8 hacks to take boxed mac and cheese to the next level

mac and cheese
Macaroni and cheese can be transformed into many different dishes.
Igor Dutina/Shutterstock
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  • There are many ways to transform boxed mac and cheese with mix-ins that add new flavors and textures.
  • Extra ingredients, like tuna, breadcrumbs, or squash, can be mixed in with mac and cheese or simply sprinkled over top.
  • Some transformations combine mac and cheese with other comfort foods like pizza or Buffalo chicken dip.
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Whether you enjoy it for the nostalgia factor or prepare it as a quick dinner, boxed macaroni and cheese is a simple meal with a classic flavor.

But you don't have to be a master chef to elevate this sometimes basic dish.

Here are some easy hacks to transform your boxed macaroni and cheese into something even tastier and more exciting. 

Fried mac and cheese balls make for a great party snack.

fried mac cheese balls
Turn regular mac and cheese into a bite-sized snack.

Deep-fried mac and cheese balls have become a popular party staple, and they're easier to make than you might think. 

This recipe from No Recipe uses leftover mac and cheese and coats it in panko breadcrumbs for a crispy exterior.

Pepperoni-pizza mac and cheese combines two great comfort foods.

mac and cheese pizza
Pepperoni pizza and mac and cheese combined.

This recipe comes straight from Kraft Heinz. It calls for boxed macaroni and cheese, chopped pepperoni, tomato ketchup, dried oregano, and garlic powder.

The hack adds a little extra protein and flavor to the dish. 

Bake mac and cheese for an extra crispy and cheesy meal.

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Extra-cheesy mac and cheese.
Elizabeth Livermore/Getty Images

Food.com suggests adding cheddar cheese, sour cream, and ground pepper to a prepared boxed of mac and cheese. The dish is finished off by adding even more cheddar cheese and a butter-cracker crust before baking it in the oven for a crispy exterior.

This Buffalo chicken mac and cheese adds a nice bit of heat.

buffalo mac and cheese
Elevate boxed mac and cheese with Buffalo chicken.

Spice up your mac and cheese game with this Food Network recipe that combines mac and cheese with Buffalo chicken for a spicy, decadent meal. 

Although this specific recipe calls for mac and cheese made from scratch, you can easily swap it out for the boxed version.

Just mix together Buffalo wing sauce, cubed chicken, and crumbled blue cheese with your mac and cheese.


Add canned tuna for a quick and easy casserole-esque dish.

mac n cheese
Tuna can add protein to mac and cheese.
Tonlek/ Shutterstock

If you're looking for something really simple, Taste of Home magazine has a great hack to make mac and cheese more filling.

Simply add some canned tuna to a prepared batch of boxed mac and cheese for added protein and flavor. It'll make your pasta taste like a simple tuna casserole. 

Turn mac and cheese into "muffins."

mac and cheese muffins
Mac and cheese can make cheesy muffins.
Shutterstock/ iuliia_n

These mac and cheese "muffins" make it possible to take your favorite dish on the go. 

Betty Crocker shared this recipe that requires mac and cheese made from scratch, but you can swap out those ingredients for a prepared box of mac and cheese. Then, just add the breadcrumbs, and follow the baking instructions for these cheesy "muffins."

Chili mac and cheese is a simple leftover meal.

taco mac and cheese
Chili mac and cheese is quick and easy.

You can combine leftover chili with a box of mac and cheese to revamp and elevate both dishes.

If you don't have chili on hand, you can purchase it in a can or follow this one-pot chili recipe from Delish.

Add squash and herbs to the mac and cheese if you want a cozy, fall meal.

butternut squash mac and cheese
Butternut squash can make your dish taste perfect for fall.

There are a few different ways you can incorporate squash into your boxed mac and cheese.

You can purée it and add it as a second, creamy sauce, or you can add roasted cubes of squash to the prepared mac and cheese, like this recipe from food blog A Side of Sweet suggests

Topping it with herbs like sage or basil can take the dish to the next level.

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