If you are craving some mac n cheese, but you just don’t have time to make your own from scratch, we won’t judge you for turning to boxed mac n cheese (we do it more than we should admit). But we WILL judge you if you buy the store-brand mac n cheese. Yes, it is cheaper, but it is not at all worth the price. We tried to make this taste test a head-to-head between Annie’s and Shaw’s brand, but the Shaw’s brand was so terrible that we couldn’t rightfully include it. So we made it an Annie’s showdown. All the same price, but which variety is the best?
Shells & Real Aged Cheddar
Small shell-shaped noodles with a yellow, aged cheddar sauce.
Macaroni & Cheese
This is your typical, short elbow noodle with yellow cheddar sauce.
Shells & White Cheddar
Small shell-shaped noodles with a white cheddar cheese sauce.
The aged cheddar flavor definitely came through in this mac n cheese. It had that bit of edge that an aged cheese does. Some call it “funk” – but not in a bad way. It gives simple boxed mac n cheese some interest and depth that it has always been missing.
With pepper, this mac n cheese was ok. It honestly was better without it as plain, the aged cheddar flavor really comes out.
With ketchup, this mac n cheese was ok – it didn’t make it better nor worse.
The taste of the classic mac n cheese was just ok – your typical cheese sauce, pretty sweet and very fake orange colored. The texture of the noodles was not quite as good as the shells, which seem to grab up the cheese sauce just a bit better than the short elbow shape in this mac n cheese.
Pepper helped this guy out and balanced the sweetness of the cheese sauce, but it still didn’t save it from its boring taste and texture.
With ketchup, this mac n cheese was WAY too sweet.
The white cheddar is what I think of when I think of Annie’s boxed mac n cheese. A nice, light, more cream sauce than cheese sauce. More like an alfredo than a mac n cheese. It is non-offensive and probably would be the winner with kids if they didn’t prefer the classic mac n cheese.
Pepper really enhanced this mac n cheese. With the light cream sauce, the pepper really added that bit of interest that was missing.
With ketchup, this mac n cheese tasted off. The white cheddar, alfredo sauce does not lend itself well to the added sweetness and acidity from ketchup.
While all of the Annie’s varieties we tasted here were far superior to the Shaw’s brand boxed mac n cheese, they were definitely not all EQUALLY better. If eating the mac n cheese plain, we would suggest either of the shell-noodled ones. The classic one is just too sweet. If adding pepper, white cheddar is your best bet, followed by aged cheddar, and classic coming in last again. With ketchup, the best is aged cheddar, followed by classic, and white cheddar coming in last. And remember, they are ALL better than the store brand, so pay the few extra pennies for the name brand!