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

Hip2Save may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you via trusted partners and affiliate links in this post. Prices and availability are accurate as of time posted. Read our full disclosure policy here.

More Product Reviews

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. Dee

    In my experience, the Annie’s always tastes like the box it came in. That said, we make the Velveeta shells and cheese when we use a boxed dinner.

    • CAJ

      We do too and we e don’t make it that much so it’s not too much more a month for this kind over the powder. For a few extra dollars, this kind is enjoyed as opposed to the other kind ending up as leftover in my fridge til they start to mild and I toss them!!! Haha!

    • Monique

      Agreed Dee 🙂 my house also makes velveeta it’s the best in my opinion!

    • Ms. Frizzle

      Gross. Velveeta is so fake and unhealthy.

  2. Steph

    Interesting we aren’t Big Mac and cheese fans but my kids have literally gagged on the Annie’s brand. I tried it bc I thought they were just being ridiculous and I agreed with them it was terrible! Maybe we just got a bad box but I won’t be purchasing it anymore to find out lol

    • R

      I think Annie’s brand in general is very overrated. I haven’t tried their standard mac, but I got the white cheddar shells on a deal here once, and it was all we could do to get through all of the boxes (it was like a 12 box multipack). The cheese was so chalky and took forever to smooth out. Towards the end, we just started using the shells in different recipes and chucking the cheese packets. I don’t get the love.

      • rose

        Annies is our favorite, esp the White Cheddar! Are you making it per the directions? I add a little butter to the milk to warm through, then sprinkle the cheese and stir it *before* adding in the drained pasta. Sometimes I keep a little of the pasta water just in case it’s too thick. But yeah, the first time I made it, it was a powdery, chalky mess! Then realized the directions and it’s been a keeper since.

        • Another Shelly

          It’s our favorite, too! My six year old loves it like no other brand.

        • Cyndi

          This is our favorite as well. Directions are key. I think they actually changed the directions on the box. Key is to make a cheese sauce. Stir the milk with the powder and then add to pasta. I also add butter.

        • Snowflake1211

          Annie’s white shells all my daughter will eat and she eats almost the whole box when I make it and she’s little! She won’t eat any of the orange stuff, she says “milk isn’t orange coming out of a cow, that’s gross.” lol

      • Mamarenie

        I agree it is awful! Our Kroger had it for .19 and .29 cents and I said nope.

      • susanwalters

        I agree with R – Annie’s is waaaaayyyy overrated for so many products. I really wanted to like it, but the artificial taste is a no-go for us.

        • Mei

          Glad I am not the only one that thinks that Annies’ products are overratted. Mac and cheese (meh), bought snack mix (birds ate most of it), fruit snacks never seem to move out of the cupboard. Considering the “organic” nature and price of most of these items, I want them to be liked, but not a big fan of this line.

          • Bonn

            We’re not fans of Annie’s either!

            The Cracker Barrel Mac and cheese is fabulous!

            • Pam

              YES,CRACKER BARREll

            • Leavesbegintofall

              The cracker barrell is insanely delicious!!!!

    • Pansy Binz

      Yep, my eight year old won’t eat Annies.

    • Sabrina

      I agree, the Annie’s has a weird powdery texture

    • Morgan

      Yes! Both my kids and I gagged on the new Annie’s mac – the supposedly Yummier Than Ever one. We don’t mind the other varieties, but the new one tasted like straight up manure.

  3. Kim

    I donno, I’ve started buying the food club brand at my local piggly wiggly because they have them for 4/$2 for the spirals and they are VERY comparable for kraft, for that price and little difference I’ll take it. It’s all horrible for you anyways… lol but it tastes good!

    • April

      My kiddos love Food Club Mac and cheese as well.

  4. R

    I don’t buy a lot of name brands, but Kraft is usually the one I pick up 9/10 times because it’s my husband’s preference. That said, I’ll buy Great Value on occasion and no one’s really said they disliked it, just that it’s different, even the picky husband. Kinda surprised it was so universally hated by your testers. Maybe they’ve changed ingredients since I last purchased.

    • Amber (Hip Sidekick)

      Thanks for letting us know what your family likes best, R! We usually prefer the Kraft too!

