Instant Pot Mac and Cheese
See my guide on how to use an Instant Pot.
This Instant Pot Mac and Cheese is creamy, ultra cheesy and ready in just 30 minutes! It’s the best comfort food, perfect for serving as an easy dinner or side dish.
Homemade mac and cheese is the ultimate comfort food. And this Instant Pot mac and cheese is the easiest macaroni and cheese recipe!
The pasta cooks right in the Instant Pot and then you stir in butter, shredded cheese and milk to make a creamy cheese sauce. You won’t believe how fast this Instant Pot recipe comes together!
This Instant Pot mac and cheese has become my go-to macaroni and cheese recipe. You’ll love making mac and cheese in the Instant Pot because:
- It’s a one pot meal. You don’t even need to drain the pasta.
- It’s flavorful, with a rich and creamy cheese sauce that’s made by stirring a few ingredients right into the cooked pasta.
- You can have it on your table in 30 minutes or less.
This recipe, along with Instant Pot Spaghetti and Instant Pot BBQ Chicken, is one of my family’s favorite dinners. We love to serve this Instant Pot mac and cheese with Roasted Broccoli or steamed broccoli and Garlic Knots. Try it yourself, and wait for the compliments to roll in!
Instant Pot Mac and Cheese Ingredients
- Elbow Pasta: You can use white pasta or whole wheat pasta in this recipe. I recommend using elbow macaroni pasta, but other short pasta shapes, such as shells, will also work.
- Water: The pasta absorbs all of the water as it cooks. For extra flavor, you can substitute all or part of the water with chicken broth.
- Seasonings: A few simple seasonings flavor the pasta as it cooks. I use paprika, garlic powder, salt and pepper in this recipe. You can also add a teaspoon of Dijon mustard or 1/2 teaspoon of dry mustard, if desired.
- Butter: A little butter adds richness. Some recipes call for adding the butter before cooking the pasta, but this can lead to a mess during the quick release process. You’ll stir the butter into the hot cooked pasta and it will melt right in.
- Cheese: I have found that a combination of sharp cheddar cheese and sharp white cheddar cheese makes the best mac and cheese. The sharp white cheddar gives the best flavor to mac and cheese!
- Milk: This recipe is for Instant Pot mac and cheese without evaporated milk. I prefer to make mac and cheese with whole milk because it is less processed than canned milk. Plus, you can’t beat the flavor of fresh milk and real cheese.
Find the full printable recipe with ingredient amounts and instructions in the recipe card below.
How to Make Instant Pot Mac and Cheese
If you’re new to Instant Pot cooking, I recommend reading my guide on how to use an Instant Pot. Then follow these steps to make the best Instant Pot mac and cheese:
- Combine the pasta, water and seasonings in the Instant Pot.
- Pressure cook at high pressure for 3 minutes for whole wheat elbow pasta or 4 minutes for white elbow pasta.
- Quick release the pressure.
- Stir in the butter.
- Stir in the cheese until melted.
- Stir in the milk.
- Taste and add more salt and pepper if desired. Serve and enjoy!
How Long to Cook Pasta in an Instant Pot
You can use this easy formula to figure out how long you need to cook your pasta in the Instant Pot, no matter which shape of pasta you use: take the package cook time and divide it in half. That’s it! If you like your pasta al dente (firmer), subtract one more minute from the pressure cooking time.
You can change up the flavors of your macaroni and cheese by stirring in one or more of these optional mix-ins after cooking your Instant Pot mac and cheese:
- Add Protein: Stir in Instant Pot Shredded Chicken, chopped Poached Chicken, leftover Instant Pot Rotisserie Chicken, cubed cooked ham, sausage, or crumbled Bacon.
- Add Veggies: Try Instant Pot Broccoli, frozen peas, Roasted Butternut Squash, or fresh spinach.
- Add Spice: Sophisticated palates may enjoy a pinch of cayenne pepper or a dash of hot sauce mixed into the mac and cheese.
- Try Other Cheeses: Try using a combination of sharp cheddar and either mozzarella, Gruyere or Monterey jack. You can also stir in some grated Parmesan cheese for extra flavor.
How to Reheat Mac and Cheese
This Instant Pot mac and cheese is best served right after making it. That’s when it will have the best creamy texture. If you have leftovers, you can store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Leftover mac and cheese is still delicious, it just won’t be as creamy as when it’s fresh from the pressure cooker.
I recommend stirring in a little bit of milk when reheating your mac and cheese. You can warm it gently in a pot on the stove or in the microwave. Stir the macaroni well partway through reheating.
Instant Pot Mac and Cheese Recipe Tips
- Shred your own cheese. Store bought pre-shredded cheese is often coated with an anti-caking agent that prevents it from melting smoothly.
- When you quick release the pressure after the Instant Pot cook time ends, move the steam release valve very carefully and, if possible, move it just a little bit at a time. It’s best to release the steam and pressure slowly to avoid a starchy spray from coming out of the valve. As long as you do a slow and careful quick release, you shouldn’t end up with a mess.
- For easy clean up, give your Instant Pot lid a quick rinse right away after you take the lid off. Then later you can give it a full wash with soap, after you’ve finished eating. Rinsing the pasta starch off of the lid right away makes clean up much easier! You will also want to remove the steam release handle and rinse it out. It pulls right off and then you just press it back on. See my Instant Pot manual for a photo.
More Easy Instant Pot Recipes
- Instant Pot Beef Stew
- Instant Pot Pork Tenderloin
- Instant Pot Chicken and Rice
- Instant Pot Pork Chops
- Instant Pot Lasagna
Instant Pot Mac and Cheese
- 16 ounces uncooked white or whole wheat elbow pasta
- 4 cups water
- ½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
- ¼ teaspoon pepper, or to taste
- ¼ teaspoon paprika
- ⅛ teaspoon garlic powder
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 8 ounces sharp white cheddar cheese, about 2 cups shredded
- 4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, about 1 cup shredded
- ½ cup milk, warmed, whole milk is best
- Place pasta, water, salt, pepper, paprika and garlic powder in Instant Pot. Stir well. Even out the pasta to make sure it is all in the liquid.
- Close the Instant Pot lid and move the steam release valve to the sealing position. Cook on Manual/Pressure Cook at high pressure for 3 minutes for whole wheat elbow pasta or 4 minutes for white elbow pasta. (A good rule of thumb is to cook pasta in the Instant Pot for half of the cook time listed on the box.)
- While the pasta cooks, shred the cheese and warm the milk.
- As soon as the cook time ends, quick release the pressure by moving the steam release valve to the venting position. If possible, do a slow and careful quick release by moving the valve a little bit at a time, to slow the release of starchy steam from the pasta and minimize mess.
- Once all of the steam has been released and the pin drops down, open the Instant Pot lid and add the butter to the pot. Slowly stir in the cheese, a little bit at a time, followed by the milk. Taste and add more salt and pepper as desired.
- If the mac and cheese seems too liquidy, let it sit on the warm setting for a few minutes and it will thicken up. Serve.
- I recommend shredding your own cheese, rather than using pre-shredded cheese. Pre-shredded cheese is often coated with cellulose to keep it from clumping together and it doesn't melt as well.