Mac and cheese is extremely good on its own (especially if it’s the best mac and cheese at the grocery store), but it’s even better as a side or with a side. This deliciously cheesy pasta dish pairs well with things that contribute crunch or otherwise keep it from being a one-note meal. We scoured Sporked’s many taste tests to put together this guide to what to eat with mac and cheese, incorporating some obvious accompaniments and some creative ones, too. Whether you’re looking for what to eat with mac and cheese as a side or what to eat as a side with mac and cheese, these ideas will make an easy, comforting dinner even better.
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- Pepperidge Farm Garlic Bread
We love crunch, especially with mac and cheese. Throw garlic into the mix and we’re fully on board. Frozen garlic bread is the ideal crunchy, garlicky food to pair with mac and cheese. In Sporked’s ranking of the best frozen garlic bread, managing editor Gwynedd Stuart praised Pepperidge Farm’s frozen garlic bread for its crispy exterior and soft, oily interior. “When you take this loaf out of the bag, it’s covered in a thick smear of garlic butter and that really works for it,” she wrote. Eat this as a side or go hog wild and heap some mac and cheese between a couple of slices to make a crunchy, garlicky mac and cheese sandwich. We won’t tell anyone. Promise.
- 365 Breaded Fish Sticks
People often see mac and cheese as kids’ food, when, really, it’s a comfort food that’s fit for all ages. Likewise, breaded fish sticks may seem juvenile, but these 365 fish sticks from Whole Foods are comforting, fun, and a great way to get some tasty protein. In Sporked’s best fish sticks ranking, senior staff writer Jordan Myrick said they love how 365 has managed to make a fish stick that tastes like fish without being fishy. “This is key to good fish sticks, and this brand has perfected it,” they wrote. If you’re making frozen mac and cheese—you haven’t lived until you’ve had Patti LaBelle’s version—throw these suckers in the oven right alongside it.
- Ore-Ida Gourmet Onion Rings
Back on the topic of crunch, I don’t think we’re eating enough onion rings, especially with mac and cheese. In her best onion rings ranking, Gwynedd said that Ore-Ida’s Gourmet Onion Rings are big on crunch and onion flavor, two things that pair well with mac and cheese. “Made with nice, thick slices of real onion, these things are like big, greasy bangle bracelets with a breading that packs a lot of crunch,” she wrote. Cut up a few of these big, tasty rings and toss them right on top of a bowl of mac and cheese—for real, why aren’t chain restaurants and sports bars doing this yet?
- Good & Gather Crispy Chicken Breast Strips
Chicken tenders and mac and cheese go together like spaghetti and meatballs. You really can’t go wrong with pasta and protein. No matter what brand of mac and cheese you’re making, Good & Gather chicken fingers are the perfect pairing. They took the top spot in our ranking of the best frozen chicken tenders. “The breading here is made with cracker meal so the crunch factor is also strong,” Sporked contributor Danny wrote. Serve these tasty tenders with a side of mac and cheese, or cut them up and mix them right into the bowl—the hardy breading can handle it.
- Trader Joe’s Organic Creamy Tomato Soup
In Sporked’s ranking of the best tomato soup, editor-in-chief Justine Sterling crowned Trader Joe’s Organic Creamy Tomato Soup “best to eat with grilled cheese.” While it’s a classic for a reason, grilled cheese and tomato soup is also a pretty been-there-done-that sort of pairing. How about tomato soup and mac and cheese? I think we’re onto something. The next time you’re heating up a bowl of TJ’s creamy, decadent tomato soup, heat up a cup of mac and cheese to go with it (we recommend Kraft, naturally). Eat them side by side or go nuts and top your soup with a big ol’ dollop of cheesy mac. It’s a sweet-and-salty pairing that’ll warm you to the core.
Thoughts? Questions? Complete disagreement? Leave a comment!