I am a reader supported Holistic Health blogger trying to make an impact in the world. Through affiliate links and ads I may receive a small compensation which allows me to create quality content, at no additional cost to you. You can read my full disclosure here. Even sharing goes a long way 🙂
Mac and cheese is definitely the go-to meal for most of us. It’s always there for us with all its ingredients all-ready! Just mix it up and dinner’s ready! Easy for kids and family alike.
It’s like a meal on-repeat. But sometimes, it also gets a bit boring and bland. Many of us bring variations in it suiting our taste, but let’s change it up a bit more.
Today we will be looking at multiple options and substitutes for milk in mac and cheese to play with. For those who want a substitute either for health reasons (lactose intolerance), adopting a vegan lifestyle (cow’s milk is an animal-based product), or simply for a change in taste.
Mac and Cheese
Mac and Cheese is the simplest and may be the most customizable dish ever. It doesn’t even compromise on taste! You can make it as tasty as the number of calories you want yourself to have!
The most basic recipe of mac and cheese is to prepare the mornay sauce (also called the cheesy bechamel sauce), add it to the macaroni, and let it bake in oven. Add some grated cheese and parsley on the top. That’s it.
Now this mornay or cheesy bechamel sauce is the real game changer here. It has the minimum number of ingredients, and those too very flexible.
To make this sauce, combine melted butter and flour to create a roux, slowly add some milk on medium flame, while you stir. It will slowly begin to thicken, and that’s where you turn off the heat.
You mix in various types of cheeses and seasonings for the flavor of your choice.
We shared the basic recipe so that you know that where and for what purpose is milk used in mac and cheese. Also, what variations in the recipe would be required with certain substitutes of milk.
Of course, you can also enjoy just the noodles and cheese mixed with milk!
So, let’s begin with my top 10 substitutes for milk in mac and cheese!
1. Cream Cheese
For those who like their mac and cheese heavy and creamy, cream cheese is the way to go. With respect to taste, it has a mild sweet taste, very much like that of milk. So, the real difference is the heavy fat content of cream cheese, which adds to the taste as well. And because of that it has a rather thick consistency as compared to milk.
Cream cheese can be used just in place of milk in the recipe; no other variations needed. Cream cheese can be added as a 1:1 ratio as you would milk.
What makes cream cheese more exciting than milk is its various flavors. Herb-flavored cream cheese goes best with mac and cheese.
With cream cheese as a substitute for milk in mac and cheese, you have the option to skip butter. The creaminess and cheesiness of cream cheese is going to make up for it pretty well! About the added cheeses, it still goes with your choice and likeness.
2. Sour Cream
Sour cream works well for those who like a more out-of-the-box flavor than milk or cream cheese have to offer. It tastes tangy and less sweet than cream cheese. About consistency, it is slightly thicker than the cream, which works for a thick, creamy pasta.
Its place in the recipe is the same as that of milk. Same goes with its ratio in amount.
One thing that has to be mentioned here is that sour cream cannot go alone with the neutral mac and cheese. The tangy flavor needs to be balanced with dried herbs, more oregano, or minced garlic in butter. I suggest you take half a plant based milk and half sour cream ratio for the perfect balanced and at the same time different and complex taste in your sauce.
Top it with olives and grated cheese.
3. Plain Yogurt
Greek yogurt is equally effective, and goes the same way as does sour cream with mac and cheese. It also has a tangy taste, and its consistency is also very similar to that of sour cream.
You can simply replace milk with Greek yogurt in the same quantity as that of milk or sour cream. As with sour cream, if you like it tangy, well and good. But for a more balanced and in-line flavor, add some dried herbs, or milk. You can also use minced garlic sauteed with the butter for this purpose.
For yogurt, when it comes to heating the sauce and to let it simmer, keep it slow. Heating the yogurt too quickly can separate the fat and water parts of the yogurt resulting in splitting of the yogurt. And trust me, you don’t want that!
With yogurt comes that same Mediterranean, classic feel to your mac and cheese.
