6 Butter Substitutes for Mac and Cheese

Best Butter alternatives for your Mac and Cheese

Are you looking for a butter substitute for mac and cheese? Hey cheese lovers, ever reach for that box of mac and cheese only to realize you’re fresh out of butter? Or maybe you’re looking to change things by exploring dairy-free options, or you simply want to keep it healthy-ish. Whatever your reason, there’s a whole world of butter substitutes waiting to melt your heart in some delicious ways.

Try using: Margarine, Olive Oil, Avocado, Heavy Cream, Sour Cream & Greek Yogurt, or Nutritional Yeast.

Remember, these are just strarting points. Experiment, adjust, and most importantly, have fun creating your perfect mac and cheese masterpiece.

What is the best butter alternative for Mac and Cheese?

There isn’t one single “best” butter alternative for mac and cheese, as it depends on your individual preferences and dietary needs. Here’s a breakdown what we think are some of the most important things to think about when choosing a replacement:

For similar taste and texture: Margarine is the closest match to butter we can think of. It offers a familiar richness and you can use it on a 1:1 ratio. It’s definitely a good one to choose if you want to try and keep the classic flavor profile. Another suggestion is Ghee. Ghee is a clarified butter which has the milk solids removed. This makes it lactose-free and shelf-stable. It offers a buttery taste with a slightly nutty undertone.

For healthier options: Why not try using olive oil as it is considered to be heart-healthy and light, but note you may need to adjust the recipe for thickening purposes. Try to opt for light or extra virgin varieties as this brings a more intense flavor to the dish. Avocado and low-fat yogurt or sour cream also fall under the healthier options section.

For vegan/dairy-free alternatives: If you are looking for a vegan or dairy free alternative why not consider using nut butter, nutritonal yeast, or dairy-free/pant-based options.

Okay, let’s look at these suggestions in a bit more detail.

What can I use as a butter substitute for mac and cheese?

Here are some of the best ingredients to substitute the flavor and role that mozzarella cheese provides in your recipes.

  • Margarine – including plant-based varieties
  • Olive Oil
  • Avocado
  • Heavy Cream
  • Sour Cream & Greek Yogurt
  • Nutritional Yeast
  • Nut Butters

Butter substitute for Mac and Cheese


This one’s a no-brainer. Margarine is practically butter’s twin, sharing similar taste and texture. It’s readily available, swaps 1:1, and delivers that familiar richness. It is made primarily from vegetable oils. Think of it as butter’s cooler, more spreadable sibling.

When it comes to using margarine as a substitute in mac and cheese, it’s a smooth swap. Just melt it down like you would butter, and mix it into your cheesy concoction. It adds that rich, creamy texture without the dairy. Plus, margarine tends to be a bit lighter than butter, so your mac and cheese might have a slightly different flavor profile, but it’ll still be delicious.

Tip: Opt for stick margarine over tub varieties for better blending. You might need to adjust the seasoning slightly as margarine can be saltier than butter.

Margarine spread as a substitute for butter in mc and cheese.

Olive Oil

Let’s look at olive oil. As you guessed from the name, it’s made from pressed olives, giving it that distinct, fruity flavor and a Mediterranean twist. Now, for using olive oil as a butter substitute in mac and cheese, can you do it?

Yes you can! Try using a light or extra virgin variety, depending on your desired flavor intensity. And remember, olive oil won’t thicken your sauce like butter does, so you might need a cornstarch slurry (equal parts cornstarch and water) to achieve that creamy consistency.

So instead of melting butter, just drizzle in some olive oil when you’re mixing up your cheesy sauce. It’ll add a deliciously flavor to your mac and cheese, with a hint of that Mediterranean charm. Plus, it’s a healthier alternative, packed with those good-for-you fats.

Recipe Twist: Infuse your olive oil with garlic, rosemary, or thyme for a burst of Mediterranean flair. Toss the cooked pasta with the infused oil before adding cheese for a subtle flavor boost.

Olive Oil as a substitute for butter in mc and cheese.


Mashed avocado will add a smooth, silky texture, along with healthy fats to your mac and cheese dish.

Mash up some ripe avocado and mix it into your cheese sauce for a velvety, luscious finish. Not only does it add a luxurious creaminess, but it also brings a subtle, nutty flavor that pairs perfectly with cheesy goodness. Plus, you get all those amazing health benefits from the avocado, making your mac and cheese not just tasty, but guilt-free too.

It’s also naturally dairy-free and vegan-friendly, and its mild flavor blends beautifully with cheese. Use ripe avocados for the smoothest results.

Tip: Mash the avocado with a fork and whisk it into the hot milk/cheese mixture until fully incorporated. Start with a smaller amount and add more to taste, keeping in mind its slightly nutty flavor.

Avocado half as a substitute for butter in mc and cheese.

Heavy Cream

Feeling fancy? Ditch the butter altogether and go full-on decadent with heavy cream. It creates an incredibly rich and luxurious sauce, but be warned, this option packs a calorie punch.

Heavy cream has a higher fat content than milk, but it will add a layer of decadence to any dish. Now, if you are going to use heavy cream as a butter substitute in mac and cheese just remember you will get a creamier flavor and thicker sauce.

So instead of using butter, just simmer some heavy cream gently and then stir it into your cheese sauce. Don’t boil the cream or it will split. The heavy cream will add richness, just as butter does, but with a slightly different flavor profile. Plus, it’s a fantastic option if you’re looking to make your mac and cheese extra indulgent without adding extra butter.

