More Mac and Cheese, Please

Like countless other American children, I had an unshakable affinity for mac and cheese even before I could properly pronounce the words to request it. Elbows, twists, ambiguous character shapes that would better be described as pasta amoeba; they were all greeted with enthusiasm, as long as they came from that magical blue box. I had never even heard of such a thing as baked macaroni and cheese until I hit high school, and by then it was much too late to swap allegiances. Soft noodles slowly drowning in a pool of neon yellow cheese sauce were the only thing for me, and no bread crumbs, vegetables, or fancy seasonings need apply.

Happily, my palate has considerably improved since my formative years, allowing me to discover the joys of homemade mac, spruced up with a brave new world of different flavors. That said, the love of that ubiquitous blue box will always be embedded deep within my psyche, drawing comparisons to each new mac and cheese contender, for better or worse. Now that there are genuinely cheesy vegan options appearing in every aisle of the supermarket, there’s a new blue box on the market, seeking to dethrone the old mac monarch.

Earth Balance first made waves when it unleashed vegan cheddar and white cheddar mac and cheese options about a year ago. Casting aside all preconceived notions of how a classic mac should be constructed, they’ve fearlessly unleashed a revised box that is not only dairy-free, but also gluten-free. Even I have to say that this is a pretty risky move, considering past hits and misses for non-allergenic noodles alone.

The cooking procedure is identical to every past mac I’ve known and loved; boil the pasta until tender, drain, mix with “cheese” powder, “milk”, and “butter”, and shovel into your mouth as fast as you can. Okay, that last part isn’t specifically written into the instructions, but just like any other cheesy macaroni mixture, this one doesn’t sit around well, and reheats rather miserably.

However, when hot and fresh, the rich, subtly starchy sauce has an undeniably cheesy, savory flavor. The initial flavor is somewhat delicate, but builds with subsequent bites. Though the dense, toothsome noodles are impressive for gluten-free pasta, they still clearly lack the distinctive springy texture granted by traditional wheat flour. As a certified gluten-lover, I probably wouldn’t pick these over the original, but they’re easily one of the better options for those already accustomed to celiac options.

As my omnivorous sister could attest, they certainly wouldn’t fool someone who’s more familiar with the old fashioned blue box, but even she admitted that they were “not bad.” High praise from someone who balks at the sight of anything remotely green on her dinner plate. Overall, Earth Balance has created an impressive offering for an instant, out-of-the-box dinner that can accommodate eaters of all stripes.

12 thoughts on “More Mac and Cheese, Please

  1. Hehehe. I enjoy your inclusion of your sister’s reaction. :)

    Also, Canada eagerly awaits these delightful blue packages! Like you, it was many years past my childhood before I discovered baked mac and cheese (which I would consider different from the pasta al forno I would have at my grandparents’), so, I was loyal to the blue for a long time. But, still, I relish the memories of Kraft Dinner—especially leftover KD (weird… I know).

    Thanks for sharing this :)

  2. I grew up on the boxed stuff too, and then one time I made a baked mac and cheese that was so good I literally almost cried. My world has been forever changed. I do still love the consistency of the stove top kind. I’ve tried quite a few vegan mac and cheeses and I haven’t loved any, though I liked them enough. I’ll have to give this one a shot!

  3. I have a s-i-l who lives in France and is a real foodie, but she loves when I send her Kraft mac and cheese. When one of our daughters was eating gluten-free for awhile, I could only find one brand that I liked, so I ended up making my own g-f pasta (not macaroni, of course), but it was great!


  4. i grew up on kraft blue box and missed it dearly for a while after going vegan, so i was quite excited when new boxed vegan options like this showed up. that said, i hardly ever buy them, since none of them compare to my version of your stovetop mac and cheese recipe (i sub the water for white wine and add in a big glob of miso).

  5. Great review and I remember my father questioning my mom for serving the neon yellow powder from the boxed stuff in the 80s because it didn’t look like food to him. But funny how kids become so accustomed to it and this looks like a decent option.

  6. YUM! I have been wanting to try the Earth Balance mac and cheese but havn’t found it anywhere yet! I use their butter 100% of the time and love it so glad to know that this stuff is delicious also! ;-)

  7. I have a one-year-old with lots of allergies and this would meet all of them! Thank you for sharing, we are always looking for new things to try with him.

  8. […] comfort foods without any discomforting symptoms afterward! For me, that means another bowlful of Mac and Cheese, or if we’re getting fancy, an extra-large serving of Truffled Brussels Sprouts […]

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