Are you trying to find a substitute for milk in mac and cheese? We’ve rounded up your 12 best options. These milk substitutes will help you get your mac and cheese on the table in no time!
There are a handful of ingredients that make workable stand-ins for milk in your favorite mac and cheese dish.
Dairy milk substitutes:
- Sour cream
- Cream cheese
- Plain yogurt
- Whipping cream
- Goat milk
- Evaporated milk or half-and-half
- Plain, unflavored coffee creamer
Vegan milk substitutes:
- Almond milk
- Cashew milk
- Soy milk
- Coconut milk
Whether it’s for health reasons or you’re caught short, these milk substitutes are bound to come in handy for finishing your mac and cheese recipe.
Pro Tip: Because the consistency and flavor will differ, you may want to combine your replacements with a bit of cheese mixture and taste it before adding to the entire batch.
Mac and cheese recipes often call for “regular” milk, which is meant to help create a creamy, rich consistency. For the sake of this post, “regular” milk means dairy skim, 1%, 2%, or whole cow’s milk.
Here are some substitutes for “regular” milk and how to use them in your mac and cheese recipes.
“REGULAR MILK” SUBSTITUTES FOR MILK IN MAC AND CHEESE
1. Sour cream
Sour cream is lovely in homemade mashed potatoes, but did you know that this dairy product also works great as a substitute for milk in mac and cheese?
Sour cream is a lot thicker than milk and has a different profile from dairy.
So when used as a replacement, expect that your mac and cheese possesses a tangy nuance and more creamy consistency.
We recommend including freshly minced garlic and other dried herbs in your recipe to balance out the tanginess of sour cream.
- Replace 1 c of milk with 1/4 c of sour cream + 4 T of water.
- Mix the sour cream with warm water and whisk before adding to the hot mac and cheese mixture.
2. Cream cheese
The mild and slightly sweet flavor profile of cream cheese makes it a great substitute for milk.
Another thing you need to keep in mind when using cream cheese is its thicker texture than milk.
So if you think that your mac and cheese is way too creamy, you can leave out the butter, and/or add an extra T of warm water to your cheesy mac.
Learn how to soften your cream cheese before adding it to the dish.
- Replace 1/2 c of milk with 2 T of cream cheese + 4 T of warm water.
- Melt the cream cheese in the microwave before adding it to the rest of your mac. Or melt in the saucepan with the rest of your cheese ingredients before adding the pasta.
3. Plain yogurt
Similar to sour cream, plain yogurt features a tangy note and creamier consistency than milk.
But before you use it as a substitute for milk in your mac and cheese, keep in mind this ingredient shouldn’t be heated too quickly.
If you do this, the water and fat of yogurt separate, creating a lumpy and watery mess, and you don’t want that.
To avoid this dilemma, be sure to heat the yogurt in a separate pan or microwave before adding it to the cheese sauce mix.
- Replace 1 c milk with 1/4 c of plain yogurt + 4 T of warm water.
- Whisk the yogurt and water together in a small bowl before adding.
4. Whipping Cream (Heavy Cream)
Yes, you can use whipping cream or heavy cream to substitute for milk when making macaroni and cheese.
It features an extra creamy consistency and richer taste, so it’s advisable to start with a smaller quantity and work your way up until you reach the desired texture.
Also, use orange cheddar cheese for the sauce to keep that bright yellow color in your mac and cheese.
- Replace 1 c of milk with ½ c of whipping cream + 4 T of water.
5. Goat Milk
When you compare goat milk with regular dairy milk, the former is slightly sweeter than the latter, but the two dairy products are similar in terms of consistency.
What’s more, goat milk has lower lactose content, meaning it may be a helpful milk replacement for those people with lactose intolerance.
- Liquid: Replace 1 c of “regular” milk with goat milk 1:1.
- Powdered: Replace 1 c of “regular” milk with 4 T of goat milk powder + water.
6. Evaporated Milk or Half-and-Half
Evaporated milk and half-and-half are excellent substitutes for milk in macaroni and cheese.
Because of its long shelf life, you can always rely on evaporated milk if you suddenly run out of “regular” milk or, let’s say—your refrigerated milk has gone bad.
Evaporated milk is a bit sweeter than regular milk, so you might need to thin the liquid out by adding water.
For half-and-half, which is a combination of whole milk and heavy cream, has a higher fat content than whole milk, but not as much as heavy cream. It’s about the same consistency as evaporated milk and can replace regular milk in the same ratio.
- Replace 1 c of “regular” milk with ¾ c evaporated milk (or half-and-half) + 2 T water (less or more water to taste).
7. Plain Coffee Creamer
Coffee creamer or “whitener” comes in liquid or powdered version, and each can be used in mac and cheese mixtures to add to the creamy consistency.
Make sure if you use the powdered kind, you dissolve it in warm water before adding to the saucepan.
Coffee creamer tends to be sweet, even when unflavored and plain.
