I’ve personally tried and tested 14 different butter substitutes in mac and cheese, so you don’t have to.
Here’s the quick answer.
The best butter substitute for kraft mac and cheese is cream cheese. You can swap the butter for cream cheese in a 1:1 ratio. Sour cream, bacon grease, and shredded cheese are also great options. For a dairy-free butter substitue, try margarine, pumpkin puree, or oil. Low-fat yogurt is a healthy substitute.
Can I make kraft mac and cheese without butter?
Yes, you can make kraft mac and cheese without butter.
The butter in kraft mac and cheese is simply there to add a richer flavor and give the sauce a thicker texture, but it’s not an essential ingredient.
You can either leave it out completely or substitute it with something else like cream cheese.
Read next: Kraft Mac and Cheese Without Milk
A note on my experiment
My experiment consisted of me making lots of little batches of kraft mac and cheese and using a different butter substitute in each one.
I tasted each batch and noted any changes in the texture and flavor of the mac and cheese.
Butter adds richness and depth of flavor to kraft mac and cheese and gives the sauce a thicker, clingier texture. I was interested in which replacements best replicated this.
I’ve listed all of the substitutes I tried in the table below:
|Margarine||Sub in a 1:1 ratio||10/10|
|Cream cheese||Sub in a 1:1 ratio (add some water or milk to thin the sauce if needed)||10/10|
|Cheese||Replace the butter with a handful of shredded cheese||10/10|
|Greek yogurt||Sub in a 1:1 ratio||9/10|
|Sour cream||Sub in a 1:1 ratio||9/10|
|Bacon grease||Replace butter with half the amount of bacon grease||9/10|
|Ricotta||Sub in a 1:1 ratio||8/10|
|Heavy cream||Replace 1/4 of the milk with heavy cream||7/10|
|Mayonnaise||Sub in a 1:1 ratio||6/10|
|Ghee||Sub in a 1:1 ratio||9/10|
|Pumpkin puree||Sub in a 1:1 ratio||6/10|
|Peanut butter||Replace butter with half the amount of peanut butter||6/10|
|No substitute||Follow the instructions, skipping the butter||5/10|
|Oil||Replace butter with 1/4 the amount of oil||6/10|
The best butter substitutes for kraft mac and cheese
Below I go into more detail on each substitute.
Kraft specifically states you can use butter and margarine interchangeably in their recipes.
Both ingredients are very similar in texture and flavor, so you’re unlikely to notice much difference in your final dish.
Psst… any vegan butter substitute will work!
How to substitute: replace butter with margarine in a 1:1 ratio.
Cream cheese is a perfect butter substitute for kraft mac and and cheese because it adds both a creamy texture and a rich flavor.
And you have loads of different flavors to pick from.
Anyone for garlic cream cheese mac and cheese, or how about black pepper? My personal go-to is sun-dried tomato cream cheese.
You can also use a low-fat version if you’re watching the calories.
How to substitute: replace butter with cream cheese in a 1:1 ratio. It’s thicker than butter, so cut it with water or milk if you want a thinner sauce.
The clue is in the name… mac and cheese.
The cheese will melt into your mac and cheese, turning the sauce into a sticky, cheesy delight. You won’t even notice the butter is missing.
I went for a simple American cheese for my test, but I don’t think it would be possible for cheese to ruin your mac and cheese, so go ahead and add whatever you have in your fridge!
Cheddar, parmesan, feta, or even goats cheese will all be delicious.
Shredded cheese is best because it melts quickly.
How to substitute: replace the butter with a small handful of shredded cheese, add the cheese in slowly so it doesn’t all clump together. You might need to add a splash more milk to thin the sauce.
Cream cheese gave my mac and cheese a heavier feel. If you want a lighter substitute, try greek yogurt.
It has a tangy but not overwhelming flavor, and its thicker texture gives the sauce some body.
It’s also better for you than butter!
Make sure to get unflavored, unsweetened Greek yogurt. Plain yogurt would also work. And as with cream cheese, you can use a low fat version if you want.
How to substitute: replace butter with Greek yogurt in a 1:1 ratio. Add more if you want more of a tangy taste, but then reduce the amount of milk.
Sour cream is very similar to Greek yogurt but with a less pronounced flavor.
My mac and cheese tasted creamy and had a nice smooth texture.
Sour cream wasn’t a standout option for me, but it certainly wasn’t offensive. If you don’t like the flavor of greek yogurt but want a light sauce, sour cream is perfect.
How to substitute: replace butter with sour cream in a 1:1 ratio. Add more if you want more of a tangy taste, but then reduce the amount of milk.
Sadly I couldn’t get my hands on any bacon grease in time for my experiment, but I am in no doubt that this would be a top-notch substitute.
I can’t think of a better flavor to go with cheese than bacon, and the buttery texture of the grease would create a nice consistency sauce.
