The Only Way We Will Make Kraft Mac & Cheese From Now on Isn't on the Box

Turns out there isn't just one way to make that blue box of macaroni—we tested 3 different cooking hacks and this one was the absolute best.

A single macaroni noodle dripping with orange cheese sauce against a blue box-blue background
Photo: Photo: Fredy Hardy, Prop Stylist: Katherine Tucker, and Food Stylist: Ana Kelly

When you need an easy meal that satisfies kids and adults alike, a lot of people reach for that blue box of mac and cheese (it even won Best Boxed Mac & Cheese in our Community Choice Awards!). Making a box of mac and cheese is simple: boil water, cook and drain noodles, stir together the sauce, and combine everything together. But recently there have been a few hacks popping up that seem to not only make prepping mac and cheese look easier, but also make the final dish even more delicious. To see if they work, and if the hacked mac and cheese is as good as they make it out to be, I followed the instructions for three different mac and cheese hacks. Here's how they rank.

The Control: Made according to package instructions

To taste if the hacks were indeed better than the original, I prepared the mac and cheese according to instructions on the box. This involved cooking the pasta for 7 ½ minutes, draining it and then stirring in 4 tablespoons butter, ¼ cup milk, and the powdered cheese.

Hack #1: One Skillet with Cream from @_nikkigillespie_on TikTok

Nikki's version is the most flexible as there aren't exact instructions. The general "recipe" involves placing the dry pasta in a large skillet and adding water just until the pasta is covered. You then stir in the powdered cheese and approximately 2 tablespoons of butter. Bring the liquid to a boil over high, then turn the heat down to maintain a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until creamy. Then to make it even more delicious, Nikki stirs in heavy cream and more cheese. The amounts aren't specified but my guess is I added about 1/3 cup cream and 1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese.

Hack #2: One Pot with Milk & Water from Rachlmansfield

The Ultimate Boxed Mac and Cheese Hack from Rachel uses a medium pot instead of a skillet. Rachel adds 1 cup water, ½ cup non-dairy milk, and ½ tablespoon butter to the noodles, then brings it to a boil. Then she adds the powdered cheese and simmers for 8 min. After the noodles are cooked, she addes 1 slice of Cheddar cheese, salt and pepper.

Hack #3: So Much Cheese (aka cream cheese, Cheddar, and Gouda) from Blake Lively

This hack comes from actress Blake Lively and involves cooking the pasta according to package instructions, then when making the sauce, adding a splash of whole milk, 1/3 of a block of cream cheese and two handfuls of Cheddar and/or Gouda cheese. I used both.

The Best Mac & Cheese Cooking Hack

Hands down Blake Lively's mac and cheese is the creamiest and most flavorful. The generous addition of cream cheese, Cheddar, and Gouda makes the final product downright decadent. This mac and cheese feels gourmet because of the extra flavor from the Gouda and the creaminess from the cream cheese. If you served it with toasted breadcrumbs on top, you could almost get away with claiming this was made from scratch.

The Runner Up

Nikki's one-skillet hack deserved it's virility on TikTok. It wins for ease since you never have to drain the pasta plus, the final mac and cheese is creamy and flavorful with the addition of the cream and extra cheese. If I was to hack this hack, I'd add Gouda or Gruyere along with the Cheddar for an extra depth of flavor.

The One to Skip

The Ultimate Mac and Cheese Hack from Rachel scored behind the plain box of mac and cheese. The addition of the non-dairy milk alongside powdered cheese, butter, and Cheddar cheese is not only confusing, its entirely unnecessary since all the other additions contain dairy. Along with not having enough liquid to make the mac and cheese creamy, the non-dairy milk gave the pasta an odd, off-putting flavor to the final dish. Definitely skip this hack!

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