Macs & cheese
January 31, 2019 5:09 PM   Subscribe

 
For people paywalled out of the WaPo ranking…

The worst frozen mac and cheeses:
Lean Cuisine Favorites Macaroni & Cheese
Amy’s Macaroni & Cheese
Stouffer’s Classic Macaroni & Cheese

Middle of the pack: Marie Callender’s Vermont White Cheddar Mac & Cheese, Evol Truffle Parmesan Mac & Cheese, Devour White Cheddar Mac & Cheese with Bacon, Stouffer’s Cheddar & Goat Cheese Mac, Lean Cuisine Marketplace Vermont White Cheddar Mac & Cheese, Blake’s Farmhouse Mac & Cheese.

The best frozen mac and cheeses:
1. Joe’s Diner Mac & Cheese from Trader Joe’s.
2. Trader Joe’s Hatch Chile Mac & Cheese
3. 365 Organic Macaroni & Cheese

The worst boxed mac and cheeses:
Trader Joe’s Wisconsin Cheddar Macaroni & Cheese
Kraft Macaroni & Cheese

Middle of the pack: Annie’s Deluxe Macaroni and Cheese, Cracker Barrel Cheddar Havarti Macaroni & Cheese Dinner, Kraft Deluxe White Cheddar & Garlic Herbs.

The best boxed mac and cheeses:
1. Velveeta Shells and Cheese
2. Annie’s Shells & White Cheddar
3. 365 Macaroni and Cheese
posted by peeedro at 5:10 PM on January 31 [18 favorites]


People will have opinions, YMMV, etc.

But.

I am here to rep President's Choice White Cheddar.*

*Only available in Canada. Often available for prices as low as $0.87 CAD/box if it's on sale, and far superior to any other store brand of "white cheddar" mac and cheese.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 5:18 PM on January 31 [19 favorites]


I mostly agree with this but the Velveeta shells are painfully basic. I guess it's a point in its favor that the cheese glop tastes exactly like fake cheese glop is "supposed" to taste, but this would never be my first choice. My daughter swears by it though so maybe I am the weird outlier here.
posted by prize bull octorok at 5:20 PM on January 31 [2 favorites]


The key for me has been in replacing the milk with Greek yogurt. It gives it a tang that I find quite tasty. Elevates everything.
posted by offalark at 5:20 PM on January 31 [14 favorites]


On Christmas Eve, I was giving my daughter breakfast, before sending her off to be with her grandparents while we cooked and cleaned for the holiday. I asked her what she wanted and she said "bread" which isn't really ideal, but whatever. We got dressed and were going downstairs when suddenly she changed get mind. "No bread, no bread!" She screamed. I asked her what she wanted. She got a mischievous grin, cocked her head, and said in a conspiratorial whisper:

"My MACRCHEESE"

I made it and she loved it. It was Annie's White Cheddar that made Christmas magical for my two year old.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 5:24 PM on January 31 [12 favorites]


I am feeling defensive about Stouffer's though, the middle part is meh but no frozen m&c gets better crusty brown edges. It's twenty god damn nineteen why do we not all have fancy terraced microwave trays that maximize the crusty brown edge ratio of frozen mac and cheese
posted by prize bull octorok at 5:24 PM on January 31 [23 favorites]


I'm a little disappointed that no mention is made of Costco's 27-pound tub of macaroni and cheese with a shelf life of 20 years.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 5:25 PM on January 31 [9 favorites]


Costco's 27-pound tub of macaroni and cheese

It's odd that Costco felt compelled to compete with Jim Bakker's buckets.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 5:30 PM on January 31 [4 favorites]


Boxed mac & cheese, like chili and pizza, has so many variants that "best" usually means "best execution of my preferred style." I was introduced to it through Annie's White Cheddar, and so I like the shells which do a better job of holding the cheese sauce.

It would be nice to know the best microwaveable mac & cheese that you can buy at an ordinary store. The primary article recommends Trader Joe's and Whole Foods' house brands, which is nice if you can get 'em.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 5:31 PM on January 31 [8 favorites]


Trader Joe's frozen mac and cheese really is superlative. And I am 90% certain that their shells and white cheddar are really just rebranded Annie's. Those are what we get for our kid and it's basically spoiled him for all other boxed mac and cheese.
posted by soren_lorensen at 5:35 PM on January 31 [7 favorites]


Annie’s Shells & White Cheddar for me. I add ricotta and black pepper.
posted by cichlid ceilidh at 5:37 PM on January 31 [6 favorites]


I'll agree with the boxed mac n cheese, but honestly, I find Amy's frozen just fine. Excellent to bring to work and all that.

I have an unholy love of not-made-from-scratch mac n cheese, so honestly I may take their list and work my way through, and make my own rankings. Mmmmm.

(I can make from scratch, but there's something deeply comforting when the dish involves a cheese powder. I have accepted this about myself.)
posted by kalimac at 5:38 PM on January 31 [4 favorites]


BUNNY PASTA 🐇🐇🐇🐇🐇🐇🐇🐇🐇🐇🐇🐇
posted by D.C. at 5:39 PM on January 31 [15 favorites]


I like Annie's too, but the key is to completely ignore the instructions for making the sauce, and make it with milk, greek yoghurt, or butter. Doesn't really matter which, just make sure the sauce is at least 3 times the recommended strength such that it assaults the mouth gloriously.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 5:44 PM on January 31 [10 favorites]


I am 90% certain that their shells and white cheddar are really just rebranded Annie's.

