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For Valentine's Day, I ate Kraft pink candy mac and cheese. Was it love? – CNET

Kraft’s candy mac and cheese kits come with a standard box of mac along with a special candy seasoning packet.

Amanda Kooser/CNET

Valentine’s Day has long been burdened by stereotypical foods. Boxes of chocolate. Steaks. Needy candy hearts that say “Be Mine” or “Hug Me.” It’s time for a new food to step into the romantic spotlight: macaroni and cheese.

This year, Kraft is looking to elevate the humble bowl of mac and cheese from college dorm staple to ultimate Valentine’s Day food through the potentially questionable addition of (checks notes) a candy flavor packet. So, yeah, I had to try it. 

Kraft made limited-edition candy mac and cheese kits available to winners via social media and a website. Your chance to get one is gone, but you can live vicariously through me. Don’t be sad. Trust me, it’s better this way.

I’ve downed one of the world’s hottest hot sauces, consumed a ghost pepper doughnut and sipped French’s Mustard Beer. I’m not afraid of tossing a little “candy flavored seasoning mix” in with pasta.

The powdered candy seasoning gets mixed into the regular Kraft mac and cheese.

Amanda Kooser/CNET

The ingredient list for the bonus seasoning packet features maltodextrin, fructose, vanilla extract, beetroot and carrot concentrate for color, and of course, the ever mysterious “natural flavors.” The instructions were simple: Make the boxed mac and cheese and then add the additional powder packet. Easy. 

The color is quite something.

Amanda Kooser/CNET

The resulting concoction is an eye-popping raspberry color. I smell it and begin to have doubts. It reminds me of a movie theater where whiffs of buttered popcorn combine with the wafting odor of Red Vines. 

The first bite is shocking because the brain says “mac and cheese” and the taste buds say “candy?” A mysterious berry-like flavor floats over the tongue. It’s haunting and I can’t quite chase it down. Swedish fish, maybe? Or a mac and cheese version of pouring jam on top of brie to make it fancier.

A few bites in and I’m beginning to experience a culinary Stockholm syndrome, like maybe this should be in regular rotation on grocery store shelves. But no. It can’t be. This must remain an ethereal object, a Valentine’s Day marketing stunt, an experiment, a singular experience, never to be repeated.

Valentine’s Day is Sunday and I wonder if any future V-day dinner will ever live up to the standard of strange now set by Candy Kraft Mac & Cheese. Will I stare into the depths of my mushroom stroganoff this weekend and wish it could be just a little more, I dunno … pink? Sweet? Wild and unfettered and weird?

There was one final important question I needed to answer: Would candy mac and cheese pair well with French’s Mustard Beer? Oh hell no. That was not a good idea. Regret, thy name is “mustard beer mac and cheese.”

I paired French’s Mustard Beer with Kraft’s candy mac and cheese. Don’t try this at home.

Amanda Kooser/CNET


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