Kraft Deluxe Frozen Mac & Cheese Review: Real Cheese Flavor In The Freezer Aisle

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For eons, fans of convenient mac and cheese were separated into two camps: Did they go for the classic Kraft macaroni with its tiny noodles and bag of electric orange cheese powder, or did they opt for frozen, pre-made varieties? Now people with a preference for Kraft have their own option in the freezer aisle, as Kraft has released frozen versions of its Deluxe Original Cheddar and Deluxe Four Cheese mac and cheese flavors.

It's hard to argue with the ease of frozen mac — you don't have to use a pot (or even a plate) to consume it. All you need to do is heat it up in its package and eat it straight out of the plastic tray. But people love Kraft's original recipe. Can the frozen stuff hold a candle to the blue box that was an integral part of so many of our childhoods? We tasted Kraft's new frozen products to see how they measure up.

What's in Kraft Deluxe Frozen Mac & Cheese?

The mac and cheese comes in a circular black plastic tray with a clear plastic film on the top. You can either pop the tray in the microwave for a few minutes or remove the clear film and bake the mac for 20 minutes.

The Original Cheddar flavor is made with a processed white cheddar-based cheese sauce. The product's classic Kraft orange glow is achieved by adding annatto and paprika extracts. Non-processed orange and white cheddar are also included in the mix. Interestingly, the first ingredient in the cheese sauce is water, which made us worried that it might taste bland and watered-down (this is called foreshadowing). Aside from a couple of industrial ingredients like xanthan gum and natural flavors, the product contains mostly components you might use in homemade mac and cheese like cream, milk, durum wheat pasta, and even real butter.

Judging by the ingredient list, the Four Cheese variety uses the same basic cheese sauce and noodles as the Original Cheddar and just adds a greater number of cheeses and seasonings to the mix. Parmesan, Asiago, Romano, and part-skim mozzarella all join the party alongside spices like onion powder, dried garlic, and mustard flour. When frozen, the Four Cheese has a layer of grated cheese sitting on top of the noodles; this melts when the product is heated up and emulsifies into the sauce.

How much does it cost and where is it available?

Kraft announced the release of Kraft Deluxe Frozen Mac & Cheese on May 17 and stated that the product would be available across the U.S. Most big-name grocery stores should be stocking it by the time you read this. There's no mention of it being a limited-time item, so it will likely stick around for a while if it sells well. This is the first time Kraft has offered a frozen version of its Deluxe Mac & Cheese.

What won't be around forever is the promotional item Kraft is selling to celebrate the release of this new frozen product. The company made a mac-themed sweater to warm its devoted customers up while they braved the icy cold of the freezer aisle. Only a limited number were produced, and at the time of writing, they were already listed as unavailable on Amazon, so they might be sold out.

As for the price, both varieties of mac are currently selling for around $3.49 per package, which is a reasonable price for the amount of food you get. However, that's still a lot more than the mere $0.99 you have to pay for the original blue box of dried macaroni with cheese powder. Prices may vary depending on where you shop.

How Kraft Deluxe Frozen Mac & Cheese compares to other mac options

You might think that all Kraft mac is more or less the same, but the frozen Deluxe offerings aren't really comparable to the classic blue box version. The frozen product uses heftier noodles and actually tastes like real cheese while the Kraft original uses tiny noodles and a powder-based cheese sauce that has its own unique flavor. You can also buy non-frozen version of the Deluxe mac, but you actually have to boil the noodles yourself and then squeeze on cheese sauce from a plastic pouch. If you crave more convenience outside of a frozen context, the company offers various microwavable products in single-serve plastic cups — you just have to add water and then zap them for a couple of minutes.

The closest competitors to Kraft Deluxe Frozen Mac & Cheese come from other manufacturers. We found ourselves comparing this product to similar ones made by Stouffer's and Boston Market.

Nutrition facts

The serving size listed for this product is the entire package, which is a lot of food. It would be a hearty meal that would keep you full for a long time. If you're serving mac as a side dish, one package would probably be enough for two to three people.

With that said, a whole box of Kraft Deluxe Frozen Mac & Cheese isn't the most nutritious meal in the world. The Original Cheddar contains 630 calories, 30 grams of fat (16 of which are saturated and one of which is trans), 1140 milligrams of sodium, and absolutely no fiber. That's 50% of your recommended daily value of sodium and 80% of the daily value of saturated fat in one meal. Trans fat is also particularly bad for your health.

Not everything is bad — you also get a healthy 27 grams of protein and 480 milligrams of calcium per serving, plus smaller amounts of other vitamins and minerals. The nutrition facts for the Four Cheese are virtually identical, with marginally fewer calories and slightly more sodium.

The verdict: Is it worth buying?

Some aspects of Kraft's new frozen mac and cheese are quite nice and worthy of the "Deluxe" name. The noodles are a big upgrade from standard Kraft noodles — they're large and have grooves that hold onto the sauce. The macaroni is actually al dente, which is impressive for a frozen product. Kraft doesn't skimp on the sauce; the Four Cheese, especially, is swimming in cheesy goo. You can taste that the sauce is made with actual cheese.

However, despite the quantity of cheese sauce in the bowl, we don't get as much flavor as we would like. The Original Cheddar sauce has a lovely smooth texture from the processed cheddar cheese, but it tastes a little bland. This is especially strange considering how much salt is in it. The Four Cheese tastes cheesier, but the real, non-processed cheese in the recipe gives its sauce a grainy texture. It, too, seems underseasoned despite its prodigious sodium levels.

Ultimately, for how convenient it is, Kraft Deluxe Frozen Mac & Cheese is a pretty good product. It's not wildly flavorful, but that can be fixed with the seasonings of your choice (we do this to all pre-packaged mac and cheese anyway). A little hot sauce and black pepper made the mac absolutely delicious. If you want to eat mac and cheese without dirtying a single pot, this is a solid option.