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Hamburger Helper Without Milk – I Try 13 Substitutes [Pics]

We all know that feeling. 

When you open your fridge to grab the milk, and it’s not there (or worse, it’s there, but the carton is empty).

How are you supposed to make your Hamburger Helper now?!

To help in this exact situation, I’ve personally tried and tested 13 milk substitutes for Hamburger Helper.

If you’re vegan or lactose intolerant, there are tasty solutions in here for you too!

So, what’s the best substitute for milk in Hamburger Helper?

The best milk substitute for Hamburger Helper is finely shredded cheese. Add a handful of shredded cheese for a standard box of Hamburger Helper. Other milk substitutes for Hamburger Helper include cream cheese, cream, butter, evaporated milk, vegan milk, stock, sour cream, powdered milk, and mayo.

The experiment

I cooked up a few boxes of Hamburger Helper (I used lasagne flavor), portioned it out, and added a small amount of each substitute to the portions.  

The milk adds a creamy element to the dish, so I was looking to replicate that.

In most cases, I just used extra water and then added a spoonful of the creamy substitute at the end.

I’ve gone through exactly how to use each substitute in the ‘method’ sections below.

The best substitutes for milk in Hamburger Helper – 13 options

  • Water – sub in a 1:1 ratio
  • Cream cheese – add in at the end (replace milk with water)
  • Sour cream – add in at the end (replace milk with water)
  • Shredded cheese – add in at the end (replace milk with water)
  • Vegan milk – sub in a 1:1 ratio
  • Butter – add in at the end (replace milk with water)
  • Evaporated milk – mix with water to create a milk like liquid
  • Powdered milk – mix with water to create a milk like liquid
  • Cream – mix with water to create a milk like liquid
  • Stock – sub in a 1:1 ratio
  • Mayonnaise – add in at the end (replace milk with water)
  • Wine – add in a small amount, alongside extra water
  • Coconut milk/cream – mix with water to create a milk like liquid

This isn’t an exhaustive list.

Anything that adds a creamy, fatty element to the dish will work.

Or you can choose to add something to enhance another flavor element of the dish. 

For example, you could add Worcester sauce to give the Hamburger Helper an umami kick.

Remember that you can also mix and match substitutes such as stock and cream to get the perfect dish for you.

Get creative!

Results summary

SubstituteTasteTextureVerdict
WaterLess creamyNo differenceFine*
Cream cheeseFull-bodied, creamySlightly thickerGreat
Sour creamSlightly tangySimilar to milkDifferent
Shredded cheeseCheesy and deliciousThicker, stickierMy favorite*
Vegan milkNice and subtle (oat milk)No differenceGreat
ButterDecadent, butteryA little greasierDecent
Evaporated milkExtra creaminessSimilar to milkGreat
Powdered milkNo differenceNo differenceGreat
CreamCreamier (can adjust)Similar to milkGreat
StockMore savorySimilar to milkGood
MayonnaiseSlightly sweetSimilar to milkOkay
WineLess creamySimilar to milkOkay
Coconut milkSweet, coconuttySimilar to milkDisliked*
* See individual sections for extra detail

The big winner for me was the shredded cheese. 

For a rich and creamy finish that may be even better than milk, use cheddar cheese (though pretty much any shredded cheese will work).

A few of the substitutes (I’m looking at you coconut milk) added a flavor that didn’t compliment the dish. 

I go through each substitute in more detail below.

Water

If you’re in a real bind, you can replace milk with good old tap water. 

It’s easy, convenient, and pretty much free.

The main difference between water and milk is richness. 

Water doesn’t contain any fat (low calorie!), so the sauce will be less creamy than usual.

This effect will be more pronounced in recipes like the cheeseburger hamburger helper, which calls for a significant amount of milk.

Method

When you substitute with water, you can use a 1:1 ratio. 

As the lasagna calls for ½ cup of milk, that’s the exact amount of extra water I used.

If the sauce seems a little thin, simply keep heating it, and the excess water will evaporate. 

Verdict

Taste: less creamy and rich.

Texture: pretty similar.

Overall: good in a pinch, but it’s better if you can use something creamier.

Cream cheese

You can probably guess without my help that using cream cheese has the potential to give you a richer, creamier result than milk.

But you can adjust the amount you use to your taste.

Other soft cheeses will also work, for example, ricotta or cottage cheese (but you’ll have to accept a few lumps!).

Method

Replace the milk in the recipe with water, and then stir in the cream cheese at the end until the sauce is smooth. 

