She’s a superhero, a world-class art thief, my personal girl crush, and now… a mac and cheese brand co-founder?
It wasn’t the career pivot I expected from Gal Gadot, but I’d be lying if I said the launch of her healthy mac and cheese brand, Goodles, isn’t 100 times more interesting to me than yet another celeb-owned liquor line. (Hot take: Unless it gives me six-pack abs, unlimited access to Blake Lively, and Deadpool-quality comebacks, I don’t care if Ryan Reynolds makes my gin.)
I should also confess that I’m a boxed mac and cheese fanatic. I’ll take a 99-cent box of blue with processed powdered cheese over homemade any day — and yes, I’ll say it to yo’ momma’s face. So naturally, I had to know: Is Goodles actually good for you? And can it stand up to classics like Kraft, Annie’s, and Banza?
Let’s dig in.
Goodles is exactly what it sounds like: good noodles — or “gooder” noodles, as the company likes to say. It was founded by a pretty super team: our girl Gal, former Cerebelly CEO Jen Zeszut, branding and design specialist (and former Kraft brand manager) Paul Earle, and former Annie’s president and co-founder Deb Luster.
Goodles wants to bring nutrition, quality ingredients, flavor, and a whole lot of pizzazz to an otherwise meh food space. Everyone loves mac and cheese, but in a $4.4 billion industry, there’s been little innovation, says Zeszut — who might be even more passionate about mac and cheese than I am (or than anyone else on the planet is, for that matter).
“We can make a noodle gooder with cleaner ingredients, more protein, more fiber, and it can taste more delicious than anything out there,” she says. “Tiny improvements can add up to something really big. You’ll see it in our branding, our product, and you’ll taste it.”
It’s the kind of hype you expect from a company’s CEO, but Goodles is doing a pretty good job of walking the walk.
“Mission is required,” says Earle. “It can’t be a lame gesture. It must be hardwired into everything we do.”
That mission takes shape via a nutrient-powered noodle recipe, ingredients sourced from organic veggies, a swanky Clean Label Project certification and Purity Award, splashy packaging, and flavors created for adults more than kids — not to mention rigorous product development led by a staff nutritionist and 4,500 taste-testers known as Do Gooders.
According to Zeszut, they knew they hit the mark on taste when 92 percent of testers said they’d make the switch to Goodles mac.
We’ve thrown a lot of jazzy facts at you, but now it’s time for the good(er) stuff. I taste-tested all four of Goodles’ available flavors, and I had Greatist resident nutritionist extraordinaire Jillian Kubala, MS, RD, review the nutrition info for good measure (check out her assessment here).
Here’s how each box ranked on a spoon rating of 1 to 4 spoons (1 being the worst, 4 being the best):
1. Twist My Parm
- Flavor profile: Cheetos meets white cheddar popcorn
- Noodle type: spiral
- Spoon rating: 🥄🥄🥄🥄
- Mix-in suggestion: chopped broccoli
OK, stay with me here: When I make mac at home, I’m looking for that sharp, powder-is-barely-dissolved cheese experience — the kind you lick off your fingers after crushing a bag of white cheddar popcorn (just me?). Most brands under-deliver on cheese flavor, so I compensate by adding more butter, scaling back the liquid, and stirring less to keep the taste as sharp as possible.
Goodles has figured out how to deliver that cheesy, rich, pungent taste sensation without having to manipulate the mac’s preparation. The flavor is pure salty-snack heaven, and I will gladly declare it my new favorite mac and cheese flavor.
I also gave this variety bonus points for satiety. Spiral noodles tend to cook down, leaving hungry girls like me, well, hungry after downing a box. The extra fiber and protein really showed up to make me noticeably more full.
2. Mover and Shaker
- Flavor profile: shabby-chic cacio e pepe
- Noodle type: elbow
- Spoon rating: 🥄🥄🥄🥄
- Pairing suggestion: red wine and Pixar’s “Luca”
Cacio e pepe is still the It Girl of the pasta world, and I’m always skeptical when grocery brands attempt to replicate it. Banza was one of the first mac and cheese makers to go for it with their limited edition cacio e pepe shells, but IMO, they missed the mark. The denseness of a chickpea shell noodle overpowered most of the cheese flavor, leaving only pepper to attack your taste buds without remorse.
