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Can I Use Water Instead of Milk in Cheese Sauce?

Milk is important in making thick sauces, such as cheese sauces, thanks to its density and unique flavor. But what if you don’t have or can’t drink it for health reasons?

You can use water instead of milk in cheese sauce. So even if you run out of milk or don’t take milk, you can still create a cheese sauce. The cheese sauce won’t be as rich and dense as if it were to use milk, but it can also be delicious, especially with meat or vegetable broth.

Keep reading as I share with you how to use water instead of milk in cheese sauce, so whether you’re lactose-intolerant or not, you can enjoy making cheese sauce however you like, even without milk.

Substituting Water for Milk in Cheese Sauce

Water in a Measuring Cup Small

You can substitute water for milk in cheese sauce. The texture of the cheese sauce won’t be as dense and rich as cheese sauce with milk in it, but it’ll taste good regardless. 

You need other essentials to make your cheese sauce, such as a roux (a combination of flour and fat, typically butter to thicken sauces), water, cheese, and salt. 

Using water instead of milk in cheese sauce is common among people who want to avoid dairy products. Some don’t take cow milk due to religious/cultural reasons, so if they can’t find other milk sources, they use water instead. 

Of course, using water for certain recipes is simply not enough, but if your recipe allows flexibility, you can still make a tasty meal.

Pros of using water instead of milk in cheese sauce:

  • It is healthier.
  • It’s cheaper to use water.
  • You can easily take water straight from your tap if you don’t have milk.
  • Your cheese sauce can still taste good.

Cons of using water instead of milk in cheese sauce:

  • Your cheese sauce won’t be as rich and flavorful.
  • Your cheese sauce may not be as thick as you like.
  • If you add more cheese to your sauce (to make the sauce thicker), you’ll end up spending more—cheese is more expensive than milk.

Based on the above pros and cons, it seems that water isn’t a bad option for replacing milk in terms of convenience and cost.

Related The Best Substitutes for Milk in a Recipe | Ultimate Guide.

Easy Cheese Sauce With Water Recipe

You can make a tasty cheese sauce for your next dish without milk with this easy cheese sauce with water recipe:


  • 2 tbsp All-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp Butter
  • 1 cup of Water
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Garlic powder
  • Cheese (any amount you like)


  1. Melt butter on a saucepan over medium-high heat.
  2. Stir in flour to make a roux.
  3. Once the roux is formed, pour in water and stir.
  4. Once the sauce thickens, let it simmer for another minute
  5. Remove the saucepan from the fire and add in some cheese.
  6. Add salt, pepper, and garlic powder to the sauce.

This sauce can serve up to 6 people and can be used with vegetables like broccoli and cauliflowers. Add more cheese if you like your sauce to be super cheesy. Your roux mustn’t get burned; otherwise, the roux will taste bad and affect your cheese sauce.

By the way, the value of a good whisk, like the simple but effective one I use, found on Amazon, cannot be overstated. In fact, it might be my favorite tool in the kitchen and is great for tasks like this!

What Else Can I Substitute For Milk in a Cheese Sauce?

You can substitute broth or stock for milk in a cheese sauce. Many people use meat broth instead of water as they find it a better alternative to milk than water. Vegetable broth is excellent, too, perfect for vegetarians and vegans.

So if you think plain water is too bland for your cheese sauce, go ahead and use meat or vegetable broth instead of plain water for making your cheese sauce. 

Alternatively, you can use meat stock in your cheese sauce—not applicable for vegans and vegetarians. Many people use stock instead of broth to make their cheese sauce ticker and more flavorful.

If you think a meat stock will be too strong for your sauce, though, you can always use half portion of stock with half portion of broth. If you don’t have stock, use water instead, but note that the flavor won’t be as strong.

Pro Tip: To add thickness to the cheese sauce, you can use cornstarch or egg yolks.

For more, don’t miss 6 Easy Ways To Thicken Homemade Queso Cheese Dip.

Three Types of Broth in Clear Cups
Most any type of broth will do.

Can You Use Water Instead of Milk for Mac and Cheese?

You can use water instead of milk to make Mac and Cheese. It’s one of America’s most popular comfort foods, dating back even before the 1930s. The dish is so popular due to its easy preparation, filling properties, and versatility.

Milk is one of the ingredients of Mac and Cheese. What many people don’t realize, though, is they can make Mac and Cheese without milk—and it’ll still turn out great! Sure, the Mac and Cheese texture won’t be the same as its milk version, but there’s always a way to get around that.

Cool Tip: Many people make Mac and Cheese without milk using a rice cooker. They boil the pasta and keep the leftover water to make the base for the cheese sauce. After putting the pasta aside, they mix hot pasta water with cheese to make a thick sauce.

Can You Use Creme Fraiche for Making Mac and Cheese Instead?

You can use creme fraiche to make Mac and Cheese. Creme fraiche is an excellent alternative to milk. The only downside of using creme fraiche is that it might not be available at the supermarket near you.

If you cannot find creme fraiche in your area, you can use sour cream instead. Sour cream is a common alternative to creme fraiche. If you want to use sour cream to make cheese sauce for dipping, you may want to use less sour cream in your sauce.

