Homemade microwave easy mac and cheese is a gentle nod to the microwavable cups so many people have known and loved–minus all the things about those that you don’t need (hello preservatives). A simple cheese base is stirred in to hot pasta and transforms into a creamy quick side dish or snack.
This post is part of our junk food remakes series on YouTube. To see me make this homemade easy mac recipe in it’s entirety, visit me there!
Microwaveable mac and cheese is a practically a food group for some people–especially kids and others who just can’t seem to eat an entire larger box of their favorite comfort food.
And it might seem super convenient at first: Just add water, stir it up, and microwave it. But on closer inspection the ingredient list gets sort of…bogged down. If you’d like to see what’s in the store bought version, here’s a brief synopsis of the cheese sauce mix:
“Cheese Sauce Mix (Whey, Maltodextrin, Milk, Corn Syrup Solids, Palm Oil, Modified Food Starch, Milkfat, Salt, Milk Protein Concentrate, Contains Less Than 2% Of Sodium Tripolyphosphate, Medium Chain Triglycerides, Dried Buttermilk, Sodium Phosphate, Citric Acid, Cream, High Acid Whey, Lactic Acid, Calcium Phosphate, Guar Gum, Cheese Culture, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Autolyzed Yeast, Torula Yeast, Enzymes, Dried Yeast, Natural Flavor); Modified Food Starch, Maltodextrin, Potassium Chloride, Acetylated Monoglycerides, Salt, Medium Chain Triglycerides, Apocarotenal (Color).”
Part of my goal with whatever packaged food I buy is to try to stick to ingredients that I would likely have in my pantry right now. And based on that list, I don’t have about 75% of that stuff.
That doesn’t mean that microwavable easy mac is going to put you in an early grave, but it sure doesn’t pass the test for us.
How to make the best homemade easy mac and cheese in the microwave
I had my doubts about this starting out (I was pleasantly surprised with the outcome though!) and I’ll tell you two things up front:
- It could be cheesier. If you want more cheese in your mixture than what I did, go ahead and add it.
- This doesn’t taste one tad bit like the factory made stuff so just don’t even go there. It’s delicious. But don’t compare the two. This is very apples to oranges.
Make the cheese sauce base
We’ll start by making a cheese mixture base. This base can live in your freezer for goodness knows how long–6 months at least. Just take out a scoop and add it to your hot pasta and stir till it melts in.
I’m 99% sure it’s some kind of miracle. Also:
- Use the smallest pasta you can. I used miniature penne but something like ditalini would work too. If you can get any pasta that’s small and thin like what’s in the Kraft boxes, absolutely get it. If you use a large pasta it won’t cook in the allotted time.
- Feel free to change the cheeses (we’re using just cheddar here) but you could do parmesan and dried herbs (think Pasta Roni) or another cheese of your choice.
- Bump up the dried mustard if you feel like it needs that kick.
- Cook your pasta in an extra large glass container. If you’re making 2 cups of pasta, use at least a 4 cup container. It may boil over in your microwave.
Want more homemade junk food recipes? Watch the junk food remakes series on YouTube now! You can also check out my gooey cheesy homemade hot pockets (video #1 in the series here).
Homemade Easy Mac and Cheese in the Microwave
For the cheese sauce mixture
- 3 cups powdered milk
- 4 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard
- 3 cups sharp cheddar cheese grated
For the pasta
- 1 cup miniature penne pasta
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1 tablespoon butter
- pinch salt
Mix the cheese sauce mixture
- In a large bowl, blend the powdered milk and all remaining ingredients together in a bowl or air tight container. If not using right away, store in the freezer for up to 6 months.
To make the mac and cheese
- In a large microwave safe container that’s at least twice as big as you need, add the water, butter, salt and pasta.
- Microwave for 10 minutes, stopping to stir halfway through.
- Carefully remove the container from the microwave. There should be a couple of tablespoons of water still in the bottom of your pasta. If not, add a couple of tablespoons.
- Measure 1/3 cup of the cheese sauce mixture and add to hot pasta. Stir until the cheese melts, a minute or two. Add extra salt to taste if needed. Serve warm.