Recipe Review

I Tried the Internet’s Hack for Making Creamier, Cheesier Boxed Mac and Cheese

published May 20, 2021
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Credit: Sara Tane

When it comes to boxed mac and cheese, I’ll admit I probably haven’t had a bowl since college. But if you tell me there’s a clever way to improve it? You have my attention. So, when I noticed some folks were buzzing on TikTok about a slight tweak in the package directions for boxed mac and cheese that will give you a creamier, cheesier pot, I was all ears. Here’s how it’s done.

How to Make TikTok’s Creamier, Cheesier Boxed Mac and Cheese

The package directions on boxed mac and cheese typically instruct you to boil the pasta, drain it, and then heat the milk with the cheese powder in the same pot. To finish, you toss the cooked pasta into the cheese sauce. For this trick, instead of sprinkling the cheese powder into the milk to make a sauce, you sprinkle the cheese powder directly into the pasta water so that the cheese powder is infused into the pasta. 

In this method, you also never drain your pasta because it cooks in a combination of both milk and water. The creator clarifies in a separate video that she uses 1 1/2 cups water and 1 1/2 cups milk so that she never has to strain, though if you need more liquid, you can add it gradually to ensure that the noodles are fully cooked. Once the noodles are done cooking, she adds 1 cup shredded cheese and mixes it all up for the “perfect pot of mac and cheese from a box.”

Credit: Sara Tane

My Honest Review of TikTok’s Mac and Cheese Hack

Because I was dedicated to conducting a thorough, scientific review of this mac and cheese hack, I felt it was only right for me to make one version of this TikTok mac and cheese and another prepared according to the package. In both versions, I added the extra cup of shredded cheese as instructed in the video for the sake of fairness. Admittedly, the difference in flavor between both preparations was minimal, but the TikTok hack version made for a slightly better tasting pot of mac and cheese

There are two camps of people when it comes to mac and cheese: those who like the distinctive powdered mac and cheese flavor, and those who don’t. Admittedly, I fall into the latter camp, so I preferred the TikTok preparation because it slightly masked that flavor. If you fall in the former camp, I would say just keep on keeping on. The powder flavor is much more pronounced when prepared according to package directions. Both preparations were improved by adding a handful of shredded cheese at the end, so regardless of which camp you fall in, I found this to be a worthwhile trick. I would definitely do this again for any future bowls of boxed mac and cheese.

Is the cheese flavor “infused into the noodles?” Well, I’m not so sure about that. But by incorporating the cheese powder earlier and into a larger solution of liquid, its flavor was less pronounced in the final product (which again, for me, was a positive thing).

The one tricky thing about this hack is figuring out how much liquid to add when you’re cooking the pasta. Since you’re not draining the pasta, you need to be careful not to add too much, or else you’ll overcook the noodles in an attempt to boil off enough liquid. Remember, you don’t want to dump any of this liquid, because you’ve already infused the cheese powder here, so any liquid you dump is going to take some cheesy flavor with it. This may take a few tries to perfect your measurements based on your boxed mac of choice.

Credit: Sara Tane

2 Tips for Trying This Hack at Home

  1. Choose the right amount of liquid: I found success with 3 cups of liquid (1 1/2 cups of milk and 1 1/2 cups of water) for boiling my pasta. If your pasta isn’t done once all of this liquid cooks off, you can add a little bit more.
  2. Definitely add a cup of shredded cheese. This was a simple and effective way to boost up the cheesiness.