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Can I Substitute Heavy Cream For Milk In Mac And Cheese?

Mac and cheese is the ultimate comfort food, easy to make, and ideal for the mid-week dinner rush. And let’s be honest, what’s not to love about this rich, creamy, cheesy concoction?

That said, often, when my pasta craving kicks in, there’ll be one ingredient I don’t have- milk. This has led me to explore my options regarding substitutes, and boy, am I glad I did. I’m about to tell you about my favorite milk substitute for mac and cheese – heavy cream.  

Can I Substitute Heavy Cream for Milk in Mac and Cheese?

Heavy cream is an excellent substitute for milk in mac and cheese. Depending on your preference, you can add it as is or dilute it with water. Cream adds a thick, bold, and rich consistency to mac and cheese that amplifies the dish’s overall taste. Some may even consider it a superior option to milk.

Can I Substitute Heavy Cream For Milk In Mac And Cheese?
Can I Substitute Heavy Cream For Milk In Mac And Cheese?

Using Heavy Cream As A Milk Substitute

Did you just get home and realize you forgot to buy milk?

This is the number one product I most often leave off my shopping list by accident, even though I use it every day!

In any case, the good news is you don’t need milk if you’re planning to make mac and cheese for dinner.

There are plenty of substitutes that work just as well, with my personal favorite being heavy cream.

Cream, like milk, is a dairy product, but it has a much higher fat content than regular milk (around 36% to 40%).

For this reason, it behaves very similarly to milk in cooking, except with a much creamier texture.

As for taste, the higher the fat content, the richer your food will be.

This is especially true for dishes like mac and cheese that already contain plenty of fat from the cheese products and starch from the pasta.

Nevertheless, if it’s flavor you’re after, you can’t go wrong with a heavy cream substitute.

Heavy cream has a higher fat content than milk, which can give your mac and cheese a rich and creamy texture.
Heavy cream has a higher fat content than milk, which can give your mac and cheese a rich and creamy texture.

How to Use Heavy Cream Instead Of Milk

When it comes to using heavy cream as a substitute for milk, you have some options in terms of how much to add (for the health-conscious among us).

You can either add cream to your mac and cheese in its pure form or dilute it to take on a thinner, milkier consistency.

Heavy cream has the highest fat content of all dairy products, so adding it as is to your meal will make it infinitely thick and very rich.

If you want to tone down the fat, you can mix it half-and-half with water, so it’s thinner and more like regular milk.

But remember that the more water you add, the more liquid your pasta sauce will become.

Alternatively, if you don’t want to sacrifice any creaminess, mix your heavy cream on a 1:1 ratio with low-fat or fat-free milk.

You’ll still get some of the rich flavors of the cream but less of the guilt of a super high fat content.

The more water you add to dilute heavy cream, the more liquid your pasta sauce becomes.
The more water you add to dilute heavy cream, the more liquid your pasta sauce becomes.

Making Homemade Milk From Heavy Cream

Science suggests making milk from heavy cream is possible by diluting it according to fat content.

Where regular milk contains 3.5% fat, heavy cream has a 36% fat content minimum.

This means, theoretically, that cream diluted on a 1:10 ratio can be considered milk.

And it’s surprisingly effective, especially for baking and cooking, provided you add some sugar for taste.

So, if you’re out of milk and you want to substitute it as closely as possible, combine 1-part heavy cream with 9-parts cold water and add half a portion of sugar.

In mac and cheese, it would take an exceptionally discerning palette to tell the difference between homemade milk and shop-bought milk.

However, there is a slight risk that your cheesy sauce will lack a bit of creaminess due to the large volume of water.

You can make homemade milk by diluting heavy cream.
You can make homemade milk by diluting heavy cream.

Alternative Substitutes for Milk in Mac and Cheese

Once you start doing a little research, you’ll find that milk is really easy to substitute in all sorts of dishes, and especially in mac and cheese.

Processed dairy products, like buttermilk, yogurt, and evaporated milk, are options for replacing milk.

Sour cream and cream cheese add an interesting tang and flavor that work really nicely with cheese.

Powdered milk, which is a great staple to have in the pantry, particularly if you’re forgetful like me, can be mixed up to work as a perfect milk substitute too.

People suffering from lactose sensitivity can try substituting cow’s milk with soy milk or nut milk, although you’d need to do some investigating to establish ratios.

And if all else fails, never underestimate the power of pasta water. This starchy liquid is a natural thickener with a ton of taste to contribute to your dish.

By the same token, you can also use a roux of butter and flour.

Nut milks may also be used as substitutes for milk in mac and cheese
Nut milks may also be used as substitutes for milk in mac and cheese.

Frequently Asked Questions to Can I Substitute Heavy Cream for Milk in Mac and Cheese?

Is Heavy Cream Unhealthy?

Heavy cream has a bad reputation because of its calorie content, but it’s not all that unhealthy. The fat it contains is healthy, and it’s also full of nutrients and vitamins. I don’t recommend indulging in heavy cream every day, but a little bit now and then won’t be too harmful. That said, if you suffer from health issues like cholesterol, run your diet by your doctor first.

What is a Healthy Substitute for Heavy Cream in Cooked and Baked Dishes?

Heavy cream is a delicious addition to most cuisines but can be very high in fat. If you’re looking for a slightly healthier alternative, consider substituting heavy cream with cottage cheese or regular cow’s milk. A cup of heavy cream contains around 800 calories to the plus-minus 150 calories in cow’s milk.

Conclusion to Can I Substitute Heavy Cream for Milk In Mac and Cheese?

Mac and cheese has been a fan favorite for decades, primarily because of how delicious and convenient it is. What’s not convenient, however, is not having the ingredients you need at your disposal.

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to substitute milk in mac and cheese, and many of them, like heavy cream, ultimately end up contributing to the overall taste and texture of the dish in a really delicious way.

Author Bio

Daniel Iseli (Head Chef)

Hi, my name is Daniel and I am passionate about cooking. I have been cooking for the past 20 years and am happy to share my best recipes and cooking-related knowledge with you.