Best 7 Ingredients to Substitute For Butter In Mac and Cheese
substitute for butter in mac and cheese

Macaroni and cheese is one of the most popular meals to make at home. It’s known as the ultimate comfort food, and because it’s easy to prepare, anyone can have a try. 

One of the core ingredients is butter. Butter is great in so many recipes, and most people have the misconception that without butter, there is no mac n’ cheese. 

In reality, there’s a wide range of alternatives to butter. Using another ingredient in place of butter is another way to introduce a nice flavor to the meal. Most importantly, people that don’t have the luxury of using butter don’t have to miss out on mac and cheese. 

In this article, we’ve made a list of common butter substitutes for mac n’ cheese. Not only are they popular, but they also add amazing taste, are healthy, and hold onto their flavor in case there are leftovers

The Best Substitute for Butter In Mac and Cheese

Some of the best ingredients to use instead of butter in your mac and cheese recipe include: 

  • Margarine 
  • Cream cheese
  • Sour cream
  • Heavy cream
  • Yogurt
  • Ghee
  • Mayonnaise

1. Margarine 

butter swirls. margarine or spread, fatty natural dairy product. High-calorie food for cooking and eating

Margarine is perhaps the best replacement for butter when making mac n’ cheese. Many people use margarine for cooking but do not know its strength as a butter replacement in everyone’s favorite meal. 

Not only is margarine perfect for replicating the flavor of butter in mac n’ cheese, but it is also a healthier choice than butter because it is made from vegetable oil and contains unsaturated fats. Unsaturated fats are safer for the body.

It is also often a vegan-friendly butter replacement, but as a vegan, you still need to be watchful because some margarine is not completely plant-based. 

Nevertheless, margarine is a good alternative to butter for various mac and cheese recipes. If you’re looking for an ingredient with safer fat content, margarine is one of the top options you can pick from. 

It gives that similar buttery flavor and texture, and maintains the regular appearance of mac n’ cheese. Since it melts similarly to butter, it won’t be difficult to incorporate this ingredient into your recipe. 


  • It is a healthier option.
  • It works for vegans.
  • It mirrors the flavor and texture of butter in the mac n’ cheese.


  • Some margarine contains harmful fats.
  • Not every margarine is vegan friendly.

2. Cream Cheese 

cream cheese

Cream cheese is another great alternative to butter when making mac and cheese. It is made from milk and cream and, in terms of flavor, you can’t go wrong. It’s rich and has a creamy texture. 

When used for your mac and cheese, remember to pair it with some oil, like coconut oil, to prevent your pasta from sticking together. You don’t need to use too much oil — that could render the pasta inedible.

Aside from coconut oil, you can use other plant-based oils like vegetable oil, olive oil, or canola oil. 

Using cream cheese will light up your taste buds just like when you use regular butter in macaroni and cheese. Just be careful not to go overboard. 



  • Not for those who can’t consume dairy products due to diet, allergies, etc.
  • Although it contains low lactose, there’s still a quantity of lactose in cream cheese.
  • It has a short shelf life.

3. Sour Cream 

sour cream

Sour cream is one of the best ingredients to keep on hand. This is because of its ability to blend nicely with the flavor of any meal while supplying additional texture and taste.

Since sour cream can contain milk or cream, you can not only make mac n’ cheese without butter but also without milk. You can use this ingredient to make a creamy sauce with plenty of richness. It can have a pungent flavor, so be careful not to use too much of it. 


  • It has low carbs.
  • Some sour creams have probiotics. 
  • The ingredient is versatile.


  • It’s not suitable for people with dairy restrictions.
  • It has a high-calorie count.
  • It’s not vegan.

4. Heavy Cream

Mac and cheese without butter can still be possible as long as you have heavy cream at hand. It is one of the best butter substitutes to incorporate into your meal. 

One reason it is a favorite is because butter is made out of heavy cream, so heavy cream can closely replicate that buttery flavor. Due to its creamy texture, heavy cream is the perfect thickener for your macaroni and cheese. 

It tastes creamy, fatty, and rich. If you like flavorful macaroni and cheese, make sure to add some seasoning when using heavy cream, otherwise, it will come out a little bland. 


