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Best macaroni and cheese in a box [moved from What's My Craving]

Is there a such thing as really good macaroni and cheese in a box?
I am craving it and i don't remember the last time I had this.
What brand should I get tonight?

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  1. Kraft Macaroni and Cheese Dinner DELUXE. I prefer it over Velveeta or any other overpriced brands such as Annie's, etc. Be sure to get the Deluxe which comes with the gooey (already hydrated) cheese pack. I've attached a photo w/ my reply (click to enlarge).
    BTW, Sharp Cheddar is best.

    14 Replies
    1. re: Cheese Boy

      Thanks. I bought a box of Annie's last night and it was aweful. There wasn't enough cheese sauce.

      1. re: Monica

        I think all Annies are not created equal. I really like their Peace Pasta Parmesean and the Old Wisconsin Cheddar. Other flavers have just been OK.

        1. re: adventuresinbaking

          totally agree with you on Annie's. i tried the one w/whole wheat pasta and it was just awful, but have enjoyed some of the other flavors.

      2. re: Cheese Boy

        I have to agree, the Kraft Deluxe is way better than the Velveeta or the powdered varieties. They also make a sharp white rotini version that I loooove.

        Not boxed, but Trader Joe's frozen mac and cheese is sickeningly good.

        1. re: jessicheese

          Trader Joes Forzen Mac N Cheese is cheesy crack. it is so so good.

          1. re: ledc

            One day, TJ's is gonna make it's way to the Orlando area and be camped out on the sidewalk for the grand opening. I miss my TJ's.

            Give me Two Buck Chuck's or Give Me Death!

            1. re: bkhuna

              We're finally getting Ikea later this year, so I'm hoping that Trader Joe's is the next awesome national chain we get here in O-Town.

              1. re: bkhuna

                I lived in Orlando for six months doing Disney College Program, and I missed TJs soooo much. I had my mother send me care packages from LA with all my fave TJ products. I would make the drive to Winter Park to shop at Whole Foods, but it wasn't the same as TJs. Does the Whole Foods in Winter Park still do that great Thanksgiving tasting feast? That was awesome...especially while I was away from home and didn't have the traditional Thanksgiving to look forward to! I wish the Whole Foods near me would do that. I even wrote to them to ask them to start it last year...no response.

                But back to the topic, I tried the TJ frozen mac 'n' cheese, and really liked it. I made it into about 3 or 4 meals since its so rich. I just ate it with a nice green salad and it was a perfect meal for me.

              2. re: jessicheese

                oh, yeah. TJ's really got it right with this one...SO much better than Kraft. yuh-hum!

              3. re: Cheese Boy

                Interesting. I've never tried the Kraft Deluxe though I do love the Kraft regular (but only in fun shapes). The Velveeta with the broccoli dimebag was my fave for a long time but now I've gone back to plain old fun-shaped Kraft. Annie's whole wheat is also not terrible.

                1. re: marmite

                  I totally agree about the fun shapes.

                  When I do eat mac n cheese it has to be the SpongeBob one. haha

                  I wish i could find a really low calorie recipe or boxed one.

                2. re: Cheese Boy

                  I bought the Kraft Deluxe recently and thought it was pretty terrible. Felt like eating thick plastic to me. I felt totally ripped off. I'm sticking with the original.

                  1. re: Cheese Boy

                    Kraft mac and cheese is culinary crack. I can make mother sauces in my sleep, but there are some nights when I "jones" for the stuff in the blue box.

                    I continually surprised that the DEA hasn't investigated.

                  2. Stouffer's mac and cheese, which is frozen, can be quite tasty. The key is to overcook it until the edges start to brown and become a bit crispy. You can do this in a microwave, but if you have the time it's really yummy when cooked in an oven.

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: Fuser

                      I also love the Stouffer's mac and cheese. That gooey sharp cheddar is like crack. Just love the stuff. (And yes, the browned edges are great when heated in the overn.)

                      And I know I'm in the minority on this, but my fave boxed brand is Velveeta Shells and Cheese. I just love that creamy artificial goodness. You have to be a fan of cheez whiz to love it. But yes, the Kraft Deluxe with its creamy sauce packet is pretty tasty too.

