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The Classic Dressing That Instantly Upgrades Boxed Mac And Cheese

Mac and cheese with fresh herbs
Mac and cheese with fresh herbs - Burwellphotography/Getty Images

Boxed mac and cheese is an easy pantry staple that serves its purpose of getting food on the table in a hurry -- but it can also leave a lot to be desired taste-wise. The dehydrated cheese powder isn't exactly gourmet. And while the noodles are as good as any macaroni, improving the sauce will make them taste that much better. So if you're not feeling up to making mac and cheese from scratch but still want to enjoy some quick and easy cheesy noodles, it can't hurt to have a few tricks up your sleeve to improve on that boxed mac and cheese.

One option that might come as a surprise consists of converting the cheese sauce to a ranch-flavored version. By doing so, you can add a burst of flavor and a bit more creaminess to the standard dinner in a box. Between the dill, garlic, and onion flavors in the classic dressing, it will be a truly elevated taste experience. Yes, making your own ranch mac and cheese is great -- but using a box can still, well, tick all the boxes.

Read more: 14 Liquids To Add To Scrambled Eggs (And What They Do)

Use Powdered Ranch Mix For A Serious Upgrade

ranch seasoning mix in tablespoon
ranch seasoning mix in tablespoon - Michelle Lee Photography/Getty Images

While you probably could just dump some pre-made ranch into the mac and cheese after stirring it all together, there is a better way. And it involves making use of something else you probably have in your pantry: ranch seasoning mix. Either the shaker version or the packet will work -- just don't use the whole thing. You'll only need about two teaspoons worth for some serious flavor, which equals out to about a third of a packet. In addition to the added seasonings and spices, the ranch mix is also chock full of buttermilk and other milk products, so it'll give that mac and cheese an extra boost of creaminess.

You'll want to mix the ranch mix and cheese powder into the milk and butter separately, before adding it to the noodles. Adjust the amount of milk as needed to accommodate the extra powder from the ranch mix. Of course, if you really want to up the delish factor, consider skipping the cheese powder altogether and melting some fresh cheese instead. Doing so will make the dish more work than boxed mac and cheese, but it will be worth it. If you choose to go this route then you might want to increase the amount of the ranch mix. Since the sauce won't be as salty as it would be with the powdered cheese, you can get away with more of the mix.

Other Ways To Upgrade Boxed Mac And Cheese

Instant mac and cheese with sausage or hot dog
Instant mac and cheese with sausage or hot dog - gateslena/Shutterstock

In addition to a dollop of ranch mix, there are plenty of other simple ways to upgrade mac and cheese. A lot of these boil down to just one extra ingredient, such as adding fresh melted cheese, some cheese sauce, a good glug of hot sauce, a little bit of cream, cream cheese, buttermilk, or even extra butter. But there are also single dry ingredients that can go a long way in the upgrade. Most people have probably had cut-up hot dogs in their boxed mac and cheese at one point or another during childhood, so why not toss in something similar for grown-up tastes? A little andouille sausage will do, as will some salad shrimp, bacon, or even Spam.

There are plenty of veggie upgrade options as well. For example, a handful of jalapeños or canned green chiles can give boxed mack and cheese a spicy kick. Steamed cauliflower also meshes well with cheesy dishes, as do mushrooms. Another option is to mix in some roasted sweet potato or a bit of squash to add sweetness and fiber. And there are plenty more, so why not let your imagination run wild?

Read the original article on Daily Meal.