  • Heavy cream contains vitamins such as A and D.
  • It can be incorporated into several diets.


  • It is non-vegan.
  • It has a high fat content.

5. Yogurt 


Another perfect substitute for butter in mac and cheese is yogurt. Not only does yogurt have a unique taste, but it is also healthy. Not only will you please your taste buds, but you will also be reaping impressive health benefits. 

When using yogurt, make sure you use unflavored Greek yogurt or plain yogurt. These types of yogurt have a cleaner taste that won’t clash with other ingredients in your recipe. It’s one of the great alternatives to butter if you’re looking for something with a lighter feel. 

Greek yogurt has a tangy flavor but not in an overpowering way. Although it’s lighter than heavy cream, it is a great thickener with more depth in taste. The result is a creamy mac n’ cheese with an incredible layer of flavor. Also, you can skip using milk for the macaroni and cheese when you use yogurt. 


  • Yogurt contains protein, vitamins, calcium, and other healthy elements your body needs.
  • It has a long shelf life.
  • According to WebMD, this ingredient in yogurt can help relieve certain gastrointestinal conditions.


  • It is not suitable for vegans.

6. Ghee

Ghee or clarified butter in jar

Ghee, also known as clarified butter, is another great substitute for butter in mac and cheese. The only difference between ghee and butter is that the milk and water solids have been removed. Since its elements are similar to butter, it makes a good pair with mac and cheese to make it creamy.

There are different flavors of ghee depending on the brand you buy, but it usually tastes like butter with a hint of nutty flavor. 


  • It’s a healthy choice.
  • It has less lactose.


  • It’s not vegan friendly.
  • It’s not suitable for people with dairy restrictions.

7. Mayonnaise


Mayonnaise is an ingredient every household has lying around. It’s equally as good as yogurt for substituting butter. It does the same job as the butter plus gives a hint of sweetness to the mac and cheese. 

On the other hand, some people might not like the subtle hint of sweetness. But if you don’t find it a problem, then dig in. 

It’s easy to use, but make sure you add the mayonnaise in small quantities so you don’t overdo it. 


  • It’s an easily found ingredient.
  • It includes plenty of nutrients.


  • It contains a lot of sodium, so it has to be eaten in moderation.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does butter do in mac n’ cheese?

The addition of butter in mac and cheese plays three essential roles: 

  1. It prevents the pasta from being too dry. 
  2. It thickens the sauce. 
  3. It allows the ingredients in the meal to blend because it contains mostly fat.

Do mac and cheese taste good without butter?

Yes, mac and cheese tastes good without butter. As we’ve mentioned in the article, there are many great substitutes for butter. As long as you’re using an ingredient that can replace the role of the butter in the meal, it will taste amazing. 

Can I make mac and cheese without butter?

Yes, you can make mac and cheese without butter. 

Are there any vegan substitutes for butter in mac and cheese?

Yes, there are vegan options to substitute for butter in mac and cheese. The best replacement is margarine. Margarine is great for macaroni and cheese and perfect for vegans. 

Can I use olive oil in place of butter for mac and cheese?

Yes, you can use olive oil instead of butter for mac and cheese. You will need a thickening agent like cream cheese for the sauce, though. It’s easy to go wrong using olive oil instead of butter, so we advise you to steer clear of it. Olive oil doesn’t give the meal that buttery, creamy, texture, or any additional flavor. 

Do I use the same quantity of substitutes as I do butter when making mac and cheese?

It depends on the ingredient you use. When using ingredients with a tangy flavor, it’s best not to use the same measurement you use for butter. Also, heavy, creamy ingredients might not need the same quantity as butter. 


The first step in any recipe is to gather your ingredients. What happens when you run out of butter before making your delicious mac and cheese recipe? Abort mission, or continue with a substitute that will achieve a close-enough texture and taste to the original?

With these tips, you can now use these various substitutes for butter in mac and cheese to bring out a different flavor than your old standards. Try any of these substitutes with your recipe for family and friends to see if they notice the missing butter.

Don’t forget to read our collection of articles for more tips to help make your cooking process easier. 

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