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I tried 3 brands of boxed mac and cheese and the creamiest one surprised me

I tried 3 brands of boxed mac and cheese and the creamiest one surprised me
  • I tried boxed macaroni and cheese from three different brands: Kraft, Annie's, and Banza.
  • I was anxious to see whether Banza's chickpea pasta could live up to the other brands.
  • I liked Banza's creamy macaroni and cheese the best, while Annie's was a slight disappointment.

I used the recommended amount of milk and butter for all of the brands I tried.

I used the recommended amount of milk and butter for all of the brands I tried.
Oat milk and butter. Erin McDowell/Insider

Kraft called for 4 tablespoons of butter, while Annie's and Banza called for 2 tablespoons. The recipes also called for a quarter cup of milk. I decided to use oat milk since I already had some in my fridge.

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I went into this taste test with high expectations for the Annie's macaroni and cheese in classic cheddar.

I went into this taste test with high expectations for the Annie's macaroni and cheese in classic cheddar.
Annie's macaroni and cheese. Erin McDowell/Insider

As a longtime fan of Annie's shells and white cheddar macaroni and cheese, I was excited to try out the cheddar version for the first time.

The 6-ounce box of mac and cheese cost $3.29 from my local Stop & Shop grocery store and had about 2.5 servings per container.

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I prepared the box as directed but was surprised to find that as I was mixing, the cheese clumped together.

I prepared the box as directed but was surprised to find that as I was mixing, the cheese clumped together.
Annie's macaroni and cheese. Erin McDowell/Insider

The slightly hard balls of cheese dust were pretty unappetizing as I was mixing the macaroni and cheese together.

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However, after a few minutes of mixing, I managed to get most of the clumps out.

However, after a few minutes of mixing, I managed to get most of the clumps out.
Annie's macaroni and cheese. Erin McDowell/Insider

After mixing, the Annie's mac and cheese looked just like the Kraft mac and cheese of my childhood.

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The noodles had a nice texture, but this macaroni and cheese was a little bland in my opinion.

The noodles had a nice texture, but this macaroni and cheese was a little bland in my opinion.
Annie's macaroni and cheese. Erin McDowell/Insider

The cheese sauce didn't have that distinct, creamy richness I look for in macaroni and cheese. It definitely didn't taste bad, but it just needed more flavor.

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Kraft macaroni and cheese is a classic for a reason.

Kraft macaroni and cheese is a classic for a reason.
Kraft macaroni and cheese. Erin McDowell/Insider

The 7.25-ounce box cost me $1.49 and has about three servings per container.

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The macaroni and cheese got creamy quickly, perhaps partly due to the 4 tablespoons of butter that the recipe on the box suggested.

The macaroni and cheese got creamy quickly, perhaps partly due to the 4 tablespoons of butter that the recipe on the box suggested.
Kraft macaroni and cheese. Erin McDowell/Insider

I grew up eating Kraft macaroni and cheese, but I was ultimately not blown away by this brand.

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The Kraft original was slightly sweet but a little watery, rather than creamy.

The Kraft original was slightly sweet but a little watery, rather than creamy.
Kraft macaroni and cheese. Erin McDowell/Insider

It definitely had more flavor, in my opinion, than the Annie's mac and cheese but was still lacking in richness. It needed more substance, whether that was thicker noodles or a creamier cheese sauce, to be more filling and taste like a meal.

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My favorite brand of mac and cheese was surprisingly the Banza mac and cheese made with chickpea pasta.

My favorite brand of mac and cheese was surprisingly the Banza mac and cheese made with chickpea pasta.
Banza mac and cheese. Erin McDowell/Insider

The 5.5-ounce box cost me $4.29 and contained two servings.

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I had never tried chickpea pasta before, so I wasn't sure I would like this gluten-free alternative.

I had never tried chickpea pasta before, so I wasn't sure I would like this gluten-free alternative.
Banza mac and cheese. Erin McDowell/Insider

However, after adding in the cheese packet, butter, and splash of milk, my expectations were surpassed.

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The pot of macaroni and cheese looked super creamy and the cheese sauce clung to each and every noodle.

The pot of macaroni and cheese looked super creamy and the cheese sauce clung to each and every noodle.
Banza mac and cheese. Erin McDowell/Insider

The cheddar flavor really came through and the dish as a whole was really filling.

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The next time I'm in the grocery store I might go ahead and pick up the Banza mac and cheese over my childhood go-to, Kraft.

The next time I'm in the grocery store I might go ahead and pick up the Banza mac and cheese over my childhood go-to, Kraft.
Banza mac and cheese. Erin McDowell/Insider

Despite containing fewer servings than the other two brands and costing more, the Banza mac and cheese had the perfect balance of richness and creaminess.

It tasted decadent and like a real treat — the perfect choice for a grown-up and kid alike.

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