Easy Hacks To Upgrade Trader Joes Frozen Mac N Cheese Into Culinary Wizardry
Haters gonna hate, but Trader Joes frozen mac n cheese is pretty great.
Its been the official frozen mac n cheese of HuffPost Taste ever since it cleaned up at a Taste Test back in March of 2013. Its simply the closest you can get to restaurant-quality mac n cheese from a freezer. If you want to spend $2.99 and almost no time at all on dinner or a comfort food side dish, you could do a lot worse.
That said, you can also do better. A lot better, actually and with just a tiny bit of effort. You just have to use Trader Joes mac n cheese as a platform for other, more exciting ingredients. Ive come up with four easy ways to upgrade Trader Joes from serviceable to legitimately amazing. So good that you wouldnt be embarrassed to serve any of the resulting mac n cheeses at a dinner party, and you wouldnt blink if you were served them in a high-end restaurant.
Ive arranged from easiest and most basic to most difficult and unusual each is labeled with a corresponding Beyonce song. But they all start the same way: by cooking the Trader Joes mac n cheese as per the instructions on the back of the box five-to-six minutes in the microwave, then a minute of rest. Heres what youll get after you do that:
Why? A crust of browned cheddar and breadcrumbs elevates Trader Joes mac n cheese from decent to exquisite and indulgent.
Why? Spinach-artichoke dip and mac n cheese are two of the greatest uses of melted cheese in the world. They belong together.
Add Spice With Hot Sauce Black Pepper Mustard Or Kimchi
The indulgent creaminess of mac and cheese is arguably its biggest selling point, and a hint of spice will both highlight that richness and add some flavor-related intrigue.
Founder and recipe developer Jessica Clark of Gluten Free Supper says that she jazzes up her boxed mac and cheese by adding a dash of dry mustard and a bit of Frank’s buffalo sauce. She tops it off with some cracked black pepper.
For an extra mac and cheese ingredient that offers spiciness, acidity, and a bit of funk, kimchi is an ideal choice. “Stir in 1 cup of store-bought or homemade kimchi before serving. The combination of kimchi spices and the texture of the noodles and cabbage together make for one truly satisfying dish,” says cookbook author and recipe developer Kristen Wood of Moon and Spoon and Yum.
Cauliflower Mac & Cheese From Low Carb Yum
Cauliflower is a great solution for those watching their carb intake or looking for gluten-free options . The cauliflower mimics pasta enough that you can enjoy this meal without noodles, or simply microwave cauliflower and use it to stretch your basic mac and cheese recipe more fiber and servings!
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Ground Beef + Kidney Beans + Chili Powder
Nothing hits the spot quite like a steaming-hot pot of chili on a football game day or chilly winter nightthat is, except for chili drowning in a bowl of cheddar cheese and noodles. For this combination, it’s easiest to crack open a can of pre-made chili and mix it right into your favorite sharp cheddar-flavored instant mac. But if you don’t have one in your pantry, mixing in a few ingredientscooked ground beef, drained kidney beans, and a few dashes of chili powderwill yield a similar result. Top it off with a dollop of sour cream and chopped green chilis for a bit of extra punch.
Hacks For Making Boxed Mac And Cheese Better
It’s hard not to love the creamy, cheesy, deliciousness that is boxed mac and cheese, particularly the Kraft variety. Aside from being inarguably tasty, boxed mac and cheese makes for an inexpensive, filling meal that’s easy to customize and is guaranteed to bring back memories of late-night snacking while in high school or college. Which is exactly why you shouldn’t turn to chefs or accomplished cooks for tips on making this comfort food even more comforting no, you should turn to the real boxed meal heroes social media warriors on outlets like Reddit and TIkTok.
These men and women know how to update a cheap meal with cheap ingredients and a lot of creativity in a way that hits the spot in a completely over-indulgent sort of way. And making the most out of boxed mac isn’t hard it really is just about knowing how to implement a few easy “hacks” to amp up the flavor and get the most out of every bite.
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How Do I Make Box Mac And Cheese Fancy
There are so many ways that you can make this box mac and cheese recipe fancy. If you are making box mac and cheese to impress a crowd, we recommend adding chopped sun dried tomatoes and 1/4 cup of feta to your cheese sauce.
Top the mac and cheese with some fresh basil or chopped green onion and youre golden.
Other Mac and Cheese Add-Ins
There are so many add-ins that will really up your mac and cheese game. Here are some of our favorites.
- Shredded buffalo chicken folded into the mac and cheese.