  5. Marie

    My husband makes the kraft mac and cheese package, but he melts 2-3 american cheese slices over it and mixes it in. Sometimes, he’ll mix canned tuna and peas in to try to make it healthier. 😂

    • Amber (Hip Sidekick)

      LOL! I’ve never tried it that way! Thanks for the suggestion, Marie!

    • Amanda

      My husband adds tuna too! I had never even heard of doing that until I met him

      • Dee

        My husband adds tuna, too. I prefer the two things separate, but hey, if he’s cooking, he can do what he wants. 🙂

    • Dess

      Our grandkids like tuna n peas with their favorite- Kraft Mac n cheese. You

  6. MSmomof5

    We definitely prefer the Mac n cheese with the foil pouch of cheese over the powder cheese for a quick fix. And I usually buy the blue box in it.

  7. Tammy

    My kiddos only like Kraft. I’ve tried secretly switching to different organic ones and they know the difference. 😬

    • Amber (Hip Sidekick)

      Same here, Tammy! They always know! Thanks for taking a moment to comment!

  8. Luna

    The shells type of mac n cheese is our favorite

  9. Molly

    We love Cracker Barrel… ridiculously expensive but so yummy!

    • Amie

      I agree, Cracker Barrel is my fav Mac and cheese too.

    • Shawna

      I saw 5 packs of Cracker Barrel mac n cheese at a store called Ollie’s for $6! I should have got it

    • Desiree

      By far the winner!

    • Kayla

      Yes!!! That’s my favorite too!

  10. Caryn

    So fun! My kids favorite is the Winco spiral kind. I was shocked but at like 44 cents I will keep buying it!

  11. Nicole

    Walmart (great value) has a line of different flavors of shells and cheese. They are so good! It would be awesome if you could do a taste test of all of them.

    • Mel

      The Artisan Crafted Garlic & Herb…my gooooosh!!! It’s the only boxed Mac/shells ‘n cheese I buy.

  12. Sara

    Kraft and the Aldi version of Kraft style both taste good. Not a fan of Walmart’s brand.

    • Amber (Hip Sidekick)

      Thanks for the feedback, Sara! I don’t think we’ve tried the Aldi brand yet!

    • Megan

      My kids like the Kraft version at Aldi’s too!

      • Lindsay Dunn

        Yes! We love the Aldi brand and at $.33 a box you can’t go wrong!

  13. Alex

    We buy the other style- like shells and cheese- and both Aldi and Targets are really good (actually HEB’s is great too if you have one)

  14. Heather

    We love the HEB brand macaroni! (The three cheese & shells especially)

    • Amanda

      H-E-B all the way!! Their central market cheesy shells are all we buy now. Way better than velveeta

      • Monique

        HEB!!! I’m so jealous of all of you heb shoppers so many things I miss from this store…

    • llc

      Yes. Heb brand mac is the best. And half the price of velveeta shells.

    • Kira

      Yes!! I use to only buy Kraft and then tried HEB… soo good! I’ve tried several different flavors and all of them are good! And half the price as Kraft!

  15. Another Shelly

    My daughter loves Annie’s and I’m definitely okay with spending a few pennies more for a cleaner product which tastes great.

    • Tina


  16. Cakes

    My favorite is the Walmart Shells & Cheese 3 cheese. I like it better than Kraft. I also like the Aldis brand Mac & cheese.

    • Amber (Hip Sidekick)

      Oh cool! Thanks for sharing with us, Cakes! I’ll have to try that one next time!

    • Taylor S.

      Yes!!! My absolute favorite.

  17. Diana

    We just found a Tillamook cheese sauce in the refrigerated section of Target. My daughter makes it will shells, and I think it’s my favorite! The deluxe (blue box) Mac and cheese with cheese sauce and the original Kraft Mac and cheese are among favs at our house.

  18. Pat

    My kids won’t even eat the boxed mac and cheese. They are weird I guess. They will eat the shells and cheddar where the cheese comes in a can though.

