Boxed mac and cheese is good on its own, but when you add a few things to the mix, it becomes especially delicious, and even sometimes nutritious. The carbs and cheese pair well with greens, meat, and other complements, and they prove that boxed macaroni and cheese can serve as a blank slate to create a new cheap, easy, and cheesy masterpiece. We’re highlighting seven ways to get it done. Whether you want to bulk up your mac and cheese to make it more indulgent, more healthy, or more meaty, you’ll find a recipe on this list for you. Pull out your favorite box of mac and cheese and get ready to upgrade.
1. Upgraded Mac and Cheese
Our first recipe from Food.com makes your typical boxed mac and cheese a little more satisfying by adding sour cream, cheddar cheese, crushed crackers, and pepper to the mix. The crushed crackers give the cheese dish some crunch while the sour cream and extra cheddar cheese make it even more indulgent. If you’re going to skip the homemade route, this is the best way to make your mac and cheese taste especially good, and you’ll save yourself a lot of time and energy.
- 1 package boxed macaroni and cheese
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- ½ cup sour cream
- ¼ teaspoon ground red pepper or ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 6 butter flavored crackers, crushed
- 1 tablespoon butter or 1 tablespoon margarine, melted
Directions: Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare mac and cheese as instructed on package. Stir in ½ cup of the cheddar cheese, sour cream, and pepper. Put mixture into greased 1½ quart baking dish; sprinkle with remaining ½ cup cheddar cheese. Combine the melted butter and cracker crumbs and sprinkle over the top. Bake for 20 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.
2. Veggie Mac and Cheese
If you want to feel better about your indulgent mac and cheese, add some vegetables to the dish and kill two birds with one stone. Veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and peas pair surprisingly well with mac and cheese, and this recipe from Momables shows you one way to combine them. You can feed veggie mac and cheese to yourself and your loved ones with zero guilt, and this recipe takes one box of mac and cheese and serves 4 to 6, so you even get your money’s worth.
- 1 (6-ounce) box natural or organic macaroni and cheese
- 1 (32-ounce) package reduced-sodium chicken broth/stock
- 1 (16-ounce) bag frozen broccoli, cauliflower, and carrot blend
- ¼ cup whole milk or half and half
- 1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
Directions: Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Bring the broth to a boil over high heat in a saucepan. Add the vegetables, cooking until tender, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the cooked macaroni and cheese to the veggies and broth, add the milk and cheese. Stir well to combine until the cheese is melted, turn off the heat, and serve.
3. Roasted Tomato and Sausage Mac and Cheese
This next recipe from Shutterbean takes your typical boxed mac and cheese up a sophisticated notch. Enter: roasted tomato and sausage mac and cheese. There’s no reason to feel shameful about mac and cheese for dinner when you’re chowing down on this dish. You can even serve it to guests and they’ll never guess your shortcut. Throw sausage, tomatoes, garlic, basil, and mozzarella into your prepared mac and cheese and consider dish a dinner well done.
- 1 box prepared mac and cheese
- 3 Italian sausages
- 1½ cups plum tomatoes
- Glug olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, smashed
- Salt and pepper
- 5 to 6 leaves fresh basil, roughly chopped
- ½ cup ovoline mozzarella
Directions: Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Toss sausage, tomatoes and smashed garlic with some olive oil on a baking sheet and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 25 to 30 minutes, or until sausage is thoroughly cooked. Cut up sausage and stir into prepared mac and cheese with tomatoes, garlic, fresh chopped basil, and ovoline mozzarella. Serve immediately.
4. Mac and Cheese Soup
You can also slurp your mac and cheese by making it into a soup. This mac and cheese soup from Taste of Home is upgraded with ham, broccoli, onion, cheddar cheese soup, and milk, so it’ll keep you full and serve as a meal, rather than a cheesy snack. Taking less than 30 minutes to make, there’s no reason you shouldn’t whip up mac and cheese soup on a weeknight for cheap and easy comfort food.
