pasta shape for you will depend on your personal tastes, but there are some basics about choosing macaroni and cheese pasta shapes.
A lot of mac and cheese is made using macaroni, which is pasta in the shape of a straight or curved tube. Regular and elbow macaroni are great because each piece of pasta will fill up with cheese sauce, ensuring consistently cheesy bites. Similarly, shells are a great choice because they also hold sauce well.
A less traditional pasta type for mac and cheese is a corkscrew rotini shape. Some are tubular and will fill with sauce whereas others have a lot of little nooks and crannies that will collect the sauce. Some brands even have cool pasta shapes that kids will love, like animals or characters from children's TV shows or movies.
Boxed mac and cheese is great because it's so convenient, but some boxes require more time, effort, or ingredients than others. Most boxed mac and cheeses include a packet of cheese powder, and you add your own milk or butter to create the sauce. Some mac and cheeses come with a cheese sauce already made, so you don't need to add any milk or butter to the recipe.
In terms of prep, you can boil water on the stove and cook the pasta in a pot. But if you don't have access to a stovetop or are really short on time, some boxed mac and cheese can be prepared in a microwave. Just make sure you have a microwave-safe dish and follow the instructions on the box.
Macaroni and cheese is typically made of cheese, milk, and pasta. It is still possible to enjoy boxed mac and cheese if you have allergies or dietary concerns, though.
Mac and cheese tends to be a dish that is high in fat and sodium. For individuals that need to restrict those aspects of their diet, look for low-sodium or low-fat options. Check out the back of the box to see if the nutrients and ingredients meet your health guidelines.
It is also important to pay attention to the ingredients you add to the boxed mac and cheese and how they affect nutrition. Butter will help create a creamy texture, but it will also add a considerable amount of fat to the dish. Health-conscious shoppers should search for butter combined with vegetable oil, as it contains less fat.
Milk also balances the taste of the dish and provides protein; however, milk can also contain a significant amount of fat. This can be reduced by opting for low-fat or skim milk.
Mac and cheese might contain ingredients that trigger allergies such as milk, cheese, or wheat. However, there are many alternatives to the regular wheat and dairy ingredients in typical mac and cheese, so if you're on a gluten-free or dairy-free diet, you can still enjoy this dish!
Some brands replace the typical wheat noodles with rice noodles or pasta made of chickpeas or other gluten substitutes. Some mac and cheese sauces feature vegan cheese. Do keep in mind that some vegan cheese is nut-based, so if you have a nut allergy, you'll want to look for a nut-free vegan cheese.
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Original Shells & Cheese
Best for the Velvety Cheese Sauce
Original Flavor Macaroni & Cheese Dinner
Best for Familiar Comfort Food
Best for a Sharp Cheddar Flavor
Best for a Touch of Heat
Sharp White Cheddar Macaroni and Cheese Dinner
Best for Bold Flavor and an Included Breaded Topping
Best Vegan Mac and Cheese
Best Gluten-Free Version of a Favorite
Dinosaur Mac 'N Cheese
Best Fun Shapes for Little Kids
Best for Making Cheesy Beef in One Pan
Best Oven-Baked Mac With 3 Cheeses and Breadcrumbs
What sets Velveeta shells and cheese apart from other boxed mac and cheeses is the added convenience of coming with creamy liquid cheese sauce; you don't need to have milk or butter on hand. Just add water to the sauce to create a smooth and creamy mac and cheese.
A few reviewers say the mac and cheese tastes a bit salty. However, many buyers love how the dish is creamy and filling. They appreciate the mac and cheese comes with a liquid sauce; it is easier to prepare than those that come with a cheese powder mix.
Kraft's original flavor macaroni and cheese dinner is a classic favorite with a rich and cheesy taste and no artificial flavors, dyes, or preservatives. Add milk, and butter or margarine to the powdered cheese packet and you'll have a tasty meal in under 10 minutes.
Some reviewers say it doesn't taste as good in the last few years as it used to. However, many reviewers compliment the cheesy taste and the creamy texture. Buyers also point out how this mac and cheese is a great comfort food because it so familiar and has a rich taste.