For every cup of milk required in the recipe, use 1-2 tablespoons of cream cheese.

Taste and add more if you want.

Verdict

Taste: full-bodied and creamy, yummy.

Texture: slightly thicker sauce but in a good way.

Overall: great substitute.

Sour cream

Sour cream is a controversial one. 

If you know you don’t like sour cream, steer clear. 

But if you haven’t tried sour cream mixed into your food, it’s worth a try.

I thought the sour cream added a nice tang that complimented the sauce, and you can always add less to avoid a strong flavor.

Creme fraiche and plain yogurt are similar to sour cream in the sense that they have a slightly ‘tangy’ flavor too. 

Method

Use 2 tablespoons of sour cream per cup required of milk. 

In the case of the lasagna, that would be 1 tablespoon of sour cream to start with.

Replace the milk in the recipe with water, and then stir in the sour cream at the end. Taste the dish and add more sour cream if needed. 

Verdict

Taste: tangy, maybe not suitable for fussy eaters.

Texture: similar to milk.

Overall: a bit different, but you might really like it.

Shredded cheese

There’s always some sort of cheese in my fridge, and hopefully in yours too!

As the better brother of milk, it’s easy, flavorful, and creamy as heck. 

You can use any type of cheese here. 

I used cheddar, but parmesan or mozzarella would also work. You could even use something like blue cheese if you’re feeling adventurous. 

Method

Cook your hamburger helper with water to replace the milk, then add the shredded cheese at the end. 

Mix the cheese in until it’s melted 

Sprinkle a little for a light sauce, or go big with a handful and let your tastebuds sing.

Verdict

Taste: delicious, better than milk.

Texture: a thicker, stickier sauce.

Overall: my favorite substitute. 

Vegan milk

You can use any vegan milk to substitute regular milk in hamburger helper, as long as you’re using the unsweetened, unflavored version.

I would recommend oat milk (which I tried) because I think it’s the most similar to dairy milk.

It has the same creamy flavor. 

However, almond milk, soy milk, or even rice milk will work. 

If you like the taste of the milk, then you can’t really go wrong. 

Method

Substitute in the vegan milk in a 1:1 ratio. 

When you get to the part of the recipe that requires milk, do your thing as usual, but with your vegan option.

If your recipe calls for a lot of milk, and you don’t want to alter the flavor too much, consider adding less milk and topping up the liquid with water. 

Verdict

Taste: oat milk was similar to cows’ milk but slightly sweeter.

Texture: the same as cow’s milk.

Overall: an excellent vegan option.

Butter

You don’t have to be Paula Deen to appreciate the many uses of butter. 

Butter is a great way to add a kind of nutty moisture to your dish and can help replace what’s lost from the milk. 

Margarine will also work.

And if you’re not afraid of the calories, bacon grease will blow you away with flavor.

Method

I added 1 tablespoon of butter per cup of milk required in the recipe.

Instead of adding it where the milk would normally go in, mix the butter in with the finished dish at the end.

Use extra water to account for the loss of liquid.

Verdict

Taste: the sauce tasted more decadent and buttery.

Texture: a bit slippery in the mouth, avoid if the dish is already greasy.

Overall: a decent substitute, but it wasn’t my favorite.

Evaporated milk

Evaporated milk is just milk with about 60% of the water removed. 

It’s a shelf-stable milk substitute that you may have on-hand for baking recipes.

WARNING: check you have evaporated milk, not condensed milk. 

Condensed milk has added sugar and will ruin your hamburger helper (I made this mistake with Kraft Mac and Cheese once). 

Method

Since evaporated milk is more concentrated than regular milk, you won’t need to add as much.

I would add half the amount called for, and then add half the amount of extra water.

Add the evaporated milk when you are supposed to add the regular milk.

Verdict

Taste: similar to milk, but with extra creaminess.

Texture: similar to milk.

Overall: a great substitute.

Powdered milk

Powdered milk is milk but with 100% of the moisture removed. 

It’s great for those who don’t generally keep milk in the house because it doesn’t go off. 

So if you’re not a big milk drinker, it’s worth getting some of this to keep in your pantry.

Once you mix it with water, it’s exactly the same as milk.

Method

Prepare the powdered milk according to the package instructions.  

Once you’ve turned the powdered milk into liquid milk, add it into the recipe where you’d normally add regular milk in a 1:1 ratio.

Verdict

Taste: no difference to regular milk. 

Texture: no difference to regular milk.

Overall: perfect if you have it to hand.