You and other taste testers.
posted by Lexica at 5:47 PM on January 31 [2 favorites]


You may disagree with the list.
posted by Nanukthedog at 5:48 PM on January 31 [2 favorites]


They didn't try Kraft Thick N Creamy, which is my pick, so I'll be forced to test all of these to compare.
posted by Emmy Rae at 5:49 PM on January 31 [2 favorites]


I have young children THIS IS A VERY IMPORTANT POST TO ME
posted by not_the_water at 5:50 PM on January 31 [6 favorites]


I have young children poor adult eating habits THIS IS A VERY IMPORTANT POST TO ME
posted by Capt. Renault at 5:53 PM on January 31 [54 favorites]


I swore by Kraft as a kid but as an adult it tastes like licking a chain link fence. My daughter swears by Annie’s shells & white cheddar and she will probably be very pleased that some of the internet agrees with her.
posted by eirias at 5:53 PM on January 31 [2 favorites]


Velveeta shells and cheese is one of my favorite things on earth and I actually had a little audible sigh of relief to see the Washington Post agrees with me on this important issue. My snob of a husband who insists on eating mostly “real food” is the only thing keeping my innards safe from regular ingestion of whatever they put in that delicious, delicious packet of yellow chemicals. Sometimes I buy the single serve ones to eat as a special breakfast treat at work.
posted by something something at 5:53 PM on January 31 [6 favorites]


Kraft, but you skip the milk, double the butter, and crumble in some Hillshire Farms kielbasa and Jiffy cornbread.
posted by curious nu at 5:54 PM on January 31 [9 favorites]


You all have it wrong (and I am 100% sure I have posted this here before but whatever) Annies shells is the best because you put frozen peas in it (and black pepper, natch) and the peas nestle perfectly into the shells and it is great.
posted by quaking fajita at 5:55 PM on January 31 [13 favorites]


mandolin conspiracy - I was coming in the thread to say the exact same thing.

And thanks to the Loblaw's hegemony you can pick up President's Choice white cheddar mac and cheese in the drug store if you've got a craving.

I'm one to kick up boxed mac and cheese with seasoning and maybe some sauteed onions and bacon, but my partner swears by the PC white mac and cheese, unadulterated. And she's right. It is the best.
posted by thecjm at 5:55 PM on January 31 [5 favorites]


So.... we're just gonna let it slide that the top 2 boxed macaroni and cheese don't actually include macaroni?
posted by madajb at 5:55 PM on January 31 [12 favorites]


Actually I've sort of stopped buying boxed mac and cheese after going through a couple of boxes of Annie's every month or two because I figured out how to make real mac and cheese and I think it might actually be about the same price because my local store is kinda expensive. and we've been eating more cheese so there's always cheddar in the fridge *studiously ignores the dairy thread downpage*
posted by quaking fajita at 6:00 PM on January 31 [2 favorites]


I come from the place where they make Kraft boxed Macaroni & Cheese. We have a statue of a yellow-orange macaroni noodle.

It's kind of strange to be reading a taste-test listicle of goofy junk food beneath a scary black banner reading Democracy Dies In Darkness!!

This FPP is incomplete without a link to the best & worst Fancy Dijon Ketchups.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 6:00 PM on January 31 [12 favorites]


So.... we're just gonna let it slide that the top 2 boxed macaroni and cheese don't actually include macaroni?

In my household this food is known as "Cheese Noodles"
posted by Emmy Rae at 6:01 PM on January 31 [1 favorite]


Tangent I am trying this mac and cheese in a rice cooker because I am cursed at mac and cheese or any cheese sauce so why not why not try?
posted by jointhedance at 6:04 PM on January 31 [1 favorite]


If you can't make Kraft Macaroni & Cheese taste good I don't know what to tell you. Fish that live in barrels will sing your praises.
posted by East14thTaco at 6:06 PM on January 31 [12 favorites]


Kids started on Annie's white cheddar, but now have regressed to loving Kraft and the TJ Boxed Brand (?). When they swore that the alphabet shaped Kraft noodles tasted "so much better" I began to doubt the purity of their taste declarations.
posted by benzenedream at 6:08 PM on January 31


I mean the alphabet ones taste better than the tubes for sure.
posted by quaking fajita at 6:10 PM on January 31 [2 favorites]


When they swore that the alphabet shaped Kraft noodles tasted "so much better" I began to doubt the purity of their taste declarations.

It's been a while since I tested it, but IIRC, the shaped Kraft noodles have a higher cheez to pasta ratio. This checks out.
posted by asperity at 6:12 PM on January 31


Am I the only person in the world who grew up calling it "cheesemac"?
posted by deadbilly at 6:14 PM on January 31 [1 favorite]


Annie’s Shells & White Cheddar for me. I add ricotta and black pepper.

That was our go-to ( 6 box multipack) before I learned López-Alt's 3 ingredient stovetop mac and cheese, where you take a 1:1:1 ratio of dry macaroni, cook it in very little water, then use evaporated milk and shredded cheese.