How to Thicken Up Cheese Sauce

Bread Being Dipped in Cheese Sauce

If your cheese sauce isn’t thick enough, you can:

  • Add more cheese to your sauce;
  • Simmer your sauce longer;
  • Use egg yolk as a thickening agent;
  • Add a starch thickener (cornstarch or flour).

These methods are common in thickening up cheese sauce that’s made without milk.

You do want to be careful when simmering your sauce, though you can accidentally get the wrong texture (or worse, burn the sauce) if you boil the sauce on high heat. Egg yolk is a great alternative to cornstarch and flour.

Related How to Fix Grainy or Gritty Cheese Sauce (In 3 Easy Steps).

Can You Make a Roux With Water Instead of Milk?

You don’t need milk or water to make a roux. A roux is a mixture of flour and fat cooked together to make a thick sauce. You’ll need milk for your roux only when you want to make a bechamel sauce, or water only when you want to thicken a sauce, like cheese sauce.

Can You Make a White Sauce With Water Instead of Milk?

Traditionally, you cannot make a white sauce with water instead of milk because white sauce, also known as “Béchamel sauce,” is a sauce specifically made of milk and roux. 

Simply put, no milk, no Béchamel sauce. The rest of the ingredients you add to your white sauce is up to you because you don’t always have to make it exactly the French way.

Traditional French Béchamel sauce uses dairy milk, but you can use plant-based milk. Plant-based Béchamel sauce is great for vegans or individuals who want to avoid milk. The different types of milk that can be used for your white sauce are:

  • Soy milk
  • Almond milk

For some, white sauce doesn’t have to contain milk—as long as it’s white, it’s a white sauce! If you don’t want to take the traditional route, by all means, make your white sauce however you want, as long as it tastes and looks good. Instead of milk, you can use water or vegetable broth.

How to Make White Sauce Using Water

You can make a white sauce using water and other ingredients like olive oil, garlic, cashews, yeast, and salt. You’ll have to experiment with the recipe yourself to see if it’s suitable for your next dish. Learn how to make a white sauce with water from the video below:

How to Make White Sauce Using Vegetable Broth

Many vegans use vegetable broth to make a white sauce. This method is pretty simple and requires only vegetable stock, all-purpose flour, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Find the recipe here.

How Do You Melt Cheddar Cheese Without Milk?

You can melt cheddar cheese without milk by melting the cheese in a microwave or on the stovetop or steaming it. Let the cheese sit at room temperature first before putting it in the microwave to melt. Stir the cheese if it’s not fully melted, and microwave it again until you reach the consistency you want.

If you’re using the stovetop method, grate the cheese first and let it sit at room temperature before melting it. Put the material in a non-stick pot and let it sit on low. Keep an eye on the cheese and keep stirring until you get the consistency you want.

If you’re going for the steaming method, put your cheese in a small oven-safe bowl. Let it sit at room temperature first before putting it in the oven. Place the bowl on a steamer basket in a saucepan containing water and let it steam on high heat for 1-5 minutes.

Do I Need Milk for Kraft Mac and Cheese?

You need milk to make Kraft Mac and Cheese the way it’s intended, but if you don’t have any, it won’t hurt to skip it. You’ll still get a Mac and Cheese at the end, but it won’t taste exactly how the recipe calls for it. 

Here’s a video of how your Kraft Mac and Cheese will look like without milk:

You’ll notice the person making the Mac and Cheese threw away his pasta water in the video. Then, he added a little bit of water to the pot of pasta which he then used for making the pasta sauce. 

Instead of using new water from the tap to mix your pasta sauce, I recommend keeping a bit of your pasta water and using that instead—there’s salt in the water for extra flavoring and starch for making the pasta creamier.

What Is Nacho Cheese Sauce Made Of?

Nacho cheese sauce is made of different types of cheese, usually cheese like Velveeta, Cheddar, Colby Jack, or Mozzarella, with peppers and other spices, like chili powder. 

Milk and butter are used for making Nacho cheese sauce. However, many vegan-friendly Nacho cheese sauce varieties today use dairy-free milk and butter or cornstarch. 

Is Cheese Sauce the Same As Béchamel?

Cheese sauce is the same as a Béchamel sauce only when you add cheese to the béchamel sauce. However, it’s not the same as classic béchamel sauce because classic béchamel (in the traditional French style) doesn’t require cheese. 

Watch this video to see how to prepare a French Béchamel sauce:

Adding cheese will give your Béchamel sauce more flavor, but you can’t always add cheese to a béchamel sauce unless the recipe calls for it. 

In France, Béchamel sauce is the mother of all sauces, used as a base for making them. In terms of preparation, cheese sauce is slightly different from Béchamel sauce because you don’t need to sieve it before serving it. But you must always sieve Béchamel sauce to ensure it’s free of lumps.

Final Thoughts

You can use water instead of milk in cheese sauce. Even though it won’t taste the same as the version with milk, it can still taste very good. Be creative with the ingredients you add to your cheese sauce. 

Alternatively, you can use broth or stock instead of milk or water to make your cheese sauce. Be sure to have your roux ready to help you make the perfect sauce. You can also substitute creme fraiche and sour cream for milk in cheese sauce.

Thanks for stoppin’ by!