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Ihop recently stopped serving their Kraft Mac and Cheese in my area. I have made Kraft Mac and Cheese myself from the box following the instructions, but it never takes as good as the mac and cheese from Ihop. I am wondering if someone knows what Ihop might be doing differently when they make their Mac and Cheese compared to just following the instructions.

Someone asked about making Mac and Cheese in this question and the suggestion was to simmer the butter separately. I can try that, but I want to make sure that it isn't because of something else.

Someone in this question suggested adding salt, mustard, or peppers, but I don't like the taste of mustard or peppers, and the Kraft Mac and Cheese powder already has a lot of salt. Unfortunately, I don't remember in what way Ihop Mac and Cheese tastes better than when it is traditionally cooked. I feel like the ones I make at home either have less of a taste.

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Based on the nutritional information provided by Kraft and iHop, a good place to start would be more salt and more butter. A standard Kraft recipe is 360 Calories with 12 grams of fat and 710 mg of sodium, the iHop version is 350 Calories with 20 grams of fat and 920mg sodium. The iHop version also has less carbs and half the sugar which is a bit of a surprise, it probably means there's less actual pasta and those calories are made up with the butter.

As I noted in my comment before I checked, this is generally the case with cheap restaurant food -- the reason it often tastes better than what you make at home is utterly absurd amounts of salt and fat and depending on the dish, cream and sugars.

Note: I'm just assuming they use butter. Part of the 'trick' may be they use a weird fat like margarine or reuse bacon/beef grease (but that's probably unlikely).

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    One thing that would be interesting would be to normalize by carbs in a serving, not on what each considers go be “one serving”. From the sounds of it, there would be even more salt and fat to be added. I tend to do that when comparing things like potato chips, keeping the amount of actual potato (or in this case pasta) the same and looking at what the equivalent new “serving size” is May 9, 2023 at 1:40
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    @ eps: Since the IHOP version has no more total calories, but much more fat, it pretty much has to contain less carbs, and is presumably describing a (visually and volumetrically) smaller “serving” than the Kraft numbers.
    – PLL
    May 9, 2023 at 7:31
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    On the last point, my guess if they’re not using butter would actually be lard. In many dishes you can substitute it 1:1 for unsalted butter, and a lot of people will prefer the version with lard in a blind taste test. Possibly bacon drippings given that they’re a cook a lot of bacon, possibly schmaltz if they want it to be kosher, but lard would be my first guess here. May 9, 2023 at 11:38
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    @AustinHemmelgarn given that the fat is being mixed with dairy, schmaltz in this case would not make it kosher, since kosher laws prohibit mixing meat and dairy.
    – Esther
    May 9, 2023 at 15:51
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    The IHOP version almost certainly used margarine, which would explain part of the additional sodium, as well (since in the US, unsalted margarine isn't really a thing).
    – Marti
    May 9, 2023 at 16:15
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I worked in a restaurant with Kraft Mac and cheese. The reason It tastes different is because it is different, they get their Mac and cheese pre made from a bag that is then just microwaved.

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