Learn how to elevate boxed mac and cheese from a plain dinner dish to a fully balanced meal!
Back when my fiancé and I were living in West End, I used to make this boxed mac and cheese all the time. It’s simple, easy, and actually pretty nutritious. I would rotate between Annie’s vegan mac (which is made with pumpkin – you all know how much I love pumpkin), and other vegetarian varieties of mac and cheese.
I love this recipe because it is PACKED with flavor – smoky barbecue sauce, chipotle cheese sauce, sautéed kale (which I can’t get enough of) – it’s all SO good. Plus, there’s something about a bowl of mac and cheese that is just so cozy and comforting. I love it!
I’ve been kind of taking the summer off in terms of blog work and recipe development, which has been nice. In the spring, I was working my butt off trying to get a ton of recipes in for summer. I enjoy working really hard, but sometimes it’s not always realistic to work at such a frantic pace.
That being said, once it hits August, I am going to be back to work pumping out fall recipes (read: pumpkin EVERYTHING). Like I have said many times, I LOVE pumpkins. I don’t care if it makes me “basic”, LOL! At the first sign of crisp autumn air, I break out my pumpkin decorations, pumpkin soap, jack-o-lanterns, pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin lotion, pumpkin bread, pumpkin pasta, pumpkin soup, pumpkin spice cookie dough… if it’s pumpkin, it’s in my house.
However, I do want to give a shout-out to my other fave fall item, which is the lovely apple. I love going apple picking and making apple recipes too! (My best ones include this apple latte and this apple pumpkin stew!)
So get ready for the most fall-iest fall ever over here at Well and Full. I might even name it Pumpkin Fest 2019. Is it too much? Probably. But am I going to do it anyway? Probably ;)
How To Elevate Boxed Mac and Cheese
- 2 Boxes Your Fave Vegetarian or Vegan Mac and Cheese
- 2 Packets Cheese (from the boxes of mac and cheese)
- 3 Tbs Olive Oil
- 3 Tbs Water
- 1/2 Tsp Black Pepper
- 1/4 Tsp Garlic Powder
- 1/2 Tsp Chipotle Chili Powder
- 1/4 Tsp Cayenne
- 2-3 Large Handfuls of Curly Kale chopped
- Drizzle of Olive or Avocado Oil
- Pinch each of Salt + Pepper
- 1 Can Red, Pinto, or Black Beans drained
- 1/3 Cup Your Fave Barbecue Sauce
- Black Pepper to taste
- Pinch of Cayenne optional
- Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F.
- Rinse and drain your can of beans. Then, mix them with the barbecue sauce, black pepper, and cayenne (optional).
- Bake the beans in the oven for 25-30 minutes.
- While beans are baking, cook the pasta from the mac and cheese boxes in salted water according to the package directions. When done, drain and set aside.
- While the pasta is cooking, make the sauce. Add the flavor packets, olive oil, water, and spices into a bowl and whisk together until a creamy sauce is formed. When the pasta is done cooking, mix the sauce into the pasta.
- Sauté the chopped kale in a little bit of oil. Season with a pinch each of salt + pepper. Sauté on medium heat for about 5 minutes, or until kale is wilted and starting to brown.
- Lastly, add in the sautéed kale and beans to your pot of mac and cheese. Stir everything in, mixing well.
- Serve in bowls with a garnish of sprouts, if you'd like.
- Annie's brand of mac and cheese makes a delicious vegan mac that I highly recommend. (Not sponsored!!)
- For this recipe I recommend curly kale because it has the most texture. However, spinach, lacinato (dino) kale, or collard greens would work too!
- My fiancé and I will often eat this recipe for dinner - I'll make the entire recipe, then split it in half for both of us to eat. However, other people may not want such a large portion, so I wrote in the servings as 2-4 people.
- To make this less spicy and more kid-friendly, sub out the chipotle chili powder for smoked paprika.
If you enjoyed learning how to elevate boxed mac and cheese and post your mac on Instagram, be sure to tag me @wellandfull and #wellandfull so I can see! I love seeing your takes on my recipes :)
Meredith YoungsonJuly 9, 2019 at 9:46 am
Sarah my mouth is watering reading this. Love your take to add the BBQ beans + kale. Always crave that cheesy + bbq combo but never get around to making mac and cheese from scratch.
SarahJuly 10, 2019 at 3:15 pm
I rarely make mac and cheese from scratch either! Since I cook so often, sometimes it’s nice to take shortcuts ;)
MelJuly 19, 2019 at 4:28 pm
Do you think it would be okay to sub baby spinach for the baby kale? Thanks in advance!
SarahJuly 21, 2019 at 9:34 am
Hi Mel, this recipe works best with curly kale, but spinach would work too! Spinach cooks down more than curly kale, so I would recommend using a bit more than the recipe calls for :)