This macaroni and cheese from Annie's sets itself apart because it features real aged cheddar cheese. The aging process gives the cheddar a sharper flavor and also a hint of tang. This boxed mac and cheese boasts organic shells, and it is free from artificial flavors.
Some buyers state the cheese mix tends to clump together; it needs to be mixed well. However, most reviewers love the taste of the cheddar cheese. They also appreciate the use of organic and natural ingredients.
This mac and cheese from Cheetos boasts a blend of five different cheeses for a rich flavor. It also contains garlic, onion, and jalapeño pepper to give it a spicy kick. If it's not cheesy enough for you, you can even crumble some Cheetos puffs over your bowl for a crunchy topping!
Some reviewers point out an artificial taste present in the mac and cheese. However, many positive reviews love the velvety texture of this mac and cheese. They say it has a rich cheesy flavor, and they love the hint of heat.
This Cracker Barrel mac and cheese features the brand's award-winning cheese. The sharp white cheddar is made using a special aging technique and gives a distinct bold flavor. This product is also created without artificial flavors or dyes.
A few reviewers mention that this mac and cheese has too much salt and it overpowers the other flavors. But other reviewers say the mac and cheese is tasty and creamy. They love how quick and easy it is to prepare.
This vegan mac and "cheese" will satisfy your comfort food craving while cutting out the dairy. The sauce is a combination of sweet potato and pumpkin, so it will add a sweet taste with a hint of spice. The directions on the box recommend adding non-dairy milk and give the option to add non-dairy butter for a creamy texture.
A few buyers say the taste can be quite subtle; they recommend adding the non-dairy butter for more flavor. On the other hand, many reviewers appreciate a vegan option for this familiar comfort food. Buyers enjoy sharing their favorite non-dairy milk to add to the recipe to make it their own.
This gluten-free version of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese is perfect for those with dietary restrictions. It keeps the popular cheese mix packet but ditches the gluten in favor of brown rice and corn flour pasta. Like the original, the gluten-free mac and cheese is made without artificial dyes, flavors, and preservatives.
Some reviewers state the pasta has a strange aftertaste. However, many buyers love the taste of the familiar cheese mix. They are excited to be able to enjoy a favorite comfort food that meets their dietary needs.
This dinosaur-shaped pasta is made a classic way; slow dying that creates a rough surface, which is perfect for collecting and holding creamy cheese sauce. With the various shapes, family-size box made of recycled paper, and the organic and non-GMO labels, this is a mac and cheese that's healthy and fun for your kids as well as eco-friendly.
Buyers appreciate that the product is organic. They say that their kids love the fun shapes and the mac and cheese tastes great.
With macaroni, cheese sauce, and seasonings, Velveeta Skillets are easy to prepare. While ground beef is recommended to make cheeseburger mac, you can add any protein or vegetables you like. Simply cook the beef, drain, add water, the seasonings, and the pasta, and cook. Finally, stir in the cheese sauce.
A few buyers state the seasoning is overwhelming, especially the garlic. On the other hand, many reviewers love how quick and easy this dish is to prepare. They say it is very filling, and many have special ingredients they like to add to make the mac and cheese their own.
This mix is perfect if you want something that tastes like homemade baked mac and cheese. The steps include boiling the pasta, making a roux, and then baking, so it's not the simplest on our list. But the included spices and three-cheese sauce, plus breadcrumbs, make it a handy and savory meal.
Some reviewers didn't prefer the flavors imparted by the swiss and Havarti cheeses, but it also comes in simple cheddar if you prefer. Others say it tastes better than even some restaurants' dishes! They say although it has several steps, they're not hard, and well worth it for the comforting taste.
If you love boxed mac and cheese for its convenience, check out some other quick-to-prepare comfort foods. We've got recommendations for both sweet and savory comfort food cravings!
If you'd like some more product information or you'd like to browse a variety of shopping options, take a look at Amazon's best selling list of box mac and cheese.
No. 1：Velveeta｜Original Shells & Cheese
No. 2：Kraft｜Original Flavor Macaroni & Cheese Dinner
No. 3：Annie's ｜
No. 5：Cracker Barrel｜Sharp White Cheddar Macaroni and Cheese Dinner
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