                      1. re: VirgoBlue

                        Well I with you on the Velveeta, might have something to do with nastalgia, that is the cheese my mom used for her mac and cheese while I was growing up and I loved hers.

                        Not often but there are those times, we indulge. I refuse to look at the dietary information, I'm sure I would cry. That and a bottle of pico pica, or red chili flakes, I'm pretty content. But I do add cream and butter and a bit of cayenne. I think it is the kid in me. Growing up, I loved the mac and cheese at the school cafeteria. Crazy.

                        1. re: chef chicklet

                          I am with you on the Velveeta Shells and Cheese. It was always a special treat in my childhood home to get this as it was more expensive and not our usual generic with the powdered cheese. It is sad, but it has probably been four or five years since I have had ANY Mac. Dang, now I have a craving...

                        2. re: VirgoBlue

                          The really neat thing about the velveeta version is that it's absolutely perfect to build with - better than cheddar. I use the shells and some extra macaroni, the velveeta packet along with some good sharp gruyere, bechamel (thinner is better), and a topping of panko/gran padano/romano, usually mix in some smoked sausage chunks, and I bake until it's bubbling and then add some more topping and broil till brown - every bite of this gets eaten, doesn't seem to matter how much I make. Also, I've varied the bechamel to start with bacon and diced onions so the roux has bacon grease rather than butter - hey nobody's talking calories here...

                          I know the op asked for boxed, but the extra steps for baking a good mac'n cheese casserole is really worth it IMHO, especially if you pull a sandra lee for some of it - the already liquified velveeta in the kit works great.

                        3. re: Fuser

                          Yum, Stouffers and cooked exactly like you say in the oven :-) Actually, I will start it off in the microwave to give it a head start, and finish it in the oven. Shaves some time off the oven cooking.

                          1. re: Fuser

                            Yup, Stouffers with the crispy edges is numero uno !

                            I did try some of the Kraft Bistro Deluxe Mac and Cheese and it wasn't too bad. I dumped in a can of tuna and a dollop of sour cream and had quick snack.

                            1. re: Fuser

                              Stouffer's is OK, but I think the President's Choice frozen mac & cheese is better. It has crumbly topping. Definitely agree on the overcooking too.

                            2. Trader Joe's sells a DELICIOUS frozen mac and cheese...they use four cheeses, and I think the box says "Joe's Diner." Other than that....for the cook-yourself box kind, I really like Wacky Mac (it may be found in a kosher aisle.)

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: Chew on That

                                I just tried Wacky Mac and loved it. Not only was it cheap and delicious, but the box is a bit smaller than some of the other boxed mac and cheese I've purchased, meaning I don't feel quite so guilty after eating the entire thing. Thanks for the recommendation.

                                1. re: Laura D.

                                  No problem! Glad you liked it - we just had some for a side dish last night :)

                                2. re: Chew on That

                                  I second or third Wacky Mac it is my favorite out of a box - I forget what newspaper did a taste test and it came out on top -

                                3. Believe it or not, one of our favorite boxed mac and cheeses is the store brand (Shop Rite) White cheddar mac and cheese. For some reason, it's got a better flavor than others we've had.

                                  And ditto on Trader Joe's frozen - I just wish it came in smaller portions, or like 4 portions in one box. It's absolutely delicious.

                                  And Fuser - I thought I was the only one who liked overcooking frozen mac and cheese - I live for the crunchy parts!

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: CurlieGlamourGirlie

                                    I really liked the O Organics Alfredo Mac and Cheese from Dominick's/Safeway. It is very garlicky but I liked that about it. They also have a regular mac & cheese and White Cheddar.

                                  2. Overlapping with what I wrote on the Sriracha thread, try mixing sriracha sauce with your mac and cheese! It totally amps up the cheese flavor a notch, which is definitely what Annie's needed. The problem with Annie's mac and cheese is that there is way too little cheese sauce produced and it still tastes grainy when made with milk.

                                    1. For boxed, I agree Kraft Deluxe is best. But the cheese sauce seems really salty to me, so I use only like 3/4 of the cheese package, then supplement with whatever real cheese I have in the fridge.

