When it comes to making an ultra-creamy pot of mac and cheese from scratch, the easiest solution lies not in the fridge, but in your pantry. Instead of stocking the fridge with blocks of cheddar and its ilk, consider adding powdered cheddar cheese to the pantry. It cooks into the same rich, cheesy sauce you expect, with the satisfying nostalgia of the boxed stuff of your youth (and none of the worry about what's exactly in the box). Plus, having your own stash of powdered cheese means you can amp up the cheese factor or mellow it out to your liking.
The Game-Changing Pantry Ingredient
I understand if you're skeptical. I'll admit that I was at first, too. My skepticism was quickly quieted when I stirred bright-orange cheddar cheese powder into a buttery pot of cooked pasta shells. This ingredient is a game-changer for making a quick batch of extra-cheesy mac and cheese.
Gone are the days of making a roux to form the base of that creamy cheese sauce. Instead, just as you would with the boxed version, the cheese powder is mixed with milk and then stirred into a pot of the cooked, buttery pasta of your choice. But unlike the boxed version, you control the cheesiness. There's a recommended ratio of milk to powdered cheddar (more to come on that), but it's just that — a recommendation. Want up the cheese factor? Go for it. I highly encourage it.
So What Does It Taste Like?
Let's cut to what's really on your mind: What does cheddar cheese powder actually taste like? While the ingredients can vary from brand to brand (be sure to check the label), good-quality cheddar powder is essentially dehydrated cheese. It comes through big time in the flavor department. Cheddar cheese powder tastes like that block of cheddar you already know and love.
Buying Powdered Cheddar Cheese
Powdered cheddar can be tricky to track down in your local grocery store. The easiest place to track it down is online, where a wide variety of offerings can be found on Amazon. We're also a fan of Vermont white cheddar from King Arthur Flour.
You'll notice that most retailers start their offering with one-pound packages of this cheesy powder. This is part of its beauty. It's a dry pantry item, and unlike a block of cheddar, it doesn't spoil within a couple weeks. It's your solution to several meals that will each feed the whole family.
Buy it: Powdered Cheddar Cheese via Amazon
Turning Powdered Cheddar Cheese into Dinner
Remember the days of cooking up a box of Annie's shells and cheese? This process works pretty much the same.
In addition to the powdered cheese, you'll need four pantry staples to make a pot of mac and cheese that feeds six to eight people.
- 1 1/4 cups powdered cheddar cheese: Plus 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (optional), stirred into the milk.
- 1 cup milk: Use whole or 2% milk for the creamiest result.
- 1 pound pasta of choice: Cook until al dente, drain, return to the pot, and mix with butter.
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter: Once melted, stir in the milk and cheese, and heat until creamy.
Get the full recipe: Instant Mac and Cheese Mix in a Mason Jar