Hack 'n Cheese
February 6, 2011 3:21 PM   Subscribe

Help me hack my Kraft Dinner/macaroni and cheese!

Thanks to some badass sales on twelve packs of Kraft Dinner, I now have way too much to eat in the usual manner. I've already experimented with using an avocado or an egg instead of milk and butter, and while that's awesome, I'm really keen to do way more with it. Know any interesting additions or changes I can try? Healthy is good, but I'm open to nearly anything.
posted by the dief to Food & Drink (55 answers total) 111 users marked this as a favorite
+canned tuna
posted by Jacqueline at 3:23 PM on February 6, 2011 [4 favorites]

Trader Joe's pasta sauces---any of them are great
posted by ragtimepiano at 3:25 PM on February 6, 2011

Hot dog slices. Ketchup. Bread crumbs.
posted by J. Wilson at 3:25 PM on February 6, 2011

I add stuff to it. Tuna and peas. Corn and salsa. Chicken.
posted by MsKim at 3:25 PM on February 6, 2011

piggybacking on jacqueline: canned tuna with frozen broccoli or peas. then bake in casserole dish for about 20 minutes with a little extra cheese on top and some crushed potato chips or crackers. poor man's tuna casserole. aka what i ate nearly every day during college.
posted by kerning at 3:26 PM on February 6, 2011 [4 favorites]

My mom's tuna casserole is made thus:

2 small cans/packets of tuna
1 small onion, chopped
Miracle Whip
I box of Kraft Mac & Cheese, prepared

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix up a standard tuna salad with tuna, onion, Miracle Whip, salt and pepper. Spray a small casserole dish with Pam and make a layer with the tuna salad. Top with the prepared mac and cheese. Bake uncovered 25-30 minutes until the whole thing is hot and the macaroni is starting to brown around the edges. Serve with ketchup.

Another option is to just mix the tuna straight out of the packet into the mac and cheese.

Lastly, have you tried squirting sriracha/rooster sauce in it?
posted by cabingirl at 3:27 PM on February 6, 2011 [3 favorites]

ground beef/chicken/turkey
soy/hoisin/sriracha/Tabasco sauce
cumin or turmeric
chopped veggies
tomato paste/sauce
posted by SillyShepherd at 3:30 PM on February 6, 2011

So you essentially just have a ton of elbow macaroni, right? So you could make pasta salads of all sorts. You can make the usual one with italian dressing, tomatoes and olives. You can also add feta and cucumbers, mushrooms and bacon, or all manner of things. Here's an article that breaks down the possibilities.

If you want to make the Kraft dinner the usual way and then add other items, try tuna, or tuna and peas, crab meat, broccoli, or cherry tomatoes.
posted by runningwithscissors at 3:30 PM on February 6, 2011 [2 favorites]

i've never tried it, but mac-n-cheese pizza seems to be popping up at random places in the midwest.

also, i enjoyed your tags "food" and "sortoffood" :-)
posted by GastrocNemesis at 3:30 PM on February 6, 2011

Fry up a can of roast beef hash, nice and crispy. Then mix the two together. Definitely not healthy. But so good.
posted by notcreative at 3:36 PM on February 6, 2011

Sriracha sauce and cubed chicken breast. (I usually ditch the box mac in favor of whole-wheat pasta.)
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 3:39 PM on February 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Bacon. Fry until crispy, crumble into mac n' cheese.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 3:41 PM on February 6, 2011 [6 favorites]

At the point where you mix in the sauce packet, also mix in a can of Rotel tomatoes. Oh my god, is that good.

It may make things a bit runnier than usual, so it's probably better to add Rotel tomatoes if you are also adding other ingredients, like the tuna or peas.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 3:45 PM on February 6, 2011 [3 favorites]

When cold, scoop up with an ice cream scoop, cover lightly with flour, roll in egg, roll in bread crumbs, deep fry, eat, reflect on the the excesses of western civilization.

posted by A Terrible Llama at 3:48 PM on February 6, 2011 [20 favorites]

I like to make it with sour cream instead of milk and butter -- gives it a tangy edge.
posted by jacquilynne at 3:49 PM on February 6, 2011 [2 favorites]

I love it with frozen peas!
posted by bug138 at 3:55 PM on February 6, 2011

Bacon and broccoli.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 4:01 PM on February 6, 2011

Bacon/ground beef and actual grated cheese make for The Ideal Kraft Dinner Experience.
posted by Jairus at 4:02 PM on February 6, 2011

posted by makonan at 4:04 PM on February 6, 2011

Yeah, crumbled bacon and peas or broccoli makes Mac and cheese magical.
posted by Rock Steady at 4:11 PM on February 6, 2011

Option One: 45 minutes before you start the KD, start some tomato sauce with butter and onion. (VERY easy to make: just put halved onion and butter into tomatoes, bring to temp and let simmer.) Use the sauce and the cheese packet, or the sauce and some nice freshly grated Parmesan.

Option Two: Make the standard recipe, but add dill weed and hot paprika, and use thick yogurt (Greek or supermarket yogurt that has been drained) instead of milk.