Pantry staples. One pot. No colander to wash. What's not to love?
posted by mikelieman at 6:20 PM on January 31 [21 favorites]


I have an unholy love of not-made-from-scratch mac n cheese, so honestly I may take their list and work my way through, and make my own rankings. Mmmmm.

(I can make from scratch, but there's something deeply comforting when the dish involves a cheese powder. I have accepted this about myself.)


I'm so glad I'm not the only one. I actually like boxed mac and cheese better than homemade basically 100% of the time, which I guess is sacrilegious to a lot of people, but there it is.
posted by invitapriore at 6:23 PM on January 31 [9 favorites]


Well, I can tell none of you are Canadian because you're not calling it KD. My wife swears by the "spirals" version (different noodle, two to three times the price, no difference in taste), but she puts so much milk in it that it's practically soup.

I prefer making it with just enough butter to form a sauce, then add a can of flavoured tuna for a bachelor's casserole. Of course I eat the entire box myself, because my family has no culture or taste.

I'll have to give Annie's a shot now.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 6:24 PM on January 31 [3 favorites]




That was our go-to ( 6 box multipack) before I learned López-Alt's 3 ingredient stovetop mac and cheese, where you take a 1:1:1 ratio of dry macaroni, cook it in very little water, then use evaporated milk and shredded cheese.

I will say that that recipe sounds really good, and only further cements my belief that pasta water is nearly as magical a cooking ingredient as butter.
posted by invitapriore at 6:30 PM on January 31 [1 favorite]


Every so often I get a massive craving for the food of my college years: Kraft Mac & Cheese, cream of mushroom soup, and a tin of tuna fish. Maybe some frozen peas if I'm feeling flush.

The microwavable macs and cheese are all bad.

Also, previously, there was this instant ramen power ranking, but I believe the original page is now kaput. All I know is a friend introduced me to Indomie Mi Goreng and I am always tempted by the 30-pack at Amazon now.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 6:38 PM on January 31 [2 favorites]


apocyphral punk rock musician myth: Musician X (I heard this as applying to Mike Watt) drinks (pasta water) before shows to maximize carbo loading and thereby energy output.

I have also heard this with a different values of Musician X and occasionally sushi subbing for pasta water.
posted by mwhybark at 6:40 PM on January 31


Yall. Publix Deluxe Cheesy Shells. It's like Velveeta except it tastes like fake cheese in a delicious way and that just makes it so much better somehow. Add Sriracha and achieve nirvana.
posted by scruffy-looking nerfherder at 6:45 PM on January 31


Interesting that there isn't any mention of Kraft's reformulation of their venerable product from a few years back. They claim that people couldn't tell but I swear that when I heard the news, I was like, "That's what's different!" I thought my technique was off.

PS - Annie's Shells & Cheddar is top-notch and is the new king in our house for boxed mac & cheese.
posted by Big Al 8000 at 6:45 PM on January 31 [3 favorites]


I threw it all into a google spreadsheet, if anyone wants to poke at it. It's all a work in progress, I had several ideas while I was halfway through inputting the data, and I know nothing about stats. Fun, though!
posted by sagc at 6:49 PM on January 31 [2 favorites]


The worst frozen mac and cheeses:
...
Stouffer’s Classic Macaroni & Cheese

Many years ago, this was quite a different product. Like it was heart-stoppingly rich and decadent. I've wondered how the necessity of having all frozen foods suitable for microwave (vs. conventional oven) has resulted in a reduction in quality of "things from the freezer."
posted by Insert Clever Name Here at 6:51 PM on January 31 [7 favorites]


I quit making boxed when I discovered Alton Brown's recipe for stovetop mac n cheese.
posted by COD at 6:52 PM on January 31 [1 favorite]


President’s Choice White Cheddar thirded - it breaks the “Good, fast, cheap - pick any two” rule in the best possible ways.
posted by tantrumthecat at 6:53 PM on January 31 [4 favorites]


peeedro: The worst boxed mac and cheeses:
"Kraft Macaroni & Cheese"

Speaking as a Canadian this test is obviously invalid. Though I'd submit that the Canadian and American versions are different.
posted by Mitheral at 6:53 PM on January 31 [5 favorites]


The Trader Joe’s frozen mac n cheese, regular and green chile, are both absolutely delicious. Total comfort food for me. My six year old prefers Annie’s white cheddar microwaveable mac n cheese with butter in the sauce.
posted by JenMarie at 6:58 PM on January 31


fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit: "All I know is a friend introduced me to Indomie Mi Goreng and I am always tempted by the 30-pack at Amazon now."

Not that I'm a connoisseur or anything but his stuff is great (and 3/$1 at SuperStore; plus I get 20% off in points most times I buy it). Anyone know the trick to opening the liquid packages without getting it everywhere?
posted by Mitheral at 6:58 PM on January 31


In re Kraft Macaroni & Cheese: I've always wondered how the ingredients for this have changed over the years. One has to imagine there's been a slow inexorable shift from natural/semi-natural to increasingly artificial over time. Has such a thing ever been researched?
posted by Insert Clever Name Here at 7:00 PM on January 31


P.S. I still love me my boxed Kraft Macaroni & Cheese when the need arises.
posted by Insert Clever Name Here at 7:01 PM on January 31


I absolutely refuse to take seriously any ranking that declares the Velveeta stuff "good" but the (sinfully tasty) Cracker Barrel Havarti flavor as "mediocre".
posted by neckro23 at 7:02 PM on January 31 [2 favorites]


Mitheral I always warm the two liquid packets before adding them.
posted by Insert Clever Name Here at 7:02 PM on January 31 [1 favorite]


Pretty much all the frozen Trader Joes versions are excellent, including the seasonal squash one that has long since vanished for the year.

