HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


How do you dress up your Kraft mac & cheese?

Yes, I'm not ashamed to admit it ... I prefer Kraft mac & cheese (specifically the three-cheese shells) to any other kind. Here's how I doctor mine ...

Cook pasta al dente and add

3T organic unsalted butter
organic milk (2%)
2-3 slices American cheese--my old favorite was Swiss Deli Deluxe, but they seemed to have stopped making it. I think my favorite is a combination of "sharp cheddar" and "swiss"
the cheese powder packet (of course!)

Then I add one of the following:

* Generous amount of diced purple onion


* Sliced green onions
* Browned ground bison, seasoned (soy sauce, freshly ground white pepper, salt)

With sweet grape tomatoes on the side.

Please share your Kraft mac & cheese secrets ...

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. add can of tomatos, sauteed (whole cloved)garlic & onions, a pound of gruyere, some nutmeg. mid week only. ;-)

    1. Blue Box is primo hangover food, but IMO not something I'd eat otherwise.

      Make blue box per instructions. Add some shredded cheese from my fridge (whatever I have, usually gruyere or dry jack or something like that. Add a can of drained tuna and a can of drained mushrooms and a handful of frozen peas.


      3 Replies
      1. re: C. Hamster

        We often add a can of drained tuna for extra protein. I also find that the instructions on the box suggest way more than is necessary to add in terms of butter and milk. I literally use maybe a tablespoon of butter and a splash of skim milk.

        1. re: rockandroller1

          Depends what you mean by "necessary" ... I find the amount of butter and milk I use absolutely necessary to the level of comfort I demand from this dish ;)

          1. re: foiegras

            i don't use butter OR milk. olive oil and water!

      2. I don't normally cook easy mac, but I have had it many times throughout my early 20s. Try it with some chopped chipotles and adobo sauce. Tuna and peas is a good fake tuna casserole. It's also not half bad breaded, deep-fried and served with sriracha-ketchup.

        1. We call this version camper's casserole: Browned hamburger, drained kidney beans, drained corn. We used to have this back when we were pretty poor and living in Juneau Alaska, where food is very very expensive. This stretched the hamburger very well.

          This just dresses it up a bit: shredded Romano cheese

          Another take on camper's casserole: Browned hamburger, onions, peppers, garlic

          other kinds of cheeses

          Make it with cream and butter instead of milk and butter (this actually reduces the carbs slightly, but the pasta is still very very carby).

          2 Replies
          1. re: Morganna

            Hmmmmm, cream ... I think you are onto something here, Morganna ;) I feel like I've done this in the distant past when I had cream but no milk in the house, but I think I need to try it again ...

            1. re: Morganna

              I kind of like this idea hamburger onions peppers and garlic. I might try Italian sausage, grilled onions and peppers and garlic.

              Of course.. if you were gonna go through all that, you could use macaroni, ziti, penne or egg noodles and use a real cheese product.

            2. Add stewed tomatoes.

              Add tuna and peas.

              Add broccoli and bacon.

              Or, to go all out, pan fry sliced hot dogs and stir them into the pot of mac 'n cheese. Mmm..

              I picked up a bag of cheddar cheese powder when in PA and so now we make our own mac 'n cheese with whatever pasta we want. It's still bright orange, but it seems to have fewer preservatives in it.


              1 Reply
              1. re: leanneabe

                Sliced hot dogs and some Franks hot sauce sprinkled/poured on top!

              2. I like Annie's -- I'm not a food snob, but I just can't stomach Kraft -- but I'll weigh in anyway.

                I add half and half or cream. Grape tomatoes. Maybe some shallot or scallion. Roasted garlic into the sauce if I have some. I crumble in bacon if I have it, grate in fontina. Paprika or chili powder.

                Cottage cheese and peas for a different twist.

                1 Reply
                1. re: foxy fairy

                  You know, I've tried Annie's (and all the other alternative brands), but somehow their cheese powder always seems to be gritty ...

                2. Leftover BBQ brisket (chopped), a little BBq sauce, and onions. Mmmm.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Honey Bee

                    This also sounds very good ... I am also thinking that leeks would be good.

                    I have done the tuna, but I find it absolutely vile ...

                    I tried the new organic shells recently, and was disappointed to find that they are just not the same. The texture/thickness of the pasta is off, etc. Had to go back to the original ...

                    1. re: Honey Bee

                      Okay, I'm not a mac n' cheese fan, but that definitely sounds like it could be good!

