21 Fun Facts You Didn't Know About Mac and Cheese

Baked Mac and Cheese


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Baked Mac and Cheese

Living in the Pasta

After 85 years, the pantry staple Kraft Macaroni & Cheese is changing its name to Kraft Mac & Cheese, complete with a new logo — but it's unlikely to change how much people love the stuff. From college students and children to Founding Fathers and media moguls, macaroni and cheese remains a favorite. Its history dates back centuries and has been part of America since America was a thing. Keep reading to learn everything you never thought to ask about one of the world’s most enduring treats, including Kraft's outsized role in the dish's popularity.

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Forme of Cury
Wikimedia Commons

Mac and Cheese Is Really Old

Medieval chefs were hip to the mac and cheese trend before it was a trend. In the 1420s, King Richard II's master chefs compiled a manuscript called the Forme of Cury ("Method of Cookery"). The text featured a recipe for a dish called "makerouns," which is incredibly similar to the mac and cheese we know today — it might just be the earliest recipe for the dish ever published.

Related: The True Origins of 19 Classic 'American' Foods

Thomas Jefferson
Wikimedia Commons

Thomas Jefferson Loved to Eat It

According to Thomas Jefferson's Monticello estate, the principal author of the Declaration of Independence and America's third president loved mac and cheese — though Jefferson referred to all pasta as "macaroni." He had a pasta machine brought to his estate and ordered pasta from Europe. Jefferson apparently loved pasta of all kinds, but mac and cheese was a favorite.

Related: First Tastes: Favorite Foods of 21 U.S. Presidents

James Hemmings
Public Domain

Thomas Jefferson Didn't Love to Make It

Smithsonian Magazine goes a step further in saying that Jefferson is widely credited for popularizing macaroni and cheese in the United States, but that's a somewhat whitewashed version of history. His enslaved chef, James Hemmings, learned to make the dish and is, of course, the one who labored to prepare it and cook it. In fact, mac and cheese was a celebration food for blacks in the South before Jefferson ever caught wind of it, and it remains a weekend party staple in many African-American communities to this day.

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A handful of macaroni.
Wikimedia Commons

The Word 'Macaroni' Has Evolved

The English word for the venerable pasta we know as "macaroni" comes from the Italian "maccheroni" — but it didn't start there. The Italians borrowed from the Greek word "makaria," which translates to "food made with barley."

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Mac and Cheese

Everybody Has the Best Recipe

Like chili and sangria, everyone seems to have a recipe for macaroni and cheese, and everyone seems certain that theirs is the undisputed best. For some context on just how popular the dish has become, a Google search for "macaroni and cheese recipes" returns over 73 million results.

Related: 20 Super Simple Twists on Boxed Mac and Cheese

Cheese macaroni served conceptually on table cloth

You Can Enter Any Number of Recipe Contests

If you're one of those people who are certain your recipe is the best, there is no shortage of contests and competitions to test your mettle. St. Louis, for example, hosts an annual Mac & Cheese Throwdown in July. New Orleans' NOLA Mac and Cheese Fest in October includes a contest of its own. The list goes on and on. 

Mac and Cheese Fest
Mac and Cheese Fest by Mack Male (CC BY-SA)

Or Visit Any Number of Festivals

Perhaps you're not the competitive kind and you'd rather just taste everybody else's favorite recipes. No sweat. The traveling Mac and Cheese Festival hits cities such as Philadelphia; Arlington, Texas; Louisville, Kentucky; and Norfolk, Virginia. In fact, festivals dedicated to the dish take place all the time all over the country.


Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Once Went on an Epic Binge

According to Entertainment Weekly, mac and cheese is a favorite go-to comfort food for the most famous woman on the planet. When Oprah Winfrey's 1998 movie "Beloved" flopped in theaters — even "Bride of Chucky" beat it out by three spots — the daytime talk goddess went into a fit of depression. She copped to going on a binge for the ages by diving into an estimated 30 pounds of mac and cheese and not letting up until it was finished.

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One Pot Chili Mac and Cheese

It Has Its Own Holiday

The dish is so popular that it has its own holiday. It's unclear exactly who created it or when, but July 14 is National Macaroni and Cheese Day. The good news is, unlike a holiday ham or a Thanksgiving turkey, you don't have to wait for a certain calendar date to whip some up in less than 10 minutes, assuming you’re using the kind that comes in a box.


Macaroni and cheese at the bar

It Pairs Surprisingly Well With Adult Beverages

Given that it's most closely associated with children and college students, mac and cheese doesn’t exactly conjure up images of good wine and foofy cocktails — but the beloved dish has many different levels of quality. If you're eating a homemade baked mac made with top-shelf ingredients, award-winning food and wine writer Fiona Beckett offers the following pairing suggestions: chardonnay, dry riesling, St. Emilion, dry cider, classic English ale, Champagne, or Sancerre. Write that down, kids and dorm dwellers. 

