10 Clever Ways To Make Packaged Food Taste Homemade

How to make boxed and canned food taste better!

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Packaged food may not always be the best, but we can all admit that it’s incredibly convenient. Even the savviest of cooks sometimes use canned and boxed items to cut down on the time and hassle cooking and baking entails. 

I, myself, love using packaged items and then doctoring them to my liking. I almost always add spices, herbs and veggies to boxed dinner items like Hamburger Helper or Kraft Macaroni & Cheese. Over the years, you kind of just figure out what greatly improves these convenience foods to the point where they almost taste homemade!

I’ve rounded up a few of my favorite packaged food hacks, everything from sweet desserts to easy dinner ideas. Sometimes you just have to think outside of the box (no pun intended) to create delicious quick and easy meals you will actually enjoy.

Food Hacks: Packaged food may not always be the best, but we can all admit that it’s incredibly convenient. Even the savviest of cooks sometimes use canned and boxed items to cut down on the time and hassle cooking and baking entails. I almost always add spices, herbs and veggies to boxed dinner items like Hamburger Helper or Kraft Macaroni & Cheese. Here are some ways to improve these convenience foods to the point where they taste homemade! Great for quick, easy and cheap recipes.


1. Boxed Cake Mix

Cake mix is one of the most popular packaged grocery items, and can easily be adjusted to make it taste like something you bought from a bakery. I’m honestly not sure why the boxed instructions call for oil when melted butter tastes so much better! You can also add an additional egg to make it more moist and dense. 

How to make store bought cake mix better! With a few changes you can make it taste homemade. Great for cake and cupcakes. You're going to love all of these food and kitchen tips and tricks.

Cake Mix Tip: You can also make super soft cookies out of boxed cake mix by mixing the dry ingredients with 2 eggs and 1/2 cup of oil. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 10-15 minutes. There are so many fun flavor options!

2. Canned Chili

I’ve never been a fan of canned chili, but it sure does make for a great base with a few additions. Mixing your own ground beef with vegetarian chili seems to make the biggest difference, as well as the addition of any fresh veggies you have on hand like onions, bell peppers or garlic. I also like to throw in a can of diced tomatoes and additional seasoning like cumin and chili powder. And, of course, don’t forget to top it with goodies like cheese and sour cream!

How to make a can of chili taste homemade! These little tips and tricks will make it so much better. Great for busy weeknight meals.

3. Boxed Corn Bread

What could possibly go better with Chili than cornbread!? Especially if it tastes like your grandma made it. The great thing about doctoring a box of cornbread mix is that you don’t have to buy the 5 pound bag of cornmeal to make one batch of cornbread. Simply by making a few changes to the recipe on the Jiffy box, you get the most flavorful and moist cornbread you could eat.

How to make Jiffy cornbread better with sour cream! So many tips and tricks here on how to make packaged food taste homemade.

Tip: Consider other additions to your cornbread batter such as drained corn, jalapeños, bacon, scallions or cheddar cheese. 

4. Boxed Brownies

To be honest, boxed brownies are pretty darn good without any changes made at all, but there are a few things you can do to up your game. For one, always replace the oil with melted butter. It’s crazy what a difference it makes! And if you like your brownies super hot and fudgy served with ice cream, leave out one of the eggs and reduce the cooking time by about 5 minutes. 

If you’re a coffee lover like myself, you can also replace the water with coffee to enhance the flavor. So good! You’ve got to try it at least once. 

Now, for the biggest game changer of all. MIX-INS! Just about anything you happen to have on hand can be mixed with your brownie batter before baking. Cookie bits, nuts and caramel pieces are a favorite of mine. You can also drizzle caramel syrup onto the top of the brownie batter before baking. Mmm

Food Hacks: How to make boxed brownies better! Use these simple tips and tricks to make the best fudgy and chewy brownies, ever. A lot of food hacks here.

5. Boxed Mashed Potatoes

The benefit of potato flakes vs. real potatoes is that they have a long shelf life, so you always have a starchy side dish in your pantry no matter how long it’s been since you’ve been to the store. And, surprisingly, they taste a whole lot like the real thing especially with a few changes and additions!

I’ve found that replacing the water with chicken or even vegetable broth makes a huge difference in flavor as well as adding hidden nutrients. And just like with regular mashed potatoes, a little extra butter and sour cream doesn’t hurt. Be sure to do a taste test and add a little seasoning when you’re done. I almost always add garlic and onion powder.

