Instantly Elevate Boxed Mac And Cheese With A Secret Ingredient

There's nothing more satisfying than settling down with a big bowl of homemade mac and cheese, but long days can lead to the need for easy dinners, and that's when the boxed version comes in handy. Its basic flavor might pack a punch of nostalgia, but if you think it could do with more pizazz, reach for another pantry staple: French onion soup mix.

While there are lots of ways to jazz up a pot of boxed mac and cheese, combining the cheesy noodles with the flavors of onions, herbs, and savory seasonings is hard to beat. TikTokers have even started pairing Panera's French onion soup and mac and cheese, but a version made with instant mixes is super easy and doesn't require you to go to a restaurant (or pay a delivery fee!). To try it, cook and drain the pasta, then add the other ingredients (like milk and butter) according to the package instructions.

Next, sprinkle in a couple of tablespoons of French onion mix and about half of the cheese powder that came with your mac, and stir to combine. If needed, add more of the cheese powder until you get just the right consistency and flavor. The combo will be delicious as-is, but even more mix-ins makes it even better.

Other ingredients to add to French onion mac and cheese

The primary ingredients in most French onion soup mixes are dehydrated onions, onion powder, salt, sugar, and powdered soy sauce. To kick up the flavor, try adding herbs and spices often used in classic French onion soup recipes. Sage, garlic, thyme, paprika, and pepper are all solid options. And while your mix may already include soy sauce, you can add even more umami flavor with a few more dashes of soy or Worcestershire sauce. Or, add the signature beefy flavor of the soup by replacing a portion of the liquid with beef stock.

Another easy way to give your mac and cheese more French onion soup flair is by adding the dish's signature topping. Once you dollop out your mac into individual servings, top each one with a slice of crusty bread or croutons, then layer on some Gruyère, parmesan, or another of your favorite cheeses. You can broil the dish to finish, or just let the heat of the noodles melt of the cheesy topping.

Finally, if you're looking for a super creamy bowl of cheesy goodness, replace the milk and butter with sour cream or just substitute heavy cream for the milk. Adding a few dollops of cream cheese will make it creamier, too — just warm the cheese in a separate pot with the other sauce ingredients, so that it's easier to mix with the pasta.

Other ways to use French onion soup mix

Since you likely won't use up a whole soup packet on your mac and cheese, you'll be happy to know that there are plenty of tasty ways to use the leftovers. The obvious answer is to whip up a super simple French onion dip to serve with chips or veggies — or you can use the dip to make next-level mashed potatoes.

Other classic ways of using French onion soup mix include adding it into meatloaf or burgers, using it as a rub before roasting meats, or tossing vegetables with oil and the soup mix before baking. You can also use it to season soups beyond classic French onion, or easily stir it into some gravy for a delicious flavor boost. You can either mix it with pre-made gravy, or combine the mix with the cornstarch slurry or flour roux you'll use to thicken a homemade version.

If you're looking to satisfy a crunchy snack craving, try using the soup mix as a coating for oyster crackers, pretzels, or Chex Mix. Or, if you're looking for a unique twist on a Bloody Mary, infuse your vodka with the seasoning, then use it to stir up a surprisingly savory cocktail.