Kraft Macaroni ‘N Cheese Dinner Cheddar Explosion (of chemicals)

Social media is the hot buzzword for all major brands these days. A good viral video on youtube, a contest on twitter, or a campaign on facebook connect brands with a new generation of consumers. How unfortunate that various food like substances are the ones making the most noise.

Take Kraft’s recent campaign “The Kaboom Room” for its Macaroni and Cheese Dinner Cheddar Explosion. It’s on facebook, youtube, and But if you read  the ingredient list, there’s no reason to become a fan – this product is more of a chemical explosion:

Enriched Macaroni Product (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Ferrous Sulfate [Iron], Thiamin Mononitrate [Vitamin B1], Riboflavin [Vitamin B2], Folic Acid), Cheese Sauce Mix (Whey, Modified Food Starch, Whey Protein Concentrate, Cheddar Cheese [Milk, Cheese Culture, Salt, Enzymes], Granular Cheese [Milk, Cheese Culture, Salt, Enzymes], Salt, Calcium Carbonate, Potassium Chloride, Contains Less than 2% of Parmesan Cheese [Part-Skim Milk, Cheese Culture, Salt, Enzymes], Dried Buttermilk, Sodium Tripolyphosphate, Blue Cheese [Milk, Cheese Culture, Salt, Enzymes], Sodium Phosphate, Medium Chain Triglycerides, Cream, Citric Acid, Lactic Acid, Enzymes, Yellow 5, Yellow 6).

A brief glossary:
Macaroni is the first ingredient, as expected. The second ingredient is a “cheese sauce mix” composed of 20 sub-ingredients. The first three are not even cheese – Whey and whey protein concentrate are byproducts of milk, and modified food starch – an additive that increase the bulk of a food. Other additives include potassium chloride – used instead of salt to decrease the sodium level in foods, sodium tripolyphosphate  – used to maintain moisture, Medium Chain Triglycerides – a substitute for regular oil, and artificial colors yellow 5 & 6 – shown to cause neural problems in some children.

Why does such a simple dish need so many additives? Are the 10 minutes of preparation saved worth the potential harm from all these chemicals? Can’t we just make our own at home?

Would anyone like to share a recipe?

  • Amy

    Mom’s Macaroni & Cheese

    2 c. uncooked pasta
    3 tbsp. butter
    2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
    1/2 lb. cheddar cheese, shredded or cubed
    1 1/2 c. milk
    sliced tomatoes (optional)
    whole wheat bread crumbs (optional)
    Optional bread crumbs mix-ins:
    Italian seasoning
    onion powder
    garlic powder


    Preheat oven to 350F.

    Pasta: Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain.

    Sauce: Melt 3 tbsp. butter in saucepan over medium heat. Stir in 2 tbsp. flour. Stir until a thick mixture forms. Add milk. Heat slowly, stirring frequently so it doesn’t get lumpy. Once it starts to bubble, turn off heat and add cheese. Stir until melted.

    Mix sauce with cooked pasta in a 2 qt. casserole dish. Top with sliced tomatoes and seasoned whole wheat bread crumbs.

    Bake at 350F for 30-45 minutes until edges are bubbly and the top is a little browned.

  • bill

    Cheese sauce is beyond easy to make. The hardest part for someone who hasn’t done it is knowing how to make the rue.

    2 tablespoons butter and flour
    1 cup milk
    1 cup shredded cheese
    Spices as desired

    Make the rue, add milk and bring to a boil, take off heat and add cheese. I like red pepper or cayenne in mine. IMO white cheddar doesn’t work as well. If you don’t have butter any fat will work. Soymilk doesn’t work. Soy cheese….nasty.

  • veronica (lifewithnature)

    And if you absolutely want the convenience of boxed mac n cheese, the’s still better choices than the Kraft one. Just check in the “organic/natural section of your grocery store. Definately not as good as home made one, but very similar in taste/appearance as the regular one without that much chemicals.

  • Chef Rob Endelman


    Thanks for this post. The marketing techniques used by the big food companies are just as awful as the toxic, synthetic ingredients they use. Have you seen the Hot Pockets marketing campaign? It’s truly embarrassing.


  • Amy Tournas-Hardt

    This is an adaptation of my favorite homemade mac’n'cheese recipe from Nava Atlas. I always loved Kraft’s version and would eat an entire box out of the pot! Until I tried this, nothing else even came close. Enjoy, kids and grown-up kids alike!

    1 lb elbow macaroni
    12-ounce package silken tofu
    3 tablespoons butter
    1 1/2 to 2 cups firmly packed grated sharp cheddar cheese
    Salt to taste

    Cook the macaroni in plenty of rapidly simmering water until al dente, then drain.

    While the pasta cooks, puree the tofu until perfectly smooth in a food processor or blender. Transfer to a medium sauce pan and add the butter and cheese. Slowly bring to a gentle simmer, stirring often, then cook over low heat until the cheese is thoroughly melted.

    Combine the cooked macaroni and sauce in a serving container and stir together. Season with salt to taste and serve at once.