This probably makes me a heathen but for the (admittedly minimal) level of effort that goes into boxed mac and cheese, I'd almost always rather just make regular pasta.
posted by eponym at 7:12 PM on January 31


I like Annie's too, but the key is to completely ignore the instructions for making the sauce, and make it with milk, greek yoghurt, or butter.

Milk and butter. Tons of fresh cracked black pepper. If you have some parmesan or goat cheese hanging around in the fridge, drop some in. Also consider adding some reserved pasta water to the sauce as it nears completion.

The best.
posted by tocts at 7:12 PM on January 31 [2 favorites]


I am just here to say that on a cold January day, a thermos of hot tomato soup is like life itself.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 7:15 PM on January 31


Whichever brand you favor, crumble some soy chorizo on top just before serving.
posted by Fupped Duck at 7:29 PM on January 31


I don't understand the Annie's enthusiasm, but I was only exposed to it as an adult. Compared to Kraft, Annie's is like...non-diet soda, or popsicles with sugar.[1] I mean it's acceptable if it's the only option but I'm convinced that's not how that's supposed to taste.

[1] it is relevant that both my grandparents were Type 1 diabetics and you are not going to be able, at this late date, to convince me that foods aren't supposed to have aspartame.
posted by bagel at 7:31 PM on January 31 [4 favorites]


I literally just came to this thread to see if anyone would mention President's Choice White Cheddar, and I am glad to see that Metafilter has not disappointed me. It is ridiculous how good it is, given that I used to buy it for like $1 a box. What other meal can you buy for a DOLLAR that's this good? In addition to breaking "good, fast, cheap: pick two," it also breaks the reasonably solid (though less universal) rule that store brands are often worse than big brands. KD can get stuffed, PC White Cheddar 'til I die.
posted by chrominance at 7:43 PM on January 31 [2 favorites]


Kraft (yellow powder), with a can of Hormel Chili stirred in. Must be eaten entire, from the pan, using whatever utensil was used to cook with.

*burp*
posted by wenestvedt at 7:47 PM on January 31 [4 favorites]


I love Annie’s. Shells are good, but the bunnies are my most favorite guilty pleasure.

I go for no milk in the sauce. I mix the noodles with melted butter, pour in the cheese powder (plus extra grated cheese of various delicious sorts), and stir. The cheese powder stays a bit chunky and undissolved, which adds flavor explosions. I sometimes also top it with something a bit acidic to heighten the experience. So delicious.
posted by mantecol at 7:53 PM on January 31


I will say that that recipe sounds really good, and only further cements my belief that pasta water is nearly as magical a cooking ingredient as butter.

Emulsion. It's what's for dinner.
posted by mikelieman at 7:57 PM on January 31 [3 favorites]


Anyone know the trick to opening the liquid packages without getting it everywhere?

BEST I've come up with is before the water actually boils, dip the oil/spice packet into it to loosen it up, then put on a pair of gloves, and a hazmat suit, and cut the top with the scissors and squeeze it all out. Dispose of used PPE properly.
posted by mikelieman at 8:01 PM on January 31 [2 favorites]


I read this as "store brand" and got all frugal-excited for a showdown between Kroger and Great Value Mac & Cheese
posted by hexaflexagon at 8:12 PM on January 31 [4 favorites]


Anyone know the trick to opening the liquid packages without getting it everywhere?

I use scissors to cut a vertical slit in each of the three pouches, then fold the bundle up and squish it all into the bowl at once. (I used to cut the top of the pouches horizontally, but that left an unsatisfactory pouch end with liquid still in it.) Indomie is the best.
posted by Daily Alice at 8:15 PM on January 31 [2 favorites]


bagel: "I don't understand the Annie's enthusiasm, but I was only exposed to it as an adult. Compared to Kraft, Annie's is like...non-diet soda, or popsicles with sugar.[1] I mean it's acceptable if it's the only option but I'm convinced that's not how that's supposed to taste. "

1000% agree. Annie's always tastes to me... watered-down, thinner, less flavorful somehow.
posted by crazy with stars at 8:17 PM on January 31 [2 favorites]


Stouffer's

Did they change Stouffer's recently or am I just some kind of asshole, because this stuff used to be delicious
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 8:18 PM on January 31 [2 favorites]


there's something deeply comforting when the dish involves a cheese powder.

Cheese Powder, Cheese Powder?? Cheese .... Powder?????