Psst… duck or chicken fat would also be amazing.
Read next: best substitutes for bacon grease
How to substitute: replace butter with half the amount of bacon grease and then add more to taste. You don’t want the sauce to end up oily.
Ricotta is commonly used in other types of pasta, so I decided to try it as a substitute in my mac and cheese.
The thick texture of the cheese thickened the sauce nicely, and there was a creamy flavor to the dish, but it wasn’t overwhelmingly cheesy.
You can also consider other soft cheeses such as cottage cheese.
How to substitute: replace butter with ricotta in a 1:1 ratio. It’s a little thicker than butter, so use slightly less if you want a thinner sauce.
Using cream in your mac and cheese helps replicate the effect of butter by adding extra fat.
Cream is a good swap if you want a thicker sauce but don’t want to alter the dish’s flavor.
The cream didn’t change the taste of my mac and cheese, but I felt it lacked the richness of butter.
I recommend adding some extra flavors in like garlic powder or chili flakes for a boost.
I used heavy cream, but if all you have in your cupboard is light cream or half and half they will work as well.
Related: light cream substitutes
How to substitute: swap some of the milk for cream. I swapped ¼ of the milk for heavy cream, and this worked well. If you have a lighter cream, swap more.
Mayonnaise lasts forever in the fridge, so most people have a jar hiding somewhere.
The smooth consistency lends itself to the mac and cheese, and you end up with a silky smooth sauce.
There was no overpowering mayonnaise taste, but there was a background sweetness that some people might find off-putting.
Mustard goes really well with mayonnaise, so consider adding a small amount of mustard too. This will give the mac and cheese a bit of heat and counteract the sweetness.
How to substitute: replace butter with mayonnaise in a 1:1 ratio.
If you happen to have some ghee in your fridge you can 100% use this in place of butter.
Ghee is butter that’s been treated so all the water has evaporated, leaving behind the milk solids.
It has a nuttier flavor compared to butter, but you don’t notice this in the mac and cheese. The sauce was just a tad richer (in a good way!).
How to substitute: replace butter with ghee in a 1:1 ratio.
Pumpkin lattes, pumpkin pies… why not pumpkin mac and cheese?
Pumpkin puree is sweet and thick, so it changes the essence of the mac and cheese quite a lot.
The sauce was much thicker, and the dominant flavor was pumpkin.
I think this will be a divisive option. If you like pumpkin, go for it, but if the thought of it repulses you – give it a miss.
You don’t have to limit yourself to pumpkin puree either. Other veggie purees would work as long as they’re not too watery. Mashed avocado, squash, or corn are all acceptable butter substitutes.
How to substitute: replace butter with pumpkin puree in a 1:1 ratio.
I know, this one sounds strange. Mac and cheese with peanut butter?
But as the saying goes, don’t knock it until you try it!
There was a hint of nuttiness to the dish, but it wasn’t overpowering. And the peanut butter gave the sauce a creamy mouth feel.
Stick with smooth peanut butter because crunchy bits in mac and cheese is a step too far.
You can also use other types of nut butter (mmm almond butter, anyone?) or even tahini.
How to substitute: replace butter with half the amount of peanut butter and add more to taste.
No substitute (just milk)
If you have nothing in the cupboard but milk and mac and cheese, then you can just skip the butter.
Butter isn’t an essential ingredient in kraft mac and cheese. It’s just nice to have.
The sauce may seem a little thinner, but you can solve this by heating the pasta for longer than usual to cook off any excess milk.
The main issue with this method is the lack of flavor, the richness that butter brings is missing. You can compensate for this by adding extra flavors such as garlic powder, chilis, or some chicken bouillon powder.
How to substitute: follow the instructions but just skip the butter.
Oil seems like a sensible swap for butter, but you need to be careful not to add too much.
I did and my mac and cheese had a slimy feel and an oily flavor that wasn’t great.
Add the oil in slowly mixing and tasting as you go to avoid repeating my mistake!
You can go with any oil you have available, just be aware of its flavor. I used olive oil in my experiment.
But I could also wee something like sesame oil or coconut oil being quite nice.
How to substitute: replace butter with 1/4 the amount of oil and add more if needed.
Kraft Mac And Cheese Recipe Without Butter
- 6 cups water 1.4L
- 1 pack Kraft macaroni and cheese
- 1/4 cup milk
- 4 tbsp butter substitute
- Bring the water to a boil in a medium saucepan.
- Add the macaroni and cook for 7-8 minutes until it's got an al dente texture.
- Drain the pasta, but do not rinse!
- Immediately stir in the milk, cheese powder mix, and your chosen butter substitute.
- Add in any extra flavor boosters you want to like bacon, tomatoes, peas, hot sauce, herbs, or spices.
- Mix until everything is well combined.