                    2. I add a can of rinsed and drained black beans and a splash of hot sauce along with some shredded cheddar.

                        1. It's been a while since I've had Kraft, but my mom's secret was to add shredded cheese (usually Tillamook sharp cheddar) and then this strange spice mix thing from McCormick - "Salad Supreme". To this day, I can't eat Kraft without it.

                          1. Add a can of Stag's green label chili...a staple since college days

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: jungleboy

                              A whole can of chili?

                              Y'know ... at some point it stops becoming mac 'n cheese ... it becomes just garnish for the chili.

                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                yeah, but it makes it a two meal dish...

                            2. My friend Dave told me about this a few weeks ago. He likes to make it when camping in Montana:

                              Cheesy Chili Mac

                              In a bowl, layer mac and cheese
                              canned chili
                              mac and cheese
                              canned chili

                              top with EZ Cheese.

                              Just reading that leaves a salty taste in my mouth. Deadly and delicious...

                              1. I'm a purist. I make it according to the box directions, and then add a lot of ground black pepper. That's it. Delish. Also, I only eat the original version, no shells, no Spongebob shapes, etc. They don't taste the same.

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: mineral

                                  Almost a purist. Use only 2/3s of the macaroni, all the cheese powder, butter and cream--lots of black pepper. Only the original shape and I do not share--luckily my husband hates it.

                                  1. re: mineral

                                    I have my own variation:
                                    twice the amount of milk (for more calcium and protein)
                                    half the amount of butter (for less fat)

                                    And eaten straight from the pot.

                                    But after reading some of the other posts above, I just might throw caution to the wind.

                                    1. re: mineral

                                      it's not kraft mac'n'cheese if it's weird shapes!

                                      1. re: mineral

                                        IF I eat it and I rarely do , that is exactly how I want it. Lot's and lots of ground black pepper.

                                      2. I like basic Mac and Cheese from the box! Don't shame me!

                                        I like to added stewed tomatos. Reminds me of my grandmother.

                                        1. 1) I add left over spaghetti sauce instead of milk and butter
                                          2) Throw in some Mrs Dash original

                                              1. re: bkhuna

                                                There is such a thing as "organic spam?" Was that a joke?

                                                1. re: chicgail

                                                  Organic free range spam

                                                  or maybe organic free range vegetarian spam.

                                              2. I like it unadulterated. Especially cold.

                                                1. I like to dress my mac n' cheese with crimini mushrooms, tons of fresh garlic, tomatoes and red/yellow peppers..
                                                  I eat this on a regular basis..its so good!

                                                  1. grated pepper jack cheese!

                                                    1. A can of green peas, preferably LeSeur. Yum - with extra butter and whole milk when you make the mac-n-cheese.

                                                      1. whoa. there's something like organic spam? what a concept ;-P

                                                        I like to add sautéed diced chicken breast (dry-rubbed with cayenne pepper, paprika, and various herbs), green and/or red bell peppers, and mushrooms. and garlic, of course. I absolutely dig Kraft Mac & Cheese, and used to eat the entire box including my concoction all by myself. back when I smoked two packs of cigarettes/day and the calories would just magically bounce thru me. ya know, the good ol' health nut days. now I try to stay clear of prepared foods.

                                                        1. My teenagers love to make Kraft blue box, usually multiple boxes. They make traditional style and sometimes there are leftovers. I have been known to nuke a leftover bowl or two in my day. My secret ingredient is Tabasco sauce with garlic. It kills the "box" taste for me and adding some extra grated cheese (whatever is handy) also helps.

                                                          1. I made this once when I was out of both milk and butter and it was delish!

                                                            Cook the noodles
                                                            Stir in a can of cheese soup
                                                            Add cheese powder and stir
                                                            Add drained tuna fish
                                                            Add a small bag of frozen peas
                                                            Stir everything up
                                                            Put in the oven for 1/2 an hour
                                                            Pull out and put crumbled potato chips on top
                                                            Put back in the oven to brown the chips

                                                            1. Blue box all the way, with an addition of either salsa or a can of Rotel tomatoes and chiles.

                                                              Or, a drained can of tuna.


                                                              1. My grandkids love the Shells and Cheese. I have them "knead" the cheese package - they truly fight over whose turn it is. After the pasta is cooked and drained, I cut the entire top off the pack of cheese and then roll down the cheese - like rolling down a tube of toothpaste, then add about 1/2 stick butter, lots of fresh cracked black pepper, and a bit of canned milk. I must admit, it does taste pretty good.

