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Best Butter Substitutes For Mac and Cheese

Maria Foster
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by Maria Foster

Mac and cheese is one of the most loved comfort foods in the US, but what if there’s an ingredient in it you don’t like or can’t have, like say butter?

If you’re worried that you might have to say goodbye to this cheesy dish, then think again. Several items will work as a substitute.

Read on to learn what your options are and how to use them in mac and cheese.

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5 Substitutes for Butter in Mac and Cheese

If you think it’s hard to find a substitute for butter in mac and cheese, you’re wrong. There are plenty of options available, so the choice is yours. Here are the top five substitutes:

1. Margarine


Margarine is the most obvious butter substitute for mac and cheese because it has a similar flavor and texture as butter. Margarine is a good option for vegans who still want the buttery flavor in their mac and cheese. It’s a plant-based option that’s made of water and oil instead of milk.

While it’s considered a vegan-friendly option, it’s not exclusive to them. Margarine is an excellent choice if you’re looking to cut back on fats, which is why it’s popular with so many people.

Margarine is by far the best substitute for butter in mac and cheese because it will not only give you a similar flavor but a similar texture too.

2. Oil


Certain plant-based oils like coconut oil are great at imitating butter in terms of texture. Coconut oil might not be the best for flavor, but you can also use other ones like vegetable oil or canola oil. This is a tricky replacement to get right, though.

You need to be careful not to add too much because this can ruin your cheese sauce. However, you may still need to add something extra like cream to get it just right.

3. Ghee


Ghee is a type of clarified butter meaning it has been simmered at a low heat and strained to remove any water. Even if you like butter, using ghee in your mac and cheese is worth a try. This clarified butter has a rich, nutty flavor that can enhance the taste.

But the flavor isn’t the only reason to try ghee. It’s also a suitable option for people with dairy sensitivities. The clarifying process not only removes water but also pulls out lactose and caseon.

This is a product that will last you a long time too. Ghee is shelf-stable, which means you won’t have to refrigerate it or worry about it going bad right away. Whether you make your own or buy it at the store, ghee is one of the best substitutes for butter when cooking mac and cheese.

4. Heavy Cream


Butter is made out of heavy cream, so it’s no wonder why this is a great substitute in mac and cheese. This is a good option to create a really rich and decadent sauce.

Another reason why heavy cream makes such a good substitute is that you can use it to make your own butter! It’s a fun way to experiment with flavors and adds a nice “home-made” quality to any mac and cheese.

5. Cream Cheese

Cream cheese

Cream cheese is a great replacement for extra flavoring. You can also use it with less heavy options like oil to give it a rich, creamy texture.

Once again, this is more of a replacement for the flavor, but you should still use a small amount of oil, ghee, or margarine to avoid a sticky roux or noodles.

Do You Need Butter in Mac and Cheese?

A Bowl of Mac and Cheese

Whether you’re making mac and cheese from scratch or out of a box, the recipes always call for butter.

But if you have allergies, sensitivities, or diet restrictions, this indulgent classic could mean trouble. Even if you’re not allergic to butter, you may have special dietary restrictions that mean you have to avoid it.

A good example of this is veganism. Vegans don’t eat any animal products including cheese, eggs, and butter. There are a large number of people who just want to find something healthier since butter is rich in fats and can contain large amounts of sodium.

When it comes to replacing butter in mac and cheese, you have to know what role it plays in cooking. Not only does it prevent the macaroni noodles from getting too dry, but it also helps meld the other sauce ingredients together because it’s mostly fat.

Butter also comes in handy when trying to create a thicker sauce. These are things that are hard to replicate, but you just need to find another primarily fat product. So, what can I use instead of butter in mac and cheese?


Are you still curious about substitutions for butter in mac and cheese? Check out these frequently asked questions from other food lovers like yourself.

Are all the substitutions vegan friendly?

No, not every butter replacement is vegan friendly. Products like plant-based oils and margarine are suitable for vegan diets. If your diet is dairy-free, but not completely vegan, then you can also consider using ghee as a substitute for butter in mac and cheese.

Can I use mayonnaise as a substitute in mac and cheese?

Mayonnaise can add creaminess to your mac and cheese, but it’s not a suitable replacement for butter. That’s because it can overpower the flavor of the cheese and doesn’t have a high enough fat content to do everything butter does.

If you like the flavor, add a small amount for a thicker, creamier roux, but don’t completely replace butter with mayo.

How much butter substitute should I use?

The amount of butter substitute you need depends on what exactly you’re using. For example, if you choose ghee or margarine, you can keep your measurements the same. These two items are very similar to butter in terms of flavor and texture, so it won’t affect the recipe too much.

A typical mac n’ cheese recipe calls for a ¼ cup of butter, which is 4 tablespoons, so you can use the exact same amount of ghee or margarine.

On the other hand, if you’re using oil or heavy cream, you’ll need to adjust your measurements. Don’t use as much oil like butter, and don’t use too much cream that your sauce gets runny. We suggest cutting these amounts in half and using only 2 tablespoons to get the right consistency.

From there, you may need to add each ingredient little by little to find the right balance based on your tastes.

Does boxed mac n’ cheese and homemade need the same amount?

Don’t expect to use the same measurements when cooking boxed macaroni and cheese vs a homemade recipe. Boxed options have the cheese and other ingredients for the roux already prepackaged, and use just add milk and your butter substitute accordingly.

If you can’t have or don’t want, butter in your mac and cheese, that’s okay. Although it’s a core ingredient in the creamy, cheesy sauce, it’s not necessary. These are five options you can use instead. They may change the taste slightly, but they’re fatty enough to get the texture you want.

It’s Time to Start Cooking!

If you can’t have, or don’t want, butter in your mac and cheese, that’s okay. Although it’s a core ingredient in the creamy, cheesy sauce, it’s not necessary. These are five options you can use instead. They may change the taste slightly, but they’re fatty enough to get the texture you want.

Now that you know what you can replace butter with, it’s time to start cooking! Find more about ingredient substitutes on our blog now!

About Maria Foster
Maria Foster
Maria Foster is a mother of 3 and she and her husband of 23 years share their home with 2 faithful dogs. Besides being CEO of the household and active in her community, Maria is the lead contributor to Food Champs and loves to try new food ideas and kitchen accessories to make easier and more delicious meals.
Maria Foster
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