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Kraft Mac and Cheese Without Milk – I Try 16 Substitutes

I’ve personally tried and tested 16 different milk substitutes for Kraft mac and cheese, so you don’t have to.

Some of them were disgusting (I’m looking at you sweetened condensed milk) and some were actually better than plain old milk.

So, what’s the best substitute for milk in Kraft Mac and Cheese?

The best milk substitute for Kraft mac and cheese is finely shredded cheese. Add one handful of shredded cheese for a standard box of Kraft mac and cheese. Other milk substitutes for mac and cheese include cream cheese, heavy cream, butter, evaporated milk, olive oil, pasta water, and stock.

UPDATE: I originally tried 12 substitutes, but have recently tested 4 more.

Overall my verdict remains the same and shredded cheese still reins supreme. I’ve added a brief summary of each of the new substitutes to the bottom of the article.

A note on my experiment

For the purposes of this experiment, I cooked up a few boxes of Kraft Mac and Cheese and divided it into equal portions.

I used the standard measurements of butter and water to cook the macaroni.

I then incrementally added small amounts of the milk substitute to each dish, tasted it, and noted down the results. If the sauce needed thinning out a bit, I added a splash of water.

Substitutes for milk in Kraft Mac and Cheese – the 16 options

Here’s the list of all the substitutes I tried, and my recommendations on how much of each one to use.

  • Shredded Cheese – 1:1 ratio, mix some water in to thin the sauce
  • Cream Cheese – mix with water then mix in a tablespoon at a time
  • Cream – 2 tbsp of cream and 2 tbsp of water
  • Butter – melt the butter and add 2 tablespoons
  • Evaporated milk – 2 tbsp of evaporated milk and 2 tbsp of water
  • Roux – 1 tbsp of butter and 1 tbsp of flour
  • Olive oil – add 1 tbsp at a time
  • Pasta water – up to a 1:1 ratio, but mix in slowly
  • Soya milk – up to a 1:1 ratio, but mix in slowly
  • Almond milk – up to a 1:1 ratio, but mix in slowly
  • Sour cream – add 1 tbsp at a time
  • Yogurt – add 1 tbsp at a time
  • Powdered milk – mix with water, then 1:1 ratio
  • Stock – up to a 1:1 ratio, but mix in slowly
  • Mayonnaise – add 1 tbsp at a time
  • Kefir – add 1 tbsp at a time

I got into more detail on each substitute below.

The Best Milk Substitutes For Mac and Cheese

Milk adds creaminess to Kraft Mac and Cheese, so whatever substitute you use needs to replace that.

Overall, I was most impressed with the shredded cheese or cream cheese. They brought the creaminess I was looking for, and tasted great. Evaporated milk or light cream mixed with water were also great.

Pasta water, stock or an alternative milk (oat or soya) would be my go-to option if you’re trying to reduce your dairy intake (and you can check out butter alternatives for Kraft mac and cheese here).

ItemTasteTextureVerdict
Shredded cheeseCheesySlightly thickerGreat
Cream cheeseCreamy & slightly cheesierThickerGreat
Heavy creamNot much differenceCreamierGreat
ButterRich & less cheesySlightly thickerGreat
Evaporated milkNot much differenceCreamierGreat
Chicken stockMeaty and yummyNot much differenceGreat
Powdered milkVery similarNot much differenceGreat
RouxSlightly richerThickerOkay (a bit of effort)
MayonnaiseA bit sweeterSlightly thickerGood
Pasta waterLess cheesyThinnerGood
Soya milkSlightly sweetNot much differenceGood
Sour creamTangyNot much differenceGood but different
YogurtSweet & TangySlightly thickerGood but different
KefirSour & TangySlightly thickerGood but different
Olive oilPossibly to oilySlightly slimeyWasn’t a fan
Almond milkDistinctiveNot much differenceTasted strange
Condensed milkToo sickly and unpleasantCreamierNot recommended

Shredded Cheese

If you have some cheese going spare, this is the ultimate way to substitute milk in your mac and cheese. It was by far my favorite sub.

The cheese made my mac and cheese, well cheesier (luckily there’s no such this as too much cheese!), and the sauce was a little thicker.