                                                                I can recall doing the blue box Kraft many years ago, but haven't made that it many, many years. I really prefer to make my own Mac and Cheese.

                                                                1. I just made a box and dressed it up by adding:

                                                                  Plain Greek yogurt (2 big dollops, in place of milk and butter)
                                                                  Cheese packet
                                                                  Shredded Colby Cheddar
                                                                  Canned corn
                                                                  Canned black beans
                                                                  Adobo powder
                                                                  Dash of red pepper flakes

                                                                  It was delicious! Before I added everything, I portioned out some plan with the cheese packet and shredded cheese, it was SO good with the Greek yogurt! Tangy and creamy, and really helped with the "boxed" taste.

                                                                  5 Replies
                                                                  1. re: MissWordNerd

                                                                    Interesting with the Greek yogurt! I have used buttermilk before when it was all I had--pretty good, also tangy.

                                                                    I cannot abide the kind with the 'Velveeta' liquid cheese pack. Whenever I lose my mind and buy it again, the chemically taste always has me feeding it to the dogs. (It is by far the least healthy thing they eat!)

                                                                    Actual Velveeta has recently started tasting heavily of chemicals to me as well (not sure if it's me or them), but not as bad as that cheese pack. I don't understand why it can't be at least as good as 'real' Velveeta ...

                                                                    1. re: foiegras

                                                                      Annie's Organic has a white cheddar style. I always make it with Greek yogurt. I love the tangy taste it gives it!

                                                                      1. re: ludmilasdaughter

                                                                        That sounds interesting. How do you sub in the yogurt? Same quantity as the milk would have been? Do you need to add any milk at all to thin it out, or does the yogurt thin out on its own due to the heat?

                                                                        1. re: Bacardi1

                                                                          No additional milk needed. Same quantity as the milk, and it does thin out. Actually, I think it makes the end product more creamy.

                                                                        2. re: ludmilasdaughter

                                                                          not long ago i used greek yogurt myself. i added a pinch of sugar as it seems to be sharper than sour cream or milk. it was quite thick--a little water wouldn't hurt. i had no milk or i wouldn't have been subbing in the first place ;)

                                                                    2. Your add-ins sound delicious! We randomly made Kraft Mac and Cheese tonight, so I felt compelled to post. I added Andouille Sausage tonight, which was wonderful. I also like to add ketchup to mine sometimes, when I'm feeling sassy. ^_^ I remember my step brother always adding dried basil to his, though I could never stomach it.

                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                      1. re: NervousPanda

                                                                        SPAM and Kraft Mac and Cheese in one post? I am suprised Chowhound's server did not crash! LOL. The posts gave me some ideas! I LOVE Spam!

                                                                        1. re: randyjl

                                                                          Have you tried the new SPAM with Bacon? Good stuff, Maynard!

                                                                      2. I simply replace the milk with half and half, cook slowly. The family thought me a gourmet chef that night.

                                                                        1. I almost always add fresh chopped broccoli if I'm using it as a side. If it's going to be a main, then tuna in olive oil, or sliced hot dogs, or sliced kielbasa, or cooked ground turkey, yadayadayada.

                                                                          1. I haven't eaten KD in years, but we used to love it with ketchup, black pepper and, if mom would let us, hot dog slices! Man, that takes me back.

                                                                            1. Kraft dinner, no change to the recipe, as a side dish with a bag of Oreos.

                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                              1. Yummy ideas!

                                                                                Sometimes I drain it then quickly put it back in the pot, add several handfuls of baby spinach, stir, cover for a couple minutes to wilt, then proceed per recipe.

                                                                                1. Butternut squash puree, with spirals (if it's the blue box it HAS to be spirals). I make the sauce as is (well, close enough, I don't pay very close attention) and stir in plenty of the puree with a handful of shredded cheddar; it makes the sauce so thick and creamy and delicious (and, I convince myself, healthy).

                                                                                  Beats the version I used to make in college with Easy Mac, which had 1 hot dog cut into pieces, a generous squirt of ketchup, and a few Ritz crackers, crushed into the bowl. Salty, creamy, crunchy – hit all the right notes at midnight when I was 18. Now I need my extra veg :)

                                                                                  1. I know I shouldn't eat it, but about once or twice a month if I'm in a hurry, I make the classic with half the butter, cook with the noodles (added halfway through):
                                                                                    half a bag of frozen peas and pearl onions
                                                                                    Drain, add a can of tuna, and a good tablespook of sambal olek chili paste (ESSENTIAL), and if I want to spend a bit more time, I add a bit of shredded fontina or pepperjack :)

                                                                                    1. Simple. Cook and serve with Heinz 57 Sauce. Needs nothing more.

                                                                                      1. If there's no milk in the house, I recently discovered it's pretty good made with Kolona Supernatural organic sour cream, a few Kraft Deluxe American slices, and a pat of butter. Topped with diced sweet onion.

