Creamy and irresistibly cheesy, macaroni and cheese remains the epitome of comfort food, so we put five store-bought microwave versions to the Food24 Taste Test.
Indulge in the creamy, irresistibly cheesy goodness of macaroni and cheese, a timeless comfort food that never fails to satisfy. While mastering the classic white sauce-based pasta dish is a breeze, there’s an unmistakable sense of nostalgia in a good old microwave mac and cheese meal.
Over the years, this humble pasta favourite has seen various creative twists, welcoming additions like bacon, tomato, truffle oil, or even BBQ chicken – proving that anything goes when it comes to macaroni and cheese!
To fully embrace the comfort of this classic, retail stores offer an array of macaroni and cheese options to choose from. However, for our taste test, we decided to stick to the original formula and explore five different mac and cheese samples to find our ultimate favourite.
From a robust and rich cheesy-cheddar mac and cheese to the smooth and velvety creamy queen, and even a nutmeg-spiked creamed delight, we’ve discovered the perfect microwaved scoop of comfort just for you!
1. Pick n Pay Macaroni & Cheese (Fresh)
While Pick n Pay has both a fresh and frozen option available, the fresh option was the tasters’ preferred pick of the day. Tasters enjoyed the sample’s cheesy creaminess, but the flavour the tasters enjoyed the most was the wholesome spiced pop from the nutmeg.
Nutmeg is a classic spice used to season a white sauce, which makes up the base of all good mac and cheeses, but as much as tasters enjoyed this sample, this is not the sample for you if you are opposed to the flavour of nutmeg!
Larger-style macaroni was also used in this recipe, which meant the pasta had a good texture to it and was far from mushy – a real win when talking about microwave pasta meals! The sauce also had a good thickness to it, which really added to that whole comfort-food feel.
Some comments tasters left: “Flavourful and creamy, best sample out of all of them. Would buy this one”, “Definitely the winner for me! Lovely nutmeg flavour in the sauce and the pasta was well cooked. This is one I would go back for”, and lastly, “Creamy and cheesy, and I like that nutmeg comes through. Probs my favourite sample.”
Cost: R42.99 for 320g – the “Save: buy any 2 and save R15” special pictured in the product image was running at the time of product purchase; the special may not be applicable at the time this article is published.
2. Bella Vita Mac Cheese Pasta
Coming in second spot was the sample from Checkers and all we can say about this sample is that it really brought the cheese! The packaging did not lie – “macaroni smothered in a creamy cheddar cheese sauce” – tasters were left very happy. The sauce was creamy and the cheddar cheese flavour really came through in this sample.
Comments tasters left: “I liked this sample the most out of all the microwave options (still not quite as good as my mom’s homemade mac and cheese!)”, “It was creamy, cheesy, and well seasoned. I would be more than happy to buy it”, and lastly, “Cheddar comes through nicely, very happy with this sample.”
Cost: R59.99 for 300g
3. Woolworths Creamy Macaroni Cheese
While tasters were generally happy with this sample, some tasters found the sauce to be a bit floury, which overpowered the other flavours somewhat. Some tasters also noted that the sample lacked a bit of seasoning and cheese. Overall, tasters found the pasta to be nicely cooked, complimented the sauce-to-pasta ratio, and found the sample to be wonderfully creamy.
Some comments tasters left: “This is Woolies, I’m sure. I like the sauce ratio”, “I like the creaminess, but all I taste is flour”, “Good pasta texture and nice and creamy but also lacking a bit of seasoning”, and lastly, “It’s creamy but has a funny taste to it. Doesn’t scream cheese, though, just creamy.”
Cost: R69.99 for 300g
4. Dr Oetker Nice ’n Easy Macaroni & Cheese (Frozen)
Tasters found this sample to be lacking a bit on the seasoning as well as the cheesy flavour front, noting: “Flour taste coming through in the sauce and no seasoning. Not a fan of the baby elbow pasta”, and “Somewhat less creamy than the others but I would happily eat this. Cheese doesn’t come through that much.”
Some tasters also found the sample to be a bit sweet, noting: “This is bland and overly sweet.”
Some found the mini elbow pasta to be a poor choice and overcooked, noting: “I feel like the pasta was slightly overcooked/a bit soft. So, it’s okay, but not my favourite!”
Cost: R62.49 for 350g
5. Pick n Pay Macaroni & Cheese (Frozen)
Tasters found this sample to be creamy but took fault with the overall texture as well as noting that the pasta was overcooked. They commented: “Pleasantly creamy but lacking in flavour”, and “This is a cheesy one, but again the texture isn’t great … pasta is a bit too soft and the sauce isn’t creamy enough for my liking.”
Some tasters would have preferred more of the cheesy flavour to come through as well, noting: “What you’d expect from mac and cheese, I think. Creamy enough, maybe less creamy than the other samples but still nice. Maybe too subtle on the cheese front.”
Cost: R53.99 for 320g
Prices correct at time of publishing
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The rules of Food24 Taste Tests:
– All tasters tasted and scored all samples. Each individual taster’s preference impacts the score they give.
– The samples were tested without packaging and were not easily identifiable.
– The samples were not labelled and were tasted in random order.
– This article is not sponsored in any way, and Food24 was not paid to come to any particular result.
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