This copycat Kraft mac and cheese is healthier and more delicious than the original. It's made in one pot and comes together in less than 20 minutes with no heavy cream, butter, or artificial ingredients. Add some protein on the side to make it a full meal, or enjoy it as a side dish. It's the perfect nostalgic comfort food.
This post and recipe was updated on October 22, 2022 to incorporate user feedback.
I grew up in the American Midwest, so it goes without saying that I ate a lot of mac and cheese growing up, usually of the Kraft or Velveeta variety, and often served with a hot dog or with some canned tuna mixed in (don't knock it 'til you've tried it). Sometimes I still go back to the blue and orange boxes at the grocery store, nostalgic for something that only makes a mess of one pot and makes me feel like a kid again. This mac and cheese tastes just as good, but without all the artificial ingredients.
You don't have to use cute animal pasta for this recipe--we tested it with normal pasta too--but it does make it a whole lot of fun, and reminded me of eating character mac and cheese out of a box. It kind of made me want to catch a Disney Channel Original Movie after dinner, too. I found some cute pasta on Amazon here.
If you're looking for other easy weeknight pasta recipes, try our sloppy joe pasta or cajun chicken pasta.
- Macaroni- We used animal shaped macaroni, but normal macaroni (or any other shape) should work just fine too. We haven't tested gluten-free pasta, but if you do, leave a note in the comments to let us know how it worked out.
- Milk- We used whole milk. You can use 2%, but I wouldn't try anything with less fat than that.
- Chicken broth- We cook the pasta in a combination of chicken broth and milk, which adds a lot of flavor to this recipe and forms the basis for the cheese sauce.
- Sharp cheddar cheese- Sharp cheddar is perfect for this copycat Kraft mac and cheese recipe because it has a flavor reminiscent of the orange powder that comes in those beloved blue boxes. Make sure you shred your own cheese--it melts so much better than pre-shredded and tastes better too!
- Cream cheese
- Seasonings- Salt, black pepper, mustard powder, and ground cayenne
This recipe couldn't be any easier. It's made in one pot and comes together in about 20 minutes, including prep work (which just involves shredding the cheese!).
Step 1: Add the chicken broth, part of the milk, and pasta to a pot over medium heat. Cook until the pasta is al dente, around 10-15 minutes depending on your pasta. Stir every couple of minutes to prevent the pasta from sticking or the liquid from boiling over.
Step 2: As the pasta cooks, the liquid should reduce in volume and thicken. This will form the basis for your sauce. Once the pasta is fully cooked, turn the heat to low and stir in the shredded cheese, cream cheese, additional milk, and spices. Once the cheese has melted, remove the pot from the heat.
The sauce should be about the same consistency as Kraft Mac and Cheese. If it's too thick, you can add more milk until it reaches your desired consistency. If it's too thin, allow it to sit for a few minutes--it thickens as it cools.
Meg Rotz says
This recipe is incredible! It tastes amazing and comes together really nicely. I’m excited to find a delicious easy recipe to add into my rotation!
Julie Rowe says
This recipe needs a lot more liquid than indicated. Otherwise, very good!
Amy Pedroni says
Ryan Pedroni says
Works perfect with gluten free, our kid didn't even question it wasn't Kraft. Thank you great recipe.
I had the exact same experience unfortunately!
Rhonda Cole says
I feel like I missed something. I received some pasta noodles that are identical to the ones in the Kraft box so I thought I would look up a copycat recipe for them. This was in no way like the orangy cheesy boxed mac-n-cheese. I can see where it would be good for some, it was creamy and loaded with sauce, however I have to state again, nothing like the box. It is quite possible I missed something in the making of this but I followed the recipe word for word. The sauce had a slightly powdery texture and there was very little cheese taste. I don't want to rate this because so many people loved it so I don't want to be "that person." I would like to know if anyone else had the same experience as me.
Hi! Sorry you had that experience! We tried to make this similar to the boxed stuff without using any processed cheese--a "healthier" (or at least less fake) version, if you will. It's not an exact match, but we did try to mimic the texture and the easiness of the boxed stuff.