Boil Boxed Mac And Cheese In Milk For Even Better Results

Boxed mac and cheese is one of the kings of convenient, versatile pantry staples. Just a few minutes are all you need to make a cheesy, savory bowl of noodles, and there are countless ways to customize its flavors to your liking. But to really kick up mac from a box, why not change the way you cook it, instead of just adding extra flavorings? For a superior plate of pasta, try swapping out water for milk during cooking. It results in a creamier, smoother cheese sauce, and you don't even have to strain the noodles.


Extra cheesy, no strainer needed. It'll change your life. #foodontiktok #nowlookatthis #thankstoher #cheese #homecook #pasta

♬ Food – Densky9

In this TikTok video, user @saucedchef demonstrates how to cook instant mac and cheese in milk. Most boxed brands instruct you to pour out the water you've used to boil the noodles, then mix the macaroni with the cheese powder and milk. Lovers of Italian pasta might cringe at this — discarding the cooking liquid throws out the precious starches that the pasta releases when boiled, which are vital for thickening the sauce you pair with it.

To conserve that valuable starch and make the creamiest sauce for your mac, you can cook the noodles in a combo of water or milk or in milk alone, depending on how rich you want your dish to be. Neither choice requires you to strain the noodles. Just add the cheese powder right as everything comes to a simmer and stir until the smooth sauce coats the pasta.

Keep the heat down while boiling mac and cheese in milk

Cooking macaroni in milk is easy and delicious, but you might run into a few pitfalls if you're not careful. As you heat up the dairy, you must ensure that it remains at a simmer instead of a boil. High temperatures can break the matrix of fat, proteins, and water in milk, causing it to separate and curdle. These lumps and grainy bits ruin the texture of your creamy mac and cheese, so keep the heat on medium-low from start to finish.

If your milk still ends up curdling, start over and add a dash of a starchy, powdered thickening agent. Flour, cornstarch, or even potato starch can help stabilize the milk as it comes to a simmer, which prevents it from separating or developing lumps. If you're using flour, just remember to toast it in a pot before stirring it into the milk, to get rid of that distracting "raw flour" taste and give it some pleasant nutty notes instead.

Sufficient stirring is another great way to ensure a smooth, evenly-cooked cheese sauce. Gentle mixing prevents curdling, makes sure that the milk doesn't burn, and helps the temperature stay consistent throughout the whole pot. It will also stop your milk from bubbling up and boiling over — another hazard of turning your back on the stove. Just make sure you don't stir your mac and cheese too much, as this can make the sauce turn gummy.

Other ways to elevate boxed mac and cheese

For the creamiest results when using this hack, cook your macaroni in a milk that has a high fat content. Half-and-half, for example, has an extra-rich texture and is less likely to curdle over heat. It can be simmered alongside your noodles with less babysitting of the pot, and gives your sauce an incredibly smooth mouthfeel. Whole milk will also get the job done, if you want a slightly lighter result. And if you prefer plant-based alternatives, aim for a fattier product, like full-fat soy milk, to emulate that dairy richness. Just avoid oat milk, which is part of a long list of ingredients that can ruin mac and cheese.

Once you take your dinner off the heat, feel free to add some of your favorite ingredients to upgrade boxed mac and cheese even further. For example, a sprinkle of bacon or fried onions brings some crunch to the dish, while a healthy amount of pickled jalapeño slices can deliver some much-needed tanginess and spice. 

Lastly, feel free to upgrade your mac with some extra cheese. While the powdered cheese sauce mix from the box is tasty on its own, especially combined with extra milk, a few gratings of Gruyère or good-quality parmesan can really bring some nuance to your meal. If you don't keep a lot of fancy cheeses around, an extra handful of sharp cheddar never hurts.