Top 16 Substitute for Milk in Mac and Cheese

by Christopher Jones

Mac and cheese is a favourite dish of many, and honestly, there aren’t a lot of people who tend to dislike this meal.

One of the most significant parts of this meal is milk- which cannot be skipped at all costs. But it can surely be replaced, as not many people are a fan of regular milk, and there are certain substitutes that can be chosen instead.

To make sure you can enjoy your mac and cheese to its full extent, we have selected the top 16 substitutes for milk in mac and cheese. We have also provided sufficient details regarding them, so you will know which one to choose.

We have talked about their taste and consistency, along with their availability, so you will know which one you should be selected in no time!

Top 16 Substitute for Milk in Mac and Cheese
Top 16 Substitute for Milk in Mac and Cheese

Heavy and Creamy Alternatives

Some people would prefer their mac and cheese to be heavy and creamy- well, who am I kidding, it goes for most people to be exact! And in such cases, here are some substitutes that you could try out. They will work as a good substitute for milk in the recipes, and make your macaroni and cheese just as delicious- if not more.

1. Plain yogurt

Plain Yogurt
Plain Yogurt

If we are told to compare every substitute for milk in mac and cheese, then the best would definitely be plain yogurt. It will provide an equally creamy texture, if not creamier, which will make it tough to spot a difference!

The taste provides a bit more zip in macaroni and cheese, which makes yogurt even more preferable for some people. However, when you are cooking with this alternative, there are some changes that you will need to adjust.

For instance, you should slowly pour the yogurt into the dish in a low heat setting while cooking, and stir thoroughly. Don’t stop stirring until the ingredients have mixed properly, as you wouldn’t want to create a big lump in the dish.

But when it comes to the ratio, integrate the exact amount of yogurt as milk- neither more nor less. If you use less and add water, then the mac and cheese might become thinner, and won’t taste as good.

On the other hand, you can use greek yogurt instead of plain yogurt. The benefit of that is, the dish will be thicker and heavier due to the high protein content in greek yogurt, which is undoubtedly tastier as well.

2. Sour cream

Another thick and creamy option would be sour cream, which will make the macaroni and cheese heavy as well. In fact, it will provide even more thickness than yogurt, and make the mac and cheese a lot creamier.

Sour Cream
Sour Cream

However, sour cream will change the taste of the meal as well. As the name suggests, it is a little sour and hence, sour cream will add more sourness to the dish, which may not be preferable by many people.

But that can be taken care of quite easily. For instance, you can add other extra spices, which will change the flavour of the mac and cheese back to normal. If you want, you can also add some sugar for additional sweetness.

If you want to cut down the thickness, then you can also add some water along with other spices while cooking, which will surely enhance the flavours. But make sure not to include too much water while you cook with sour cream.

Finding sour cream wouldn’t be much of a hassle either, because they are available in every grocery store that sells dairy products. Hence, you won’t have to search too much for sour cream.

3. Cream cheese

If you are looking for a substitute for milk for mac and cheese recipe that will barely change the taste of your dish, then here’s one that you shouldn’t overlook. Not only will cream cheese provide the meal with a creamier texture, but it will also keep the flavour profile intact.

In fact, if you use cream cheese, then you won’t have to use butter because it can act as a substitute for that as well. Hence, you will be getting two-in-one benefits with this item, which will work as an advantage for you.

Despite that, you shouldn’t integrate too much of it in your macaroni and cheese recipe, because it contains high-fat content with low protein. This aspect wouldn’t be good for your health, and hence, you should be careful.

Furthermore, if you want to cut down some of its thickness, then you can add a little bit of water as well when cooking. As a little would go a long way, adding cream cheese with water sounds like a convenient idea.

Just like yogurt and sour cream, this ingredient will be readily available in grocery stores as well, or any shop that sells dairy products. Or it might already be in your kitchen right now!

4. Heavy cream

Are you looking to create a more vibrant macaroni and cheese? In that case, you should totally opt for heavy cream, because it will provide a vibrant texture along with optimal heaviness.

The thickness of the dish will then be unmatchable, and so, it’s not a bad idea to use this ingredient if you have some lying around in your house. You can also add water to cut down on the heaviness if you are being health conscious, that is.

This ingredient undoubtedly has a lot of fat content, which shouldn’t be overlooked, and hence, you should use it in lesser quantities than you would use milk, as it clearly isn’t good for your health.

In fact, we would even suggest you not add butter if you plan on making macaroni and cheese using heavy cream. No matter how convenient this item is, it’s always best to avoid high-fat contents if you plan on using it frequently.

Just like any other dairy product, finding it won’t be much of a hassle. However, if you cannot find it, then we wouldn’t recommend you to go out on a limb to look for it. You can use it if it’s available at your place- otherwise, look for other alternatives.

5. Evaporated/Condensed milk

Condensed Milk
Condensed Milk

Evaporated milk is basically regular milk with the water reduced and hence, there is not much difference that you can expect when using this. In fact, it can be one of the closest substitutes for cow milk out there.

Normally, evaporated milk is caramelized and thick, which might give the pasta a very overwhelming flavour, which many people don’t tend to prefer. In such cases, what you can do is stir in equal amounts of water with the evaporated milk.

Once you do so, you will notice that the milk has thinned out, and can be replaced as regular cow milk. Integrate other ingredients as you normally would, and you wouldn’t be able to encounter much of a difference.

Even with this ingredient, you shouldn’t waste too much of your time and energy looking for it. There are equally, if not better, reliable substitutes, which may be more readily available and you can opt for those conveniently.

6. Powdered milk

Powdered Milk
Powdered Milk

Powdered milk is often confused with evaporated milk, but this is the version that is often known as dry milk and provides a sweeter taste than actual milk. Hence, you can’t possibly use it without adding water.

This ingredient also tends to be creamier than actual milk, but its sweet taste can alter the overall flavour of mac and cheese. Hence, it is preferable for you to use it while adding extra spices to balance the flavours in the recipe. 

On the other hand, storing this ingredient is much easier as well; since it is powdered, you can keep it in a container without worrying about it going bad or spilling during an accident.

If you plan on making macaroni and cheese quite frequently, then you can keep a container of powdered milk for it, because it is quite a good alternative for your cooking sessions every now and then.

7. Goat milk in macaroni and cheese

There are several people who can’t enjoy mac and cheese to its full extent because they tend to have lactose intolerance. However, there is a substitute for milk in mac and cheese, which will help them encounter this issue- which is goat milk.

The benefit of this milk is that it is quite similar to cow milk in taste, but contains a much lower content of lactose. As a result, you will be able to enjoy it without worrying about the unpleasant consequences.

And if you plan on using goat milk in your mac and cheese, then make sure to use goat cheese mix as well in the recipe. This will not only help with your lactose intolerance but will also improve the taste of the dish.

But don’t overindulge in goat milk and cheese, as it doesn’t come with zero lactose content.

Healthier and Thinner Alternatives

In some cases, we like to have our favourite meals without worrying about them taking a toll on our health all that much. And for those scenarios, here are some healthy alternatives that you could try out. Some of these are already there in your kitchen, and others can be found in your nearest grocery store!

1. Water and Butter

Sometimes, the best alternative is right in front of your eyes, and in this case, that is water and butter! Adding extra water alone or butter alone won’t do the trick and hence, you will need to integrate both in your recipe, which would be easy to produce.

Now we know that water will not add anything to the taste. Moreover, it will only make the dish runnier, which may not be all that appealing to have. Hence, you should integrate the required amount of butter to enhance the taste.

Just add twice as much butter as the recipe calls for when you use water, and you will have the desired rich flavour that you are looking for. But focus on keeping your health in check while you are adding butter, and don’t overindulge!

2. Almond milk

Almond Milk
Almond Milk

Some people tend to avoid dairy completely, and for them, almond milk is one of the best alternatives out there. Almond comes with a nutty and sweet taste, which may not be appealing to many.

However, compared to other non-dairy substitutes, almond milk has the most neutral flavour. In fact, once you add it to the mac and cheese, you won’t be able to tell the difference!

But you need to keep in mind that almond milk is thinner than actual milk and hence, your dish will not be as creamy and thick as you would expect it to be. Therefore, you can add the cheese and some food thickeners to this non-dairy milk.

The best thickeners would be flour, butter, or cheese, but if you are looking to make vegan mac and cheese, then you should opt for coconut flour. There are other vegan alternatives as well that might appeal to you, such as almond and oat flour, or a vegan cheese mix, which you can stir in.

3. Chicken broth in macaroni and cheese

Using chicken broth as a substitute for cow milk might sound crazy, but we can assure you that it is worth a try! This ingredient is available in every kitchen, and it’s also a much healthier alternative, which will significantly reduce your dairy intake.

But you should keep in mind that it will make the meal much runnier than expected, and adding more butter to the recipe wouldn’t really do the trick. Hence, you should mix other food thickeners, like parmesan, cheese melts, shredded cheese, and such.

It might even alter the taste of the dish, which may not appeal to many. Hence, while you are making the meal, we would suggest you taste a small amount before you mix more broth.

4. Cashew milk

Are you looking for an alternative that will not only make your mac and cheese heavy but will also boost your immune system and improve your heart’s health? In that case, cashew milk is the perfect catch for you.

Cashews not only contains vitamins and minerals, but it is also packed with protein and healthy fat, just as much as almonds. Not to mention, its consistency is pretty thick while its taste is not as sweet and the nutty flavour isn’t that apparent as well, unlike almond milk.

So if you are going to use it instead of dairy milk, we would suggest you add it in a 1:1 ratio while making mac and cheese. But you should also be careful, because those with a nut allergy may not be able to tolerate this ingredient.

5. Coconut milk

Coconut milk is one of those ingredients that is nowadays increasingly available in everyone’s kitchen, even more so than almond milk. Hence, you can easily use coconut milk as a substitute for milk in mac and cheese, because it will surely serve the purpose.