Cream

Cream isn’t something loads of people keep in the fridge, but if you happen to have some, now is the time to use it.

You can add as little or as much cream as you want.

Remember it’s pretty rich (and calorific), so the more you add the heavier your dish will become.

Method

Add half the amount of cream to your recipe than milk called for – make up the difference with water.

As an example, you’d use 1/4 of a cup of cream for the lasagna recipe that requires ½ cup of milk. Then, you’d add ¼ cup of water.

Add it in when you’d normally add the milk. 

If you feel you want more cream nearer the end, add it in a tablespoon at a time. 

Verdict

Taste: creamier than just using milk, but can dilute with lots of water if you want.

Texture: similar to milk.

Overall: a good substitute.

Stock

Stock is a great option because it’s a staple in most kitchens.

Even if you don’t think you have any – check your cupboards!

You might find a can hiding away in the back.

Low sodium stock is best because otherwise, the hamburger helper can get overly salty.

I used chicken stock, but beef or vegetable stock is fine too.

Method

Add the same amount of stock that you’d add milk to your recipe.

If you don’t have reduced sodium stock, I recommend using half stock, half water. 

Verdict

Taste: more savory than usual, not creamy but still nice.

Texture: similar to milk.

Overall: a good option, but would be better mixed with something creamy like cheese.

Mayonnaise

Mayonnaise is a popular substitute for dairy products because it adds richness. 

You can use regular or vegan mayonnaise.

If you’re not sure how long the jar has been hanging around in the fridge, taste it before adding it to your hamburger helper.

You don’t want to use funky tasting mayonnaise.

Method

For every cup of milk required, substitute with 1-2 tablespoons of mayonnaise (and make up the liquid required with water).

Add the mayonnaise in at the end, mixing well to combine.

Verdict

Taste: slightly sweet, I wasn’t a fan (but I don’t like mayonnaise).

Texture: similar to milk.

Overall: okay if you like mayonnaise, but don’t add too much.

Wine

This was a last-minute addition to my test, hence why it’s at the bottom.

But I saw it suggested online and had to try it. 

Convenience-wise, wine doesn’t top the list (but I always tend to have a bottle in my fridge). 

You can use red or white wine, whichever goes with your dish better.  

Method

Wine should be used as a flavorful addition, not a replacement for the milk.

I used a ¼ cup of wine per box of hamburger helper, and used water to make up the rest of the liquid. 

Add the wine when you’d normally add the milk. 

When the pasta is cooked, the alcohol will have cooked off. 

Verdict

Taste: the creaminess milk brings was lacking, but the dish had more depth than with only water.

Texture: similar to milk.

Overall: okay if it’s the only thing you have, but other substitutes are better. 

Coconut milk/cream

Coconut milk is creamy – which is what we’re missing, so I wanted to try it out as a substitute.

You could also use coconut cream, but be conservative with how much you add. 

You don’t want to overwhelm the dish with the coconut flavor.

Method

For every cup of regular milk required in the recipe, add ¼-½ a cup of coconut milk and make up the difference with water. 

You can add more to taste later on. 

If you’re using coconut cream, use slightly less.

Add the coconut milk in when you’d normally add the milk.

Verdict

Taste: I wasn’t a fan of coconut in my lasagne.

Texture: similar to milk.

Overall: I wouldn’t recommend this option unless you have a HH flavor that coconut would compliment.

Hamburger Helper Without Milk – Substitutes

In this short recipe, I show you the best substitute for milk when making Hamburger Helper.
5 from 1 vote
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Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: hamburger helper, hamburger helper without milk
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 1 person
Calories: 270kcal

Ingredients

  • 1 portion Hamburger Helper any variety
  • 1 portion water
  • 1 portion cream cheese
  • 1 portion sour cream
  • 1 portion shredded cheese
  • 1 portion vegan milk oat, almond, soy, etc
  • 1 portion butter or margarine
  • 1 portion evaporated milk NOT condensed
  • 1 portion powdered milk
  • 1 portion cream
  • 1 portion stock
  • 1 portion mayo or vegan mayo
  • 1 portion wine red or white
  • 1 portion coconut milk or coconut cream

Instructions

  • Cook the Hamburger Helper according to the packet instructions.
  • Add your chosen milk substitute at the appropriate cooking time.
  • Mix until thoroughly comined and serve.

Notes

See post for detailed method notes for each substitute. Some require adding in place of milk, and others you can mix in at the end of cooking and omit the milk completely.

Nutrition

Serving: 100g | Calories: 270kcal

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