Macaroni and cheese is comfort food like no other. And one of the main components that help create this deliciously creamy dish is butter. Although it’s not an essential ingredient, butter adds richness to this simple pasta dish and elevates its flavor to new heights.
Are you trying to up your mac and cheese game without using butter? Whether you’re trying to cut back on dairy or simply looking for a new twist on a classic dish, we’ve got you covered! From tangy sour cream to creamy nut butter, you can find delicious substitutes for butter in mac and cheese here!
1. Olive Oil
Olive oil can work as a healthy substitute for butter in mac and cheese as it contains heart-healthy monounsaturated fats as well as antioxidants. Olive oil will add a similar richness to the dish, but it may alter the taste a little.
When substituting olive oil for butter in mac and cheese, note that olive oil will add a distinctive taste that you can’t compare with butter, so you will need to adjust the recipe. It’s best to start with a small amount than what the recipe asks for with butter. As a general guideline, use around 75% of the amount of butter specified in the recipe. From there, you may work your way up.
Suggested ratio: 1 cup butter = 3/4 cup olive oil.
2. Coconut Oil
Coconut oil offers a flavorful and healthful substitute for butter in mac and cheese. This plant-based oil gives the dish a subtle tropical flavor that will have your taste buds doing the hula. And unlike butter, which is heavy in saturated fat, coconut oil is abundant in medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) that are much healthier for you.
To prepare mac and cheese with coconut oil, you’ll first need to melt the coconut oil before adding it to the dish for easier incorporation. Keep in mind the coconut flavor may be more pronounced if you use unrefined coconut oil. Play around with the amount to find the perfect balance of flavor for you.
Suggested ratio: 1 cup butter = 1 cup coconut oil.
3. Vegan Butter
Vegan butter is a great substitute for traditional butter in mac and cheese. For one, it’s a plant-based alternative that is cholesterol-free and lower in saturated fats. Additionally, many kinds of vegan butter in the market are fortified with vitamins and minerals that traditional butter doesn’t have.
You can use vegan butter in mac and cheese just as you would use regular butter. Simply melt it down and mix it in with your cheese sauce. A good ratio to use is 1:1. You can also use it to bread your macaroni before baking it.
Suggested ratio: 1 cup butter = 1 cup vegan butter.
4. Greek Yogurt
Greek yogurt may seem like an odd choice for your mac and cheese, but it offers a comparable level of creaminess and tanginess while also providing additional nutritional benefits. It is also lower in fat than butter and a rich source of calcium and protein, making it an excellent substitute for butter in mac and cheese.
Greek yogurt will thicken the sauce in mac and cheese, so you might need to add a bit more milk or cream to achieve the right consistency. You can even use it to make the breadcrumb topping in place of butter, adding a flavorful touch to the dish. Another option is to make a creamy, flavorful pasta sauce with Greek yogurt, olive oil, garlic, and herbs.
Suggested ratio: 1 cup butter = 1/4 cup Greek yogurt.
5. Cream Cheese
Cream cheese is a great way to add some velvety smoothness to your mac and cheese without the added saturated fat of butter. Moreover, it is a fermented dairy product, while butter is simply churned cream, which means cream cheese also offers more nutritional benefits.
Cream cheese can be used in mac and cheese as a replacement for butter in equal amounts. You can also melt it and mix it with a little bit of milk to create a smooth and creamy sauce. Another way to use cream cheese in mac and cheese is by adding a dollop on top of the dish before baking for an added burst of creaminess.
Suggested ratio: 1 cup butter = 1 cup cream cheese.
6. Nut Butter
Nut butters are rich in protein and healthy fats and have a rich and creamy texture. They will also add a slight nuttiness to the dish, which may be a great counterpoint to the cheesy taste of the mac and cheese.
Simply replace the butter in a recipe with an equivalent amount of nut butter. Based on which nut butter you use, the level of sweetness it has may vary. So, make sure you taste and adjust your ingredients accordingly. You may also add extra milk or cream to the nut butter to make it smoother and more sauce-like. You can then heat this mixture and pour it over the macaroni for a delicious treat.
Suggested ratio: 1 cup butter = 1 cup nut butter.
7. Milk or Cream
You can also make mac and cheese sauce without butter by simply adding milk or cream before mixing it with the cooked macaroni. In addition to having that velvety, creamy texture we all love, milk and cream are also nutrient-dense sources of calcium and vitamin D.
To improve the flavor profile, experiment with different milk or cream varieties. For instance, if you use whole milk, the flavor will be stronger compared to the taste of skim milk. The same is true with cream; while half and half will keep it lighter, heavy cream gives you a richer taste. To ensure a smooth consistency, warm the milk or cream beforehand. Try it out and see how it stacks up against the classic mac and cheese made with butter!
Suggested ratio: 1 cup butter = 2-3 cups milk or cream.