Option Three: Crisply fried back bacon strips. It's the law on this side of the border.
posted by maudlin at 4:16 PM on February 6, 2011 [2 favorites]

Option Three A: Back bacon and pineapple. I haven't actually tried this, mind you, but it suddenly seems like the most wonderful choice in the world.
posted by maudlin at 4:19 PM on February 6, 2011 [3 favorites]

Easy comfort-food style: add kielbasa/Polish sausage or smoked sausage, eat with cornbread (we usually use Jiffy. Can eat the cornbread separate, or crumble it up into the mac&cheese. Also, use twice the amount of butter, and little to no milk.

Other things to add: garlic-sauté'd spinach, diced red pepper, bacon.
posted by curious nu at 4:29 PM on February 6, 2011

Stuff I like to add in to traditionally-prepared Kraft Mac n Cheese: frozen peas, broccoli, sliced hot dogs.

I sometimes end up with extra noodles (you'll see why below), and I usually just cook 'em and toss with butter, salt, pepper, and a little bit of parmesan cheese. A little bit of cream cheese and tomato sauce stirred into the hot noodles is delicious, too.

This is not remotely healthy and I can't believe I'm admitting this in public, but once in a great while, I will purloin a cheese powder packet from another box and use about half of it in addition to the full packet from the box I'm already making. It makes the mac n cheese intensely cheesy!
posted by rhiannonstone at 4:31 PM on February 6, 2011

Make it as usual, then add canned pinto beans & chili powder.
posted by belladonna at 4:38 PM on February 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you're feeling really lazy, chopped tomatoes and mushrooms I find go fairly well with the cheese sauce. I've also used chopped celery. nth'ing tuna and hotdog slices.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 4:44 PM on February 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

I just want to say that this is wrong. I am all for adulterating macaroni and cheese, but KD is a very different sort of food and the usual hacks do not apply. Your only option here is rhiannonstone's.
posted by kmennie at 4:56 PM on February 6, 2011

If it's the powder kind, the following:
You will need: 1-2 cloves of garlic. Oil or butter. Beer. Packet or can of tuna (if desired)
Saute minced garlic in a little butter or olive oil in a pan (while putting the water on to boil for the pasta, adding the pasta, etc.).
Add beer, dark beer is best in the winter (think a beer you would use for a beer-cheese soup).
Let the liquid cook down a little.
Add the powder and whisk until it's incorporated.
Once the pasta's cooked, add it to the pan and coat the pasta in the cheese sauce.
Add tuna (if desired).

You can also caramelize minced onions before adding the garlic, but this will make the cooking take considerably longer.
posted by elpea at 5:00 PM on February 6, 2011 [3 favorites]

Oh, another one, Greek-style plain yogurt instead of milk in the sauce. It's healthier and tangier.
posted by elpea at 5:01 PM on February 6, 2011

Grilled mac and cheese sandwich! Here's one of the better examples google found.

maudlin: "Option One: 45 minutes before you start the KD, start some tomato sauce with butter and onion. (VERY easy to make: just put halved onion and butter into tomatoes, bring to temp and let simmer.)

I just finished making this for tonight's dinner! I pass it through a fine sieve to remove the seeds, and the remaining tomato and onion is great as bruschetta.
posted by Room 641-A at 5:35 PM on February 6, 2011

Combine one prepared pot of KD with one can of baked beans. Mix. Enjoy!
posted by ainsley at 6:13 PM on February 6, 2011

Sometimes I microwave stir fry frozen veggies & add to the mac & cheese. It's okay. Cubed ham is better, though.

I seem to remember someone saying they use the cheese packets for their popcorn.
posted by dragonplayer at 6:34 PM on February 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

I like to jazz up the powdered sauce with real cheese. The last box I made I added parmesan and a heaping tablespoon of ricotta (to replace some of the butter). I would also second the people above who suggested broccoli.

I never thought about adding tuna. I might have to go to the store tomorrow...
posted by janepanic at 6:34 PM on February 6, 2011

chili mac! a can of corn and a can of beanless chili.
posted by lemniskate at 6:37 PM on February 6, 2011

If you start double-cheesing you'll be left with naked macaroni.
This peanut sauce takes under a minute to make, and is crack-cocaine delicious. It's also great on naked ramen noodles, chicken, steamed vegetables, toast+fried egg, and any other food in the world.

One minute winner peanut sauce
In a microwaveable cup, combine
2 spoons peanut butter (I like smooth, but crunchy would work too)
2 spoons honey
2 spoons soy sauce
1 spoon sesame oil.
Microwave for 30 seconds and stir well. Add a little more soy sauce if it's too goopy.
Any excess (yeah right) will keep well in the fridge, too.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 6:39 PM on February 6, 2011 [56 favorites]

I substitute yogurt or sour cream for the milk and butter.
posted by Sara C. at 6:46 PM on February 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Though I enjoy shopping there (was there today!), I'd never before considered No Frills to have anything to do with the word "badass".

