I Tried the New Trader Joe’s Mac and Cheese That Everyone’s Making Right Now

published Oct 19, 2023
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Trader Joe's Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese on plate
Credit: Lena Abraham

Although the weather hasn’t been particularly predictable this fall, there’s one thing we can always count on as we enter autumn: a plethora of seasonal products from Trader Joe’s. This year there are a number of products causing a stir online — perhaps most of all, TJ’s Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese. After hearing more than a few glowing reviews over on TikTok, I decided to see what all the fuss was about.

A Little About the Mac

You’ll find this mac and cheese in the freezer section, likely near the other frozen pastas. The dish can be heated for 5 minutes in the microwave or about 25 minutes in a conventional oven at 375°F. Some even recommend tossing this together in a skillet or a saucepan by simply adding the contents and stirring occasionally over a medium-low heat. 

It’s technically two servings, but one hungry person could definitely polish it off in one sitting. According to Trader Joe’s, the makers of this mac and cheese are the same that make one of our favorite frozen macs: TJ’s Diner Mac & Cheese.

Credit: Lena Abraham

My Honest Review of Trader Joe’s Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese

This dish reads more like a really creamy pasta to me than a mac and cheese, but I thought it was pretty delicious — especially for something that comes straight out of the freezer. The sauce is very thick and cheesy, and the sweet flavor of butternut squash is particularly pronounced and made even more autumnal-tasting with the addition of thyme, sage, and nutmeg. 

Made with mezzi rigatoni, a smaller and shorter version of classic rigatoni, the pasta-to-sauce ratio is just right. This particular noodle shape is perfect for catching sauce, and once cooked maintains just the slightest bit of bite. (I prefer my noodles a little more al dente, and these are pleasantly firm in comparison to other frozen pasta dishes.)

This dish is perfect for a cozy night in, but might be a bit too rich for a desk lunch. (Unless you have time for a post-lunch nap, in which case it’s perfect.) You could also split it with another person as a satisfying side (perhaps with a cup of pumpkin-butternut bisque?).

Tips to Make the Trader Joe’s Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese Your Own

You can easily upgrade this popular frozen Trader Joe’s mac with a few simple add-ins. Here are a couple I recommend.

  • Top with toasted pine nuts or pumpkin seeds.
  • Stir in bite-sized pieces of cooked chicken.
  • Crumble in some crispy bacon.
  • Top with fried sage or fresh thyme leaves.
  • Drizzle with your favorite hot sauce.