The Ingredient Substitute You Need To Level Up Boxed Mac And Cheese

The usual mix of noodles, powdered cheese, butter, and milk already makes a super tasty meal in a jiffy. But, with a simple swap, boxed macaroni and cheese can become even more deliciously creamy. Swap the milk and butter for one simple ingredient you probably already have in your refrigerator — Greek yogurt. It creates a much thicker and creamier sauce that actually reads as cheesier thanks to the richness and tangy flavor of the yogurt. No need to add in any extra shreds of sharp cheddar, though you certainly could.

Pulling off this hack is as simple as making the mac according to the instructions on the box. Once the noodles are cooked and drained, all you have to do is mix them with the contents of the cheese packet and a couple of spoonfuls of Greek yogurt. That's literally it! If you prefer a slightly looser sauce but are still into the extra zip from the yogurt, just thin it out with a splash of pasta water or a bit of milk.

This upgrade has flavor and texture benefits for sure, but it also makes your life a little bit easier. You have two less ingredients to pull out when you are hungry and time is of the essence. Also, if milk and butter aren't in your usual grocery rotation, you have another option to pull off boxed mac and cheese in a snap.

More dairy substitutions that upgrade boxed mac and cheese

The best substitutes would be other thick, cultured dairy products like sour cream, crème fraîche, or labneh. They all have the right consistency and acidity to stand in for Greek yogurt. Greek-style, dairy-free yogurts would also work, but just make sure they are unflavored and unsweetened.

Regular yogurt or buttermilk will provide a similar tanginess, though the consistency will not be as thick and luscious. On the other hand, something like cream cheese will lend great texture, as would the unexpected use of cottage cheese (use a blended version if you are not into the curds), but they will not have the palpable acidity that makes Greek yogurt such a nice addition.

Whichever product you use, it is best to use a full-fat option, if possible. The higher fat-to-protein ratio helps prevent the cultured dairy from separating or curdling when it comes into contact with the heat from the noodles. Also, allow it to come to room temperature first, and only add it with the pot off the flame, because direct heat can also be too intense for it.

Ingredients that pair well with Greek yogurt mac and cheese

What goes better with mac than more cheese? Play up the pleasantly sour flavor of Greek yogurt with extra sharp cheddar, goat cheese, or parmesan, or balance it out with some shredded mozzarella, or good old American slices.

Go for a sour cream and onion vibe with the addition of thinly sliced scallions or chives, or add French onion soup mix to instantly elevate boxed mac and cheese. The acidity of Greek yogurt also adds a pleasant lift that complements add-ins like rich rotisserie chicken, and wakes up boxed mac and cheese upgraded with canned tuna.

Or, use your favorite fresh or frozen vegetables for a vegetarian take — peas, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, or kale would all be great. If you cut the veggies into uniform, bite-sized pieces, you can add them to the pasta water in the last two to three minutes. For items that are already cooked, add them just at the last minute to warm through. Finish your extra-creamy mac off with some crumbled potato chips or fried onions for a delicious crunch.