- You can add 1/2 cup of shredded cheddar cheese or gruyere to the cheese sauce before adding the noodles back in.
- Slicing up brats or hot dogs and folding them into the mac and cheese is classic.
- Cooking ground Italian sausage in a separate skillet and then adding it to the mac and cheese at the end is so delicious!
Tips For The Best Mac And Cheese
- Grate the cheese yourself. I know using pre-shredded cheese is so much more convenient, but it really makes a difference. The anti-caking agents in pre-shredded cheese keep it from melting well.
- Heres another reason why you should grate your own cheese: blocked cheese is cheaper than pre-shredded!
- Salt the pasta water. It gives the pasta itself a little bit of flavor. And dont skimp on the salt, as the pasta will only absorb so much of it. Dont be afraid to add a whole spoonful to the pot!
- Cook the macaroni to al dente, or about 1-2 minutes less than prescribed by the package. I find that the pasta gets a little too mushy if cooked exactly according to instructions.
- If youve accidentally overcooked the macaroni, just toss it with butter to coat. The butter will create a protective coating that will keep the pasta from absorbing more liquid.
- Storage Instructions:
- Place mac and cheese in an air-tight container or cover it with plastic wrap. Store it in the fridge for 5 days.
- Reheat it in a saucepan over medium-low heat. If the sauce dries up, add a bit of milk or cream to thin it out.
- When reheating small servings, place mac and cheese in a microwave-safe bowl and reheat for 1-minute or until warmed through.
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Stir In A Tablespoon Of Cream Cheese For A Smooth Texture And Flavorful Zing
To lend a creamier texture and a hint of acidity to your boxed mac and cheese, look no farther than cream cheese.
“Start by adding one tablespoon of cream cheese,” says founder and food blogger Michelle Adenle of My Morning Mocha. Stir until it’s incorporated into the sauce and macaroni. If the single tablespoon gets you the thicker and richer mac and cheese you crave, feel free to stop there. But if you want even more cheesiness, go ahead and add another tablespoon.
How To Record My Screen On Mac
In the QuickTime Player app on your Mac, choose File > New Screen Recording to open Screenshot and display the tools. You can click Options to control what you record for example, you can set the location where you want to save your screen recording, or include the pointer or clicks in the screen recording.
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Kraft Mac And Cheese Is Whats For Dinner
Macaroni and cheese will always be a very popular side at dinner time. It will forever remain in the hearts of every child who would rather eat mac and cheese than their veggies.
Kraft mac and cheese can be cooked and ready to eat within minutes making dinner a breeze. Now, you know how to spice up Kraft mac and cheese to give it bold flavors and you know how to make it healthier.
You can trade your side of mac and cheese for an entire meal of mac and cheese, by transforming it into an entree. You wont ever get bored with kraft mac and cheese! There are countless ways to transform your mac and cheese into a meal, and now you now two very delicious ways to do it. It is easy to cook, easy to spice up, and easy to transform.
That is why Kraft mac and cheese is very often whats for dinner.
Homemade Kraft Mac And Cheese Recipe
I found this recipe from a Kraft newsletter some time ago.
I was impressed by how incredibly simple it was and how significant it improved the basic mac and cheese.
With added cheese and sour cream, the sauce becomes even richer, cheesier, and downright divine.
The crushed cracker and butter topping gives the dish a crunchy outer crust that complements the texture of the mac and cheese very well.
So the next time you make Kraft mac and cheese for dinner, be sure you also have some cheese, sour cream, butter, and crackers on hand.
Believe me, once youve tried it, youll never cook boxed mac and cheese the same way ever again.
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Barbecue Chicken From Kraft
Macaroni and cheese goes so well with barbecue. Its the perfect combination reallysavory, sweet, smoky and cheesy! Use shredded chicken and barbeque sauce to really amp up this combination. Also try this dish with pork as well. You can also turn it into the ultimate dinner platter.
So, if youre faced with an empty fridge and no idea what to fix for dinner, check your pantry. With a box of macaroni and cheese and a can or two of extras youll enjoy a delicious, simple meal tonight that wont derail your grocery budget.
Whats your favorite way to upgrade your basic mac and cheese recipe? Is there an add-in you use to take your boxed meal to the next level? Share your own mac hacks in the comments!
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Apple Pie Mac N Cheese
Cook one box of regular macaroni and cheese. Mix in 1 can of apple pie filling. Line the inside of a small casserole dish with 1 pie crust. Fill it with the goods. Top with the other pie crust . Crimp those crusts together to seal, and bake at 425 for 20-25 minutes, until crust is golden.