What is the matter with you people (for people over the age of six)
posted by sammyo at 8:19 PM on January 31 [3 favorites]


I am dubious about the idea that there's this much variation in boxed mac. I'm pretty sure all the crappy-to-medium products use the exact same cheese powder, from the exact same source. (My boxed mac of choice --- I still keep some around, even though the 3-ingredient stovetop rocks, because sometimes you don't want to open a can of evaprated milk --- is the Kroger house brand, 'cause it's cheap and I can't tell the difference anyways.)
posted by jackbishop at 8:21 PM on January 31


Did they change Stouffer's recently or am I just some kind of asshole, because this stuff used to be delicious

My 12 year old will eat microwave Stouffer's mac and cheese pretty much all the time. While I don't swing that way, I do remember from the 80's that it was pretty good. Maybe that was a toaster oven thing.
posted by mikelieman at 8:23 PM on January 31


Cheese Powder, Cheese Powder?? Cheese .... Powder?????

Available in industrial qty: Food Service Direct
posted by mikelieman at 8:25 PM on January 31 [3 favorites]


People will have opinions, YMMV, etc.

But.

I am here to rep President's Choice White Cheddar.*

*Only available in Canada. Often available for prices as low as $0.87 CAD/box if it's on sale, and far superior to any other store brand of "white cheddar" mac and cheese.


I'm a Complements Penne White Cheddar man, me.

I used to work for a pasta company in the distribution centre. One day, there was a failure of the racking and 12 skids of a store brand (Not PC or Complements) mac & cheese fell on one of my coworkers. He was fine under that safety cage of his forklift, just buried in macaroni boxes. Powdered cheese in the air turned sweat to salty orange sauce as we cleared away the wreckage. We all got like a five year supply of (slightly dented) mac & cheese out if it. Stuff would't rate on this list, but hey, free.
posted by rodlymight at 8:35 PM on January 31 [7 favorites]


President's Choice White Cheddar, all the way.

Version 1: butter, very little milk, cracked pepper.

Version 2: Fry up some onions. Crack an egg and drop it into the noodles before you start making the sauce. Stir the egg around until it's not runny. Make the sauce. Chop up some spinach and toss it in along with the fried onions. Sprinkle some powdered parmesan and fresh cracked pepper on top and give it a stir. Sprinkle the parmesan and pepper on top one more time. So good
posted by ashbury at 8:41 PM on January 31 [5 favorites]


Ha! I've always felt slightly guilty about liking Velveeta shells over classier brands like Annie's, and now I am vindicated. But the Kenji Lopez-Alt recipe looks interesting, will have to try that.
posted by tavella at 8:43 PM on January 31 [1 favorite]


Craft
posted by clavdivs at 8:50 PM on January 31 [1 favorite]


I am dubious about the idea that there's this much variation in boxed mac. I'm pretty sure all the crappy-to-medium products use the exact same cheese powder, from the exact same source. (My boxed mac of choice --- I still keep some around, even though the 3-ingredient stovetop rocks, because sometimes you don't want to open a can of evaprated milk --- is the Kroger house brand, 'cause it's cheap and I can't tell the difference anyways.)

So like I was saying above, I worked for a pasta company. And like you might assume we were the source of several different competing store brands of boxed mac. But at our place anyways, they all had their own different cheese powder mixes. The brands come in with their own proprietary recipes, so they can move a different producer if they feel the need to, without any major impact on the product.
posted by rodlymight at 8:56 PM on January 31 [5 favorites]


Well, I can tell none of you are Canadian because you're not calling it KD.

Uh no [shows passport]. Always Kraft Dinner, even in French. Not mac & cheese or whatever Urban Dictionary lingo the cool kids use these days. And especially not the corporatised "KD".

Speaking as a Canadian this test is obviously invalid. Though I'd submit that the Canadian and American versions are different.

This is true but they changed the recipe and it doesn't taste the same. Tho I have added MSG back into it and it comes closer to the taste I remember.
posted by Ashwagandha at 9:01 PM on January 31 [6 favorites]


ObKITH
posted by stevil at 10:18 PM on January 31 [2 favorites]


Is it a coincidence that Bezos's paper rates Bezos's Mac and Cheese #1 in both categories?
posted by batter_my_heart at 10:23 PM on January 31 [3 favorites]


This foodstuff fascinates me. I have occasionally seen it in the exotic food aisle at my grocery store, which of course is an accurate representation of what Americans eat (marshmallow fluff and hot sauce with a donkey on it). I guess it's time to buy a box!
posted by Vesihiisi at 10:37 PM on January 31 [3 favorites]


Annie’s yes. But have you ever eaten a frozen Trader Joe’s chile relleno on top of their Hatch chile mac and cheese? Because it’s gooooood.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 10:43 PM on January 31 [2 favorites]


OH NO, Vesihiisi, DON'T!!

You will be horribly disappointed and (probably) also nauseated.

You need to have had the proper upbringing to actually *like* this stuff, like an Aussie growing up eating inch-thick Vegemite for breakfast. Enjoying neon-coloured 'cheese powder' isn't one of those universal things.

Also: straight boring KD. Mostly butter, tiny doight of milk, tabasco.
posted by jrochest at 10:45 PM on January 31 [2 favorites]


I enter with the Devil's powder: CHEESE DUST. Stare and tremble from what comes from Vermont and Indiana! All that is needed is edible lubricants and emollients to bathe your starch vehicles!
posted by jadepearl at 10:46 PM on January 31 [4 favorites]


but i want to have an exotic experience and bond with you crazy cheese powder-eating people
posted by Vesihiisi at 11:04 PM on January 31 [8 favorites]


Kraft Mac 'n Cheese is kind of meta. You perform alchemy on an orange industrial powder and end up with something resembling cheese. Not quite the same stuff, but recognizably from roughly the same universe.

