Learn how to make boxed macaroni and cheese on the stovetop for a quick and easy dinner that kids can make on their own.
As a kid, boxed mac and cheese was one of the first dinners I learned to make. It’s an easy one to teach your kids and there are tons of options out there. In addition, boxed mac and cheese is an affordable pantry staple and generally a crowd-pleaser for kids so I always try to keep a box or two stashed in our pantry.
Best Boxed Mac and Cheese
When it comes to choosing the best boxed mac and cheese, there are several factors to consider but the biggest one I look at, as a Registered Dietitian, is sodium. Sodium levels tend to range anywhere from 400mg per serving to 1000+ mg per serving.
So when I’m looking, I aim for the lowest sodium per serving I can find. I’d also love for there to be a decent amount of protein and fiber, which is possible with some brands like Banza that use things like chickpea pasta. If your kids like the taste of those brands, definitely go for those. If not, there are certainly ways to boost the nutrition profile of boxed mac and cheese!
How To Make Boxed Mac and Cheese Better
- Instead of adding milk, stir in plain Greek yogurt. It makes it extra creamy and adds more protein.
- Add some veggies! Throw some frozen peas into the water for the last 2-3 minutes of cooking the noodles or stir in some canned pumpkin.
- Add some meat for protein – stir in some leftover cooked chicken or chicken sausage or try a taco mac and cheese by adding leftover taco meat.
Here’s a post I wrote about the Best Mac and Cheese (Boxed). In it, I share some of my top brand choices as well as a video of my kids doing a taste test and sharing their honest opinions.
Even though making macaroni and cheese is fairly simple, it is a job I reserve until my kids are a little older since it involves a hot stove and boiling water. From a younger age, you can definitely start talking about kitchen safety and how to be safe around hot pans. You can also have the kids help after the noodles have been cooked – younger kids can pour in the cheese and milk, stir etc.
Here’s a video of my 8-year-old teaching you how to make macaroni and cheese:
See how easy it is?
How To Make Macaroni & Cheese Recipe
Follow these step by step directions to learn how to cook boxed macaroni and cheese.
- 1 box macaroni and cheese of your choice
- 6 cups water
- 3 Tbsp milk (or 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt)
- Optional mixins – peas, chicken sausage, cooked taco meat, canned pumpkin etc
- Place water in a pot and bring to a boil.
- Add noodles from boxed macaroni and cook 8-10 minutes.
- Drain water and return noodles to pan.
- Stir in powdered cheese and milk or yogurt.
- Add any additional mix-ins like cooked meat or canned pumpkin
If using frozen veggies, throw them in with the noodles for the last 2-3 minutes of cooking!
FAQs About Making Macaroni and Cheese
What to serve with macaroni and cheese?
You can serve mac and cheese as a main meal or side dish. Serve it alongside chicken or steak or simply pair it with a bag of steamed vegetables and some fresh fruit.
Can you freeze mac and cheese?
Yes. If you have extras you can freeze mac and cheese. Make sure it’s completely cooled and then portion into airtight storage containers or portion into Ziploc bags and freeze flat with excess air removed.
To thaw, transfer to the fridge the night before.
How to reheat mac and cheese
You can quickly and easily reheat mac and cheese in the microwave. However, some people find that dries it out. Try added a splash of milk before reheating.
You can also use the stovetop to reheat. Typically it’s recommended to add 1-2 Tbsp milk per cup of macaroni that you’re reheating.
How To Make Homemade Mac and Cheese
Making homemade mac and cheese is also fairly simple, just a few steps beyond boxed macaroni. If you’re looking to try a homemade mac and cheese recipe check out:
What are your favorite mac and cheese mix-ins?