It could be thin or thick, depending on brand or fat content, so add a little at a time and heat it through in the saucepan before adding the pasta.
Be sure to make sure you are using “plain” or “unflavored” on the coffee creamer label before adding to your mac and cheese mix.
NON-DAIRY SUBSTITUTES FOR MILK IN MAC AND CHEESE
- Liquid: Replace 1 c of “regular” milk with ¼ c plain liquid coffee creamer + 6 T water
- Powder: Replace 1 c of “regular” milk with 3 T of powdered coffee creamer dissolved in 6 T of warm water
- Mini-Moos: Replace 1 c of “regular” milk with 10 Mini-Moos individual coffee creamer cups
8. Almond Milk
Now let’s talk about plant-based milk alternatives for mac and cheese, shall we?
Almond milk is dairy-free milk made from raw almonds and freshwater.
And because it came from nuts, the milk is suitable for vegans and lactose-intolerant individuals.
This milk variety has a hint of nutty taste and could have a less creamy consistency.
Due to this, you may want to add a bit more cheese or butter (or vegan option of each) to make your pasta dish creamy and thick.
- Replace dairy milk with almond milk in a 1:1 ratio + ½ c additional shredded cheese or plant-based melting cheese.
9. Cashew milk
You can use cashew milk and dairy milk interchangeably.
Like almond milk, cashew milk is considered dairy-free.
It has a nutty flavor, so expect to have this flavor profile when using cashew milk in your pasta dish.
I’ve used a ½ t extra mustard in my mac and cheese mix to help cut the nutty flavor, but that might not be ideal for everyone.
- Replace dairy milk with cashew milk 1:1.
10. Soy Milk
Soy has a mild taste, and it’s generally less sweet than regular milk.
But the two are pretty similar in consistency, making soy milk another ideal substitute for milk in mac and cheese.
Remember, soy milk comes in unsweetened and flavored versions, and we recommend you avoid choosing vanilla-flavored soy milk so you won’t ruin the overall taste of your pasta dish.
- Replace 1 c of regular milk with 1 c of soy milk 1:1.
11. Coconut milk
If you’re running out of dairy milk for your mac and cheese recipe, but you have some coconut milk on hand, then use the dairy-free milk instead!
You can use coconut milk and dairy milk interchangeably. Coconut milk is so strongly flavored like coconut, though, we find that mixing it with other non-dairy products helps to cut the coconut.
For best results, be sure to use those canned and unsweetened full-fat versions of coconut milk.
The only downside of using coconut milk is its noticeable coconut flavor, which can significantly affect the taste of your mac and cheese.
To weaken that coconut flavor, add some water, butter, more cheese, a mix of other milk replacers, or herbs in your mac and cheese.
Always start with a little and taste as you go.
- Replace 1 c of dairy milk with 1/2 c of coconut milk + cheese, butter, herbs or a mix of other nondairy milks.
- Shake the can of coconut milk thoroughly before adding so the coconut liquid and fat combine.
Tips And Tricks
Here are some tips and tricks you need to consider when using these 12 substitutes for milk in your mac and cheese.
- Choose plain or unflavored and unsweetened dairy and nondairy options.
- Because the consistency and flavor of these substitutes differ, add just a touch to a small sample in a small dish and taste test.
- Use freshly minced garlic and other dried herbs into your pasta dish to balance out the tanginess of sour cream or yogurt.
- Cream cheese is naturally thicker than milk, so exclude the butter in your mac and cheese recipe.
- When using plain yogurt, it may be best to heat the yogurt slowly and gradually with warm water in a separate pan before adding it to the cheese sauce mix.
- Whipping cream is known for its extra creamy consistency, so start with a smaller quantity when replacing and work your way up until you reach the desired texture or your mac and cheese may end up too dry for your liking.
- You can thin out the consistency of your whipping cream by adding water.
- If you want to avoid dairy products, try almond milk, cashew milk, soy milk, and coconut milk (not mentioned here: rice milk or oat milk work too, in a ratio similar to soy milk).
- Thin out the coconut flavor of your coconut milk by adding cheese, butter, water, a mix of other substitutes or replacers, and aromatic herbs into the mix.
🌰 🌰 Does almond milk go bad? 🌰 🌰
The bottom line
Your mac and cheese dish won’t be quite complete without milk. It’s one of the key ingredients in making the all-time favorite pasta recipe.
Mac and cheese recipes often call for “regular milk”, which for the sake of this post means skim, 1%, 2%, or whole cow’s milk.
But before you use the alternatives above, add a bit to a side sample of the hot cheese mixture and taste test, as some of these replacements may not work well in your mac and cheese.
- ¼ c sour cream
- 4 T warm water
- In a medium bowl, whisk together 1/4 c of sour cream and 4 T of warm water.
- Add as you would the “regular” milk to the hot cheese mixture.
- If no instructions are available, add the diluted sour cream to the saucepan, preferably before your cooked macaroni is added to give the sour cream a chance to meld with the cheese.
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