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How To Elevate Boxed Mac and Cheese

Learn how to elevate boxed mac and cheese from a plain dinner dish to a fully balanced meal!

Course Dinner
Cuisine American
Keyword beans, kale
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes


The Mac

  • 2 Boxes Your Fave Vegetarian or Vegan Mac and Cheese

The Sauce

  • 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

The Kale

  • 2-3 Large Handfuls of Curly Kale chopped
  • Drizzle of Olive or Avocado Oil
  • Pinch each of Salt + Pepper

The Beans

  • 1 Can Red, Pinto, or Black Beans drained
  • 1/3 Cup Your Fave Barbecue Sauce
  • Black Pepper to taste
  • Pinch of Cayenne optional


  1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F.

  2. Rinse and drain your can of beans. Then, mix them with the barbecue sauce, black pepper, and cayenne (optional).

  3. Bake the beans in the oven for 25-30 minutes.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. Lastly, add in the sautéed kale and beans to your pot of mac and cheese. Stir everything in, mixing well.

  8. Serve in bowls with a garnish of sprouts, if you'd like.

  9. Enjoy!

Recipe Notes

  • 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.