You grab your boxed mac and cheese out of the cupboard, get a pan ready, and then BAM.
You’ve run out of milk.
SURELY there’s a quick and easy fix without that tastes nice and doesn’t involve going to the store?
There is. I’ve personally tried and tested 12 different milk substitutes in 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 90g of shredded cheese for a standard 7.25oz box of mac and cheese. Other milk substitutes for mac and cheese include cream cheese, heavy cream, butter, evaporated milk, olive oil, pasta water, and a roux.
A note about my experiment and how I’ve tested each substitute:
For the purposes of this experiment, I cooked up a whole box of Kraft Mac and Cheese and divided it into 12 equal portions. I used the standard measurements of butter (4 tablespoons) and water (6 cups) to cook the macaroni.
I then incrementally added small amounts of the milk substitute to each dish and noted down the results.
The Best Milk Substitutes For Mac and Cheese
I’ve listed all of the substitutes I tried in the table below, along with my thoughts on how each one impacted the dish.
Overall, I was most impressed with the shredded cheese, cream cheese and heavy cream. That said, a lot of the substitutes I list below work perfectly fine to replace milk in the mac and cheese.
|Shredded cheese||Cheesy||Slightly thicker||Great|
|Cream cheese||Creamy & slightly cheesier||Thicker||Great|
|Heavy cream||Not much difference||Creamier||Great|
|Butter||Rich & less cheesy||Slightly thicker||Great|
|Evaporated milk||Not much difference||Creamier||Great|
|Olive oil||Possibly to oily||Slightly slimey||Good|
|Pasta water||Less cheesy||A little thin||Good|
|Soya milk||Slightly sweet||Not much difference||Good|
|Sour cream||Tangy||Not much difference||Too tangy|
|Almond milk||Distinctive||Not much difference||Tasted strange|
|Greek Yogurt||Sweet & Tangy||Slightly thicker||Tasted strange|
|Condensed milk||Too sickly and unpleasant||Creamier||Not recommended|
Honestly, if you have some cheese going spare, this is the ultimate way to substitute milk in your mac and cheese.
I made sure to finely grate the cheese as this helps it to melt quickly when adding it to the cheese powder and butter mixture.
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.
These measurements are for a regular 7.25oz box of Kraft macaroni and cheese. I’m sure this will also work fine for most other boxed mac and cheeses.
What types of cheese should I use?
Any hard block of cheese will work for this. I personally used parmesan, but cheddar and virtually all other hard cheese varieties will also work wonderfully.
Taste: Cheesylicious. (Is that even a word?).
Texture: A little thicker, but not so much that it’s an issue.
Overall: This is the next best thing for replacing milk. Heck, this is now going to be added even when I have milk on hand.
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 used 60g of cream cheese in place of Kraft’s recommendation of 1/4 cup of milk (60g).
This is basically a 1:1 swap and works well to not make the dish overly thick.
(measurements for a regular 7.25oz box of Kraft macaroni and cheese)
Taste: The mellow cheesiness within the cream cheese 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. Add a couple of teaspoons of hot water to the mix if it’s too thick.
Overall: Honestly, this is so good that I’ll be deliberately subbing in cream cheese going forwards.
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 alter the taste or texture (much) of your mac and cheese, heavy cream is the perfect substitute for milk.
How much heavy cream should I substitute for milk?
I went for a straight 1:1 substitution with no issues.
If you’re cooking a regular 7.25oz box of Kraft macaroni and cheese, this means adding 1/4 cup (59ml) of heavy cream.
Taste: Honestly, no noticeable difference in taste. (Great for mac and cheese purists).
Texture: Slightly 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.
Using extra butter makes the mac and cheese quite rich and slightly less cheesy. But it’s still delicious.
Go easy with how much extra you add. The dish already has a decent amount in it.
Butter works well as long as you make sure it’s all melted by adding it to a hot pan and mixing it thoroughly.
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.
You may choose to add more butter than me which is perfectly fine. Just make sure to stir it thoroughly enough so that it melts and blends in with the cheese powder before adding more.
