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Looking for a great substitute for milk in mac and cheese? How about 15 ideal options? Keep reading to find out how you can use items you may have in your kitchen to replace milk in any macaroni cheese recipe.


Mac and cheese also referred to as macaroni and cheese, macaroni cheese or macaroni pie is a favorite in most homes. This cheesy dish – made of cooked macaroni pasta, cheese sauce, and sometimes meats, breadcrumbs, and spices like black pepper and paprika – is usually enjoyed as a side for dinner.

But, what if you’re making some mac and cheese and you have no milk in the kitchen, can you actually replace it? 

The good news is that you can replace milk in any mac and cheese dish, as you can see in this list of substitutes for heavy cream in mac and cheese, as well as the other great options listed below.

What does milk do for mac and cheese?

Milk is often used to boil the pasta for macaroni and cheese. By so doing, this makes the mac and cheese recipe creamier.

Milk is also used as the base for many cheese sauces used to make a macaroni pie. 

Do you have to use milk when making macaroni and cheese?

No, you do not have to use milk in a mac and cheese recipe. However, other milk-based products like heavy cream, cream cheese, evaporated milk, etc., help make a creamy macaroni cheese dish if you have no milk on hand.
Also, if you’re dairy-free, you can use almond milk, coconut milk, and other types of non-dairy milk in place of regular whole milk too.

What are the milk substitutes that work in mac and cheese?

The best alternatives for milk in mac and cheese include:

  • shredded cheese
  • heavy cream
  • heavy whipping cream
  • cream cheese
  • sour cream
  • evaporated milk
  • almond milk
  • oat milk
  • soy milk
  • coconut milk
  • cashews
  • yogurt

Each will be discussed in more detail below with conversion ratios shown.

Shredded cheese

shredded cheddar cheese 2

One of the best alternatives for milk in a macaroni cheese recipe is shredded cheese. Whether you have shredded cheddar, mozzarella, or Parmesan, these will work for adding this nice cheesiness and creaminess to a mac and cheese dish. 

When using shredded cheese as an alternative to milk, make sure to add a little bit of water, or chicken broth to make the recipe moist and creamy. Use shredded cheese to replace milk on a 1:1 substitute ratio.

Heavy cream

Heavy cream for mac and cheese

Can I use heavy cream in place of milk in mac and cheese? Yes, you can use heavy cream in place of milk in a mac and cheese dish. Heavy cream will take the place of milk and make the pie really creamy. In fact, many people seem to really enjoy mac and cheese with heavy cream instead of milk since it is so decadent and indulgent.

You can replace milk with heavy cream on a 1:1 ratio. Or to be more specific, use 1 oz of heavy cream for every 2oz (or 1 cup) of macaroni a dish calls for.

Heavy whipping cream

mac and cheese with Heavy whipping cream

Like heavy cream, heavy whipping cream is another good milk alternative for mac and cheese. As milk is supposed to do, heavy whipping cream will make your macaroni and cheese dish creamy.

Use about 3 oz of heavy whipping cream for every cup of macaroni used in the dish.

Cream cheese

cream cheese as a sub for milk

You can make a delicious cheesy macaroni pie recipe with cream cheese and grated cheese like cheddar, Parmesan, or even mozzarella. Therefore, cream cheese is a great alternative to milk in mac and cheese.

To make a simple cream cheese mac and cheese recipe with no milk, simply cook the macaroni until done, then make a cheese sauce with butter, cream cheese, and shredded cheese. Once done, pour the cooked macaroni into the cheese sauce and coat well. Then serve or make extra cheesy by pouring into a baking dish and topping with more shredded cheese for a baked mac and cheese dish.

Generally, 4 oz of cream cheese works for every cup of raw macaroni used in the recipe. 

Sour cream

sour cream

Sour cream is another ideal substitute for milk in macaroni and cheese. Use sour cream the same way you would use milk in any macaroni pie recipe.

Evaporated milk


If you don’t mind the dairy, evaporated milk can also be used as a milk replacement in mac and cheese.