How to make boxed instant mashed potatoes taste better. Use these food hacks to make them taste homemade! A great last minute quick and easy side dish idea for dinner.

Tip: If you like a few chunks in your mashed potatoes, try adding a can of drained warm diced potatoes and only slightly mashing them to get that authentic mashed potato texture.

6. Canned Refried Beans

This is one of my favorite foods hacks because my family has what we call “burrito night” at least twice a month, and refried beans are a staple. But, have you ever wondered why the taste and texture in restaurant beans seems so much better (other than the fact that they are made from scratch)? Try mixing in sour cream to your canned beans along with a little hot sauce. It makes a huge improvement. Also, a little melted cheddar or pepper jack cheese on top doesn’t hurt.

How to make canned refried beans better! Use this easy food hacks to make them taste like they came from a restaurant. Lots of life hacks here every girl should know!

Tip: You can also add a little taco seasoning, cumin, paprika, onion powder or chili powder to your beans for additional flavor. 

Fun Fact: Did you know that most refried beans contain lard? A lot of vegetarians don’t realize this and are mistakingly eating animal fat. Fortunately, there is a vegetarian option in just about every brand of refried beans.

7. Boxed Macaroni & Cheese

Alright, ya’ll. There is a big debate about which boxed brand of mac n’ cheese is the best, but no matter your preference, you can definitely make any box of cheesy pasta taste better by adding heavy cream and fresh shredded cheese. Duh, right! But, another one of my favorite ways to make a meal out of macaroni and cheese is by mixing it with leftovers like bacon, taco meat or last night’s veggies along with a little hot sauce or cayenne pepper. 

How to make Kraft and Velveeta boxed macaroni and cheese taste homemade and fancy! Use these simple food hacks to make canned and packaged food taste some much better.

Tip: If you have the time and are willing to make the effort, you can also place the prepared macaroni and cheese into a greased baking dish and then top it with shredded cheddar. Throw it in a 400 degree oven for 5-10 minutes or until the cheese starts to brown. Everyone will think it’s homemade!

8. Boxed Stuffing

The thing about boxed stuffing prepared on the stove top is that it usually turns out pretty boring and terribly mushy. But, I’ve found that if you mix in a few fresh veggies or nuts to the mix for variety, and then stir the dry stuffing mix with about 1.5 cups of chicken broth, you can bake it in the oven instead. 

How to make Stovetop stuffing taste WAY better! Lots of food hacks here. Great ideas for canned and boxed food to make them taste homemade.

Tip: Try experimenting with different flavors and mix-in combinations. You can create something sweeter with the combination of walnuts, apples and dried cranberries, or super savory with bacon, onion and celery. 

9. Canned Tomato Soup

A can of tomato soup is a yummy, classic last-minute meal idea, especially with buttered toast or a grilled cheese sandwich. My kids have always loved it, even if it does come from a can. The secret is adding flavor with additional seasoning and mixing in a little heavy cream to make it rich and delicious. And, don’t forget your toppings! Parmesan cheese, fresh herbs, croutons, crackers, etc.

How to make canned tomato soup better with heavy cream and fresh herbs! Lots of food hacks and easy dinner ideas here.

Tip: If you like your soup chunky, try adding a can of diced tomatoes.

10. Boxed Tuna Helper

This tip also applies to the boxes of Hamburger Helper, in that you basically add whatever fresh ingredients you have on hand that pair well, and then bake it with a crumb topping for added crunch and flavor. It tastes a heck of a lot closer to homemade when you prepare it this way! I really like the addition of carrots and broccoli to the Tuna Helper because it adds more nutrition while adding texture and flavor. You already have to dirty up a pan for the Tuna Helper, so why not throw in a few veggies to sauté first.

How to make hamburger helper and tuna helper taste better! These simple food hacks will make boxed and canned food taste homemade.

What kind of crazy things do you do to improve packaged food?

Tips & Tricks: Genius hacks on how to make packed food and canned food taste better! These tips will practically make them taste homemade. There are so many quick and easy recipes you can make with store-bought items that your family will think you slaved over all day in the kitchen. Cooking can be easy! Especially with these clever tricks. Everything from boxed brownies to refried beans. Here are a few hacks everyone should know! How to get creative with boxed dinners, canned foods, etc.

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