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Macaroni and cheese is without a doubt one of the most popular comfort foods in the United States. But, do you know what gives mac and cheese that incredible taste and texture (aside from the cheese)? Butter! Butter has been traditionally known as a must-have for making delicious mac and cheese, but thankfully, there are a few alternatives you can use that can be equally scrumptious. So, what are the best substitutes for butter in mac and cheese?
Margarine, oil, ghee, cream cheese, or heavy cream can all be used as substitutes for butter in mac and cheese. These alternatives will not only substitute butter in your mac and cheese but will also give it a distinct flavor. In addition, nut butters such as tahini, homemade peanut butter, and coconut oil are vegan alternatives. This article will go through the options for replacing butter in mac and cheese without losing the texture and taste of this comfort food staple.
Dairy Substitutes for Butter
The key reason for using butter in mac and cheese is to add flavor. You can get the same richness and taste without the butter by using cream cheese or heavy cream. The following are milk substitutes for butter.
1) Cream Cheese
Butter substitutes are typically used if you want to reduce the amount of saturated fat in your diet. Cream cheese is one option, but it’s not recommended for recipes that require fat. For recipes that require making a roux, butter, oil, ghee, or margarine is still best.
In recipes that aren’t influenced by the reduced fat content, however, you can use cream cheese as a butter substitute. Using cream cheese instead of butter will result in a thicker and creamier blend of mac and cheese that has a rich flavor.
When using cream cheese in a recipe, you usually need to melt or soften it first.
2) Heavy Cream
You can definitely use heavy cream in place of butter for a very decadent mac and cheese. In fact, you can hold off on using milk, too, when opting for heavy cream. Unfortunately, you cannot make a roux with it.
If it creates a mac and cheese too thick and too calorie-dense for your liking, consider cutting your heavy cream with some salted pasta water until you have achieved your desired consistency.
Ghee — a type of butter that is clarified or heated and strained to remove its liquid content — is an excellent butter alternative for those without any dairy restrictions. Although it has a high-fat percentage, it’s richer and less oily than butter and has a higher burning point.
Ghee is made by simmering butter until it becomes a concentrated version, free of milk solids and excess water, effectively keeping only fat behind. Ghee is a cooking fat that is similar to coconut oil in terms of nutritional value and consistency. It has a flavor similar to browned butter — a little nutty and toasted — and can be used in place of butter in most recipes.
As opposed to butter, ghee stands out since it is free from lactose and casein, two milk proteins that are notorious for most dairy allergies and intolerances. This means that anyone who normally avoids dairy due to digestive concerns can usually eat ghee without issue. Ghee is also shelf-stable, which means it can sit in your pantry for a more extended period without spoiling since much of the water has evaporated during the clarifying process.
Despite being primarily made up of fats, ghee has an excellent nutrient profile. It’s usually made from grass-fed butter and contains a lot of vitamin A, E, and D.
Dairy-Free Substitutes for Butter
To make mac and cheese healthier, most health-conscious and vegan individuals substitute butter and replace it with non-dairy alternatives. In fact, a tablespoon of butter contains over 100 calories and 11 grams of fat. So, here are some healthier, dairy-free butter options.
Margarine is a plant-based fat source that is a good butter alternative with less calories. In fact, it is popularly known as “vegan butter” and is commonly marketed and used for cooking and baking as a butter substitute.
Instead of milk, it’s made with vegetable oil and water, with a final product that closely resembles butter in terms of consistency and taste. Whether you’re vegan or not, this is by far the perfect substitute for butter. It’ll get you closest to the flavor you’re after. Its fat content also makes it good for creating a roux.
Plant-based butters are made with plant-based oils like coconut oil, olive oil, and avocado oil. They are gluten-free and dairy-free and behave similarly to regular butter and margarine, so they can also be used to make a roux.
Tahini and Peanut Butter
Vegans and vegetarians can also turn to either tahini, a paste made of sesame seeds, or peanut butter for a butter alternative. Both have high-fat content, which is ideal for making extra creamy mac and cheese.
Their flavor profiles can also complement and elevate the cheesy flavors of your mac and cheese.
Conclusion: The Best Substitutes for Butter in Mac and Cheese
Butter is a key ingredient in making mac and cheese. However, there are several replacements for butter if ever you’re out or simply looking for other options. There are milk substitutes you can use, like cream cheese, heavy cream, and ghee. For non-dairy alternatives, you can use margarine, oil, or other plant-based butter. With these substitutes, you can make delicious mac and cheese with the best texture and taste!