Scrambling eggs to a very creamy consistency and mixing them in with the sauce - more protein, more nom.
posted by clicking the 'Post Comment' button at 7:38 PM on February 6, 2011 [2 favorites]

I put in salsa (usually tomatillo, since it's super tasty and doesn't mess up the orangey-yellow color) and then a handful of shredded cheese. Sometimes I add chopped frozen spinach to the macaroni as it cooks, as well, and then drain and prepare the mac/spinach mixture as usual (sometimes this requires more milk). The smoky blend of this is awesome on any preparation of macaroni and cheese.
posted by heurtebise at 7:45 PM on February 6, 2011

I'm with kmennie. KD is NOT mac and cheese. That said, back in my university KD 3 to 4 times a week days, when plain just wasn't cutting it for me, I added a bit of tarragon.
posted by birdsquared at 7:59 PM on February 6, 2011

Salsa. Canned chili.
posted by crunchland at 9:42 PM on February 6, 2011

Add heaping handfuls of chopped Italian parsley, cottage cheese instead of milk (or ricotta for more fat), white pepper, and decent grated Parmesan. Grill mushrooms with a bit of diced garlic and dried tarragon, serve on top of the macaroni.
posted by benzenedream at 10:26 PM on February 6, 2011

Brown a pound of ground beef, drain, and then pour in a can of tomato sauce. Make the Kraft Dinner. Combine. Crack some pepper on top if you're feeling fancy.

Mom always called this "slumgullion"; good stuff when you have next to no money but want to eat (slightly) better than ramen.
posted by vorfeed at 10:59 PM on February 6, 2011

Three words: greasy. honky. pie.
posted by fresh bouquets every day at 1:07 AM on February 7, 2011

I like to put trader joe's soy chorizo in mine.
posted by j03 at 3:52 AM on February 7, 2011

Grate a couple cups' worth of sharp cheddar, and mix that into the macaroni, with a TBSP of butter while it's still good and hot. Then add only half the cheese powder packet. (Save the rest of the powder, as it's great on popcorn.) Stir in 2 or 3 TBSP of chicken bouillon powder and some cooked carrots and peas. Possibly some seasoned salt.
posted by wjm at 4:39 AM on February 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

I use the microwave mac&cheese bowls for light meals/big snacks and love to add mini pepperoni (turkey or regular) and oregano to the mix.
posted by clerestory at 5:08 AM on February 7, 2011

Adding a full can of Hormel chili always helped, though you have to drink about a quart of water to balance all that sodium.

I used to add lemon pepper or Penzey's sandwich sprinkle or even Penzey's pizza seasonings (which was less successful, but a change at least).

Cutting a brick of Spam into cubes and frying it in the pan would be awesome -- though in all the hundreds of boxes of KM&CD I ever ate, I never even tried that. (Missed opporunity, for sure!)
posted by wenestvedt at 7:57 AM on February 7, 2011

KD once ran a contest for something like this. My contribution was, IIRC, sour cream + diced red & green peppers + diced pepperoni. I won a case of KD :)

Last week I mixed in a bunch of chopped cooked kale -- it was pretty good and a nice colour contrast.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 9:08 AM on February 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

I used to do it all the time in my early 20s with Annie's white shells, so maybe it won't be as magical or something flavor balance-wise, I dunno, but frozen peas, more real cheese, and/or halved cherry tomatoes were absolutely my favorite add-ins, along with breadcrumb/crispy topping with a last-minute oven toasting step. Mmmm. Got it from here as I recall. I suppose you could try pan-frying it too, after cooking it normally most of the way or something? Like this.

The tomato hack is still my favorite one, with maybe some fresh herbs like basil thrown in last minute. The tang and acid of the tomato cuts through the cheesy blandness, it's a very welcome contrast, sorta along the same lines as the much-needed tomato soup when you eat greasy grilled cheese sandwiches. Damn, it's snowing here and now I want mac n cheese for lunch...
posted by ifjuly at 9:48 AM on February 7, 2011

I seem to also remember sometimes using yogurt too, instead of milk or something. Gave it a little sharpness in a good way.
posted by ifjuly at 9:49 AM on February 7, 2011

I always added soy sauce.

Once, I made it with water and olive oil instead of milk and butter, and it was disturbingly tasty.
posted by Night_owl at 9:50 AM on February 7, 2011

I wonder if throwing a well drained can of this stuff would be good. I bet it would.

Or just chopped pickled jalapenos. Or -- mac and cheese nachos -- throw in tomatoes, pickled jalapenos, eat with tortilla chips and we all have to die of something -- sour cream.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 10:42 AM on February 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

barbeque sauce or chipotle tobasco. It sounds horrible, but is totally good.
posted by honeyx at 12:51 PM on February 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

I can vouch for chipotle tabasco on mac & cheese.
posted by elpea at 1:17 PM on February 7, 2011

I haven't done it in years, and maybe I should- but I spent a few years adding tomato sauce to my mac and cheese- just enough to lightly coat the noodles. I remember it reminded me of pizza. This may be because I was a teenager and was willing to eat anything, but I loved it. Don't remember why I stopped.
posted by jenlovesponies at 3:42 AM on February 14, 2011

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