But cheese itself is an ancient way to preserve milk far beyond its spoiling point. Late at night in my Silicon Valley condo, I wonder if I'm emulating my ancestral peasantry or ancestral nobility while eating a small wedge of cheese in the winter.

At some point in the distant past, cheese making was as foreign and upsetting as modern industrial practices. Perhaps cheese started out as a junk food before becoming established as a staple.

Regardless, it good to know that I'm not obligated to eat Kraft Mac 'n Cheese.
posted by b1tr0t at 11:08 PM on January 31


Fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit, I did, in fact, buy the 30 pack of mi goreng, and I have to say, I regret nothing. A packet of it topped with a soft-boiled egg is the perfect meal, and, honestly, way more comforting and delicious than mac and cheese. I SAID IT. I'm not sorry.

That said, I'm a little sad that this thread hasn't turned into everyone's favorite mac and cheese casseroles--mine's mixing in heavily browned ground beef, chicago steak seasoning, sauteed onions, and peas.
posted by mishafletch at 1:16 AM on February 1 [1 favorite]


Not being from North America, I've tried making mac and cheese exactly once to placate eldest daughter who had seen it on US tv shows. It was not a resounding success, but this thread leads me to believe cheese powder was the missing ingredient. So off to Google I go, only to discover that it's available in Norway, though only in 20 kg bags.

(Which reminds me of the previous time I tried something in the same vein, which ended up with the tagline MetaFilter: I don't think you should eat the horse molasses.)
posted by Harald74 at 1:56 AM on February 1 [4 favorites]


Apparently you can buy cheese powder from a fishing bait store.
posted by Vesihiisi at 2:05 AM on February 1 [1 favorite]


Coincidentally I made macaroni tonight from scratch. First I fried up some bacon and used the grease to start the sauce, added evaporated milk and real cheddar cheese, then adding paprika and a little Dijon mustard. Crumbled the bacon and added it back. Finally, I added some cooked broccoli florets at which point my son cried “Aw, you ruined it!”

The kids wouldn’t eat it and insisted on TJ boxed Mac and cheese because they are assholes and can’t appreciate anything. But I’ve got delicious leftovers for lunch for a week now.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 3:15 AM on February 1 [4 favorites]


You can buy a shaker bottle of the official Kraft cheese powder to sprinkle on... well, I'm not sure. Popcorn, maybe?
posted by GhostintheMachine at 4:29 AM on February 1 [1 favorite]


In Canada, you can scoop your own cheese powder out of a bin at Bulk Barn. I’ve been tempted, for expermenral purposes, but whenever I go there I end up leaving with 5 kilograms of jujubes.
posted by rodlymight at 5:28 AM on February 1 [4 favorites]


rodlymight: Powdered cheese in the air turned sweat to salty orange sauce as we cleared away the wreckage.

“Just then, our supervisor rounded the corner, on the run.

We all stopped what we were doing as he skidded to a halt in front of us, breathing heavily. We all waited for the tirade about our incompetence that was sure to follow.

Instead, he ran a finger along the forearm of his nearest employee. Poor Jimmy always seemed to get the shortest end of the stick every time we all got into trouble.

He drew his hand away from Jimmy’s arm and placed the sweat-and-cheese covered finger in his own mouth. A thoughtful expression came over his face.

‘What I DON’T see happening right now,’ he bellowed between laboured breaths, breaking the tense silence that had descended on what had been a noisy, chaotic scene moments earlier, ‘Is one of you jokers in that forklift out looking for those skids of butter!’”
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 5:41 AM on February 1 [4 favorites]


In Canada, you can scoop your own cheese powder out of a bin at Bulk Barn.

the promised land
posted by Emmy Rae at 6:00 AM on February 1 [3 favorites]


I sub heavy cream for the milk and eat it over the sink as God intended.
posted by Twicketface at 6:06 AM on February 1 [2 favorites]


I love the concept of a Bulk Barn.
posted by Vesihiisi at 6:11 AM on February 1


Vesihiisi: but i want to have an exotic experience and bond with you crazy cheese powder-eating people

One tip if you attempt this: do not use too much milk. Over-milking is a common error that easy to make, and as people above have said, a tiny bit of milk (less than you think you should add, like a tablespoon or so) and plenty of butter is the way to go.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 6:17 AM on February 1 [2 favorites]


I made some Kraft Dinner (its real name) for my kids and only had one box of Thick 'n' Creamy and one box of White Cheddar, so I combined them. We were all shocked and amazed at how perfect it was, so much better than the sum of its parts.

They're grown now and still make it that way.
posted by rocket88 at 6:21 AM on February 1 [5 favorites]



I will say that that recipe sounds really good, and only further cements my belief that pasta water is nearly as magical a cooking ingredient as butter.


If you really want to emulate the magic that restaurants accomplish with pasta water, throw a tablespoon of flour (semolina if you have it--I always do because I'm insufferable) to the water as you cook the pasta, and also more salt than you think is necessary. No, even more.