  • kc

    The top two recipes are very similar to mine. Mac and cheese is so easy it is the first recipe my 16yo son learned to make. We like to add a little fresh ground nutmeg to ours (try it!) or chipotle pepper and paprika or add some fresh steamed broccoli or cauliflower florets. We use only Kerrygold cheese (a mixture of Dubliner, Cheddar and Swiss) because it is the only one that is completely GMO corn-free and substitute Daisy full fat sour cream + water for the milk because we can’t find corn-free milk. We also use organic un-enriched pasta to avoid the GMO corn “enrichment”. We make a large pot of Mac and Cheese each time because it heats up beautifully.

    By the way, it defeats the purpose to make homemade mac and cheese to avoid the toxic food additives and then add tofu to it. I wouldn’t give soy to my children for a million dollars. That pretty much sums up the way I feel about any product made by Kraft as well.

  • carol

    One of the best things about cheese sauce (however you make it) — it’s a great way to get kids (and adults) to eat more veggies. Try a little over steamed, chopped spinach, broccoli, kale, etc… with or without the macaroni (which can be found in many decent wholegrain and partially wholegrain versions as well… for extra fiber/minerals/protein).

  • Cathy June 4 food without chemicals

    Baked Mac & Cheese – Super easy to put together, then let it bake while you’re doing something else. Very old fashioned style, not saucy. Very good though – tastes like real food!

    8oz macaroni, boiled & drained
    dots of butter (2 T.)
    1 1/4 C. (1/3 lb) sharp cheese, cut into 1/2″ cubes
    2 C. milk

    Place ingredients in layers in baking dish. Sprinkle with paprika. Bake 350F for 40 min until golden brown on top.

    You can top with seasoned bread crumbs before baking if desired.

  • Valerie

    This is a great recipe for those who are lactose intolerant. I’ve made it several times for serious “real” mac ‘n cheese lovers as well, and they always love it. They can’t believe there’s no cheese in it!

    The bread crumb topping is optional. It’s just as tasty without it.

    This can also be made gluten-free by substituting brown rice pasta and leaving leaving out the bread crumbs.

    4 quarts water

    1 tablespoon sea salt
    8 ounces wholegrain macaroni
    4 slices of bread, torn into large pieces
    2 tablespoons + 1/3 cup non-hydrogenated margarine
    2 tablespoons shallots, peeled and chopped
    1 cup red or yellow potatoes, peeled and chopped
    1/4 cup carrots, peeled and chopped
    1/3 cup onion, peeled and chopped
    1 cup water
    1/4 cup raw cashews
    2 teaspoons sea salt
    1/4 teaspoon garlic, minced
    1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
    1 tablespoon lemon juice, freshly squeezed
    1/4 teaspoon black pepper
    1/8 teaspoon cayenne
    1/4 teaspoon paprika

    In a large pot, bring the water and salt to a boil. Add macaroni and cook until al dente. In a colander, drain pasta and rinse with cold water. Set aside.
    In a food processor, make breadcrumbs by pulverizing the bread and 2 tablespoons margarine to a medium-fine texture. Set aside.
    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a saucepan, add shallots, potatoes, carrots, onion, and water, and bring to a boil. Cover the pan and simmer for 15 minutes, or until vegetables are very soft.
    In a blender, process the cashews, salt, garlic, 1/3 cup margarine, mustard, lemon juice, black pepper, and cayenne. Add softened vegetables and cooking water to the blender and process until perfectly smooth.
    In a large bowl, toss the cooked pasta and blended cheese sauce until completely coated. Spread mixture into a 9 x 12 casserole dish, sprinkle with prepared breadcrumbs, and dust with paprika. Bake for 30 minutes or until the cheese sauce is bubbling and the top has turned golden brown.

  • Lauren Slayton

    I love the label decoding you did. My worry is that consumers cannot translate “labelese” to English and make the assumption it’s Macaroni and Cheese and therefore not terrible for them. I also think your point about the time savings not being so significant. I encourage people to make their own frozen meals. This way, you have the convenience and the wholesomeness. Looks like there are some good recipes in other comments to try this with.

  • Jess

    Can you expand a little bit on why you wouldn’t give tofo to your kids?
    I do, and there’s something I need to aware of, I’d really appreciate.

  • kc

    Here is a link so that you can read about the dangers of soy:

  • Natasha

    I love baked macaroni and cheese, but at this point, some kids seem to be pretty married to the idea that macaroni and cheese should be made in a pot without breadcrumbs, and not have a crust of any sort. Alton Brown has a great recipe for kid-friendly macaroni and cheese that still resembles what they expect it to resemble (Kraft):

    Carol’s right. Macaroni and cheese is one of the easiest foods to add vegetables to.

  • don key

    You are all dumb. There is nothing wrong with the ingredients listed there. I love this product. I am a fan. So waste your time with your homemade crap, which tastes like crap, and I will enjoy my kraft cheddar explosion. mmmmm eat me mmmmm!