8) Hodgson Mill from The Ultimate Boxed Macaroni and Cheese Taste Test (Slideshow)

The Ultimate Boxed Macaroni and Cheese Taste Test (Slideshow)

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Jane Bruce

8) Hodgson Mill

This all-natural, whole wheat offering had our tasters scratching their heads. The whole grain pasta combined with the white sauce gave the dish a gray, pallid color that was unappealing, and the strong, sweet whole wheat flavor overwhelmed any flavor from the cheese. “It looks and tastes healthy, and that’s not a good thing when it comes to mac and cheese,” one taster said. It also called for half a stick of butter and whole milk, making it among the most fattening of the bunch (it did contain more fiber than its competitors, however).

Serving Size: 2.5 ounces
Fat: 17 grams
Calories: 400
Sodium: 490 milligrams

Price per box: $2.99/ 7.25 ounces

Jane Bruce

7) Whole Foods’ 365 Organic

Once again, the healthy offering didn’t fare too well. This organic mac and cheese had some added spices, which gave it a quasi-spicy, nacho cheesy kick that didn’t quite work. “It’s a little odd,” said one taster, and others felt that the cheese was ‘clumpy’ and ‘artificial-tasting,’ even though it was arguably the least artificial of the bunch. It was also the most orange. “Trying to be different, but not succeeding,” another taster said.

Serving Size: 2.5 ounces
Fat: 11 grams
Calories: 340
Sodium: 550 milligrams

Price per box: $1.29/ 12 ounces

Jane Bruce

6) Kraft

Surprisingly, the original and far-and-away best seller wasn’t a favorite of our tasters. They found it to be overly salty, but mild in cheese flavor to the point of being almost bland. “It tastes creamy but doesn’t have much cheese flavor,” one taster said, and others agreed that it looks the part, but it tasted more like butter and salt than cheese.

Serving Size: 2.5 ounces
Fat: 15 grams
Calories: 400
Sodium: 580 milligrams

Price per box: $2.19/ 7.25 ounces

Jane Bruce

5) Back to Nature

This brand contains no artificial preservatives or flavors, which gave it a light coloring that most of our tasters equated with white cheddar. It wasn’t especially creamy or cheesy, and the cheese flavor wasn’t especially pronounced. The flavor that did come through, however subtle, did taste like real cheese, and the product overall was comforting.

Serving Size: 2.5 ounces
Fat: 8 grams
Calories: 330
Sodium: 630 milligrams

Price per box: $2.75/ 7.25 ounces

Jane Bruce

4) Wacky Mac

Wacky Mac is produced by New World Pasta, and what makes it ‘wacky’ is the fact that it comes in shapes including spirals, wagon wheels, shells, and tubes. While the finished product wasn’t especially saucy, the flavor that came through was well-liked. Our tasters weren’t big fans of the different pasta shapes, which were admittedly fun to eat (but probably more fun for kids). It was a little too salty, but the cheesy, cheddar-y flavor was surprisingly nuanced and led to an overall tasty product. And at $0.99 per box, it's also quite inexpensive. 

Serving Size: 2.5 ounces
Fat: 14 grams
Calories: 440
Sodium: 560 milligrams

Price per box: $0.99/ 5.5 ounces

Jane Bruce

3) Betty Crocker

The box claims that the formula used here is “new and improved,” and it generally went over well with our tasters. The flavor was mild and mellow (but more flavorful than Kraft), the texture was creamy, and it smelled great. Still, some tasters found it bland and unexciting, with several calling it ‘nothing special.’

Serving Size: 2.5 ounces
Fat: 17 grams
Calories: 380
Sodium: 490 milligrams

Price per box: $1.49/ 7 ounces

Jane Bruce

2) America’s Choice

America’s choice is the store brand sold by the A&P family of supermarkets, which includes PathMark, Food Emporium, and Waldbaum’s. Their offering fared surprisingly well, with most comparing it to the Kraft and Betty Crocker products. “It has the perfect level of cheesiness and creaminess,” said one taster, and while it wasn’t super-creamy, it had that classic mac and cheese flavor that all the tasters were looking for.

Serving Size: 2.5 ounces
Fat: 17 grams
Calories: 380
Sodium: 570 milligrams

Price per box: $1.75/ 7.25 ounces

Jane Bruce

1) Annie’s

Annie’s uses organic pasta, cheese from cows not treated with hormones, and no artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives. Even without the artificiality, their Shells and Real Aged Cheddar came out on top. Our tasters found that while the cheese was a bit clumpy in places, it was the most flavorful, wasn’t too salty, and had ‘the perfect balance of cheese flavor and creaminess.’ What really set Annie’s offering over the top was the flavor of real cheese, and it hit that comforting, homey spot that we were looking for. So congratulations, Annie’s, you’re #1!

Serving Size: 2.5 ounces
Fat: 13 grams
Calories: 370
Sodium: 510 milligrams

Price per box: $2.19/ 6 ounces

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The Ultimate Boxed Macaroni and Cheese Taste Test (Slideshow)