With its pleasantly sweet aroma and soft creaminess, milk is just the ingredient you need for a perfect bowl of mac and cheese. It’s no wonder then that it’s also the one you always reach for when cooking.
But what if you have none? Should you just give up mid-cooking or run to the nearby shop? Well, you don’t have to — you can easily find a substitute for milk in mac and cheese. In fact, here’s a list of six fantastic dairy and plant-based options.
1. Plain Greek Yogurt
Plain Greek yogurt is an almost perfect substitute for milk in mac and cheese. But unlike milk, it has a tangy flavor that goes well with nearly anything and creamier consistency. That means your pasta will be a little thicker with it, but that might be exactly what you’re looking for!
Be careful when heating the yogurt, though. If you’re too quick about it, the water and fat in it might separate, leaving you with a lumpy mess. That’s neither delicious nor appetizing, so make sure to heat the yogurt separately at a lower temperature. Add it to the mix later, and you’ll get a perfect creamy meal!
And how exactly do you use plain Greek yogurt as a milk substitute? Well, follow this formula:
1 Tbsp milk = 1 Tbsp plain Greek yogurt.
In general, if you know how to prepare mac and cheese with milk, you’ll have no problem with yogurt!
2. Cream Cheese
If you want your substitute to have that familiar, milky flavor, no problem — just grab some cream cheese. It’s just as mild and slightly sweet as milk but with a different consistency. Namely, cream cheese is thicker and creamier, made to be spread on bread or toast. These qualities definitely make it an interesting substitute, though. Your mac and cheese is sure to taste extra cheesy!
Since you’ll get that extra creaminess from cream cheese, you can leave out the butter as well. In other words, this one ingredient can act as a substitute for two others. An excellent choice if you want to save up! And cream cheese is not too difficult to use either since the ratio is:
1 Tbsp milk = 1 Tbsp cream cheese.
For easier preparation, you may wish to melt or soften your cream cheese before adding it to the mix. Also, don’t hesitate to try out different cream cheese flavors — such as herb ones, for instance. They’ll give your pasta a unique taste that you might fall in love with.
3. Sour Cream
Though thicker than milk, sour cream has a similar overall texture, making it a perfect substitute. The taste is quite different, though — as its name alone suggests, sour cream is tangy and packs a stronger punch. There’s no milky sweetness to it, so you’re sure to notice a difference right away.
But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, you might even prefer the more sour version of mac and cheese and never wish to go back to the original. But if you want to neutralize the flavor, add some garlic or dried herbs to the mix. You’ll get a rather complex and rich but balanced taste.
Sour cream is easy to use as a substitute for milk in mac and cheese, as you don’t need to adjust the ratio. It’s:
1 Tbsp milk = 1 Tbsp sour cream.
You can also mix it up with milk for a more complex, richer sauce.
1. Almond Milk
If you’re looking for a vegan-friendly or non-dairy substitute for milk in mac and cheese, almond milk is an excellent choice. Many people are hesitant to try it due to its sweet and nutty taste, but it’s a surprisingly good replacement. Its sweetness isn’t overpowering, and the flavor is actually fairly neutral.
You should remember that almond milk is thinner than the regular kind, resulting in a less creamy sauce. To counter this, put more butter, cheese, or flour instead. And if you’re a vegan, some almond or coconut flour could do the trick.
Here’s how the substitution works:
1 Tbsp milk = 1 Tbsp almond milk.
In other words, it’s an easy replacement, as long as you keep consistency in mind.
2. Coconut Milk
For a more exotic flavor, you might give coconut milk a try. The milk itself is rich in vitamins and absolutely delicious, but using it in mac and cheese definitely impacts the pasta’s taste. When you’re still not used to it, the coconut aroma may be too distinct, and you might not think it’s the best fit.
Still, there are ways to dilute the taste if you feel you need to. Garlic and other strong aromatics are excellent additions that mask the coconut and give your dish a more complex flavor. You can also just add some water to the mix to lessen the coconut milk’s impact.
Coconut milk is used in the same way as regular milk, so you should have no trouble.
1 Tbsp milk = 1 Tbsp coconut milk.
For a creamier sauce, make sure to use a canned coconut milk version. Those are usually thicker than bottled ones and give better results.
3. Soy Milk
As one of the first non-dairy milk substitutes, soy milk works great as a milk replacement in mac and cheese. It’s made from soybeans and filtered water, with some additional thickeners that mimic milk’s consistency. Ultimately, your mac and cheese should be just as thick and creamy as it would be if you used regular milk.
The only issue you might have with soy milk is the taste. Make sure to choose unsweetened and unflavored milk, as the flavored ones could be overpowering. For instance, imagine eating mac and cheese with a vanilla taste. Not exactly appetizing, is it? Keep it simple and add a more aromatic cheese to balance out soy milk’s natural flavor.
Since soy milk differs from regular milk only in terms of flavor, the substitution is quite simple.
1 Tbsp milk = 1 Tbsp soy milk.
If you feel like even unsweetened soy milk isn’t a perfect substitute for milk in mac and cheese, try adding some butter or salt. That will add complexity to the flavor, making it similar to what you are used to.