The Best Substitute For Milk In Mac And CheeseĀ 

What makes mac and cheese the ultimate comfort food is its thick, creamy sauce. Just the right amounts of cheese, milk, butter, and flour combine to create an irresistible taste and texture. But what if a craving for mac and cheese strikes when you don’t have milk at home or if you’ve cut milk from your diet? Is there a substitute for milk in mac and cheese? 

Substitutes for cow’s milk in mac and cheese include other dairy products such as cream cheese, heavy cream, sour cream, yogurt, evaporated milk, and goat’s milk. Vegan substitutes are almond, cashew, and macadamia nut milks, oat milk, soy milk, coconut milk, and hemp milk. 

Swapping out the milk will make mac and cheese taste different than your childhood favorite.

But pick your substitute ingredient well, and your taste buds shouldn’t feel cheated.

Whether you’re vegan or milk’s the only dairy you’re avoiding, you can take your pick among assorted mac-and-cheese-friendly milk substitutes. 

Can You Make Mac And Cheese Without Milk?

Milk is a star ingredient in classic mac and cheese.

The most popular recipes suggest you thicken milk with a mixture of flour and butter, then add grated cheese and ta-da! Your gooey, cheesy sauce is ready to be smothered over your macaroni.

Since milk forms a big part of the dish, will removing it make the dish flop?

Milk is key to mac and cheese’s success for two reasons.

Firstly, it adds a creamy flavor.

Secondly, its proteins help emulsify the fat and water in melted cheese to prevent greasiness. 

You might not be able to match traditional mac and cheese’s exact flavor and texture with milk-free recipes.

Still, plenty of substitutes do milk’s job pretty well – or perhaps even better! Here’s a round-up of the top milk substitutes for mac and cheese. 

Use Other Dairy Products Instead Of Milk In Mac And Cheese

Milk substitutes from the dairy group give mac and cheese milk’s dreamy creaminess. 

Switch milk for one of these stand-ins:

  • Cream cheese. Double up the cheese by using cream cheese instead of milk. Cream cheese’s mild flavor won’t strongly influence the dish’s overall flavor. 
  • Heavy cream. For something decadent, use heavy cream in place of milk. The cream will make the dish much richer than usual, so start with a mini portion!
  • Sour cream. Sour cream works well in mac and cheese, giving the dish a complex flavor and super-creamy texture. 
  • Yogurt. Plain yogurt (from nonfat to Greek) can take milk’s place in mac and cheese. Note: yogurt will give your mac and cheese’s flavor some tang.
  • Evaporated milk. Mix half water and half evaporated milk to create a milk substitute that will give your mac and cheese subtle sweetness. 
  • Goat’s milk. This is an extra-creamy alternative to cow’s milk. Like yogurt, goat’s milk has a tangy flavor, but it’s not so tangy that it’ll overpower the other flavors in your mac and cheese. 

Can You Use Almond Milk In Mac And Cheese?

It’s okay to make your mac and cheese with almond milk instead of regular milk.

But before you start pouring almond milk into your mixture, have a sip.

If you don’t like the taste of almond milk on its own, it’s unlikely you’ll like it in your mac and cheese.

You’ll actually intensify the milk’s flavor by heating it to make the sauce.

While all types of almond milk have a nutty, sweetish flavor, the taste of unflavored, unsweetened varieties tends to be closer to neutral.

Though, if you’re used to the taste of mac and cheese made with cow’s milk, you’ll notice a difference no matter what type of almond milk you use in its place. 

On top of flavoring your mac and cheese with an unexpected hint of nuttiness, almond milk will also change your dish’s consistency.

Almond milk is thinner and less creamy than cow’s milk, so your almond milk mac and cheese won’t be as thick and rich as the original. 

Another difference between almond and cow’s milk is that almond milk’s liquid and solid parts separate faster when heated.

If the almond milk in your sauce starts to separate, give it a good mix. 

Almond milk isn’t your only option for a dairy-free milk alternative. Here are a few other plant-based milk substitutes to try in your mac and cheese:

  • Oat milk. Oat milk’s thickish consistency (as far as plant milks go) and neutral taste make it one of the best milk substitutes for mac and cheese.
  • Soy milk. Like oat milk, soy milk is one of the thicker milk substitutes, making it a good pick for mac and cheese.  
  • Cashew milk. Cashew milk has an earthy flavor. It’s one of the creamiest nut milks. 
  • Macadamia milk. Macadamia milk tastes like macadamia nuts! It isn’t very thick, but it’s creamy-ish. 
  • Coconut milk. Before you swap cow’s milk for coconut, know that coconut milk tastes like coconut and will add an unusual flavor dimension to your mac and cheese. 
  • Hemp milk. Made by grinding soaked hemp seeds, hemp milk looks milky and tastes slightly nutty and sweet. 

Can You Swap Milk For Water In Mac And Cheese? 

Think twice before using H2O instead of milk in your mac and cheese, as it will water down the dish’s flavor and thin out its consistency. 

If water is all you’ve got, the following tips can give you better results.

Add stock to the water for a flavor boost, use some pasta water instead of tap water, or add a tablespoon of butter to every cup of water you use. 

Substitute For Butter In Mac And Cheese?

Butter has a double role in mac and cheese: it makes the dish richer and helps thicken the sauce. 

When making mac and cheese from a standard recipe, you’ll likely be instructed to mix melted butter and flour together.

This mixture thickens the milk part of the sauce.

Flour is the ingredient with thickening power, but if you mix plain flour and milk, you’ll get doughy clumps. The butter coats the flour, keeping the sauce smooth. 

To stop the flour from clumping, you need any type of fat, not specifically butter. The top swap for butter in mac and cheese is margarine. Ghee and vegetable oils also work. 

How Long Does Mac And Cheese Last? 

Supposing you don’t eat all the mac and cheese you’ve made in one go. Well, then you can refrigerate or freeze the leftovers for another day.

To keep your leftover mac and cheese safe to eat and tasty, pop it into an airtight container and put it in the fridge within two hours of cooking.

It should stay good for three to five days in the fridge. If your mac and cheese have been out of the fridge for more than two hours, toss it out. 

If you want to give your mac and cheese a longer shelf life, freeze it in an airtight container or tightly closed freezer bag. Your frozen mac and cheese will stay at its best for a month or two. 


Just because you’ve run out of milk or butter (or don’t eat these foods) doesn’t mean you need to miss out on one of the most satisfying meals around.

You can make scrummy mac and cheese with all sorts of milk alternatives, from other dairy products to plant milks or even water. 

Plus, feel free to swap out butter for another type of fat, like margarine, ghee, or oil.

While you’re at it, throw in some flavor-boosters like bacon, chopped sweet peppers, tuna, or shredded chicken.

So many winning meals have been created by imaginative chefs – experiment with different recipes to come up with a signature can’t-resist mac and cheese!