                                      1. I really like the Stouffer's frozen macaroni and cheese. Its really creamy and rich.

                                        1. I have to admit to liking almost any brand of frozen mac'n'cheese - especially Stouffer's, haven't tried TJ's yet - but the only boxed one I like is the ORIGINAL Kraft stuff, formerly known as Kraft Dinner, with the "cheese" of a glowing orange never seen in nature and the straight-tube noodles. Once or twice a year, preferably when I have some weenies to cut up in it...boxed M&C is not SUPPOSED to be rich and creamy, and when it tries it just tastes like salty glue to me.

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: Will Owen

                                            Ooooh...I haven't had it in years, but I used to love Kraft Mac & Cheese with cut up hot dogs and frozen green peas mixed in! I now have a healthier diet, but boy did I love it when my mom made that for dinner.

                                            1. re: avena

                                              AND if you add tuna instead of hot dogs, you get a very fast, easy and tasty tuna casserole!

                                              1. re: Will Owen

                                                That's exactly how I do it when I've got a mac'n'cheese jones. But it has to be classic blue box, powdered cheese.

                                                On the other hand, I am a firm believer there is no such thing as bad mac'n'cheese.

                                          2. My boyfriend swears by the ShopRite brand M&C. Its a chain foodstore on the east coast. I think its kinda bleh but at .40 a box its some cheap eats.

                                            1. I've never had a bad macn'cheese from a frozen dinner. whole foods makes home-made tasting mac n'cheese in large containers that can then be baked or frozen.

                                              1. When I succumb to boxed mac 'n' cheese, I usually buy Annie's shells and white cheddar. I agree with the other posters that there is not enough cheese sauce so add with fresh grated cheese. After I drain the pasta in a colander, the pot goes back on the stove with a lump of unsalted butter and enough half 'n' half until it looks like the amount of sauce I want. After the butter melts I mix in the powdered cheese and heat until it almost comes to a boil, then stir in some fresh grated cheese. The pasta goes back into the pot and I mix it all up, sprinkle paprika or cayenne on top.

                                                Sometimes I'll add Coleman's powdered or bottled mustard to the sauce. Hadn't considered adding Sriracha before - have to try that sometime as well.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: AntarcticWidow

                                                  Canadian Kraft Dinner is quite different from what it is in the U.S. It's considered adult, not kiddie,food here.

                                                  I like it with some cut up slices of frankfurter or bratwurst that have been browned in a bit of oil and added to the mac and cheese.

                                                2. You must try Archer Farms Five Cheese Mac & Cheese from Target - curlique noodles, yummy cheese sauce, crunchy topping, baked to creamy perfection. The best box mix I've tasted.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: Divamac

                                                    We tried the cheddar version last night, and it was horrible. It has ALLSPICE for cryin' out loud. Tasted like pumpkin pie mac and cheese.

                                                  2. Well, no, I don't think that there is "really good" mac and cheese in a box...Having said that, I used to enjoy Stouffers (with added sharp grated cheese on top), and Kraft White Cheddar in the box, with plenty of Tabasco added!

                                                    1. Using krafts, I add chicken broth powder, sprinkle garlic powder, bit of canned chili, chili flakes, any extra sharp cheddar from the fridge and up the amount of liquid than recommended until i get that creamy consistency im looking for. mmm.

                                                      1. Stouffer's. If you have 45 minutes and don't mind the heat in the Summer, pop it in the oven. If you need to fill your jones -now- use the microwave. As an added bonus, there are no dishes to wash.

                                                        1. As to the type with dried pasta that you have to sorta cook - definitely the regular Kraft.

                                                          As to frozen, Stouffer's rules and I agree with all of those who say to make it in a regular oven rather than a microwave.

                                                          Both types are just so bad for you, but, every once in awhile, coming home from work, I stop into a supermarket to look for a no-effort something for dinner and the Stouffer's just hits the spot.

                                                          1. When we were first living together and I had no idea how to cook, everything came from a box. We liked Kraft Mac & Crack - I mean Cheese - the powdered kind. We'd buy two boxes, cook one of the macs and put two cheese packets in it, Now I buy Velveeta Shells & Cheese. They taste completely different. I'd eat either one but mac & cheese is rare in our house. Damn carbs.