Just make sure to finely grate the cheese because this helps it to melt quickly so you don’t end up with clumps.

How much cheese should I use?

I shredded 90g of parmesan cheese to replace the 1/4 cup of milk for an entire regular-sized box of Kraft mac and cheese.

This is roughly 50% more cheese than the equivalent weight of milk, but hey, I love cheese.

I recommend adding at least 60g of shredded cheese to replace the milk at roughly a 1:1 ratio.

If you want to thin the sauce, add a tablespoon or two of water.

What types of cheese should I use?

Any hard block of cheese will work for this.

I personally used parmesan, but you can use cheddar, or virtually any other hard cheese variety.

Verdict

Taste: Cheesylicious. (Is that even a word?).

Texture: Thicker, but not so much that it was an issue.

Overall: This is the next best thing for replacing milk. Heck, I’m going to add extra cheese even when I have milk on hand.

Cream cheese

Okay. So maybe shredded cheese just isn’t for you. Or maybe you don’t have any but do have a lonely tub of Philadelphia cream cheese just begging to be used.

This is the solution for you.

The best thing about using cream cheese is the variety and creaminess it adds.

Anyone for garlic cream cheese or cream cheese with sundried tomatoes?

Yes, I know the point is to not go to the store. But once you’ve tried cream cheese in your boxed mac & cheese, I doubt you’ll ever go back.

How much cream cheese should I substitute for milk?

I mixed my cream cheese with some water and then mixed 3 tablespoons of into my Kraft mac and cheese.

This worked well to not make the dish overly thick.

(measurements for a regular 7.25oz box of Kraft macaroni and cheese)

Verdict

Taste: The mellow cheesiness adds a subtle but delicious flavor to the dish.

Texture: Thicker. I recommend adding the cream cheese in a hot pan to ensure it melts and mixes well with the cheese powder and butter.

Overall: This was so good that I’ll be deliberately subbing in cream cheese going forwards.

Heavy cream

Heavy cream is a great alternative to milk, mostly because it doesn’t impact the flavor of the mac and cheese.

If you don’t want to make the dish too heavy or calorific, consider using less cream and mixing in some water as well.

How much heavy cream should I substitute for milk?

I mixed 2 tablespoons of cream with 2 tablespoons of water to replace the 1/4 cup of milk called for.

Feel free to change the ratios, more cream will give you a richer dish.

Verdict

Taste: No noticeable difference in taste. (Great for mac and cheese purists).

Texture: Creamier. Not much thicker than milk though, just a tad.

Overall: If you weren’t told that the milk was substituted, you probably wouldn’t know.

Butter

Using extra butter makes the mac and cheese quite rich and less cheesy. But it’s still delicious.

Go easy with how much extra you add – the dish already has a decent amount in it.

And make sure all the butter melts! It’s not pleasent chomping down on cold butter.

How much butter should I substitute for milk?

Start by adding 2 tablespoons (28g) of butter and ensuring it melts and blends in with the cheese powder/butter mixture.

This works out at roughly a 1:2 substitution ratio of butter to milk.

A tip is to cube the butter before adding it so it melts quicker.

Verdict

Taste: A bit richer, can mask the cheese flavor if you’re not careful and add too much.

Texture: Thicker, but not much.

Overall: Does a good job overall.

Evaporated milk

Spot the difference: pic shows condensed not evaporated milk

OK. Public Service Announcement: Evaporated milk and condensed milk are NOT the same.

This is mostly for my partner who accidentally got the wrong can from the store.

But don’t worry, after noticing the error – I still decided to try the condensed version as some bloggers claim you can use it. Hint: they 100% have not tried it. Yuk!

I tested the evaporated version after taking the photos of the initial batch and it worked well as a milk substitute, especially when you mix it with water beforehand.

Evaporated milk is made by heating it to remove half of its water content, so it makes sense to substitute regular milk for a 50:50 mix of evaporated milk and water.

The end result is a dish fairly similar in taste and consistency to using regular milk.

How to substitute evaporated milk for regular milk in mac and cheese

Mix2 tablespoons of evaporated milk with 2 tablespoons of water in a small bowl.

Next, add the evaporated milk and water mixture as you normally would to the mac and cheese, butter and cheese powder mix.

Verdict

Taste: No noticeable differences.

