Elevate Instant Mac with This Secret Ingredient!

My entire childhood, my mom made The Dip. Every Super Bowl party, birthday, potluck, you name it–my mom showed up with a bowl of her “famous” dip in tow. It was my favorite thing she made, and I would even request an entire salty, tangy batch for myself on my birthday. So imagine my horror as a preteen, watching my mom prep her famous dip for the first time and realizing it was just Lipton French onion soup mix and sour cream. That’s it. I assumed it included a laundry list of ingredients and required some super special mom-only technique to achieve such deliciousness. It turns out that I just really like French onion soup mix, which never appeared in any recipe in my mom’s arsenal save for The Dip, so I had no idea that was the culprit. 

Once I got to college, I was cooking all my meals by myself for the first time. Armed with a college student’s budget and the knowledge that French onion soup mix makes things delicious, I stumbled upon a creation I still eat more than a decade later: French onion mac and cheese

The Power of French Onion Mac and Cheese

Now, as a full-time food writer and recipe developer, I have made from-scratch mac and cheese with homemade cheese sauce and even hours-long caramelized onions many times. But if I’m being honest, given the choice between the two, I’m reaching for the Lipton-soup-mix-upgraded boxed stuff pretty much every time.

Why? Boxed mac and cheese has a specific flavor and texture that is not only delicious but super nostalgic for many of us, and that goes for the soup mix, too. The cheese powder in boxed mac and cheese is chemically engineered to be so saucy, so velvety, and so lip-smacking that it’s nearly impossible not to take another bite. Couple that with the tang and deep savory flavor of French onion soup mix, and you’ve got a slightly elevated and supremely crave-able riff on a classic. 

How to Make French Onion Boxed Mac and Cheese

The trick to making the perfect French onion boxed mac and cheese is to swap out the milk and butter for sour cream. It has the same velvety richness as butter but with a pleasant tang. Plus, while it gets the same job done as the milk, it’s a hundred times creamier, making the end result impossibly luscious. 

Secondly, because both boxed mac and cheese and French onion soup mix are very salty, it’s essential to blend everything carefully. Boil the pasta according to the box directions and mix in ¼ cup of sour cream and half of the cheese packet. Then, mix in two tablespoons of the soup mix. Depending on the brand, this ratio might not be cheesy or salty enough; you can slowly add a bit more cheese power or soup mix to find the balance you like. If things get too thick or too salty, add a splash of milk to calm it down.

Finally, the best mac and cheese for this recipe is any white cheddar, in my opinion–especially Annie’s. If you’re feeling extra fancy, top with croutons or crispy fried onions for the full French onion experience.