Tip: Reduce the milk quantity in your recipe to compensate for the cream’s richness. You might also need to adjust the cheese amount as heavy cream contributes to the sauce’s thickness.

Heavy cream in bowl

Sour Cream & Greek Yogurt

Sour cream, as well as Greek yogurt, can be used instead of butter for cheese and mac. But you must know that they won’t melt like butter does. The two possess natural acidity that can help to offset any richness in the cheese. And they both are very low in calories which is certainly a better option than our previous suggestion of heavy cream.

So instead of using butter why not just mix some sour cream or Greek yogurt into your cheese sauce. It gives your mac and cheese a creamy tang that is both tasty and flavorful. Additionally, protein and probiotics provided by either choice make it more nutritious than ever before.

Full fat yoghurt should be used so as to obtain the best texture for the sauce – add your desired yoghurt very gently towards the end allowing no curdling throughout while whisking it gently all through.

Sour Cream provides a wonderful punch – another type of tang with less intensity could come from Greek yogurt.

Tip: This sauce is purely about fat content and how big milk proteins break it down; boiling will definitely make it split (which is bad).

Greek Yogurt bowl as a substitute for butter in mc and cheese.

Nutritional Yeast

Nutritional yeast is a deactivated yeast with a nutty, cheesy flavor. It’s a powder based ingredient that adds a cheesy, nutty flavor to dishes without any actual cheese.

Now, using nutritional yeast as a butter substitute in mac and cheese couldn’t be easier. Instead of butter, you can sprinkle some of this golden goodness into your cheese sauce as it simmers away. It’ll give your mac and cheese that same cheesy kick without any dairy, plus a boost of vitamins and minerals. Nutritional yeast adds a savory, umami flavor that’s hard to resist, making your mac and cheese taste like it’s been cooking for hours. So, grab that nutritional yeast and get ready to take your mac and cheese to a whole new level of cheesy goodness!

Remember, it won’t melt like butter, but sprinkled over your finished mac and cheese, it adds a delightful cheesy punch without the dairy.

Tip: Experiment with different brands and flavors of nutritional yeast to find your favorite. You can even mix it with a little olive oil to create a “cheese sauce” drizzle for your dish.

Nutritional yeast

Nut Butters

Nut butters can be a simple replacement to butter in mac and cheese. But there are a few things to take into account before you begin. Here’s a few for you to consider:

  • Nutty butters like peanuts, almonds, and cashews will provide a completely unique nutty taste for your mac and cheese. However, this may not appeal to everyone, especially those who have nut allergies.
  • Using nutty butters will appeal to people who are looking for vegan and dairy-free alternatives for butter in mac and cheese.
  • Peanut butter offers healthy fats and proteins, making your mac and cheese just that little more healthy.
  • The nutty flavor can be strong, which could overpower the cheese flavor. Always start by adding a small amount of nut butter to your dish.
  • Nut butters don’t melt as well as butter, so your sauce may be a little thicker, and grainy.
  • Some vegetable butters, specifically corn butter, have a natural sweetness which could pair with cheese.

We recommend that you should always start by using a small amount of your chosen butter, a couple of tablespoons should be adequate, before adding more during the cooking process in order to get the flavor you’re searching for. Try to opt for unsweetened and unsalted types.

Tip: If using sweet nut butters, try to balance the flavor with savory ingredients like spices (paprika, garlic powder), hot sauce, or a squeeze of lemon juice. And consider blending your nut butter with a few drops of milk or broth before adding it to the sauce. This can result in a smoother consistency.

Nut butters as a substitute for butter in mc and cheese.


Fun Facts

  1. Did you know that macaroni and cheese has a rich history dating back to the 14th century in Italy? While most of us know it as a meal loved in America, the dish actually originated in Italy, where it was known as “maccheroni alla milanese.” Thomas Jefferson is credited with introducing macaroni and cheese to the United States after encountering it during his travels in Europe. He even served a version of it at a state dinner in 1802!
  2. The iconic blue box of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, or often referred to as “Kraft Dinner” in Canada, has become a staple in pantries across North America. It was introduced by Kraft Foods in 1937 during the Great Depression as a way to provide an affordable and convenient meal option for families. Today, over one million boxes of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese are sold every day – now that’s some eating!
  3. While the classic version of macaroni and cheese remains a firm favorite there are now are countless variations and creative twists on the dish. From lobster mac and cheese to buffalo chicken mac and cheese, bacon mac and cheese, and even vegan mac and cheese made with plant-based ingredients.

Summary for butter substitute for mac and cheese

Okay – that’s you all sorted with suitable butter substitutes for mac and cheese.

Here’s a brief summary of substitutes for butter in mac and cheese:

  1. Margarine: Provides a similar consistency and flavor to butter, making it a straightforward swap.
  2. Olive Oil: Adds a rich, fruity flavor and can help create a creamy texture when combined with other ingredients.
  3. Avocado: Offers a creamy texture and a subtle, nutty flavor, adding a healthy twist to your mac and cheese.
  4. Heavy Cream: Enhances creaminess and richness, resulting in a decadent mac and cheese dish.
  5. Sour Cream & Greek Yogurt: Imparts tanginess and creaminess, lightening up the dish while adding a subtle tang.
  6. Nutritional Yeast: Provides a cheesy flavor without dairy, making it an excellent option for vegan mac and cheese or for those avoiding dairy products.

We have gathered together a lot more facts on ingredients such as herbs, spices, oils, nuts, etc. if you would like to learn some more.

Or if you need to swap out another ingredient have a look at our Substitutes section.