Texture: No noticeable differences.

Overall: Works fine. A great option if you have some evaporated milk ready to be used.

Roux

After reading some comments on a few food forums, I decided to try using a roux to replace the milk in the mac and cheese.

As you probably already know, a roux is normally used to thicken up a dish or sauce.

Therefore, the mac and cheese ended up thicker (as you would expect) and was less rich than simply adding in the extra butter.

The end result wasn’t really worth the effort though!

How to use a roux to replace milk in mac and cheese

  • Add 1 tablespoon of butter to a pan and melt.
  • Add 1 tablespoon of flour and whisk into the melted butter mixture until smooth.
  • Cook for at least 60 seconds (to cook off any raw flour flavour).
  • Add the mac and cheese to the pan and mix with all other ingredients (cheese powder, butter, macaroni). Add a few tablespoons of water to thin the sauce if you wish.

Verdict

Taste: Richer than with milk, but less so than just adding pure butter.

Texture: Thicker than usual.

Overall: Works well and doesn’t impart too much of a flavor change, but more effort than most of the other subs.

Olive oil

Olive oil was OK at replacing milk. I wouldn’t use it if you’ve got another option, but it’s fine in a pinch if you use it sparingly.

The mac and cheese felt oily and dare I say it – a bit slimey.

There’s potential that I went overboard when adding the oil, so I definitely wouldn’t recommend subbing it in using a 1:1 ratio like with most of the ingredients so far.

How much olive oil should I use instead of milk?

Start by adding 1 tablespoon of oil in with the cheese powder and butter. Mix well until all of the cheese powder has blended into a sauce.

If the cheese powder hasn’t fully dissolved, add another tablespoon (or slightly less) and continue to mix until the cheese powder has fully dissolved and coated the macaroni.

Verdict

Taste: I could taste the oil, which I didn’t like.

Texture: Slimey – I probably added too much oil initially.

Overall: meh, I wasn’t a fan.

Pasta water

Pasta water. Some call it ‘liquid gold‘.

It’s the water left behind after you’ve cooked the macaroni – which means everyone should have some (unless you’ve already thrown it away!).

Cloudy and gray looking, it’s filled with starch, which brings some creaminess, and helps to bind the sauce to the pasta.

Pro tip: use the minimum amount of water possible when you’re cooking the pasta to concentrate the starch.

Why don’t they tell you this on the box?!

How much pasta water should I use instead of milk?

I added the pasta water in place of milk in a 1:2 ratio. For a regular 7.25oz box of mac and cheese, this means adding 2 tablespoons of pasta water.

Continue to add extra tablespoons of pasta water if necessary until the cheese powder mixture has fully emulsified.

Verdict

Taste: enhances the butter taste, overall good though.

Texture: Thinner. You can combat this by continuing to heat the macaroni for a few seconds after you’ve mixed the ingredients in. As some of the water in the mixture evaporates, the dish will thicken.

Overall: A good substitute, especially considering that you don’t need any other ingredients.

Soya milk

Note: ANY dairy-free alternative milk will do. I didn’t try it but I think oat milk would be really nice because it’s super creamy.

Soya milk is an interesting one.

It added a touch of sweetness to the mac and cheese and has virtually the same consistency as milk.

I wouldn’t go out of my way to make this substitution, but it works well enough when you don’t have regular milk to hand (or don’t drink regular milk).

How much soya milk should I use in place of regular milk?

Use a 1:1 ratio, making sure you’re using a plain unsweetened milk.

As soya milk is quite similar to regular milk in many ways, it doesn’t make sense to change the ratio of what you add to the dish.

Verdict

Taste: Sweeter. Personal preference comes into play here. Not my favorite.

Texture: no difference.

Overall: If you already have soy milk at home, chances are you’ll like it enough to use it as a substitution.

Almond milk

Almond milk is one of the many types of alternative milks you may have in your refrigerator or cupboard. But unlike others, almond milk has quite a distinctive taste.

Along with soya milk, this is the only other alternative milk I’ve tried as a substitute.

And I didn’t like it.

The flavor is just way too distinctive to go well in such a savory and cheesy dish.

That said, you may personally love almond milk.

If you do, there’s no harm in giving it a shot. Just be sure you use plain almond milk, not the sweetened version.

