I’ve personally tried and tested 16 different milk substitutes for Kraft mac and cheese so you don’t have to.
In a rush? Here’s the short answer.
To make kraft mac and cheese without milk, replace the milk with an equal amount of stock. You can also use cream cheese, yogurt, shredded cheese, sour cream, or powdered milk as a milk substitute. For more dairy free substitutes, try soy milk or pasta water.
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.
I was looking for an easy to use substitute that replaced the creamy flavor of milk and helped the sauce to blend properly.
Here are all the substitute I tried:
|Shredded cheese||Add a handful of cheese and add some water to thin the sauce||Great|
|Cream cheese||Mix with water then sub in a 1:1 ratio||Great|
|Cream||Mix with water then sub in a 1:1 ratio||Great|
|Butter||Melt the butter and add a tablespoon at a time||Great|
|Evaporated milk||Mix with water then sub in a 1:1 ratio||Great|
|Stock||Up to a 1:1 ratio, but mix in slowly||Great|
|Powdered milk||Mix with water then sub in a 1:1 ratio||Great|
|Mayonnaise||Mix with water then sub in a 1:1 ratio||Good|
|Pasta water||Up to a 1:1 ratio, but mix in slowly||Good|
|Soya milk||Up to a 1:1 ratio, but mix in slowly||Good|
|Sour cream||Mix with water then sub in a 1:1 ratio||Good|
|Yogurt||Mix with water then sub in a 1:1 ratio||Good|
|Kefir||Add 1 tbsp at a time||Good|
|Olive oil||Add 1 tbsp at a time||A bit greasy|
|Almond milk||Up to a 1:1 ratio, but mix in slowly||Tasted strange|
|Roux||1 tbsp of butter and 1 tbsp of flour||Too much effort|
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 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 dairy-free butter alternatives for Kraft mac and cheese here).
The best milk substitutes for Kraft mac and cheese
Below I go into more detail on each substitute.
You can always mix and match the substitutes too. For example, you could mix some stock with a spoonful of mac and cheese for a flavor-packed substitute.
If you’re looking for a non-dairy substitue for milk in your Kraft mac and cheese, stock is a great option.
I used chicken stock because I always have some in my freezer, but any kind of stock or broth will do.
The pasta wasn’t as creamy as with milk, but the savory flavor the stock bought tasted delicious!
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 to substitute: replace the milk in a 1:1 ratio with stock. If you don’t want too much extra flavor added, dilute the stock with water before adding it.
Got a lonely tub of Philadelphia cream cheese in your fridge just begging to be used?
This is the solution for you.
Cream cheese will replace all the creaminess from the milk and more. And you can also play around with different varieties and flavors.
You can go for a low fat version to keep things (kind of) healthy.
Or get creative with my favorite flavor – sun dried tomato cream cheese.
Pssst… other soft cheeses like ricotta or cottage cheese would also work.
How to substitute: mix the cream cheese with water to thin it out then replace the milk in a 1:1 ratio. Or add slightly less if you’ve gone for a thicker cheese mixture.
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 substitute option.
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.
Pro tip: skip the pre-shredded stuff and grate it finely. This makes sure the cheese melts quickly enough (you don’t want to end up with a lumpy sauce1!).
Any good melting cheese will work as a substitute – vegan cheese too!
How to substitute: shred a handful of cheese to replace a 1/4 cup of milk. This is roughly a 1:1 ratio. To help thin the sauce, add a tablespoon or two of water along with the cheese.
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.
Psst… vegan cream would work as well.
How to substitute: mix the cream with some water to give it a milk-like consistency and then replace the milk in a 1:1 ratio. Use more cream for a richer result.
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 got my hands on some actual evaporated milk and tested that.
Evaporated milk is milk with around 60% of its moisture removed. To turn it back into milk, you can simply mix it in a 1:1 ratio with water.
The end result was indistinguishable from the version made with milk!
How to substitute: mixevaporated milk with water in a 1:1 ratio. Then replace the milk with this mixture in a 1:1 ratio.
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 to substitute: replace the milk with half the amount of pasta water and stir. If you need to add more liquid, add it in a tablespoon as a time. This ensures the sauce doesn’t end up too watery.
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 to substitute: replace the milk in a 1:1 ratio, making sure you’re using a plain unsweetened 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 to substitute: I would start by substituting the milk a 1:2 ratio and adding in more almond milk as needed. It’s more flavorful than soy milk, so this way you get the benefit of the milk binding the sauce while also introducing the new flavor gradually.
Sour cream is a dairy product so it’s got the creaminess that we’re looking for. But it will also add a tangy taste to your mac and cheese.
I loved it, because I thought it made the mac and cheese taste fresher, but my partner wasn’t so much of a fan.
If you like sour cream – this is a great substitute. If you don’t maybe give it a miss.
How to substitute: mix the sour cream with water to give it a milk-like consistency, then replace the milk in a 1:1 ratio with this mixture. Have a taste and decide if you want to add in any extra sour cream before serving.
Yogurt is another milk substitute that will divide people.
Just like sour cream, it will add a distinct sour note to your pasta
If you choose to substitute milk for yogurt, unflavored, unsweetened is best. I used an unflavored Greek yogurt for this test.
Psst… creme fraiche would also make a good substitute.
How to substitute: mix the yogurt with water to give it a milk-like consistency, then replace the milk in a 1:1 ratio with this mixture. If you want a thicker sauce, use less water.
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.
It will have a marginally sweeter flavor – but when you’re using it as an ingredient in a dish like mac and cheese, you’d won’t be able to tell the difference.
How to substitute: mix the powdered milk with water according the the packet instructions, then replace the milk in a 1:1 ratio.
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 you don’t want it ending up too greasy.
And make sure all the butter melts! It’s not pleasent chomping down on cold butter.
A tip is to cube the butter before adding it so it melts quicker.
How to substitute: start by adding a tablespoon of extra butter and ensuring it melts and blends in with the cheese powder/butter mixture. Add more to taste, and consider adding a splash of water to help bind the sauce.
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 to substitute: mix the mayonnaise with water to give it a milk-like consistency, then replace the milk in a 1:1 ratio with this mixture. If you want a thicker sauce, use less water.
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 its fermented nature, it’s filled with good bacteria to promote a healthy gut.
How to substitute: start by adding half the amount of milk called for and then add more to taste. The flavor is quite strong, so you don’t want to overwhelm the mac and cheese.
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 to substitute: add 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 a splash of water to help the sauce emulsify.
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 substitute: 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). Mix into the mac and cheese, adding a splash of water to thin the sauce.
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 Recipe
- 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)
- 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.
5 thoughts on “Kraft Mac and Cheese Without Milk – I Try 16 Substitutes”
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!
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.
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!
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.
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!