                                                            1. I like Annie's. If you can find it, Beecher's frozen mac and cheese (made in Seattle, don't know how far it's spread) is among the best ever.

                                                              1. i haven't eaten M&C out of a box in years....but when i did eat it , for some reason i liked the cheapest of the cheapest....like 0.20 a box stuff........and i always liked it made with less liquids....never like the wet creamy stuff. Easy mac i did try once when i was without lunch and a coworker offered it...that stuff is just NASTY.

                                                                As for the poster who said in Canada it is an adult dish........hmmm....i am in Canada, and know very few people who eat this outside of college on any regular basis.

                                                                I prefer my home-made macaroni and cheese. I haven't even had a frozen version that comes close .

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: im_nomad

                                                                  Mac & cheese from a box is rarely found in my pantry anymore. I'm Canadian and I wouldn't call it "adult" food ...I ate it semi-regularly back in University when I was broke, a novice cook at best, living in the dorm and only had access to a crockpot.

                                                                  If there's boxed mac n cheese in my pantry these days it's Annie's Bunnies because the kids like the shape and I can't just buy a bag of the Bunny noodles themselves... otherwise my kids prefer the homemade mac & cheese to the boxed stuff. To the poster who said Annie's sauce is grainy: try cooking it on it's own while the noodles boil...the extra cooking time seems to help smooth out the texture. Otherwise I've also added plain non fat yogurt instead of milk on occasion... makes it more tangy and thicker.

                                                                2. Mac & Cheese is my favorite food in the world. I can't live without it. I like the Kraft Easy mac better than the box, I'm not sure why, but it's good. Kraft Deluxe is good. Stouffers is just ok to me, I don't love it. However, did you guys know it now comes in a bag and you can scoop out as much or as little as you want? Because of this, I have it in my freezer. We don't have a Trader Joe's here, now I'm really sad. I would love to taste it. But you know what.. the Country Crock mac & cheese in the tub is pretty darn good. Add a little butter and it's crack in a tub.

                                                                  1. I can't believe I'm even going to say this on the CH boards, but the Sam's Choice from WM brand of shells and cheese is mighty delish and I get it most times over the name brands. The other generic brands (Archer Farms, Albertsons, etc) are very salty and just don't taste right.

                                                                    When I'm not budgeting, I get Velveeta shells and then Kraft if they're out of the yellow box.

                                                                    Never the powdered kind. Ick!

                                                                    1. I recently discovered the individual packages of microwaveable Kraft mac & cheese - just 4 minutes in a microwave and you're set. I add parmasean (sp) and any other cheese I have around (asiago, cheddar), mix it up with the powder "cheese", add fresh thyme leaves and cracked pepper on top. MMMMM - I can make and eat several of them in a row.

                                                                      1. I found a way to make boxed mac and cheese decent. (I used TJs boxed brand or Annie's). I mean it is boxed so you can't get your hopes up TOO much. However, after boiling the pasta and letting it drain I combine milk and butter in the pan with the powdered 'cheese' and make into sort of a roux/paste. I let it get good and thick over low heat (takes a matter of seconds) and then toss in a handful of whatever cheese I have around. I add more milk if it needs it to make it the right consistency and then mix with the pasta. Tastes much better then just the powder alone. Is even better this way if you don't add extra cheese.

                                                                        1. I recently did a comparison of President's Choice organic mac and cheese vs. Kraft's organic white mac and cheese. The President's Choice was much tastier to me. The Kraft was distinctly sweeter and saltier with less cheese flavor.

                                                                          1. No matter which Mac-N-cheese I fix I also add a little extra velveeta cheese in the mix. It just make's a bit more "cheesier"......... a word? I mean if you dont have the time to do scratch then a boxed one is just as good if you kick it up a bit with a little bit more of the gooey stuff!! ENJOY!!!

                                                                            1. I like the regular Kraft Mac and Cheese, make it with cream instead of milk and throw in a handful of whatever extra cheese on hand. Yum!