How much almond milk should I use as a milk replacement?

I would start by using a 1:2 ratio and adding in more almond milk if necessary.

That way, you get the benefit of the milk binding the sauce and also introduce the new flavor gradually.

Verdict

Taste: Not for me. But if it’s in your cupboard, my guess is you like the taste. Avoid using almond milk that’s been sweetened.

Texture: No real difference.

Overall: This options really down to personal preference.

Sour cream

Initially, I couldn’t really taste the difference between sour cream and using regular milk.

However the more I ate, the tangier the flavor got. I loved it, but my partner wasn’t so much of a fan.

If you like sour cream – go for it.

How much sour cream should I use as a milk substitute?

Start by adding a single tablespoon and mixing it thoroughly into to dish.

If the cheese powder has formed into a nice, emulsified sauce, there’s no need to continue adding any more sour cream. Have a taste and decide if you’re happy.

Verdict

Taste: Slightly tangy.

Texture: A tad thicker than usual.

Overall: I would use it again if I was in the mood for something different.

Yogurt

Yogurt is another milk substitute that will divide people.

I preferred yogurt to sour cream, but I could still taste a strong tang to the sauce.

If you choose to substitute milk for yogurt, unflavored, unsweetened is best. I used an unflavored Greek yogurt for this test.

How much yogurt should I use as a milk substitute?

Adding a tablespoon at a time and mixing it into to dish until you’re happy with the taste and consistency.

Verdict

Taste: Noticeable flavor, tangy.

Texture: Not much difference. Very slightly thicker.

Overall: A fine substitute.

Powdered milk

Powdered milk is a great stock ingredient to have on hand in your cupboard.

If you don’t have any, pick some up with your next shop and you’ll never run out of milk again.

You can mix powdered milk with water and you have… you guessed it, milk. This makes this one of the best substitutes out there.

How much powdered milk should I use as a milk substitute?

Mix the powdered milk with water according the the packet instructions, then replace the milk in a 1:1 ratio.

Verdict

This was a perfect substitute, you’d be hard pressed to tell that I hadn’t used regular milk.

Chicken stock

I used chicken stock, but any kind of stock or broth will do.

When I tasted the pasta, it was obvious there wasn’t any milk in there. But I wasn’t disappointed, the salty stock tasted great with the pasta!

I recommend looking for a low-sodium version otherwise the dish can taste overly seasoned.

Pro tip: make your stock using the leftover pasta water to get some of the starch in there. This will thicken the sauce and add a touch of creaminess.

How much stock should I use as a milk substitute?

Replace the milk in a 1:1 ratio with stock.

If you don’t want too much extra flavor added, dilute the stock before adding it.

Verdict

I really like the flavor the stock added to the mac and cheese, it wasn’t that similar to milk but it certainly wasn’t bland.

A good substitute.

Mayonnaise

Mayonnaise… everyone has a jar hanging out in their fridge.

If it hasn’t been touched for months (years?!) then I’d suggest getting a new jar, but if it’s pretty fresh it can help add some creaminess into your mac and cheese.

Tip: mix in a pinch of mustard or ketchup along with the mayonnaise for some extra flavor.

How much mayonnaise should I use as a milk substitute?

I would add a tablespoon at a time of mayonnaise at a time until you’re happy.

Verdict

I’m not a fan of mayonnaise in general, so I didn’t like the sweet taste it gave my Kraft Mac and Cheese dinner.

But like other more flavorful substitutes, if you like the taste, you’ll probably love it in your mac and cheese.

Kefir

Fancy making your mac and cheese more healthy?

Swap the milk for kefir.

It has a similar tangy flavor to sour cream. And because of it’s fermented nature, it’s filled with good bacteria to promote a healthy gut.

How much kefir should I use as a milk substitute?

Start by adding a tablespoon and then add more to taste. The flavor is quire strong, so you don’t want to overwhelm the mac and cheese.

Verdict

Like with the other stronger flavored subs, if you like kefir then you’ll probably like it in your Kraft dinner.

And if you don’t – then don’t use it!

How to make Kraft mac and cheese without milk

To make Kraft mac and cheese without milk, cook the pasta as normal and measure out the required amount of butter and your milk substitute (see below for exact measurements).