  19. Meg

    A few years ago, I started noticing that after eating Kraft, my stomach would get upset. Then I read they changed their powder mix, without making any kind of announcement about it. They were “testing” us to see if we noticed and apparently most people didn’t. I also think the flavor has changed from my younger years. Does anyone else agree?

    • Jodi P

      Kraft got rid of the artificial flavors and colors in the cheese powder a few years ago. They now use turmeric. I actually think it tastes slightly better than before.

      • Dee

        Some of the natural colors and flavors cause a reaction in people. That’s why many brands went to artificial colors and flavors in the first place, because they were designed to not cause allergic reactions. If you color foods with beet juice, for instance, instead, there will be some people who react to beets.

        • Anna

          Very informative thx

    • Sara

      I agree. Kraft isn’t cheesy at all anymore. It was definitely cheesy 10 years ago. It now just has an diluted odd milky flavor. I use 2% milk, and I only add what the box says to add. I sometimes forget how awful it is now and get a craving for it. I then regret my purchase. I can’t finish it. Some of it always ends up in the trash.

  20. Mel

    Love this. Thx!

    • Collin (Mrs. Hip)

      You’re welcome, Mel! Glad you enjoyed this review!

  21. Heather

    I actually think the walmart great value mac n cheese is good but it has to be the thick n creamy one it compares better on taste for me and my family

    • tipaye

      Agreed on the Thick & Creamy variety!

    • Amanda L.

      Yes – only the thick and creamy variety! I’ve found that most brands are actually quite good as long as it’s thick and creamy 🙂

    • Happy Aunt

      I completely agree too! I usually pick some up whenever I’m in the store.

  22. Sarah

    My kids are obsessed with boxed Mac and cheese and won’t hardly touch the homemade version. We’ve tried a ton of different kinds and my kids absolute favorite is an organic version sold at Aldis called Mac and Puppies (dog shaped pasta). We don’t like the regular organic Aldis Mac and Cheese either that was tested as part of this post! But the Mac and Puppies is really good. I live in fear of it disappearing from the shelves one day like so many Aldis products do! 😜

    • Heidi

      My kiddos are the same, would never eat a homemade over the boxed… Wouldn’t matter what the recipe was

    • Adrianne

      My kids are in love with the Mac and Puppies at Aldi. I think it’s better than any boxed we’ve tried as well. It was only a special buy at my local Aldi stores, so we stocked up big time. It’s truly amazing!

  23. Denise

    I agree nothing compares to homemade! I’m going to try your recipe Lina…thank you

    • Lina

      Enjoy Denise! Thanks for stopping by!

  24. Christine

    Funny—my 12 year old LOVES Great Value regular M&C. He told me recently not to buy any other brand. Maybe in our region the product is from a different factory. My kids have never liked Annie’s. Kraft isn’t worth the money. I was buying Wegmans brand but have never liked it and neither did my 12 year old. Great Value doesn’t have many weird ingredients and at 29 cents you can’t beat the price. I like it better than Wegmans brand but still prefer homemade.

  25. Memeof5

    Trader Joe’s all the way.

  26. just me

    The Kraft Cauliflower Mac and Cheese is sooooo good! I bought 10 boxes to keep in the pantry to have on hand for those nights when I don’t want to cook. I LOVE that it’s a little healthier and we do not taste the cauliflower at all even though our family loves cauliflower. Try it!

    • Jennifer (Hip Sidekick)

      Thanks, I’m going to look for that, just me! It is sold in the regular store by the mac and cheese?

      • just me

        I get it at my local Kroger in the regular boxed mac and cheese section.

        • Jennifer (Hip Sidekick)


    • Amy

      I really liked the cauliflower one is as well. I catch it on s&s occasionally for about a dollar

  27. Cindy

    We love the Wacky Mac and Cheese. It’s located in strange sections of the store though. Can’t find them with the Mac and cheese but the kids love them.

  28. karen

    I love the bear creek mac and cheese

    • Jennifer (Hip Sidekick)

      YES! They make great soups as well, karen!

  29. Denise

    My kids love the velveeta shells and cheese!

  30. todd

    That was kinda a no brainer. Kraft is definately gonna be the best and Walmart brand products always suck.