Break The Bank: Add 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar to the filling for $3 more.
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What Chemical Is In Boxed Mac And Cheese
Although not all phthalates pose substantial health risks, the phthalate found in macaroni and cheese, DEHP, is considered by some advocacy groups to be the most widely banned phthalate around the world. These bans stem from some research linking DHEP exposure to blocked production of testosterone, fertility
Use A Tiktok Hack To Make Your Cheese Sauce Creamier
It’s not just Redditors who know a thing or two about mac and cheese hacks. The social media giant, TikTok, is filled with video tips to make mac and cheese better. For instance, TikTok user, , says that to make a creamier, cheesier pot of pasta, you shouldn’t follow the cooking directions as listed on the box. Typically, you would make the cheese sauce with butter and milk separate from the pasta. But with this hack, you add the powdered cheese directly to the boiling pasta water. This way, the cheese melts and cooks into the pasta as the pasta is cooking, rather than being added to the pasta after it’s done.
Of course, this TikTok user also added extra shredded cheese to the recipe, so you have to assume that at least some of the boxed-version improvement comes from the added cheese. But a writer who test-drove the hack for The Kitchn admitted that the “hacked” mac and cheese preparation did offer a slight improvement to the overall texture and flavor of the meal.
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Add Actual Cheeseor American Cheese
One need only look to pizza to understand how something already made with cheese benefits from extra cheese. Improve both the taste and texture of boxed mac and cheese by adding some actual cheese to the mix: Mozzarella makes it stretchy, gruyere adds sweet and savory notes, cheddar keeps it classic, and even parmesan adds depth and additional saltiness. Or franklyeven though it doesnt qualify as actual cheesea couple of slices of American cheese does wonders for instant ramen noodles, so why not for mac and cheese?
Give It The Tuna Casserole Treatment
Box instructions would have you drain and toss the cooked noods with cheese powder, milk, and optional butter. But for a much better mac, youre going to ignore those directives. The trick to upgrading boxed mac is to work with the flavor packet, which can veer a little chemically. The ingredients in Macella Hazans fettuccine col sugo di tonno con aglio e panna do just that.
The cream and canned tuna introduce velvety, briny elements that actuallyand shockingly?complement the sharp tang of powdered cheese. And the result tastes like a deconstructed tuna casserole: creamy, salty sauce coating chewy pasta, with flaked tuna for texture . Parsley and freshly ground black pepper keep it from tasting like the punchline of a joke about the 1950s.
So, while your noodles are cooking, add the following to a bowl large enough to fit all of the mac, using a fork or whisk to combine until no large clumps remain:
- The flavor packet from your box of mac and cheese
- 2-ish Tbsp. chopped parsley
- Half a clove of raw garlic, finely minced you can amp this up to a whole clove if youre a certified Garlic Girl
- A large handful of freshly Microplaned or grated Parmesan or any hard, salty cheese
- 1 large egg
- 1 can oil-packed tuna, drained
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
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Add Your Favorite Cheese To The Cheese Powder
All boxed mac and cheeses come with a packet of cheese powder, but if you’re a serious cheese enthusiast, then those small, salty packets aren’t likely to hit the spot on their own. But if you add some actual cheese to the powder, both the flavor and texture will get a very welcome boost.
Food blogger and recipe developer Ashley Schuering of Confessions of a Grocery Addict says that her cheese of choice for this process is a slice of American cheese. “I know it’s processed, but so is the neon orange cheese powder, so what’s the harm? It will give the mac a bit of cheese pull, which makes it feel almost like the real thing,” says Schuering.
If American cheese isn’t your thing or you want to add even more depth of flavor, feel free to sub in other cheeses like cheddar, gruyère, fontina, smoked gouda, or pepper jack.
The Super Basic Mac And Cheese Recipe
So, the MOST basic of basic mac and cheese is usually made from a box. There are a zillion variations, but the boxed variety will get you started down the path of mac and cheese success.
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Olives And/or Anchovies + Cherry Tomatoes + Parsley
Puttanesca is one of our favorite pastas, fully of briny olives and anchovies, sweet tomatoes, and herbs. While puttanesca doesn’t traditionally include cheese , I’m all about experimenting. Just tear up some olives , slice some cherry tomatoes, and chop up some parsley to sprinkle on top, and mix it into your mac. Also feel free to throw in some capers if you have ’em on hand.
What’s your favorite way to upgrade boxed macaroni and cheese? Tell us in the comments below!
A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52’s founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning .