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Substitute for Milk in Mac and Cheese: 12 Options To Try.

Are you wondering what you can substitute for milk in mac and cheese? If you are either making a change in diet or just entirely out of milk, there is no need to crush your cravings.

The article below will discuss the best substitutes so you can enjoy this classic dish even without milk. Read on to find out more. 

jar with milk next to dish with mac and cheese

What Is Mac and Cheese?

Mac and cheese is popular comfort food that combines cooked macaroni pasta and a cheese sauce made from milk and cheese. It was initially a baked dish, but it has evolved over time.

Today, this dish is also made on stovetops. You can also buy instant mac and cheese packets in grocery stores.

It most commonly uses cheddar and parmesan cheese. Some recipes call for gruyere cheese as well. These cheeses are combined with milk to create a sauce with which you will bake macaroni.

Browned bread crumbs are the most common toppings for mac and cheese. However, people often include shredded cheese, crushed potato chips, bacon, and shredded chicken.

There are also sweet variations of macaroni and cheese recipes that include condensed milk or sugar.

What Milk Does To Mac And Cheese

Milk does not just make mac and cheese creamy. It also adds some flavor and makes the dish rich.

Over the years, the health benefits of milk have been a topic of debate. However, the nutritional values are just too impressive to deny.

Milk is a good source of multiple nutrients, including – potassium, calcium, zinc, phosphorus, vitamin D, vitamin B12, selenium, and magnesium, to mention a few.

Milk also helps mac and cheese achieve its full taste – flavorful and delicious.

Best Substitutes for Milk In Mac and Cheese

Milk is one of the main ingredients in this popular snack. However, there are times when using milk is not an option.

When this happens, forage your pantry for any of the milk substitutes below. You will find one that will replace milk without ruining your recipe.

Here are 12 of the best alternatives to milk in mac and cheese:

1. Almond Milk

Nutritionally, almonds are rich in fiber, healthy fats, and protein.

Almond milk is thinner and less creamy than milk. This makes it perfect for moderately creamy recipes. If you love your mac and cheese dish this way, almond milk will make a good alternative.

But if you do not, you can add some flour to make it thicker and creamier. Additional butter or cheese will also work.

One crucial thing to remember is that almond milk is sweeter than regular milk. For this reason, it will also make your mac and cheese recipe sweeter.

Cooking Tips:

  • Almond milk should be substituted for milk at a ratio of 1:1
  • Almond milk is also dairy-free, so people sensitive to lactose can have it.

2. Oat Milk

Oat milk is another healthy alternative to milk in mac and cheese.

It is made by blending oats with water and then draining to leave the pulp. Oat milk is dairy-free, so it is best for vegans. On top of that, it is also gluten-free.

However, like almond milk, it is naturally sweet. It also tastes like oats, affecting the flavor of your dish’s cheese sauce.

The good part is that it is as thick as milk, so it does little or nothing to the thickness of your mac and cheese dish. But, if you want your recipe creamier, you will need extra butter or any other thickener.

Cooking Tips:

  • Use the same quantity of oat milk as regular milk.
  • Unsweetened oat milk is also an option for those watching their sugar intake.

3. Coconut Milk

You can also use coconut milk to make varieties of mac and cheese recipes. Coconut milk is made by extracting liquid from the blended mixture of coconut and water.

This non-dairy milk substitute is the top option when making vegan mac since it is plant-based.

Due to its texture, it makes your cheese sauce creamier and slightly thicker.

Remember, though, that it has a strong coconut flavor. This distinct taste will make your dish taste different from the one made of regular milk.

Cooking Tips:

  • Use the same quantity of full-fat coconut milk you use for regular milk.
  • Use unsweetened coconut milk if you don’t want a sweet dish.
  • In the absence of a homemade one, canned coconut milk or coconut cream can also be used.

4. Soy Milk

Another dairy-free milk you can use is soy milk. Soy milk is made by grinding and boiling soybeans, which makes it vegan.

It is sold either flavored or unflavored and can be easily found in grocery stores.

Unflavored soy milk would make your mac and cheese recipe less tasty. If you are a buff of flavorsome dishes, you can use vanilla or another flavor of soy milk.

Soy milk is much thicker than regular milk, so you can expect your sauce to come out creamier.

Cooking Tips:

  • You can add some butter and salt to make soy milk tastier.
  • Use soy milk as a regular milk replacement at a ratio of 1:1

5. Cashew Milk

Cashew milk is among the non-dairy milk substitutes you can try when making mac and cheese.

Over the years, cashew milk has gained prominence in the nutrition world, and for a good reason.

It is made from nuts, so it contains vitamins and healthy fats. Then it also has proteins and minerals.

This would mean leaving your mac and cheese with a mild nutty taste. But, on the plus side, it leaves a flavor similar to regular dairy milk.

Also, it is inherently creamy, so you can have a thick and creamy sauce.

The downside of using cashew milk is that it is unsuitable for those allergic to nuts.

Cooking Tips:

  • Replace dairy milk with cashew milk at a ratio of 1:1
  • Cashew milk comes thick; you won’t need a thickener.

6. Cream Cheese

Cream cheese is one of the best substitutes for regular milk in mac and cheese recipes.

It offers a mildly sweet taste but is thicker and provides a spreadable consistency.

One beautiful fact about this dairy milk substitute is that it doesn’t interfere with your mac and cheese flavor.

The biggest disadvantage is that your dish will be creamier than usual due to its extra thickness.

It is also worth noting that most cream cheeses available are not vegan. If you are on a vegan diet, read the label carefully to ensure that you use a vegan variety.

Cooking tips:

  • It is easier to melt your cream cheese before adding it to your sauce. 
  • Use cream cheese to replace regular milk using a 1:1 ratio.

7. Sour Cream

Opt for sour cream if you want a similar texture to your regular dairy milk but a more complex flavor.

Sour cream provides a thicker consistency and a tangy sour flavor. This taste beautifully balances that of your mac and cheese. 

Add some freshly minced garlic or dry herbs to reduce the acidity level in your sour cream.

Although sour cream will make your dish creamier, you can add a little water to reduce the effect. 

Cooking tips:

  • Add some evaporated milk if the tangy flavor of sour cream bothers you
  • Use sour cream to replace regular milk in equal parts

8. Plain Greek Yogurt

Plain greek yogurt is another of the best milk substitutes because it is made with milk. The only difference is that greek yogurt has some added bacteria cultures.

As a milk substitute in a mac and cheese recipe, plain yogurt gives your dish a creamier sauce and adds delicious flavor.

Cooking tips:

  • When replacing your regular milk with plain yogurt, use the 1:1 ratio measurement.
  • Heat yogurt separately because it tends to split into water and fat when heated with the other ingredients.

9. Rice milk

Rice milk is also a good substitute for milk in a mac and cheese dish. It is made by blending cooked rice and water then draining the pulp.

This plant-based substitute comes sweetened or unsweetened. It is up to your preference which to use. However, you should consider that rice milk is naturally sweet even without added sugars.

It is important to note that since this is another dairy-free substitute, it is not as creamy and thick as milk.

Cooking tips:

  • If you want a thicker sauce, add some butter
  • All-purpose, almond, or coconut flour will also work
  • Use rice milk in a 1:1 ratio

10. Goat milk

Goat milk is another great alternative to cow’s milk, especially when making mac and cheese. It has the same consistency as regular milk and tastes equally creamy.

However, goat milk has a mildly nutty flavor that might alter the taste of your cheese sauce.

Plus, since it comes from goats, so it is not suitable for vegans.

Cooking Tip:

  • Use the same amount of goat milk as you would regular milk.

11. Hemp seed milk

Hemp seed milk is another plant-based milk. This milk is nut-free and lactose-free, so people with sensitivity to lactose will be able to use it.

Homemade hemp milk is made by blending hemp seed and water. Commercial ones usually contain sweeteners and thickeners, which might affect the overall flavor of your dish.

You can use either of these options, but beware that they are thicker than milk. For this reason, it is not a 1:1 conversion.

Cooking Tip:

  • Use 3/4 cup of hemp seed milk for every cup of milk.

12. Heavy cream

This pastry staple is another great substitute for milk in mac and cheese.

Heavy cream, sometimes called heavy whipping cream, is usually used to fill and top baked goods. This is because it is thick enough to hold its shape well.

For the same reason, it can make your mac and cheese a lot creamier. For some, this is a delight. However, this might be a problem for those who do not want a sticky homemade macaroni.

Cooking Tips:

  • Use 3/4 cup of heavy cream to replace milk.
  • To make it less thick, you can add 1/4 water to 3/4 cup of heavy cream.

Visual Guide for Substitutes for Milk in Mac and Cheese

Infographic showing all of the Substitutes for Milk in Mac and Cheese.

How To Choose The Best Substitute For Milk In Mac And Cheese

When choosing among the available milk substitutes, you need to consider some factors. Mac and cheese have a distinct flavor and texture, which you still want to achieve even when you don’t have milk.

Here are two tips so you can choose the best replacement for milk in your mac and cheese recipe:

  1. Consider your diet.

Most people follow certain restrictions when it comes to what they eat. This should be your first consideration when choosing an alternative to milk in your mac and cheese recipe.

First, for people who have gluten sensitivity, alternatives that are not gluten-free are a no-no. Because of this, you should choose sour cream, rice, cashew, or goat milk. Soy and oat milk should be avoided, as most commercial ones use additives that might have gluten.

Second, you should also be careful when feeding people who have nut allergies. Certain milk substitutes for mac and cheese come from nuts, like almond milk and cashew milk. Skip them and choose nut-free options like soy milk, rice milk, yogurt, cream cheese, and sour cream.

Lastly, if you are a vegan, you should skip options that are not vegan-friendly, like goat milk, cream cheese, and sour cream. Choose plant-based alternatives like rice, hemp seed, almond, and full-fat coconut milk.

  1. Pay attention to the thickness.

The thickness of the substitute you are going to choose will affect the overall consistency of your dish. For this reason, ensure that your replacement will not give you a super thick or runny cheese sauce.

If you like it thick, go for soy milk, hemp seed milk, cream cheese, or sour cream.

Otherwise, use rice milk to substitute for regular milk.

Visual Guide for Non-Dairy Substitutes for Milk in Mac and Cheese

Infographic showing non-dairy substitutes for milk in Mac and Cheese

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I make Mac and Cheese without milk?

Sure, you can. If you are one of those who do not want to add milk to your mac and cheese recipe, you have the option to make your dish with no milk. Choose a substitute from the list above. They will give you the best results.
Otherwise, you can also just add extra cheese and butter to create a creamier sauce without using any substitute for milk.

What difference does it make if my mac and cheese sauce is without milk?

It adds flavor to the cheese sauce and keeps the water content moderate. Milk also has nutrients and vitamins, which make your dish more nutritious. Without regular milk, your mac and cheese will taste different. On top of that, it will not also be as creamy.

Can I use these substitutes with any variation of mac and cheese?

You can experiment with a few variations. It boils down to individual preference of taste. Each of the substitutes mentioned in this article gives different flavors, which may not be appropriate for all variations of mac and cheese.

Are all these substitutes healthy for me?

This is a common question that is quite difficult to answer. Generally, they are all nutritious. Most of the substitutes mentioned above are rich sources of vitamins and minerals. However, if you stay on a special diet, you’d need to review the content of your milk substitute to confirm if it satisfies your dietary needs.

Final Thoughts

Mac and cheese can be enjoyed even without milk. You have the option just to add more butter and cheese to compensate for the absence of fresh milk. Another option, and probably the better, is to use a substitute for milk in mac and cheese.

There are plenty of options out there. If you want something that resembles regular milk’s taste, yogurt and cream cheese are the best alternatives. Vegan mac and cheese lovers can use sour cream, almond milk, or soy milk. If you are sensitive to gluten, goat milk is a must-try.

No matter what your reason is for not being able to use milk in your mac and cheese, you can still be able to enjoy this snack because there is always a good substitute for you.

Natalia | Flavorful home
Natalia is a recipe developer, food photographer, and home cook. She started Flavorful Home to document her recipes and share home cooking tips. She loves creating flavorful and nutritious meals while keeping the cooking process simple and joyful!
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