Recipe Review

I Tried Blake Lively’s Hack for Creamier Boxed Mac and Cheese and I Can’t Believe I Waited So Long

published Feb 25, 2024
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Mac and cheese in a pot.
Credit: Sam Burros

Macaroni and cheese is one of the ultimate comfort foods. A great one is starchy, cheesy, and perfectly rich, but nothing compares to the convenience of the classic blue box that comes with fluorescent orange cheese powder. When I was little, my grandma would always stock her cabinets with boxes of the nearly ready-to-eat product for whenever my sister and I would come to visit. It was one of the first things I learned how to make on my own. 

While the boxes come with clear instructions for a quick and easy dinner, the product is also ripe for riffing. I think everyone has their own little set of adjustments to achieve the macaroni and cheese of their dreams, and I decided to take Blake Lively’s favorite way to hack the boxed meal for a test drive — and the results were decadent. (Want to try Blake’s go-to roasted cauliflower recipe? We’ve tried that too.)

Credit: Sam Burros

How to Hack Your Boxed Mac and Cheese Like Blake Lively

A few years ago, Lively took to her Instagram Story to share with fans her secret to upgrading a box of macaroni and cheese. The actress prefaced her hack by telling fans that she is “mac & cheese passionate,” but she tends to “ignore all box recipes.” 

Instead of adding whatever the package suggests with the cheese powder packet (usually some milk and a knob of butter), Lively tells fans to add a “heavy splash” of milk, a third of a block of cream cheese and two handfuls of freshly grated cheese, specifically a sharp cheddar, hard goat cheese, or Gouda (or any combination of the three). Seems simple enough. 

Credit: Sam Burros

After cooking the noodles according to the box instructions, I tossed in the cheese packet, about a quarter cup of milk, the suggested amount of cream cheese, and about two ounces each of cheddar and Gouda. I vigorously mixed the macaroni together, and I could immediately tell that this wasn’t going to be your average box of macaroni. 

Credit: Sam Burros

My Honest Opinion on Blake Lively’s Boxed Mac and Cheese Hack

This was an easy way to turn a regular box of macaroni and cheese into a more decadent dish. The cream cheese added a lot of body to the cheese sauce, resulting in a bowl of pasta that was thick, creamy, and very filling. The addition of the fresh cheese helped bolster the overall flavor, resulting in a macaroni that welcomed the richness of the cheddar and smokiness of the Gouda. 

The sauce’s thickness and decadence reminded me of another nostalgic favorite, the baked Stouffer’s macaroni and cheese, which I already view as a sort of soul sister to the boxed stuff. The only difference? This iteration of macaroni and cheese can come together in minutes, as opposed to baking for nearly an hour and a half. 

If I had to make any complaints, I’d say this macaroni might have a little bit too much cheese (if there is such a thing?!). In reality, I just wish there was something else to cut through all the salty, gooey cheese sauce, whether it’s spicy, acidic, or even a little vegetal. 

Credit: Sam Burros

3 Tips for Blake Lively’s Mac and Cheese Hack

  1. Grate the cheese yourself. I know Lively already suggests using freshly grated cheese, but it really does make a difference. Bags of grated cheese dust the shreds in an anti-caking agent, usually made up of cellulose or a vegetable starch. While this anti-caking agent is great for making sure the cheese doesn’t stick to itself in the bag, once it gets added to the hot macaroni and cheese, you’ll be left with a hot, clumpy mess. 
  2. Boil some broccoli. Quite frankly, while I found this hack easy and delicious, it was a lot of cheese and dairy. I’m always craving something bright and fresh to cut through all that richness, and I think some broccoli florets are just what the doctor ordered. Adding bits of the brassica to the noodles while boiling will give you tender greens that evoke all the beloved cheddar-smothered broccoli vibes you can handle. 
  3. Don’t be afraid of a little spice. A dollop of Dijon mustard, a pinch of cayenne, some twists of black pepper — no matter what way you like to add a little bit of heat is welcome to add a little bit of depth to this cheese-lover’s dream.