When the pasta is cooked, mix in the butter, cheese powder and your chosen milk substitute until you’re happy with the taste and consistency of your mac and cheese.

Fun ways to jazz up Kraft mac and cheese

Think of your Kraft mac and cheese as a base waiting for you to get creative and add different things into it.

Here a few of my favorite ways to make Kraft mac and cheese better:

  • Bake it. Instead of serving it right off the stove, spoon the mixture into a heat proof bowl and then top it with more cheese. Put the bowl under the grill and heat it until the cheese is bubbling. You can also add some breadcrumbs or crushed chips for crunch.
  • Brown the butter before adding it. Browning butter is easy, you just melt it in a pan and heat it until it takes on a brown color. But the results are delicious… the butter takes on a rich, nutty flavor.
  • Try some Korean fusion by adding in gochujang paste and kimchi. You’ll get a nice background heat from the paste, and the kimchi will add some crunch. YUM.
  • Add extra protein or veggies. Have a look in your fridge and see what vegetables you have that are about to go off… the chop them up and add them to your Kraft dinner. Or make the meat more hearty by adding your favorite meat.

Related: The Best Egg Substitutes For Frying [I Test 9 Methods]

Kraft Mac and Cheese Without Milk

Whether you've just run out of milk or you're looking for a dairy-free option, I've got you covered with this milk-free Kraft mac and cheese recipe.
5 from 8 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: how to make Kraft mac and cheese without milk, milk substitute for kraft mac and cheese
Prep Time: 2 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 12 minutes
Servings: 1 person
Calories: 380kcal

Ingredients

  • 6 cups Water 1.4L
  • 1 pack Kraft Macaroni and Cheese
  • 1 Tbps Margarine or butter 55g
  • 1/4 cup Milk substitute (e.g shredded cheese, cream cheese, pasta water, almond milk, stock, sour cream)

Instructions

  • Boil the macaroni for 7-8 minutes in a pot of boiling water.
  • Drain the pasta once it reaches an al dente texture, don't rinse it! You don't want to overcook the pasta because it will continue to cook in the next step.
  • Immediately stir in the butter, cheese powder mix, and your chosen milk substitute.
  • Add in any extra flavor boosters you want to like bacon, tomatoes, peas, hot sauce, herbs, or spices.
  • Mix until all combined and you're happy with the consistency and serve.

Notes

If the sauce turns out a little thick, add a splash of water too thin it out.
If the sauce is too thin, simmer the mac and cheese for a bit longer to cook off the excess liquid.

Nutrition

Serving: 100g | Calories: 380kcal

5 thoughts on “Kraft Mac and Cheese Without Milk – I Try 16 Substitutes”

  1. 5 stars
    Thanks for this post! Yoghurt is my go-to when we are out of milk And I had never thought of SHREDDED Cheese. Total game changer!

    Did you know in Canada we call this Kraft Dinner? Whenever I see it written as Mac & Cheese I feel so sad that Americans can’t say they’re having KD for lunch!

    Reply
    • 5 stars
      this is such a useful post, thank you for your contributions to Mac and cheese science haha! and I’m impressed you tried the horror that was sweetened condensed milk, that had to be so awful 😭 we usually have evaporated milk on hand or heavy cream for baking. but often run out of normal milk, so this was really interesting to read all the other possibilities loated so neatly with taste and texture differences. why did I never think of just adding more cheese? and cream cheese sounds very intriguing, I will give that a go next time.

      Reply
  2. 5 stars
    Confused by the idea that using soy or almond milk would be vegan, isn’t Mac and cheese already a dairy product? Regardless, cool post, you definitely put a lot of work into this!

    Reply
  3. 5 stars
    I’m so glad I found this! I, ofcourse, found myself out of milk. Cream cheese is the option I chose and I won’t ever go back to milk now!! Thank you.

    Reply
  4. 5 stars
    Thank you!! This was me tonight. Trying to pull something together quickly, and then- no milk! I used two of your recommendations, cream cheese and pasta water. You mentioned that you mixed the cream cheese into hot water, so I figured why not use the past water? It was delicious!! Thank you for this experiment and all of your results. This is the kind of advice I love!

    Reply

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