4. Whipping Cream
We are back with creamy, rich, and heavy sauce!
For those who want it rich, fatty, and heavy, whipping cream is the perfect substitute for milk in mac and cheese! When going for cream as a substitute for milk , I definitely suggest the whipping one. Because it goes well with the thickening agent made with flour and butter for the sauce since it has a thinner consistency.
Use it in the same quantity as that of milk. You can also go with half plant based milk and half-cream sauce.
Using whipping cream for milk will make your mac and cheese brighter, diluting its yellowness. But you can bring it back with orange cheddar.
5. Coconut Milk and Cream
Here comes a suggestion for people looking for a non-dairy substitute, plant based milks! The one distinctive thing about coconut milk is its coconut flavor, which is going to set your mac and cheese apart.
For not-so-big fans of the peculiar coconut flavor, balance it out with herbs and garlic. You can even use your favorite vegetables such as broccoli, capsicum, and carrots.
For a richer, creamier sauce and the same coconut flavor, substitute coconut milk with coconut cream, or go half-half with both. Half and half can also be done with coconut cream and regular milk if dairy is not an issue.
6. Almond Milk
Another non-dairy substitute! And I actually prefer almond milk over dairy milk in general.
Again, it has that distinct almond flavor. So, you either love it or hate it. But it is deemed as one of the best substitutes of milk in mac and cheese, and that too for the better!
Taking the almond lovers further, almond milk comes in both sweetened and non sweetened versions. Sweetened ones mimic the sweetness of the milk. Go with it only if you want that.
Since almond milk is thinner in consistency, don’t expect a rich, creamy sauce. To make up for that, use more cheese. Or you could also add more flour to the butter.
7. Soy Milk
Soy milk is the most natural and the very first non dairy substitute of milk in mac and cheese. Again, it has a very distinct love-hate flavor. So, when using soy milk, you need some additional ingredients as well.
It has the same consistency as that of milk. So, you can easily adjust the richness of your sauce with some cheeses, butter, and flour.
The sweetened version of soy milk might not be compatible with mac and cheese. But again, it all narrows down to individual preference and choice.
It also comes in flavors, for example, vanilla. Nobody wants a vanilla flavored sauce to go with mac and cheese. So, choose wisely!
8. Oat Milk
Oat milk could be the best non-dairy substitute of milk in mac and cheese. Because it does not have pungent or distinctive taste or flavor. It blends in with mac and cheese as naturally as does milk, and completely goes unnoticed.
It does have a little bit more sweetness than milk. Despite, it makes the same delicious, filling, classic mac and cheese for people with lactose intolerance.
When deciding between various versions of oat milk, go with the non sweetened one for the same basic, typical mac and cheese.
9. Cashew Milk
Cashew milk makes the perfect non dairy, nut based substitute for milk in mac and cheese. It has the same milk like flavor but rather rich and a silky and smooth consistency.
Cashew milk goes unnoticed, almost the same way as oat milk does. Simply replace regular milk with cashew milk in equal parts in the recipe.
With respect to the versions, I do suggest the unsweetened, unflavored one to go with the neutral flavors of mac and cheese and to look more like the regular milk.
10. Rice Milk
Rice milk is another suggestion for those looking for plant based substitutes. Rice milk is neither nut based nor dairy. So, it could be the best option for many.
What needs to be added is its consistency. It has almost water like consistency. So, you would be needing more cheese or butter and flour to make it rich, thick, and creamy.
About its flavor and taste, it tastes exactly like cow’s milk, and easily goes unnoticed.
Each substitute for milk in mac and cheese suggested above has its own distinct nutritional value, flavor, consistency, and variants. All the necessary details and suggestions have been mentioned for your ease. Weigh your preferences and needs and decide accordingly. Make sure you choose the supplement according to your taste otherwise it might not be as effective as it should be.
Above all, it’s always good to experiment. See what pleases and surprises your taste buds. The same mac and cheese could become a treat for you!