World-record holding mac and cheese
Cabot Creamery Co-operative

There's a Mac and Cheese World Record

On Sept. 23, 2010, American chef John Folse, along with the Cabot Creamery Co-operative, set a Guinness World Record for the world's largest macaroni and cheese dish. It weighed roughly 2,469 pounds and was made from 575 pounds of pasta, 286 pounds of mixed cheese, 56 pounds of butter, 26 pounds of flour, 1,100 pounds of milk, and 61 pounds of dried seasoning. The cast-iron kettle it was cooked in weighed 1,902 pounds.

Peddlers with draft horses and covered wagon
Wikimedia Commons

Modern Mac and Cheese Was Born From a Wagon

In 1903, a guy named James L. Kraft made money selling cheese out of a wagon on the streets of Chicago. He did so well that he was able to form a company called Kraft Foods. In 1914, a game-changing event occurred when the company started making its own cheese — but the best was yet to come. It would soon introduce the first packaged product ever to come with powdered cheese.

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Mac and Cheese
"How to Shop With Ration Book Two", 1943 poster
Wikimedia Commons

World War II Made it Even More Popular

During World War II, Kraft Foods once again made the best of a bad situation. Wartime rationing made staples such as dairy and fresh meat hard to come by. Like they did during the Depression, Americans turned to Kraft Macaroni & Cheese in droves — the company sold 50 million boxes in 1943 alone.


Kraft Dinner
Wikimedia Commons

The Box Wasn't Always Blue

For years, Kraft Macaroni & Cheese has been instantly recognizable by its trademark blue box — but it wasn't always that way. Unlike Coca-Cola, for example, whose logo and appearance has remained virtually unchanged since its inception, the world's favorite mac and cheese brand gave itself a major makeover. It came in a yellow box for nearly 20 years until yellow was replaced with blue in 1954.


Related: 17 Fun and Little-Known Facts About Coca-Cola

Kraft Macaroni and Cheese Dinner
Kraft Macaroni and Cheese Dinner by Mike Mozart (CC BY)

Kraft Sells A Whole Lot of Macaroni & Cheese

Through the Great Depression and World War II all the way to today, the world's love affair with Kraft Macaroni & Cheese has never gone out of vogue. Today, the company sells roughly 1 million boxes of the stuff every day. 

Kraft Dinner

Canada Is the King of Kraft

America loves its Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, but our obsession can't hold a candle to that of our northern neighbors. The little blue box is more popular in Canada than anywhere in the world. In fact, it’s the unofficial national dish. They call it "Kraft Dinner," or "KD" for short. It's the most popular item of any kind bought in grocery stores there and the average Canadian consumes 3.2 boxes every year. That's about 10 annual servings — 55% more than the average American gobbles up.

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Kraft Organic Mac & Cheese

There are Over 40 Different Kinds

Kraft, the undisputed king of the global macaroni and cheese game, now offers 42 of its Macaroni & Cheese products. There are 16 products in the Blue Box line — that’s the traditional kind you boil in water. There are also 16 different kinds of microwaveable cups and 10 Deluxe offerings. 

Velveeta Shells and Cheese
Velveeta Shells and Cheese by JeepersMedia (CC BY)

A Top Competitor Isn't Really a Competitor

Velveeta Shells and Cheese debuted in 1984 and gave Kraft Macaroni & Cheese lovers an option for an upgrade. Instead of elbows, you got shells. The classic powdered cheese in a paper pouch improved to a thick, creamy cheese sauce in a foil pouch — no butter or milk required. This heartier, more grown-up mac and cheese experience could have given Kraft a run for its money — if Velveeta weren’t also owned by Kraft Heinz.

Related: Competing Brands That Are Actually Owned by the Same Company

Macaroni and Cheese Crayon
Macaroni and Cheese Crayon by Laura Taylor (CC BY-NC-ND)

It Has its Own Crayon Color

Crayon king Crayola apparently has an affinity for the dish just like everybody else. In 1993, the company introduced a color called, you guessed it, Macaroni and Cheese. It falls into the orange hue family, not yellow.  

Mac and Cheese

Vegans Can Get in on the Action, Too

Traditional mac and cheese contains dairy, but that doesn't mean vegans have to abstain. They just have to adjust — and adjust they have. A Google search for "vegan mac and cheese" returns over 80 million results. Many use cashews and/or potatoes as the base for surprisingly authentic cheese-like sauces.

Related: 36 Common Substitutes for Cooking and Baking Ingredients 

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