We Tasted 5 Brands to Find The Best Boxed Mac and Cheese!

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My family was on a mission to find the best boxed mac and cheese to stock the pantry with. We had a clear winner and loser! 

woman holding 5 boxes of mac and cheese

Love mac and cheese? It’s a staple in our house!

Mac and cheese is arguably one of the best comfort foods, and having a box or two in the pantry can be handy once in a while for quick and easy meals. I will sometimes use it as an inexpensive starter and add veggies or protein on busy nights. I typically stick with the Kraft brand while my daughter historically prefers the white cheddar Annie’s brand the most.

There are so many options now though at the store. We thought it would be fun to do a blind taste test to see how similar or different boxed mac and cheese brands can taste. What we discovered is that the brand I typically buy did not match my family’s top pick during this taste test!

teen girl getting mac and cheese out of a pot on stove

Our boxed mac and cheese test used real, live pros.

We’ve gathered a couple of hungry teenagers and a husband to help us taste-test 5 popular boxed mac and cheese brands you can buy right off the shelf. One thing about my family is they are very honest about voicing their opinions, especially about food! LOL

I set them up with blind testing, but someone had to prepare the mac and cheese on the stove, so I did see what brand was which.

5 brands of mac and cheese on the counter

Upgrade your boxed mac & cheese 3 different ways with these easy add-ins

cooking 5 boxed mac and cheese brands on the stove

Our macaroni cheese in a box taste test rules were simple.

To make this boxed dinner taste test as fair as possible, we:

  • Chose an assortment of name-brand, store-brand, conventional, and organic macaroni and cheese boxed dinners.
  • Limited ourselves to just the standard elbow noodles with the powdery orange sauce instead of the other varieties (white cheddar, goat cheese, shells, etc.).
  • Followed each recipe according to the exact directions on the box – no add-ins or extras.
  • Gave our taste testers a “blind” sampling of the mac and cheese, so they wouldn’t be influenced by factors like Kraft’s iconic blue box or Annie’s adorable bunny.

5 bowls of mac and cheese

Here’s how these mac and cheese brands ranked (from worst to best):

annies mac and cheese thumbs down

5. The worst:  Annie’s Macaroni and Classic Cheddar

This one cracked me up as my kids do love the white cheddar flavor. Annie’s classic cheddar came in last place with all four of us. The cheddar had an off-taste to us, the texture on the noodles wasn’t great. Just overall, the taste and experience fell flat.

good and gather brand mac and cheese on the stove

4. Good & Gather Organic Macaroni and Cheese (sold at Target)

I really  wanted to like this boxed mac & cheese. I typically love the Good & Gather brand’s quality and taste in general and have been impressed. Many of their other organic items are both affordable and delicious. Unfortunately, this macaroni and cheese didn’t quite pass the “delicious” test for most of us.

The kids and I did not prefer this one, and yet my husband picked this as his favorite! I thought it was pretty bland compared to the others. The color was the lightest of them all. The noodles had a good texture. Just overall, it did not “hit” as the teens say!

kraft mac and cheese in a biodegradable bowl

3. Kraft Original Mac and Cheese Dinner

When you hear the phrase “boxed mac and cheese,” this is probably the one you’re picturing. It’s the gold standard and the one I usually turn to on occasion. It’s funny how this option kind of just blended in for us as good and not the best. Most of us had this in the middle when rating all the options.

great value mac and cheese on the stove in a pot

2. Great Value Mac and Cheese

I was fully prepared to not love this brand and was pleasantly surprised by the delicious cheesy taste and perfect texture of the noodles. Most of us said it was at the level or slightly higher of the Kraft version. I would buy this again! This was my daughter’s pick for best mac and cheese. She thought she was picking Kraft in the blind taste test.

goodles mac and cheese

1. Our winner: Goodles Cheddy Mac

Two of us voted Goodles the winner of the best-tasting boxed mac and cheese, and this was the second pick for the remainder so I am declaring it the winner. My kids were very surprised to learn they enjoyed Goodles in the blind taste test. I have tasted it before on this previous Instagram video, and LOVED it, so was not as surprised. The only downside is the higher price. I have heard Costco has started selling it though!

The cheddar flavor is more intense and we loved the noodles. The texture of the sauce is creamy. Overall, it’s a yummy pick! Plus, it has a slightly better nutrition profile if that is important to you at all. For instance, per serving there is 14g of protein, 7g of fiber with prebiotics, and 21 nutrients from plants.

holding a bowl of mac and cheese

Does your family have a favorite box of mac and cheese they enjoy? Let us know in the comments!

I will say that no matter the brand of box I usually add a little more butter and use a little cream instead of milk sometimes and that makes it so much better!

In the mood for homemade mac and cheese? Make my favorite recipe! 

About the writer:

Lina has a Bachelor's Degree from Northern Arizona University with 11 years of blogging and photography experience having work featured in Today.com, Martha Stewart, Country Living, Fox News, Buzzfeed, and HGTV.