The secret to restaurant pasta water is that they cook all the pasta for the shift in the same pot of water, so it's SUPER starchy. All the recipes I've seen for creamless alfredo sauce or caccio e pepe or whatever gloss right over this key fact. Since I've started juicing my pasta water with extra flour these recipes finally work the way they are supposed to.

(Also, I do actually prefer KD over Annies, because childhood. Lots of milk. So much milk. Mac and Cheese Soup levels of milk. My kid disagrees though, so Annies it is. I add some chopped tomato and mix it all up real good in my bowl before eating.)
posted by soren_lorensen at 6:34 AM on February 1 [4 favorites]


I uphold the right of nosrgslia and the purpose of items. If I wanted GOOD Mac and cheese I’d make it myself, like a proper casserole. If I’m eating boxed Mac and cheese I don’t want something good, I want something made of salt and preservatives. It’s like craving tinned peas over fresh when sick.
posted by The Whelk at 6:39 AM on February 1 [1 favorite]


One tip if you attempt this: do not use too much milk. Over-milking is a common error that easy to make, and as people above have said, a tiny bit of milk (less than you think you should add, like a tablespoon or so) and plenty of butter is the way to go.

I'll argue for the opposite side, but I always get the extra cheez dust "Thick & Creamy" variety. It's a point of contention with my wife that she prefers her Mac & Cheese dry and a bit oily while I prefer mine a little soupier, with maybe a touch of extra salt and pepper to compensate, but definitely not the dry mound that some people prefer. Mine slowly seeks its own level.
posted by Kyol at 6:39 AM on February 1 [1 favorite]


Meanwhile, over here in Europeland, I am shaking my fist at all you North Americans gloating about your boxed mac n cheese. Yes, I know about the three-ingredient mac n cheese, but that's not the same. Homemade is good, but it can't replicate those shells with little nuggets of undissolved cheese powder.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to console myself with an extremely cheap bottle of wine.
posted by lollymccatburglar at 6:43 AM on February 1


Well, we don't even have THAT in Sweden.
posted by Vesihiisi at 7:09 AM on February 1 [1 favorite]


I love the concept of a Bulk Barn.

You may not after hearing my brother-in-law's stories of working in a warehouse that provided the "food" that went into those barrels.
posted by Ashwagandha at 7:17 AM on February 1


The TJs Hatch chile mac and cheese is great, but only if you add more green chile, since it seems to be made for people who are new to green chile.
posted by heurtebise at 7:20 AM on February 1 [1 favorite]


Kraft Dinner at the bottom of the pack? What is the anti-Canadian propaganda?!
posted by asnider at 8:37 AM on February 1 [2 favorites]


Ugh, why did the WaPo taste testers skip over the most recent development in mac & cheese, Annie’s YUMMIER THAN EVER? (Caps lock theirs, not mine) I want a larger than my household sample of people to determine whether or not it actually tastes better. My husband is on team white cheddar, I am on team YUMMIER THAN EVER, but my 6 year old recently chose one box of every single Annie’s flavor (mega sale at the co-op) and now prefers the reduced sodium flavor. WTF? I crack up every time he tells someone else his favorite kind of mac & cheese - no one really knows how to respond to that level of nuanced preference.
posted by Maarika at 8:43 AM on February 1 [6 favorites]


I may be a basic trashbag, but you can pry the Kraft out of my cold dead hands.
posted by zeusianfog at 10:07 AM on February 1 [6 favorites]


Not being able to have mac n cheese (lactose AND gluten intolerant) and with the only children in the world who do not like melted cheese (yeah, I have no idea either), I haven't had mac n cheese in forever. However, this discussion is making me crave it like nothing else and now I am seriously calculating if it would be worth the pain. If anyone has a good lactose free/gluten free recipe (yeah right), pass it on!
posted by ElleElle at 10:54 AM on February 1 [1 favorite]


You know what's weirdly good? Amy's Rice Mac and Cheese. Not Rice Mac and Cheez*, mind you--it has to be the one with real cheese. I kind of agree that the Amy's real mac and cheese is not that great, but there's something about the rice macaroni that's just so appealing to me.

*Because that tastes exactly like snot.
posted by HotToddy at 12:12 PM on February 1


if you have a Wegman's near you, go get their store-made ready-to-eat frozen mac & cheese. it's amazing.
posted by numaner at 12:12 PM on February 1 [1 favorite]


My bff calls Annie's Mac & Cheese Shells "depression feast of champions", and I'll admit it's been a regular feature of my life the last few months, when cooking has seemed implausible but I still want a hot meal. (I too add frozen peas, although I usually pour a little boiling water over them to defrost slightly before adding.)

(I knew I was having a good week when I actually felt up to making my mom's adaptation of the baked mac & cheese from the 1964 Good Housekeeping cookbook, which calls for a double-boiler, evaporated milk, and Velveeta. We ate it nearly every Friday when I was growing up; didn't have the boxed stuff until I was in college.)
posted by epersonae at 12:23 PM on February 1


Control-F Old Bay...no results found

Metafilter, put Old Bay seasoning in your mac and cheese. Seriously. It's a revelation.

