How to Make Boxed Mac and Cheese in the Microwave

Oh boxed mac and cheese. The favorite dinner and side dish of kids everywhere, and still my favorite alongside hot dogs as an adult. Did you know that there’s a quicker way to prepare it? I’m going to show you how to make boxed mac and cheese in the microwave for a super easy preparation.

Put down that saucepan, and step away from the cup of EZ Mac. We’re making a whole box of your favorite brand of mac and cheese, and it’s going to be on the table in 15 minutes or less!

Though, if you are looking for single-serve options, we’ve got that too! Learn how long to microwave Cup Noodles for a quick and easy meal!

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Can You Cook Box Mac and Cheese in the Microwave?

Yes, you can cook box mac and cheese in the microwave. In fact, it speeds up the process in that you don’t need to wait for your water to boil on the stove.

The only con (in my opinion) is that it sometimes overflows a bit while cooking, making a small mess to clean up. However, using a larger dish or a quick wipe quickly fixes this issue.

How to Make Kraft Boxed Mac and Cheese in the Microwave: Instructions

  1. Open the mac and cheese box and remove the cheese packet
open boxed mac and cheese and remove cheese packet
  1. Add the macaroni into a microwave-safe dish that’s at least 2 quarts in size
pour pasta into 2 quart or larger microwave safe bowl
  1. Pour in 1 ¾ cups of hot water (hot from the tap is fine)
add one and three quarters water and stir
  1. Microwave uncovered on high for 7-10 minutes, pausing to stir every 3 minutes 
place dish in microwave uncovered
  1. Your macaroni will be done when the water is entirely absorbed
  2. Remove from microwave
  3. Add 1-4 Tbsp butter or margarine while mac is hot (depending how creamy you want it)
add butter to mac and cheese pasta while still warm
  1. Then, add cheese packet and a splash of milk to make a more “gooey” texture, if desired
add cheese packet to macaroni and a dash of milk
  1. Mix thoroughly until the powdered cheese is absorbed
stir in mac and cheese powder and milk until it is mixed
  1. Serve and enjoy!
microwaved boxed mac and cheese with hot dogs

Note that cook time is based on a 1000 Watt microwave. Times may vary slightly if you have a higher or lower wattage:

Microwave WattageBoxed Mac and Cheese Cook Times
700W10 – 14 minutes
1000W7 – 10 minutes
1200W5.5 – 8.5 minutes
Box mac and cheese microwave cook times by wattage

I should also note that the cook times may vary slightly by brand as well as the shape of the pasta (shells, tubes, or character shapes).

As to add-ins, I personally use 1 Tbsp margarine and a small splash of milk because I like mine on the “drier” side, but feel free to adjust however you prefer it!

It’s also completely fine to make your microwave boxed mac and cheese without milk if desired (just use the butter). If you’re trying to avoid the butter, add just milk or a milk alternative and skip the butter. The texture will change a bit, but it’s still delicious!

If you’re a fan of that super-gooey cheesy deliciousness, learn how to make grilled cheese in the microwave as well. Pair it with your boxed mac for the ultimate cheese experience!

You can also make fast food at home by cooking frozen White Castle burger sliders in the microwave!

Cooking Time for Annie’s Boxed Mac and Cheese in the Microwave

For Annie’s brand boxed mac and cheese, cook for approximately 8-10 minutes in a 1000W microwave.

I find that the shell shapes take slightly longer, and that’s what they’re famous for. If you’re using another brand, just pick whichever brand they most closely resemble. Start with the lower end of the cook time range and add in increments of 30 seconds to 1 minute until water absorbs.

Can You Replace Water with Milk in Microwave Mac and Cheese?

No, you should not replace water with milk in microwave mac and cheese for cooking. 

This is because milk will scald in the microwave when heated for the time required to cook the macaroni. This results in a burned bottom, weird skin on the top, or curdled milk with an overall “off” taste. 

If you want to replace the dash of milk you add to the cooked pasta at the end with water, you can. However, it’s going to lack flavor and make your mac and cheese more “runny” in texture. I’d only use a small amount to help dissolve the cheese powder if need be.


Now that you know how simple it is to make boxed mac and cheese in the microwave, you’ll never go back to the stove. You won’t have to strain your pasta, making for less dirty dishes, which is always a win.

Not to mention, I find the microwave mac method to be more hands off. I can focus more of my attention on cooking up some hot dogs or brats to go with it for a delicious and simple dinner.

If you want to try your favorite side dish another way, learn how to make frozen mac and cheese bites in the air fryer!

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Boxed Mac & Cheese in Microwave

Enjoy a taste of childhood as you easily make creamy and cheesy boxed mac and cheese in the microwave. It's also a staple for college students!
5 from 1 vote
Cook Time 9 minutes
Total Time 9 minutes
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American
Servings 2
Calories 369 kcal


  • Microwave
  • 2 Qt microwave safe bowl
  • Spoon


  • Boxed mac and cheese
  • Cups hot water
  • 1-4 Tbsp Butter or margarine
  • 1-3 Tbsp Milk (optional)


  • Open boxed mac and cheese and remove cheese packet
    Boxed mac and cheese
  • Pour pasta into 2 qt or larger microwave-safe dish
  • Add 1 ¾ cups hot water and stir
    1¾ Cups hot water
  • Place dish in microwave uncovered
  • Cook on high for 7 minutes, stirring with spoon every 3 minutes
  • If needed, cook up to an additional 3 minutes, checking every 30 seconds
  • Pasta is done when water is completely absorbed and pasta is tender
  • Remove from microwave
  • Add butter or margarine to pasta while still hot, allowing for melting
    1-4 Tbsp Butter or margarine
  • Open cheese and add to pasta bowl, stirring to coat evenly
  • For creamier mac and cheese, add milk until desired consistency is reached (optional)
    1-3 Tbsp Milk


  • This is based on Kraft box mac and cheese. Different brands such as Annies require about 1 minute longer cook time. Different shape pastas may also vary
  • I use 1 Tbsp butter and 1 Tbsp milk, but feel free to adjust to your preferences
  • Feel free to add some shredded cheddar cheese to melt for that extra gooey cheesiness if you like
  • Other boxed mac and cheese add in ideas: powdered ranch seasoning, vegetables (broccoli or peas are my favorite), parmesan cheese, toasted breadcrumbs, buffalo sauce and/or chicken, taco seasoning and/or ground beef, salt and pepper, or garlic powder


Serving: 198gCalories: 369kcalCarbohydrates: 49.8gProtein: 9.6gFat: 14.3gSaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 42mgSodium: 669mgPotassium: 12mgFiber: 1gSugar: 7.7gCalcium: 222mgIron: 2mg
Keyword boxed mac and cheese, mac and cheese, microwave, microwave cooking, side dish
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Katie Vine