Boxed macaroni and cheese is a tried-and-true childhood favorite and many of us enjoy this classic side dish well into adulthood. It’s really the perfect taste-treat when you’re craving comfort food but just don’t feel like cooking.
But now that your taste buds have matured, you might realize that boxed mac and cheese doesn’t quite pack the same punch. Fortunately, there’s a secret ingredient that can liven things up in a jiffy.
Not to worry: This miraculous mac and cheese hack doesn’t require any complicated techniques or additional cooking time. You’ll be able to improve the flavor of your macaroni and cheese in the same amount of time it usually takes to make the dish … and when all is said and done, you might fall in love with this scrumptious snack all over again.
This is buttermilk. Thick, rich, and tangy. That tang will vastly improve the taste of your boxed mac and cheese. Simply swap out the suggested amount of milk for buttermilk, and you’re good to go. Buttermilk will add considerable kick to your mac and cheese, and it makes the sauce more creamy and delicious.
If you don’t have buttermilk on hand, you can try using a buttermilk substitute like kefir. But for this recipe, don’t try that old trick of adding vinegar to milk: That just makes the buttermilk thinner and gives it a little too much bite.
The next time you pick up a few boxes of mac and cheese at the grocery store, grab a carton of buttermilk, too. Best of all? After you’ve eaten your noodle delight, you’ll have plenty of leftover buttermilk to whip up fluffy pancakes, biscuits, and more. It’s enough to make you want to dance through steamy pools of cheese sauce!
If you don’t use buttermilk on the regular, you’re probably wondering what this stuff is. Despite what the name implies, buttermilk isn’t milk with butter mixed into it. In fact, it’s sort of the opposite.
Buttermilk is actually what’s left over from the process of making butter. Whole milk straight from the cow is churned, causing the milk fat to solidify and turn into butter. The leftover liquid is buttermilk, which becomes tangy thanks to naturally occurring cultures.
Buttermilk lasts a whole lot longer than fresh milk, too so before the use of refrigerators, it was a popular cooking staple. These days, the buttermilk you buy at grocery stores is more often fresh milk that’s been treated with lactic acid bacteria until it becomes tangy and thick. Buttermilk is high in protein and low in fat, though you can get full-fat varieties if you’d prefer an altogether richer product.
If you’re worried about not being able to finish a carton of buttermilk before it goes bad, you can sleep easy tonight. Not only does it last longer than most dairy products, but it also freezes well, too.
If you want to make your boxed mac and cheese taste a bit more refined but don’t have buttermilk on hand, there are plenty of other ways to get that rich, tangy taste you so desperately crave.
As we mentioned before, adding vinegar or lemon juice to your milk just won’t work for this recipe, since it makes the mixture too thin. Your mac could turn out watery as a result, and frankly, who has time for that? Beyond kefir, you might want to add in some Greek yogurt or sour cream for maximum deliciousness.
Plain Greek yogurt add creaminess and tang to your mac and cheese… but we recommend thinning it with a little bit of milk before mixing it in. If you’re trying to cut calories, you can choose Greek yogurt with zero percent fat, but personally, we prefer Greek yogurt that’s at least 2 percent fat. This gives your mac and cheese terrific texture and flavor. Oh, and helpful hint: Using Greek yogurt with five percent fat is particularly decadent!
As we said, sour cream is another terrific option. It’s thick, creamy, and has a tangy flavor that will instantly offset the richness of the cheese in your macaroni.
For a milder taste that still provides plenty of rich creaminess, try stirring in some softened cream cheese. If you’re craving even more tang, squeezing a bit of lemon juice into your macaroni and cheese will do just the trick. Bon appétit!
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