Also acceptable is cajun seasoning (I prefer Tony Chachere's Bold).
posted by namewithoutwords at 12:50 PM on February 1 [3 favorites]


If you really want to make your mac n cheese pop, sprinkle some berbere on top.
posted by peeedro at 1:10 PM on February 1 [1 favorite]


I feel pretty boring now, as I:

a) like Kraft Dinner
b) like it plain
c) except two hot dogs underneath
d) and have it probably once a week.

Healthy? No. Tasty? Enough. Fast? You bet. Going somewhere? Yes.
posted by Capt. Renault at 1:11 PM on February 1 [2 favorites]


I don't get mac and cheese + hot dogs. They are not complementary textures. Together, they do the dance of processed slimy food in my mouth, and I do not like it.
posted by prize bull octorok at 1:29 PM on February 1


Nobody’s mentioned stirring in a minced garlic clove with the butter and before the powder mix? It’s go-od!
posted by anthill at 2:02 PM on February 1 [1 favorite]


a) like Kraft Dinner
b) like it plain
posted by Capt. Renault


It seems like something a Cafe Americain would serve, neh?
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 2:04 PM on February 1 [1 favorite]


ElleElle, have you tried making mac & cheese vegan-style (aka, with nutritional yeast)? If you don't like the taste of nutritional yeast, here's the somewhat involved SeriousEats version that doesn't use nutritional yeast and instead features potatoes and miso.
posted by devrim at 2:53 PM on February 1 [2 favorites]


Hi y'all. I was a picky eater growing up and I basically never ate mac 'n cheese until I went to a Marie Callender's or something like that and ordered something that was fancily named and turned out to be mac 'n cheese. It turns out I do like it BUT if it's light on the cheese and preferably has bread crumbs thrown in (and bacon if you got it). If it's just cheesy noodle soup, no thanks, it's overkill. Once in a great while I can get it "right" somewhere--my relatives can come up with some good stuff at Thanksgiving-- but as a person who doesn't exactly get the stuff on a regular basis, I attempted to read through these to see if any had that bread crumb thing going on.

Sadly, the Blake's sounds like it's what I want and it's not sold anywhere near where I live. Feh.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:04 PM on February 1


When my wife makes her own mac & cheese, toasted cubes of bread and bacon are a must. It's to die for.
posted by Ber at 9:13 PM on February 1


So, one of my fiances showed me his single man technique of mac and cheese which was to use mayonnaise instead of milk. It was surprisingly OK and the cheese mix seemed to dissolve well and ended up very creamy.
posted by jadepearl at 9:22 PM on February 1 [1 favorite]


Sigh, President's Choice White Cheddar Mac & Cheese is seriously one of the things that comes to mind when I ponder what I gave up when I moved out of Canada.
posted by LMGM at 3:45 AM on February 2


Old Canada, back in the 20th century, would also always have that weird lugubrious voice-over for the Kraft commercials during Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday nite.
posted by ovvl at 9:23 AM on February 2


I attempted to read through these to see if any had that bread crumb thing going on.
posted by jenfullmoon


My adult son loves his mac n cheese. He will pick up six various boxes (Annies and Cracker Barrel among them) and mix all of them together. Some nights we will then add MORE cheese of various kinds, put the whole lot in a deep pan, sprinkle bread crumbs liberally over the top, and pop in the oven at 350 for 15 minutes. Mmmm. I absolutely love it with the bread crumbs.
posted by annieb at 10:44 AM on February 2




Or just go to a restaurant that specializes in mac and cheese. And is awesome.
posted by kirkaracha at 4:53 PM on February 2


WaPo (and MeFi) so white
In black culture, for the most part, macaroni & cheese is the pinnacle, the highest culinary accolade. Who makes it, how it’s made and who’s allowed to bring it to a gathering involves negotiation, tradition and tacit understanding. It’s made from scratch and usually involves multiple kinds of cheese, secret touches (eggs and evaporated milk may be involved) and debates over toppings. It’s baked, and it’s a side dish, but it’s the side dish of honor, present at every important occasion.

Just rip the top off a blue box? It would be like ripping through your grandmother’s heart.
posted by hydropsyche at 4:52 AM on February 3 [2 favorites]


President's Choice can be yours...at a price.
posted by slogger at 8:25 AM on February 4


My foodie-to-be son makes a roux with an excessive amount of butter and powdered cheese before adding the milk. Then he melts in a few slices of colby-jack before reintroducing the macaroni. It's an impressive technique for a 10-year-old!
posted by slogger at 8:29 AM on February 4 [1 favorite]


an excessive amount of butter and powdered cheese before adding the milk

Yes, that's the key to edible boxed macaroni and cheese, I think. Good for your 10 year old for figuring it out! Make the roux with the powder and equal amounts of butter then slightly less milk then the box calls for to make an orange coloured béchamel. I add mustard powder, a bit of cayenne and whatever cheese I have around (usually equal amounts of 1 strong and 1 melty).
posted by Ashwagandha at 2:33 PM on February 4


Liquid vs powder is the fight in my house, as I don't think I've ever had frozen. We don't drink plain milk but I do use it in cooking sometimes, so it is about fifty-fifty if we even have any milk in the fridge. Powder is more work, more ingredients and less quality.
posted by soelo at 3:00 PM on February 4


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