As someone who loves to cook and bake, I usually try to avoid making boxed foods. I’m talking boxed brownies, mashed potatoes, cake, you name it. Sure, they’re undeniably convenient and reliable, and I don’t blame you if you prefer making Betty Crocker’s cake over your grandmother’s labor-intensive recipe. Hear me out: not only does homemade food generally taste better, but there’s something rather satisfying about taking the time to gather all the ingredients, follow a recipe from start to finish, and literally taste the fruits of your labor. That being said, all of this logic goes out the window when it comes to boxed mac and cheese.

pasta, macaroni, spaghetti, scrambled, cheese, vegetable
Jocelyn Hsu

Boxed mac and cheese is one of the central cornerstones of my childhood and continues to follow me into my young adult years. It’s delicious, easy, comforting, and dependable, making it the perfect college meal. In fact, the first thing that I did when I arrived in Atlanta for the start of school was go straight from the airport to Costco to buy a 12 pack of Annie’s Mac and Cheese. So, when I recently came across a TikTok video that suggested an easier way of making boxed mac and cheese that would result in a better bowl, I immediately ran to my kitchen and got cooking.  

The Classic Instructions 

The typical methodology for boxed mac and cheese requires several steps: boiling water, cooking the macaroni for eight minutes (or until al dente), using a colander to drain the pasta, combining milk, butter, and powdered cheese into a sauce, and then adding the macaroni back into the cheesy, creamy, goodness.

The TikTok Hack 

This TikTok boxed mac and cheese hack reduces the mess and the stress that comes with straining a pot of scorching hot boiling water, not to mention the possibility of losing that delicious macaroni in the draining process by simply omitting the straining process altogether. It’s a one-pot recipe, which means that all of the ingredients and their original proportions are combined at once. This makes it way easier to make, eliminating the need to boil the water before adding the macaroni - significantly reducing the total time of the recipe. By following this procedure, the TikTok account @saucedupfoods claims that it helps to “infuse the noodles with the cheese flavor.” Additionally, the recipe suggests that you add one cup of shredded cheese at the end, which helps to make the mac and cheese even more creamy and cheesy. 

The Verdict 

While this TikTok boxed mac and cheese hack did indeed result in a cheesier bowl of mac and cheese, in my opinion, it did not result in a creamier, and most importantly, tastier bowl. For starters, I am skeptical of whether adding the powdered cheese at the beginning of the cooking process does, in fact, “infuse the noodles with the cheese flavor.” Before adding the cup of cheese, I tasted a couple of noodles and was disappointed to find that this bowl tasted less cheesy than the original method. Moreover, the recipe was not nearly as simple as advertised as it resulted in a rather watery pot of mac and cheese. To remedy this, I cooked the mac and cheese longer, which helped reduce the amount of water, but as a result, my noodles were overcooked.

So, was this experiment a failure? Absolutely not. It revealed a great silver lining: the addition of shredded cheese. In all my 20 years of life, I had never added shredded cheese to my mac and cheese, and I can say with great conviction that that was a mistake. While the method of the TikTok hack did not meet my expectations, it did enlighten me with the great power of shredded cheese. Going forward, I plan to stick to the original instructions, but add extra cheese to achieve that creamy and cheesy quality that the TikTok sought to achieve. I suggest you do the same.