Evaporated milk can be used as the base for a really smooth and creamy cheese sauce, or you can add it directly into the cooked pasta, together with grated cheese for some creamy and cheesy mac and cheese. 

Many people don’t mind using evaporated milk in a 1:1 ratio with regular milk.

But, some other people prefer to thin out the evaporated milk with equal parts water and evaporated milk so it’s closer to the consistency and flavor of whole milk.

Replace regular milk with thinned-out evaporated milk on a 1:1 ratio as well. For more information, see the simple evaporated milk mac and cheese recipe here. 

Almond milk

almond milk for mac and cheese

Whether you’re trying to make a dairy-free mac and cheese dish, or you’re simply just trying to replace the whole milk completely, almond milk is a good milk sub in mac and cheese.

Almond milk macaroni pie tastes great, but it is lighter than regular mac and cheese.

Use a 1:1 substitute ratio of unsweetened almond milk to regular whole milk.

Oat milk

oat milk for mac and cheese

If you’re looking for creamier plant-based milk to substitute for milk, then oat milk is your best bet. Oat milk thus makes a great alternative to milk in mac and cheese. 

Use unsweetened plain flavored oat milk as you would regular milk in your dish.

This means, for every cup of milk a recipe calls for, replace it with 1 cup of unsweetened oat milk.

Soy milk

Another ideal replacement for milk in macaroni and cheese is soy milk. With soy milk, you can make a creamy, cheesy vegan dish without any nuts, dairy, or soy. 

Use plain flavored unsweetened soy milk which has a flavor that is slightly bean-like to make a creamy vegan mac and cheese.

In addition to the soy milk, most vegan mac n cheese recipes use ingredients like vegan butter, nutritional yeast, vegan cheese, and seasonings like salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, nutmeg, and also vegetable broth. These ingredients add that rich flavor to the cheese sauce.

Please note that if soy milk is all you have on hand, but you’re not necessarily looking for a vegan mac n cheese recipe, you can also just use the soy milk together with your regular mac and cheese ingredients. It doesn’t have to be used only for vegan mac n cheese. 

Use a 1:1 ratio of soy milk to regular whole milk.

Coconut milk

coconut milk full fat

Full-fat coconut milk is also another ideal milk substitute for mac n cheese.

Like oat milk, almond milk, and soy milk, full-fat coconut milk gives you the option to make vegan mac n cheese. 

You can also use coconut milk if this is all you have on hand even though you’re not making a vegan dish. Just use this ingredient in the same way you would regular milk in the recipe, and voila— a very effective milk substitute for mac and cheese!



Cashews are another substitute for milk in mac n cheese that can be used in place of regular milk to make a cheese sauce for vegan macaroni cheese. 

To make a cashew cheese sauce, you’ll need ingredients like soaked cashews, coconut cream, nutritional yeast, miso paste, as well as seasonings like garlic and onion powder.


plain yogurt in mac and cheese

Yogurt is another good alternative for milk in a macaroni pie. Plain greek yogurt will work best and make a really creamy recipe.

Use about 1/4 cup of plain greek yogurt for every cup of macaroni used in the recipe.

What is a good substitute for milk in macaroni and cheese?

There are quite a few good substitutes for milk in macaroni and cheese as shown above, but, a really good mac and cheese milk substitute is actually evaporated milk in my opinion.

It gives just the right amount of extra creaminess and richness without feeling excessive. This makes it the perfect milk substitute for cooking mac and cheese.

Final thoughts

There you have it! Over 12 effective ways to replace milk in macaroni cheese. These milk substitutes make it easy to make regular mac and cheese, vegan mac and cheese, dairy-free mac and cheese, and more. This means you may not even have to leave your kitchen for many of these substitutes!

And, if you’re looking for more ways to substitute regular milk in other recipes, check out these substitutes for milk in french toast and these replacements for milk in cornbread here. Also, check out these easy milk substitutes for pasta for a few more ideas. 

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