- 1 package boxed macaroni and cheese dinner mix
- 9 cups water, divided
- 1 cup fresh broccoli florets
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
- 1 can condensed cheddar cheese soup, undiluted
- 2½ cups 2% milk
- 1 cup chopped fully cooked ham
Directions: Set aside cheese sauce packet from macaroni and cheese mix. In a large saucepan, bring 8 cups water to a boil. Add macaroni; cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until tender.
In another large saucepan, bring remaining water to a boil. Add broccoli and onion; cook, uncovered, for 3 minutes. Stir in the soup, milk, ham and contents of cheese sauce packet; heat through. Drain macaroni; stir into soup.
5. Cheddar Mac and Cheese Casserole
Carbs and cheese taste great when the rich combo is cut with salty ham, and with this Kraft food formula featured on My Recipes, you get to make the good stuff into a casserole. Cheddar mac and ham casserole requires only a handful of ingredients and will take only 15 minutes of your time. The dish is studded with pink and green thanks to the ham and peas on its ingredients list, and it also gets an extra dose of cheese. Prepare this dish when you want to enhance your mac and cheese but are still short on time, and enjoy the bounty that can come from a box.
- 1 (14 ounce) package macaroni and cheese dinner
- 1 cup chopped smoked ham
- 1 cup frozen peas, thawed, drained
- ½ cup milk
- ½ cup shredded mild cheddar cheese
Directions: Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. In large saucepan, prepare dinner as directed on package. Stir in ham, peas and milk. Spoon into 9-inch square baking dish; top with cheddar. Bake for 15 minutes or until heated through.
6. Buffalo Mac and Cheese
You can also add chicken and buffalo sauce to your mac and cheese and make this buffalo mac and cheese from Betty Crocker. The main components of the dish still come from a box, but you’re responsible for cooking the chicken and enlisting the sauce and extra blue cheese. Everyone likes mac and cheese and buffalo chicken on their own, and now the two come together in a perfect comfort food combination. This recipe serves 3 and thanks to the protein from the meat, is filling enough for a lunch or dinner on its own.
- 1 box (7 ounces) mac and cheese
- Margarine and milk called for on mac and cheese box
- 1 cup cubed cooked chicken
- ¼ cup Buffalo wing sauce
- 2 tablespoons crumbled blue cheese
- Celery tops, if desired
Directions: Make the mac and cheese according to package directions. Stir in chicken and wing sauce. Cook about 1 minute or until hot. Sprinkle with blue cheese. Garnish with celery.
7. Oven-Fried Mac and Cheese Balls
Last but not least: mac and cheese balls. This dish proves that carb and cheese dreams really do come true. If you think mac and cheese is good, try frying the good stuff into decadent balls and you won’t know what hit you. These mac and cheese balls from Foodieish are fried in the oven and serve a crowd. They’re the perfect food to feed family members and party guests, and even if you have a fear of frying, you can master these. Simply pop them into the oven for 15 minutes until golden and crispy, and you’ll quickly have a new favorite party food on your hands. No need to tell your guests it came from a box.
- 1 family-sized box of mac and cheese
- 1½ cups shredded cheddar-jack cheese
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 large eggs
- 2 tablespoons water
- 3 to 4 cups panko breadcrumbs
- non-stick cooking spray
Directions: Prepare your mac and cheese according to package directions. Refrigerate overnight. The following day, remove from fridge and mix in your shredded Cheddar Jack cheese. Roll into ping-pong sized balls. Place balls on a cookie sheet and freeze for about 2½ hours.
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees, and lightly coat a cookie sheet with non-stick cooking spray. Once your balls are frozen, beat eggs with the water in a small bowl. Put the flour on a plate and season with salt and pepper. Place your panko on another plate.
Dip a ball in the egg wash, followed by flour. Dip again in egg wash and roll around in the panko until coated. Place on your greased cookie sheet and repeat until all balls are coated with panko. Spray the balls with a light coating of non-stick cooking spray and bake for about 15 minutes or until golden and crispy.