Coconut Milk
Coconut Milk

However, the consistency of coconut milk is much thinner, even more than almond milk and it will somewhat, if not completely, alter the taste of the macaroni and cheese. While many might rejoice at the new flavour profile, a lot of people probably won’t.

But you can use this as an alternative to milk in several other recipes. Even in mac and cheese, you can integrate other spices and food thickeners to ensure the taste doesn’t vary too much and is like that of cow milk.

It is a healthy alternative, as it doesn’t contain much fat. So you can integrate as much milk and cheese as you want.

6. Soy milk

Soy milk is one of the most popular plant-based alternatives, which has been created using soybean and filtered water. Other thickeners and substances have been added as well, which makes soy milk more voluminous to mimic actual dairy milk.

The addition of thickeners and other substances make soy milk much creamier and increases its shelf life as well, which will allow you to store the soy milk for prolonged periods. However, before buying one, choose unflavoured soy milk.

If the ingredient is flavoured, then the taste of your dish will be overwhelming, and you surely wouldn’t want that. To replicate the taste of dairy milk in it, choose soy milk without added flavours. Moreover, add soy milk in the dish in 1:1 ratio to the actual milk quantity provided in the recipe, although it contains less fat content.

7. Rice milk

If you are looking to create a light cheese sauce for your dish, which would have more fluidity and less thickness, then here’s non-dairy milk that you should go for. Rice milk has been created using milled rice and water, which makes it rather healthy.

This ingredient will not make your meal as creamy, as it doesn’t contain fat, but you can definitely add food thickeners to increase the density of your mac and cheese. You can add the cheese, or simply using more butter would do the trick.

The taste of rice milk is also rather milk-like, and for more bursting flavours, you can add in spices and extra cheese while cooking. Finding this alternative would be rather difficult, but if you already have rice milk in your kitchen then feel free to use it.

8. Hemp Seed milk

Hemp Seed Milk
Hemp Seed Milk

If you are allergic to soy, gluten, and lactose, then you don’t have to feel disheartened about not being able to have mac and cheese, because here’s a dairy-free alternative that can be used by you pretty effortlessly.

Although this ingredient may not be as readily available as others, it does have a creamier consistency than actual milk and is also healthier, as it is non-dairy milk. In fact, you should add water to it if you want thinness like cow milk in your cheese sauce.

It also provides a nutty flavour, which is stronger than others and while a lot of people tend to enjoy it, some don’t. Another thing to keep in mind when using it is that the ratio of this to cow milk would be 0.75:1.

9. Oat milk for vegan mac and cheese

If you want the exact same thickness as you would get using actual milk but with extra health benefits, then you can conveniently opt for oat milk. You will find them in grocery stores quite easily, as their popularity has been rising as non-dairy milk.

You won’t have to add water, because its consistency is just about perfect, but if you want a creamier texture in your pasta, then you can include food thickeners when cooking. Or, you can simply stir in more butter as well.

You should add this in 1:1 ratio with actual milk and you can also use this item for vegan-friendly dishes. Its versatility and dairy-free content will come in handy in several recipes for you.


Can I make mac and cheese without milk?

Yes, you can absolutely make mac and cheese without milk. You can go for its heavy and creamy alternatives, or you can choose its healthy and watery alternatives as well. But if you want to go for the easiest option, then just add extra butter and the required amount of water- you are sure to love the taste!

What can I substitute for milk in recipes?

You can use loads of ingredients as a substitute for milk in a recipe, depending on the recipe itself. For instance, if you are looking to make a heavy and creamy meal, then you would want to use sour cream, yogurt, whipping cream, etc. However, for lighter milk, you can go for nut milk and such.

Are you supposed to put milk in macaroni and cheese?

Yes, and the purpose of this ingredient is to make the meal creamy and saucy, which happens by reserving the starch washed off by the pasta into the milk. Of course, some of the milk will be absorbed into the pasta as it cooks, but an ample amount will remain to make a delicious cheese sauce with a creamy texture.

Can I make cheese sauce using water instead of milk?

You can use water instead of milk to make the cheese sauce and expect equally amazing results, if not better. For that, what you will have to do is mix one tablespoon of corn-starch with one tablespoon of cold water and mix until it starts looking like milk. Pour it into the cheese sauce and stir for 3-4 minutes.

When should I avoid using cow milk in macaroni and cheese?

Dairy milk can bring out the flavor of mac and cheese like none other, but there are some health concerns that you should consider before adding them. For instance, if you or your guest has lactose intolerance, then it’s best to use other sorts of milk instead of cow milk.

Final Words

Whether you are a fan of milk or not, mac and cheese is a meal you should enjoy without any hesitation. And for that, you should pick the substitutes that you think can try out.

Among our top 16 substitutes for milk in mac and cheese, you will surely find one that will be more suitable for you than others!

About Christopher Jones

Chris is an avid traveler and a gastronome.
He used to live for years in Europe and has far reached many unheard corners in Asia.
While at it, he never stopped looking for best local foods to try them out.
His favorite motto is "how can one live well, travel well, and work well without having good food every time?"
Chris received his MBA at University of San Francisco at the age of 24.

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