Is there anything more convenient than heating up some ooey, gooey, cheesy, indulgent, and creamy (we could go on) Trader Joe’s mac and cheese for lunch or dinner? Well, maybe. Because along with Mashed, recipe developer Jason Goldstein, who blogs at Chop Happy, has formulated a copycat recipe you can make and enjoy in your very own kitchen. Talk about comfort food!
And yes, it’ll satisfy even the most thorough food sleuths, with Goldstein telling us about his copycat Trader Joe’s mac and cheese recipe, "This is very close to the original!" He added about his dish, "This is a solid recipe. It is simple fun and tastes even better as leftovers the next couple of days." We are sold! And we are pretty sure you will be as well, especially given that from start to finish, this meal or side takes less than an hour to make. Can you say that about driving to the store, shopping, checking out, and driving home? We didn’t think so.
Gather your ingredients for this copycat Trader Joe’s mac and cheese recipe
To create the tummy and heart-warming goodness that is Trader Joe’s mac and cheese without even leaving your house, you will need to gather from your kitchen or add to your next Instacart order macaroni, and, wait for it, four different kinds of cheese. Goldstein used sharp cheddar, Swiss, gouda, and havarti in his mouth-watering creation. The recipe also calls for cornstarch, evaporated milk, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper, garlic powder, and red pepper flakes.
As for why he incorporated all those cheeses, Goldstein simply told Mashed, "These are the exact cheeses in the Trader Joe’s recipe." Meanwhile, you may be wondering why he chose to employ evaporated milk instead of the real thing. As Goldstein explained, "Evaporated milk is just milk with some water taken out of it. This ingredient does some of the work for us because less water means already-reduced milk."
Build your cheese sauce for this copycat Trader Joe’s mac and cheese recipe
You will begin your delicious journey to this copycat Trader Joe’s mac and cheese recipe by first cooking your macaroni per the package instructions, but, as Goldstein notes, "Cook the noodles for one minute less." Why? Goldstein explains this is "so the mac has more of a bite to it. Also, the noodles will cook in the cheese sauce in oven."
Meanwhile, pour your evaporated milk in a large pot (it needs to be large — trust us) over medium heat. In a separate bowl, combine all of your cheeses — the sharp cheddar, Swiss, havarti, and gouda — and the cornstarch. Mac and cheese glory will be yours soon!
The next step is to combine the cheese mixture with the evaporated milk. Goldstein advises home cooks to mix the ingredients nice and slow. After about a minute, you will notice the milk mixture thickening up. This is a good time to add in your Dijon mustard, with Goldstein noting this ingredient will add "an extra tangy background flavor," as well as the salt, pepper, garlic powder, and red pepper flakes.
Bake this copycat Trader Joe’s mac and cheese recipe
Once your cheese sauce and macaroni are ready to go, you will add the noodles to the sauce. Mix everything together until the ingredients are well-combined. See, we told you the pot for the sauce should be large!
This is the point where you will pour your mac and cheese into a baking dish. And then, you will add even more cheese, with Goldstein instructing home cooks to sprinkle a cup of sharp cheddar over the noodles and cheese sauce mixture. Now, the dish is ready for the oven! Goldstein recommends placing the dish on the middle rack and cooking your crave-worthy creation for 20 minutes or so at 350 degrees.
We asked Goldstein how not to over-bake the mac and cheese, and he stressed, "Bake the dish on the middle rack. Also, you can cover the dish with tin foil to prevent burning."
Finally, enjoy this copycat Trader Joe’s mac and cheese recipe! But remember, this recipe’s flavors will combine over time for some amazing leftovers.
- 1 pound macaroni
- 1 cup sharp cheddar (grated) plus 1 extra cup to top
- 1 cup Swiss cheese (grated)
- 1 cup gouda (grated)
- 1 cup havarti cheese (grated)
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 2 cans evaporated milk
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon salt/pepper
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- Place the evaporated milk in a pot on medium heat.
- Mix together all the cheeses and the cornstarch.
- Now add the cheese mixture to the milk and slowly stir. In about a minute, the milk mixture should thicken up. Then add mustard, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and red pepper flakes.
- Add the cooked macaroni to cheese sauce and mix until fully combined.
- Pour the mac and cheese into a baking dish and top with a cup of cheddar. Place on the middle rack of an oven set to 350 degrees for 20 minutes.