What can I use instead of butter in mac and cheese? Dairy substitutes for butter are ghee, heavy cream, sour cream, cream cheese, grated cheese, and Greek yogurt. Try bacon grease as an unusual substitute. The best plant-based substitutes are margarine, vegan butter, and coconut oil.
Mac and cheese is everyone’s favorite comfort food, so it’s disappointing to run out of butter or need an alternative owing to lactose allergy or lifestyle choice. Fortunately, dairy and plant-based options are available. Here are our 10 best substitutes for butter in mac and cheese, whether for a box dinner or homemade.
The best butter substitute in mac and cheese is ghee.
This popular product is actually clarified butter, which is made by simmering butter at low heat, allowing the water content to evaporate and leaving only the fat.
The advantage of ghee is that it doesn’t contain casein or lactose, making it ideal for people with lactose intolerance or a milk allergy.
Ghee is well-known in Indian cuisine and is valued for its creaminess and richness, the same qualities as butter brings to mac and cheese. It has a slightly nutty, appealing flavor.
To substitute ghee for butter in mac and cheese, substitute equal amounts of ghee for butter, whether you’re using it to add richness to instant mac and cheese or making a white sauce.
Dairies use heavy cream to make butter, making it an excellent alternative to butter in mac and cheese.
Heavy cream contains between 36 and 80% fat (like butter, which is 80% fat). You can’t use dessert cream, which is thinner and has been sweetened.
If you have fresh heavy cream, beating it as you would for cream will turn it into butter if you carry on long enough. However, few of us have time to make butter.
To substitute heavy cream for butter in mac and cheese, you can replace the amount of butter your box mix requires with cream.
Alternatively, use heavy cream to make a decadent roux for homemade mac and cheese. Substitute the butter with half as much heavy cream.
Sour cream is another practical butter substitute, as it has the same richness and thickness as both butter and heavy cream.
You can’t make butter out of sour cream. However, you can use it to enrich a box max and cheese.
Also, use sour cream to make a tangy white sauce. Use half as much sour cream as you would butter.
If you have no butter or cream, reach for the full-fat cream cheese as a butter alternative.
Cream cheese has the same thickness and richness as butter, with an additional cheesiness ideal in mac and cheese.
Another advantage of cream cheese is its various flavors, many of which will pep up your mac and cheese: consider garlic and herb, sundried tomato, or black pepper.
Use the same amount of cream cheese to replace butter in box mac and cheese – it will make it slightly thicker but just as delicious.
You can also make a roux with cream cheese, but you’ll have to add milk; otherwise, it will be too thick.
Cheese is why you make mac and cheese, so what can be better than replacing the butter with even more cheese?
Depending on the flavor you’d like, grate some American, Cheddar, Gouda, or even Gruyère into your sauce to give it extra richness. Shredded or grated cheese works best because it melts quickly.
Cheese only works as a substitute for butter if you’re making a box dinner – replace the butter with a little less cheese, but continue adding to taste.
This substitution won’t work if you’re making a roux from scratch.
Another easy and effective butter substitute is Greek yogurt, which has a similar consistency to cream and sour cream.
Greek yogurt has been strained, leaving it thick and luscious but low in fat, making it a good substitute for butter. It does have a slightly tangy, sour flavor that is noticeable in cooking.
The only challenge with cooking with yogurt is that it can separate or curdle at high temperatures, so take care when you heat it.
Replace butter with equal amounts of yogurt in your box mix. Only use plain Greek yogurt, as flavored or zero-fat yogurt won’t be a successful substitute.
This substitute doesn’t work if you need butter for a roux.
Bacon grease is a slightly unusual substitute for butter in mac and cheese, but the flavor and texture make it a handy alternative.
Bacon fat or grease is the fat that cooks off bacon when you fry it. Although you can purchase jars of bacon grease, it’s easy to strain off the leftover drippings when you next cook bacon. Bacon grease becomes semi-solid at room temperature.
Replace butter with an equal amount of bacon grease when making a box dinner. The sauce will be slightly greasier than usual, but you have a fantastic bacon flavor that goes well with cheese.
Also use bacon grease instead of butter to make a white sauce for a rich, savory mac and cheese. Amp up the bacon flavor by adding bacon bits to the mixture.
If you’re vegetarian, lactose intolerant, or making vegan mac and cheese, you can use margarine to substitute for butter.
Margarine consists of hydrogenated vegetable oil, which unfortunately contains high levels of trans-fats. Although margarine was touted as a heart-healthy butter alternative, it still has many critics.
Today’s margarine is far healthier and contains 80% plant fats, making it solid like butter when cold or at room temperature. Varieties like I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter are excellent butter substitutes for flavor and texture.
A note of caution to vegans or those with milk allergies: some brands of margarine do contain milk to increase the fat content.
Use margarine as a one-to-one substitute for butter in your mac and cheese, and you will hardly taste the difference. You may find it less creamy but no less flavorsome.
Another plant-based substitute for butter is vegan butter.
Like margarine, vegan butter contains plant oils but is entirely dairy-free.
Depending on the brand, vegan butter will be based on palm, avocado, coconut, olive, or even cashew oils. To achieve the flavor and texture of dairy butter, most manufacturers also add flavorings and emulsifiers.
Vegan butter is intended to substitute for butter, so use it in equal amounts to butter for your mac and cheese.
Coconut oil is a trendy plant-based fat that you can use instead of butter.
This fat, which is solid at room temperature, comes from the white flesh of the coconut, so it is high in healthy fats.
Coconut’s oil benefits include invigorating hair and skin, suppressing the appetite, and boosting the metabolism.
To best use coconut oil as a butter substitute, choose the refined variety that has a more neutral flavor – virgin or unrefined coconut oil does have a distinct coconut flavor which is not welcome in mac and cheese.
Coconut oil’s creamy texture and richness mean that you can substitute it in equal amounts for butter in mac and cheese.