We've all been there. You go to boil some boxed Kraft macaroni and cheese to indulge in, and realize you forgot to grab some milk! Or, even worse, maybe the milk in your fridge has gone bad! Regardless, I am here to confirm that yes, you can make mac and cheese without using milk!
I've outlined 13 of the BEST substitutes for regular milk to use in a boxed mac and cheese recipe. And, I've explained how to use the alternatives, and how it'll change the outcome. Spoiler: I think some of the substitutes are better than using milk!
Table of Contents:
This list is comprised of some dairy options and some non-dairy milk substitute. However, its important to notes that with most boxed mac and cheese, especially Kraft, there is dairy in the cheddar cheese powder packet. So, if you're looking for something completely non-dairy, you may want to try a vegan boxed mac and cheese!
This list includes heavy cream, sour cream, cream cheese, pasta water, non-dairy milk options, roux, butter, yogurt, and even mayo!
The simplest, cheapest, and most obvious milk alternative is water! However, I don't recommend using just any water. To make boxed mac and cheese with water, reserve at least ½ a cup of the pasta water that the pasta is cooked in when you drain it. Add the pasta back to the pot, add the butter, cheese powder, and any seasonings. Then, stir in the starchy pasta water until the result is creamy.
This option will not be as creamy as some of the others, but will still turn out good! Be sure to let it simmer a little bit once all mixed in to help thicken.
Heavy cream is, in my opinion, the best milk substitute for kraft mac and cheese. It's thicker and more luxurious than milk, so I actually think this makes a better end result! just add the heavy whipping cream in the same way you would add the milk. You may want to start with a bit less than the box instructions call for, but that is up to you! This should give a deliciously creamy texture.
While this isn't my favorite option, it is still a very good substitute. The reason it isn't my favorite is that I think it is actually too thick. In order to use cream cheese in mac n cheese, I think you need to mix it with water or some other liquid, which is just an extra step. However, if you want to do it, I recommend only draining the mac and cheese about half way, leaving some of the cooking liquid intact. Then, use a whisk or a fork to incorporate the cream cheese until it is smooth and creamy, then mix in the remaining ingredients.
I think sour cream is a great substitute! However, it may change the flavor just slightly. For sour cream, mix it in just like I outlined in the cream cheese example, but with far less or no extra liquid. Sour cream is slightly sour (duh), so this may impact the final flavor a bit. I'd say if you enjoy the taste of sour cream, you'll love this! If you don't, maybe try a different option.
Of all of the plant-based milk options, I find soy milk or soya milk to be the most neutral in taste, making it a great option for boxed mac and cheese! However, I also find soy milk to be a bit thinner than some other milk options. But, if you're in a pinch, using soy milk is a great method! Simply add the soy milk in the same way you would use regular cow's milk.
Coconut Milk or Coconut Cream
Anytime I make a dairy-free recipe, coconut cream or canned coconut milk is always my go-to option for a thick and creamy consistency! However, it does have a flavor that needs to be masked a little bit. Look for canned coconut cream (NOT the same as "cream of coconut") in the canned aisle at the grocery store! If you can't find that, try canned coconut milk, but store it in the fridge before use. Simply add it into the cooked pasta with the butter and the cheese powder. Add some extra salt to cover the coconut sweetness.
Using almond milk works just like using soy milk! However, make sure you have PLAIN and unsweetened almond milk! Many people buy sweet almond milk for coffee, so don't mistakenly use that for the mac and cheese!
Just add the almond milk in place of milk and combine as you normally would.
I am a big fan of cashew milk for cooking without dairy. Cashew milk is a good mac and cheese milk substitute because it is a bit thicker than almond or soy milk, and cashews are a bit savory naturally. To make mac and cheese with cashew milk, add the cashew milk in a 1:1 swap for regular milk!
The last of the plant-based milk options on this list is one of the most popular! Oat milk has become a great choice for non-dairy alternatives. Again, make sure it is plain and unsweetened. Oat milk has a decent texture and flavor, similar to that of cows milk. Add it in just like you would regular milk, that is, if it calls for 1 cup of milk, add 1 cup of oat milk instead!
A lot of homemade mac and cheese recipes use a flour-based roux, so it makes sense that a roux would work well here too! To make a roux, you need to use a separate pot or pan. Add a 1:1 ratio of flour and butter (melt the butter in the pan first, then sprinkle the flour) and use a whisk to combine the two over low heat until a paste is formed. Let this toast a bit while stirring, then add a liquid (milk, milk alternative, stock, broth, etc) and whisk in until all clumps are gone. This should result in a thick white sauce. Season with salt and pepper and then whisk the cheese packet into the roux. Finally, fold the cooked pasta into the cheesy sauce!
If you don't have any milk on hand, this is a really simple option that is still a dairy product! Simply use an extra amount of butter. However, I highly recommend using a method similar to mantecare or beurre monté, which means mounted butter sauce. Basically, you just add cold butter to the end of the cooking process and whisk or stir it in rapidly. This allows the butter to melt without separating and creates an emulsion, making the sauce creamy and shiny! I would use at least 3-4 tablespoons of cold butter for a boxed mac and cheese.
I know, this one sounds weird. But hear me out! Mayonnaise has a relatively neutral but salty flavor, and it has a high level of fat. If you're really in a pinch, try adding around 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise (I highly recommend Duke's or Kewpie) and whisking it in. You may want to add a bit more salt or cheddar cheese or even some parmesan cheese to cover up the distinctive taste of mayonnaise. Don't knock it until you try it!
Finally, using a plain yogurt is one of the best options for replacing milk in kraft mac and cheese! A plain whole milk yogurt or a greek yogurt would work well. Mix it in the same way you'd mix in sour cream, until it is well incorporated. This may have a slightly tangier flavor, but that is a personal preference. You can always add more seasonings to cover up that taste!
Frequently Asked Questions
Evaporated milk is a great choice for making boxed mac and cheese. However, there are many other options. For a standard box of kraft mac and cheese, you can use heavy cream, pasta water, yogurt, oat milk, soy milk, cream cheese, and more!
To make mac and cheese without milk, the best choice is to find something that has a similar texture and a milk flavor. Things like heavy cream, almond milk, oat milk, yogurt, cream cheese, and even pasta water all work very well in boxed mac and cheese.