03/11/2014 09:38 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Taste Test: 5 Best Instant Mac and Cheeses

Original post and photos by Kai Huang on Spoon University - NU.

Whoever invented instant macaroni and cheese should get a medal, but whoever decided to substitute colored plastic for cheese should be exiled. We tested five cheap varieties of instant cheesy gratification to help you choose the best late-night comfort snack without breaking a sweat or the bank.

5. Everyday Essentials Mac & Cheese ($0.89 per cup)
This is the cheapest instant macaroni and cheese you can buy from Jewel, and hey, you get what you pay for. While the noodles are tender, there's a slight aftertaste of the container and the watery sauce tastes like a dusty memory of long lost cheese.

4. Velveeta Shells & Cheese ($1.19 per cup)
Ok, so this isn't strictly mac and cheese, but the shells actually picked up cheese about as well as instant macaroni. Velveeta's cheese sauce is a paste, rather than a powder. This is an upgrade that really shows when you mix it with the noodles because the sauce actually strings a little like real cheese would. The pasta, however, is nothing special, and the sauce isn't quite as cheesy you might hope.

3. Kraft Easy Mac ($1.19 per cup)

Oh, Easy Mac... There's something to be said for this go-to instant mac's consistency, even though it's not extraordinary. The noodles have a reasonable bite, and the sauce is just cheesy enough to satisfy a small craving. Surprisingly, the powdered sauce is actually cheesier than the Velveeta sauce and just as stringy.

2. Trader Joe's Wisconsin Cheddar Macaroni and Cheese ($0.99 per box)
Even though Trader Joe's doesn't have instant macaroni and cheese in a cup, their boxed version microwaves and is convenient enough for a quick snack. The macaroni was significantly better than the other competitors. However, the cheese sauce is nothing special. While it is smoother than Easy Mac sauce, the flavor is a bit too mellow. In the end, the noodles make up for it, and you get much more per box for your money.

And the #1 instant mac and cheese is...