Costco Mac And Cheese (How To Cook & Freeze For Later)

Rich, velvety cheesy goodness. There is nothing quite like a delicious, creamy and gooey bowl of macaroni and cheese. Unfortunately, unless you buy the individual cups from Kraft or Annie’s, most companies make their recipes in bulk.

For those who shop at the big box stores and want to have a stockpile of this mouthwatering meal, can you freeze Costco Mac and Cheese?

Non-meat based casserole dishes, like macaroni and cheese, can be safely frozen for two to four months. Conversely, if you choose to cook the dish and then store the leftovers, the suitable storage time drops to one to two months. In order to achieve maximum storage times, it is imperative that you apply three layers of protection.

First, a layer of freezer wrap. Next, a layer of heavy duty aluminum foil. Finally, the dish should be placed in a large ziplock bag. By following these steps, you will prevent moisture, light and oxygen from impacting the food. 

Costco Mac And Cheese Ingredients & Freezer Recommendations

Cheese Types

The best way to determine if a dish will bode well in the freezer is to look at the ingredients list. Kirkland Brand Macaroni And Cheese uses cheddar, romano and parmesan cheeses in their recipe. According to the Center For Dairy Research, “many cheeses freeze well, including: Cheddar, Muenster, Mozzarella, Colby, Colby Jack, Provolone, Brick, Cheese Curds, and Hard Italian Cheeses.”

Both parmesan and romano cheese are considered Italian Hard Cheeses. The recommended freezer storage times for all three of these cheeses is six months. However, cheese is only a portion of the ingredients list. As the name implies, the dish also includes pasta as well as milk, cream, olive oil and corn oil. 

Cooked Pasta

Freshly made pasta makes for simple preparation onced the casserole is thawed. However, due to the stereotypical design of this staple household item, the storage times for the freezer are only recommended for two months. 

This is because pasta, and specifically macaroni noodles, have a lot of exposed surface area due to the hollow construction. While freezing is a fantastic method of food preservation, oxygen is not your friend. “Oxidation, a chemical process that produces undesirable changes in color, flavor and nutrient content, results when air reacts with food components. When fats in foods become rancid, oxidation is responsible.” This is also one of the main causes for freezer burn.

Cooked Pasta

Unfortunately, this will limit the time that you can freeze your Costco Mac and Cheese. Thankfully, there are ways to extend the shelf life, which we will detail later in the article.

Other Milk Products

You can store milk safely for three months. This makes it another worry free ingredient. However, cream is another story. According to the FDA, in order for a milk product to be considered cream, it must contain at minimum 18% milk fat. This is where the problem lies.

When frozen, the fat molecules will stick together. Then, when defrosted, this structural change in the liquid will lead to a grainy texture. This is a notable attribute of many frozen mac and cheese products. 

Nonetheless, the company Elle & Vire, Normandy based dairy makers, note that while freezing cream by itself is never recommended, “there is no reason why you cannot freeze dishes containing cream. This is because they are ‘protected’ by the other ingredients in your recipe.”

However, for those with texture aversions, this is something to consider before you freeze your Costco Mac and Cheese. While it will stay fresh, expect the grainy texture. 

Plant Oils — Olive And Corn 

Olive Oil

Both fruit and vegetable oils handle extreme low temperatures well. These will span four to six months in freezer storage with no issue.

Thickeners 

One of the main thickeners used in these types of casserole dishes is cornstarch, which does not do well in the freezer. That is because it can actually facilitate the presence of moisture, and thus, lead to bacteria growth. Thankfully, Kirkland brand has chosen a different route to allow for optimal storage in both the fridge and the freezer.

Costco uses potato starch in their mac and cheese as the thickener. In case you didn’t know, “when frozen foods thaw, starches squeeze out water molecules and can turn a tasty serving into watery goop. […Thankfully,] the food industry prevents this by extracting potato starch and chemically altering it to prevent the long chains from entangling.”

Additionally, unlike other ingredients, potato starch will virtually never expire. Thus, there is no storage time limit on this item.

The issue with storing casseroles in the freezer is that their ingredients can limit their shelf life. Based on the foods that are added to this specific recipe, it is safe to assume that this dish would store safely for two to six months based on the shelf lives of the different items. 

This is confirmed to an extent by the food experts at the University of Georgia. They advise that you store mac and cheese in the freezer for two to four months for the best result. In contrast, if you choose to cook your Costco Mac and Cheese and store the leftovers, this will cause the shelf life to diminish to one to two months. However, all of these time frames are also highly dependent on the storage conditions.

How To Properly Freeze Costco Mac And Cheese?

Freeze Uncooked Costco Mac And Cheese

One of the best parts of buying Costco mac and cheese is that they have already ensured that their product is in both a freezer and oven safe container. This makes for a seamless transition to and from these areas when it comes time to cook the dish. 

However, do not use the included plastic lid in storage. Just remember to keep the heating instructions. In order to elongate the freezer life, first apply a layer of freezer wrap to the container. Then, take some heavy duty aluminum foil and apply a second layer of protection overtop.

Next, take an extra large ziploc bag and place the container inside, removing as much air as possible before sealing. It is important to note that while these bags made by SC Johnson are big enough for the storage of this dish, they are not freezer safe. 

What this means is that by itself, the bag will not prevent freezer burn. Nevertheless, when paired with other prevention methods, this can serve as a way to limit the oxygen contact, which is important for preservation.

Costco Mac And Cheese

Finally, label the package with the date of packaging and freeze at a constant zero degrees Fahrenheit.

Freeze Cooked Costco Mac And Cheese

When packaging cooked leftovers, there are a few added steps in the storage process. First, allow the dish to cool completely. This can begin on the counter, but the time must not span more than 2 hours.

Otherwise, microorganisms can begin to grow. If this time frame is not enough, place the food in the refrigerator until it is no longer warm.

Second, place the leftovers in a smaller freezer safe container. Follow the directions for the freezer wrap and aluminum foil. If you so choose, you can place the lid that accompanies your container on top of the first two layers.

Then, follow the remainder of the directions as noted in the ‘Uncooked Mac And Cheese’ section.

How To Cook Costco Mac And Cheese That You Chose To Freeze

1.Thaw & Cook 

The first option is to place your Costco Mac and Cheese in the refrigerator the night before to allow it to slowly thaw out. When ready to bake, remove the three layers of packaging. Check for any signs of spoilage. These can include changes in color, small and texture.

Then, you will follow the instructions as dictated on the original container. This entails preheating the oven to 400 degrees and baking the dish for 40 to 60 minutes on the center rack. In order to ensure safe consumption, the internal temperature needs to reach 165 degrees.

2.Cook Frozen

For those parents who are in a rush or forgot to defrost this tasty dish, simply remove all of the packing. Then, reapply a new layer of aluminum foil. Bake the macaroni and cheese for one hour at 400 degrees. 

Next, using an oven mitt, carefully remove the foil and then bake for another 10 to 20 minutes, until the top layer of cheese is golden brown. Again, reaching an internal temperature of 165 degrees is imperative. 

Final Thoughts 

Costco macaroni and cheese will only last for three to five days in the refrigerator. Therefore, if you do not intend to use this product in the recommended time frame, make a point to freeze it prior to the “Best By” date. Additionally, always make a point to double check the ingredients list.

Many times companies will change their signature dishes without alerting the public. If they were to swap out the cheese types or thickeners, it could alter the time that you are able to safely freeze the Mac and Cheese. It could also cause the dish to no longer qualify for freezer storage.

Leave a Comment