Join The Discussion

Comments 135

  1. Susan B

    So so so MUCH better before they changed it! The orange powdery cheese was the best!

  2. Tara Hoesten

    We live Kraft Sprials they now have larger noodles and it is still mixed with butter, milk and the powder. Only.one my kid will eat. Guess I mix it the best.

  3. John

    Prepare the Great Value mac & cheese with significantly less milk (like 1/10 a cup of milk instead of the recommended 1/4 cup) and it will taste even better than Kraft. Too much milk = too much liquid = the powder mix gets too diluted and the mac & cheese become tasteless.

    You will literally notice no or minimal difference in “wetness” of the final product due to the 1/4 cup margarine which when melted into the pasta serves as a hydrator.

    Prepared this way with less milk the final product has a much stronger sharp cheddar cheese taste (but not too sharp). Source: someone who has eaten an unholy amount of boxed mac and cheese over many years. *Always* add less milk than recommended to any type of boxed mac & cheese when a powder mix is involved for maximum flavor.

    • Lo

      I agree about less milk. My fave is kraft original and I add less milk

      • Lori

        We dont even add milk, just butter & the powdered cheese then stir stir stir!!

  4. lisaleo

    Back to Nature MAC and Cheese particularly the CrazyBugs are the best

  5. Amy

    Annie’s shells real aged cheddar is far and away my favorite boxed Mac and cheese!

  6. llc

    HEB brand is the best for kind that come without the powder (like velvetta) but less than 50% the cost. I personally think it’s better than velvetta.

  7. LisaMarieRose

    One day when I was young and broke in college, I made macaroni (with shell pasta) and dumped in some frozen peas. I loved it SO much, when you mix, many of the peas end up cupped inside the shell, and you get a big burst when you bite down! My son is now 27, and my daughter now 15, and she asks me literally everyday during Covid for shells and peas 🙂 It really is THAT good!! (PS I put the still-frozen peas in after draining the noodles, so the hot noodles stop cooking and warm up the peas. If needed I put the flame on low while mixing in the milk/butter etc to keep the peas “defrosting” without overcooking them.

  8. ashroosen

    The Kraft Deluxe is amazing!!! It’s like Velveeta shells and cheese but better

    • Lana

      For that amount of money I can make some good homemade.

  9. mamasweetpea

    We recently discovered and tasted Cracker Barrel Mac & Cheese. It’s a bit pricier, but the whole family enjoyed it. It did not taste like boxed mac and cheese at all. Just another suggestion to try 😉

  10. laceygd

    My family loves the Kraft sharp cheddar Mac and cheese

  11. Meemarie

    My kids LOVE Annie’s. They like it better than my homemade Mac n cheese grrrr

  12. Patricia Goff

    Going to get my free goodles tomorrow. Can’t wait to try them.

    • Jessica (Hip Sidekick)

      Yay! Hoping you love them. 🤞 Let us know what you think, Patricia! 🤗

    • Glenda

      I didn’t know they changed the recipe. I thought I had opened an old box. I hate it!

      • Patricia Goff

        It took them forever but they finally did. they had been selling it overseas in Europe without all the cancer causing ingredients for decades because the ingredients were banned but were still using the recipe with the cancer causing ingredients stateside.

  13. Pat

    I stopped loving Kraft when they changed their recipe, no flavor anymore! I found that Hy Vee brand tastes like the original Kraft, so that’s my go to. I might give Great Value a try now.

    • Jessica (Hip Sidekick)

      Thanks for letting us know what you think of the famous blue box brand in comparison to others, Pat. Glad you’ve found an alternative you enjoy. Let us know what you think of the GV option, once you give it a try! ❤️

  14. Amy Elzer

    My husband will only eat Great Value Spirals. When I make it, I have to make 2 boxes for all of us. I bought a box of Goodles, haven’t tried it yet so can’t wait to try it

    • Jessica (Hip Sidekick)

      Thanks for letting us know what a favorite is in your house, Amy. Hoping you enjoy the Goodles too!

  15. Vlb

    I know you were only testing mac & cheese that had elbow macaroni. However, our families, favorite hands down is the Cheetos brand. Three out of four of us prefer the jalapeño Cheetos mac & cheese (what can I say we live in Arizona) the 4th person likes the regular Cheetos brand mac & cheese.

    • Jessica (Hip Sidekick)

      Yum! I’ve seen that one at the store, but haven’t ever picked it up. Thanks so much for sharing how well your family enjoys it, Vlb! ❤️

  16. Andrea U

    Kraft Mac & Cheese using Olive Oil instead of butter = YUM

    • Trish (Hip Sidekick)

      Thanks for sharing, Andrea! I’ll have to try that! 💞

  17. Patricia Fleming

    My daughter swears that Shop Rite’s brand is THE BEST

  18. KLepre

    I found Goodles to be way too salty.

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