Taste: A bit richer, can mask the cheese flavor if you’re not careful and add too much
Texture: A little thicker, not much.
Overall: Does a good job overall.
OK. Public Service Announcement: Evaporated milk and condensed milk are NOT the same.
This is mostly for my partner which 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. Here’s what I found.
Evaporated milk works 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
Mix 2 tablespoons evaporated milk with 2 tablespoons of cold 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.
Taste: No noticeable differences.
Texture: No noticeable differences.
Overall: Works fine. A great option if you have some evaporated milk ready to be used.
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) but with a little less richness compared to just adding butter alone.
If you like your mac and cheese creamy and thick, using a roux in place of milk is a great way of achieving that. All you need is a little extra flour and butter.
How to use a roux to replace milk in mac and cheese
- Add 2 tablespoons of butter to a pan and melt.
- Add 2 tablespoons of flour and whisk into the melted butter mixture until smooth.
- Cook for at least 60 seconds
- Add the mac and cheese to the pan and mix with all other ingredients (cheese powder, butter, macaroni).
Taste: Slightly 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. Great if you don’t have some of the other ingredients listed above.
Olive oil is OK at replacing milk. Nothing special though, but fine in a pinch if used sparingly.
I much prefer the methods I’ve listed above. This is where the substitutions either depend on:
- Personal preference
- Lack of other ingredients available to you
So with that warning out of the way, what did I think about using olive oil as a milk substitute in my mac and cheese?
The mac and cheese felt a little oily and dare I say it – a bit slime-y.
There’s potential that I went a little overboard on adding the oil. I definitely wouldn’t recommend subbing it in using a 1:1 ratio as 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 a little less) and continue to mix until the cheese powder has fully dissolved and coated the macaroni.
Taste: not much difference. Can taste the oil ever so slightly.
Texture: A little oily – I probably added too much oil initially.
Overall: Works fine.
Pasta water. Some call it ‘liquid gold‘.
It’s the water left behind after you’ve cooked the macaroni. Slightly cloudy and gray looking, it’s filled with starch and helps to bind the sauce to the pasta.
Why don’t they tell you this on the box?!
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.
Mix the pasta water with the cheese powder, butter, and macaroni and stir until the mixture is smooth and without lumps.
Continue to add extra tablespoons of pasta water if necessary until the cheese powder mixture has fully emulsified.
Taste: enhances the butter taste slightly, overall good though.
Texture: A little less thin. 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 slightly.
Overall: A good substitute, especially considering that you don’t need any other ingredients.
Soya milk is an interesting one. It adds 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 one of the above ingredients).
How much soya milk should I use in place of regular milk?
Use a 1:1 ratio. 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.
Taste: slightly sweet. 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 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 and sweet 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 though. 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.
What other milks can I use as a milk substitute in mac and cheese?
Most milk alternatives will work here. It mostly comes down to personal choice and what flavors you prefer. Some examples that I’ve seen mentioned online include:
- Rice milk
- Hempseed milk
- Oat milk
- Flaxseed milk
- Cashew milk
- Coconut milk
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.
Initially, I couldn’t really taste the difference between sour cream and using regular milk.
However, after trying another few mouthfuls a few moments later, the dish tasted quite tangy and unpleasant. For me, sour cream just doesn’t go with traditional mac and cheese.
How much sour cream should I use as a milk substitute?
If you’re set on using sour cream instead of milk, start by adding a single tablespoon and mixing it thoroughly with the cheese powder and butter.
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.
Taste: Tangy, unpleasant. Not what you want from mac and cheese.
Texture: A little gloopy. Maybe a tad thicker than usual.
Overall: Not recommended.
Yogurt is another milk substitute that will divide people. I preferred yogurt to sour cream, but did note a strong tang and additional flavor within the dish.
If you choose to substitute milk for yogurt, unflavored, unsweetened is best. I used an unflavored Greek yogurt for this test.
It was OK.
Taste: Noticeable flavor, tangy.
Texture: Not much difference. Very slightly thicker.
Overall: A fine substitute in a pinch.