  31. Kara

    The Gluten Free Great Value box is my favorite gluten free mac & cheese. My boys will eat it as well and favor it over Annie’s

  32. Desiree

    For those who have issues with nitrates and can’t eat velveeta — I’ve had positive experiences with Cracker Barrel boxed macaroni & cheese, just leave extra water (~1/4C) in the pasta if you like it creamier or plan to rehear later. Doesn’t give me headaches like the velveeta cheese does 👍

  33. Megan

    Has anyone tried the boxed ALDI goat cheese Mac and cheese? I believe it’s their simply nature brand! Just curious before I make a trip there!

  34. Jessica

    67 comments. wow, people are passionate about box Mac n cheese! 🤣

  35. Melissa

    Homemade people, it’s really not much more work and has no extra junk in it. Google “easy stovetop homemade mac & cheese” and you’ll find oodles of recipes.

    • R

      Oh, let people enjoy things – most of us buy it for occasional convenience. I make homemade mac and cheese frequently because hubby and I do think it tastes better, and while it’s hardly difficult, you’re comparing an 8 min process to about 30 mins. Not to mention the expense of a $.25-$1 box vs loads of cheese and milk (the recipe I use calls for 4 cups of each), which aren’t exactly cheap or healthier!

  36. sissi

    I couldn’t say because i just cant leave things alone or follow a recipe lol. I always add goat cheese and shredded cheese to my box mac lol. Half the time i boil the pasta in half milk and water lol.

  37. Boymamato4

    Kroger Shells and Cheese is REALLY good, and super cheap.

  38. Jenn

    Fun post, we love blind taste tests, and so then all the time at home. 😊 It’s Annie’s all the way for us!

  39. Stephanie

    I highly recommend the Trader Joe’s Rice Pasta and Cheddar. It is very tasty and you don’t even notice that it is Gluten Free.

    • Amber (Hip Sidekick)

      Thanks so much for the recommendation! I haven’t tried that one!

  40. Amy

    With Annie’s, you need to try the Homestyle version that comes in the wide box. It’s so delicious!

  41. Happy Aunt

    I’ve been buying the HyVee brand to save money and I think it’s fine for a cheap meal. It has to be the actual HyVee brand in the blue box and not their other generic. With sales, I never pay more than .50 a box.

  42. Susan

    I have always liked Annie’s white cheddar mac and cheese. Way better than the yellow

  43. Sara

    It’s too bad you don’t have a Wegmans over there. Their brand of spiral mac and cheese is a huge hit in our house. Plus the price is 3/.99 which is awesome. We prefer it over alot of mac and cheese box kinds. We also love Aldi Shells and Cheese.

  44. Julie Reeves

    I really like HEB brand.

  45. Pat

    Everyone has their own opinion, I think Kraft is the worst since they eliminated some ingredients to make it “natural”. HyVee brand is now my favorite.

  46. Boss babe

    The Giant brand gluten free is actually our favorite. It’s amazing and you’d never ever know it was gluten free!

  47. SJ

    I only eat Annie’s anymore

  48. Elizabeth

    Wegmans spirals used to be my favorite mac and cheese.. they said they changed their recipe and I have not tried it since.

  49. Sharon

    Does anybody like the canned mac and cheese from Chef Boyardee? My dad used to get that as he lived alone and didn’t need a whole big box of it nor the trouble of mixing and stirring and adding in milk and so forth as he got older and his eyesight was not so good. We tried it at his house and really liked it.

  50. Tiffany

    We don’t like the taste of Kraft original Mac & cheese anymore but we love the Kraft 3 cheese with the shells. It’s a house favorite.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

It's not your Grandma's coupon site!

Sign up for a Hip2Save account (it's free) to access all of the awesome features!

Forgot Password?

Don't have an account? Register

Forgot Password

Don't have an account? Register

Become a Hip2Save Insider

Don't Miss Out! Join our large community of insiders - it's totally free! Once you join, you'll be able to save & share your favorite deals, rate posts and recipes and add items to your HipList and Cookbook! What are ya waiting for?!

Already have an account? Login

Thank you for rating!

Would you also like to leave us a comment?