                                                                              1. I always buy Simply Organic and embellish the hell out of it. My favorite addition is a roasted red pepper butter that I make, and browned seasoned panko crumbs. My son and I fight over it that way, and even my husband will eat it.

                                                                                1. ten years ago, my roomies and i would frequently get annie's mac n' cheese from our local co-op super-cheap.
                                                                                  we preferred the organic white cheese version.
                                                                                  it was so rich, cheesy and tangy that we would sautee some veg (artichoke hearts, mushrooms, tomatoes, etc.) and throw them in.

                                                                                  well, i haven't had it for a long time, and there was an in-store coupon for $1 off at the grocery store tonight.

                                                                                  holy crap, this stuff was like wallpaper paste!
                                                                                  what have they done to ruin it so effectively?

                                                                                  i followed the instructions to a T, and was a little flummoxed by the use of only 1/4 c. milk (no butter, like most recipes).
                                                                                  since most boxes recommend over-boiling in my opinion, i cooked the pasta to the very minute on the early end of the recommendations (al dente), and it was a bit mushy even then.
                                                                                  i added the "cheese" mixture and good god, i have never eaten something so gluey, blah and flavorless in my life.

                                                                                  it was late and i didn't have a lot of other things to whip up, so i tried to salvage it with some butter swirled in.
                                                                                  nope, still yucky.
                                                                                  shredded italian cheese blend?
                                                                                  not enough.
                                                                                  seasoned panko and old bay to liven it up?
                                                                                  ugh, still pasty.
                                                                                  is there an elmer's logo on front that i missed?

                                                                                  oh no, that stuff was determined to taste like nothing.
                                                                                  it was like a black hole of taste.
                                                                                  it tasted as white as its ingredients, if that is even possible.

                                                                                  what a disappointment.
                                                                                  i've never bothered to write a company and ask for my money back, but i just might on principle.

                                                                                  i wish they didn't "dumb down" the taste, and that it was as good as it used to be.

                                                                                  now if you will excuse me, i need to double brush, scrape my tongue, and gargle to bring my mouth to stasis.

                                                                                  yes, it was THAT bad.

                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: dinaofdoom

                                                                                    I still make Annie's(bunnies usually) for the kids once and awhile and when I do I cook it for the minimum time and drainm put it back on low heat and add 1/2 the cheese package with about 1/3 cup of good sour cream or plain yogurt...works a lot better than butter and milk imho.

                                                                                    1. re: maplesugar

                                                                                      perhaps some of the other styles are better, but this was a gluey, tasteless mess.
                                                                                      i like your yogurt selection.
                                                                                      i bet some fage would make it extra thick and creamy.

                                                                                  2. You can make any boxed M&C much more palatable by adding this simple salsa:

                                                                                    chopped tomato, chopped cilantro, chopped garlic, tossed and doused with red wine vinegar. It adds real punch and pizzazz to the M&C, and the sharpness of the vinegar is a nice contrast to the creamy cheese. Even with cheap regular KD, I feel like eating well.

                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: FrankD

                                                                                      good suggestion, frankd.
                                                                                      that sounds delish, although sometimes i just want the plain jane version out of comfort/nostalgia.

                                                                                      growing up, one of our babysitters used to chop up fried hot dogs and squirt in a little ketchup.
                                                                                      the concept of tweaking my mac & cheese blew my adolescent mind!

                                                                                      1. re: dinaofdoom

                                                                                        Back at university, in my pre-chow days, KD and hot dogs was a staple, as was KD and tuna, KD and bacon, KD and ketchup, and even KD and leftover S&S chicken balls!

                                                                                        This was long before Costco and other food warehouses appeared, but one of my roomies had an in with a food wholesaler, and we'd buy ten cases of 48 boxes for the five of us. I think the wholesale cost was about $0.15/box!

                                                                                    2. I'm a fan of the Kraft mac & cheese original, in the blue box. But then, I've rarely had any bad mac & cheese, ever. Maybe a couple of times.

                                                                                      Is it really good? Hmmmm. It's what I crave, so it is to me. I don't think it's as good as it used to be, but that's okay- maybe I won't crave it as much.