The good(er) news? Goodles does a pretty great job of bringing these Italian flavors to life. They avoided Banza’s error by going with a softer, subtler elbow noodle and cranking up the cheese profile with a Romano-Parmesan blend made with buttermilk. The result is a creamy, balanced pasta that tickles your taste buds with heat instead of smothering you with pepper.
This is class meets Netflix-and-chill — I recommend it on a Friday night in with wine and movies that show off the Amalfi coast.
3. Cheddy Mac
- Flavor profile: classic boxed mac and cheese, but “healthy”
- Noodle type: elbow
- Spoon rating: 🥄🥄🥄
- Pairing suggestion: a cold beer or a fizzy seltzer
Meet the frontman of the Goodles lineup. Cheddy Mac aims to compete with your basic boxed mac and cheese. Because this is the product stepping into the ring against heavy hitters like Kraft and Annie’s, I expected a lot.
The truth: This variety was good, but it had a familiar “this is an attempt to make junk food healthy” vibe — satisfying, but not as good as the real thing. It reminded me a lot of Annie’s and not necessarily of a new product ready to dominate the mac and cheese world.
Being an amateur mac and cheese taster, I may just prefer stronger cheese varieties, and this cheddar blend didn’t do it for me. That being said, I still gave it 3 spoons and consider it worth a try.
4. Shella Good
- Flavor profile: classic white cheddar boxed mac and cheese, but “healthy”
- Noodle type: shell
- Spoon rating: 🥄🥄🥄
Bringing up the rear, Shella Good was a similar experience to Cheddy Mac. Good, would buy it again, but better than other white cheddar shell varieties? Unclear.
The big bonus for all these mac and cheese options is that I felt noticeably fuller and could scale back my portions when eating. I’ve never been a mac and cheese sharer before — like, ever — but I was able to split this one with my husband without having to ask “You gonna finish that?” after gobbling up my plate. Add in the quality ingredients and Clean Label Project certification, and it’s enough to move Goodles up to the No. 1 spot in my mac and cheese lineup.
Now you know how Goodles taste, but let’s dig in to the nutrition info. After reviewing all four Goodles flavor varieties, Jillian Kubala, MS, RD, gave them a thumbs-up when compared to competitors like Kraft. Here are some other key nutrition takeaways:
- Because Goodles mac and cheese is higher in protein and fiber than other popular mac products, it’s likely to promote fullness and support healthy portion control.
- A 1-cup serving of prepared Goodles contains 90 fewer calories than the same serving of Kraft.
- Goodles products provide a good source of several vitamins and minerals, including iron, folate, zinc, B12, and selenium.
- As of right now, Goodles products contain wheat and dairy, making them a no-go for folks with celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, and lactose intolerance. (Pro: Gluten-free and vegan varieties are a’comin around the mountain, so stay tuned!)
- Price. A box of Goodles costs roughly $5 compared to $0.99 for a box of Kraft. On the plus side, the price reflects the quality of the ingredients used to make Goodles and isn’t a needless upcharge.
Overall, Goodles products are high in protein and fiber and can be used as a healthier alternative to popular mac and cheese brands like Kraft or other noodle-based products like ramen and Cup Noodles.
But these products are still considered highly processed and should not be recommended over whole foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, fish, eggs, etc.
According to Zeszut and Earle, the brand will be announcing grocery store availability in 2022. Until then, you can peruse the Goodles website for all your cheesy needs.
Zeszut and Earle kept pretty hush-hush about projects in the works, but they did tease big plans for the brand, which Earle described as “a lifestyle brand — we’re not just pitching noodles. It’s much bigger than that.”
What that means remains to be seen (fingers crossed they can “good”-ify the cinnamon roll next), but for now we can look forward to exciting flavor collaborations and mac varieties for a plethora of dietary needs.
Zeszut confirmed that a gluten-free and vegan mac and cheese is coming soon, along with collaborations with mix-in brands like hot sauce, honey, and alcohol producers. (I’m gonna place my bets on a beer cheese variety and, god willing, a Mike’s Hot Honey collab.)
The takeaway: Gal’s Goodles really are Gooder. Say that three times fast, and then go try some for yourself!