                                                                                        1. On a hot dog in a bun with mustard.

                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                          1. fiesta style, add some taco seasoning and some ground chicken or beef. i use a tablespoon or two of butter and however much milk gets me the right consistency, I stopped measuring years ago.
                                                                                            spidey food- make per instructions (or however you like it), add one can of drained tuna and one 8 oz can of cream of chicken (or any cream of something). mix and enjoy.

                                                                                            1. If you're using Mac & Cheese "shells", then add some drained chickpeas once it's all cooked. The chickpeas do this incredible spooning thing with the pasta that's just so complementary. Give it a try.

                                                                                              1. Adding one wedge of Laughing Cow red pepper cheese to the box kicks the down and dirty food fix up a notch in two seconds time. Just add the wedge immediately after you drain the pasta. Then the cheese-stuff pouch. Oh, and I never add butter or milk to the box mix.

                                                                                                1. Stir in 1 - 4 tablespoons of Crosswell & Black seafood cocktail sauce. The tomato/horseradish, etc. in the sauce add some zip to mac & cheese.

                                                                                                  1. There used to be a restaurant near where I grew up which made KD risotto. They made normal risotto using stock or water, and seasoned with KD powder and finished with cream.

                                                                                                    It was incredible!

                                                                                                    KD = Kraft Dinner as it is known in Canada. Canada consumes more KD per capita than the US.

                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                    1. re: brokentelephone

                                                                                                      I purchase a cheese powder from Barry Farms on Amazon or EBAY. It has a lot more cheese and a lot less sodium than the Kraft powder does. It's main purpose is to make a cheese sauce but I use it on popcorn, too. I suspect it would be even better on risotto. You can buy different varieties of cheese powder, too. I'm looking forward to trying some on risotto.

                                                                                                    2. 1 voracious hangover + 1 blue box + .5 recommended butter + 1 can of the hottest Rotel available + 1 gigantic spoon

                                                                                                      1. Although I hate to admit that I am slightly more partial to Velveeta Shells and Cheese, my doctoring is more straight forward: a generous portion of red pepper flakes. If I further desire protein, I add a can [drained] of chunk chicken breast. I used to do the tuna thing in college with the original blue box, but being a poor college student caused me to go to that well one too many times and could not stomach it at present.

                                                                                                        1. The only way I dress it up is serving it on limoges instead of spode china.

                                                                                                          1. Kraft Mac 'n Cheese is among the things we have in our pantry for "munchies" -- when we don't want a meal but potato chips just won't do.

                                                                                                            Years ago (grad school years) we'd be drinking and we'd make this, but with twice the butter and the shards of whatever cheese was leftover in the fridge (and we did, in fact, serve lots of cheese to our guests).

                                                                                                            Back to the drinking. One night I was just going nuts and chopped the contents of a small jar of stuffed olives and one of those microscopic jars of cocktail onions (for Gibson cocktails) and put it in the mac & cheese. I think there was also anchovies in it. But it was delicious and therefore we came up with this in later years to remind our guests of those house-parties:

                                                                                                            Make the mac & cheese but over-cook the macaroni so it's soft, and then drain well, make sure the mixture's a bit tight, rather than saucey:

                                                                                                            When the recipe's done, place in a mixing bowl and stir in thoroughly:

                                                                                                            1/4 cup chopped green olives stuffed with pimiento
                                                                                                            2 tbs chopped cocktail onions
                                                                                                            1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
                                                                                                            1/2 tsp Colman's dried mustard
                                                                                                            1/4 cup Mayonnaise

                                                                                                            Pile cupfuls of this stuff on slices/hunks of Italian bread and run under a very hot broiler and serve as hors d'oeuvres with a knife and fork.

                                                                                                            Pass the salad!

                                                                                                            1. Even as I type, I've got onions caramelizing and ground beef browning for my favorite version (add Tapatio when done).

                                                                                                              There is also a key lime pie chilling in the fridge.

                                                                                                              My entire dinner is courtesy of the Chowhound threads!