Everybody has heard jokes about how broke college students survive on instant ramen. For me, however, my low budget go-to has always been the ultimate comfort food: mac and cheese. I love those Kraft instant mac and cheese cups—they’re cheap, microwavable, and don’t require dirtying one of my few dishes. However, they’re not exactly a gourmet treat.

The cheese sauce is watery and lacks the rich texture of a good mac and cheese sauce. So, throughout the past year I’ve experimented with how to improve the humble Kraft mac and cheese and transform it into pure comfort-food indulgence. Here are five of my top mac and cheese hacks:

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Yasmeen Aboulhawa

1. Mix in Some Shredded Cheese

Adding a sprinkle of shredded cheese to a Kraft mac & cheese cup transforms the cheese sauce from watery and bland to gooey and delicious. It’s one of the easiest (and cheapest) ways to make your mac a little more gourmet. Plus, a single bag of shredded cheese can be used to make quesadillas, grilled cheese, and burritos too! 

2. Add a Dollop of Cream Cheese

Make your leftover shmear from Einstein’s do double duty in improving your mac and cheese game. Cream cheese turns a powdered cheese sauce into a creamy, tangy delicacy. Like adding shredded cheese, it’s an easy and low budget way to enhance a cheese sauce without having to buy a lot of extra ingredients. (Here are some ideas to use up your extra cream cheese.)

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Jocelyn Hsu

3. Add a Hot Dog or Bacon Crumbles

Adding cut-up hot dogs or bacon to mac and cheese adds a great texture and pop of flavor to your meal. Most dining halls serve bacon, so bring a Tupperware the next time you get breakfast for an amazing mac and cheese experience.

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Spoon University

4. Add a Can of Green Chiles

For a spicy Southwest twist on mac and cheese, add a can of green chilies. Most grocery stores sell small cans of green chilies that are the perfect size to mix into a bowl or two of mac and cheese.

5. Add Black Pepper

This might seem obvious, but adding black pepper to mac and cheese is surprisingly effective in improving its flavor.

So, the next time you feel like eating in to avoid the frigid Boston weather, use these hacks to make the ultimate bowl of mac and cheese and enjoy a taste of comfort. 

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Kirby Barth