Instant Pot Mac and Cheese
See my guide on how to use an Instant Pot.
This easy Instant Pot Mac and Cheese recipe is simple to make with just a few ingredients. This pressure cooker macaroni and cheese is a 30 minute meal that’s perfect for a family dinner or potluck. Homemade mac and cheese has never been so easy to make!
When I need a quick and easy dinner that all of my kids will eat and enjoy, I make this Instant Pot mac and cheese.
This recipe is so simple, you won’t believe that it can be this easy to make homemade macaroni and cheese. This Instant Pot mac and cheese has perfectly cooked pasta in a luxuriously creamy cheese sauce. It’s rich and creamy and downright addicting!
Why make mac and cheese in an Instant Pot?
- This Instant Pot macaroni and cheese is a one pot meal, so you only have one pot to wash at the end. You don’t even need to drain the pasta since it cooks in just the right amount of liquid!
- Pressure cooker mac and cheese is so easy and hands-off! You don’t have to watch a pot on the stove or wait for a pot of water to come to a boil.
- This one pot mac and cheese is creamy, cheesy, and so satisfying. It’s a meal the whole family will love!
- This Instant Pot mac and cheese is ready in 30 minutes, start to finish. That includes the time that it takes for the Instant Pot to come to pressure.
If you’re a homemade mac and cheese fanatic, you’ll also love my Panera Mac and Cheese recipe. You can even make it in your Instant Pot, by following the method in the recipe below and just changing up the ingredients! My easy Instant Pot Spaghetti and Instant Pot Pasta with Sausage are my other two favorite Instant Pot pasta recipes. If you love beef and noodles, try my easy Instant Pot Beef Stroganoff.
Are you new to using your Instant Pot pressure cooker? Read my beginner’s Instant Pot manual for a quick start guide to Instant Pot cooking. Then check out these favorite Instant Pot recipes for lots of recipe ideas!
How to Make Instant Pot Mac and Cheese
Instant Pot Mac and Cheese Ingredients
Pasta: You can use white pasta or whole wheat pasta in this recipe. I recommend using elbow macaroni pasta in your macaroni 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.
Cheese: I have found that a combination of sharp white cheddar cheese and regular cheddar cheese makes the best mac and cheese. The sharp white cheddar gives the best flavor to mac and cheese! You can use all sharp white cheddar in this recipe. I use a combination of cheeses because the sharp white cheddar that I buy comes in 8 ounce packages. Since that’s not quite enough cheese for this creamy, cheesy mac and cheese recipe I add 4 ounces of regular cheddar as well.
Paprika and Garlic Powder: A little bit of paprika and garlic powder make the mac and cheese extra flavorful.
Butter: 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.
Salt and Pepper: You’ll add some salt and pepper to the pasta before it cooks. Then taste the finished macaroni and cheese and add more salt and pepper as desired.
Making this easy Instant Pot recipe is so simple! Here’s what you’ll do:
- Cook the pasta in the Instant Pot.
- Quick release the pressure.
- Stir in the butter, cheese and milk.
- 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 the package cook time is an odd number so you don’t get a whole number when you halve it, round down. If you prefer your pasta al dente (firmer), subtract one more minute from the cook time after cutting it in half.
For example, if you are cooking whole wheat elbow pasta with a package cook time of 6-7 minutes, take 6 minutes and halve it to get 3 minutes. You’ll cook those whole wheat elbows for 3 minutes on high pressure in your Instant Pot, followed by a careful (slow) quick release right after the cook time ends. If you want your whole wheat elbow pasta to be al dente, try cooking it for 2 minutes in the Instant Pot.
Instant Pot Macaroni and Cheese Ideas
You can change up the flavors of your macaroni and cheese by mixing in one or more of these after cooking your Instant Pot mac and cheese:
- shredded chicken or leftover Instant Pot rotisserie chicken
- cubed cooked ham
- cooked sausage (sliced or crumbled)
- crumbled bacon (how to cook bacon)
- cooked broccoli
- frozen peas (no need to cook them, just stir them into the hot mac and cheese)
- roasted butternut squash
- fresh spinach
- other veggies that your family loves – try mushrooms, cauliflower, zucchini, bell peppers, caramelized onions, really any vegetable that you enjoy!
- add a pinch of cayenne pepper for spicy mac and cheese
- use other cheeses, such as a combination of mozzarella and cheddar or a combination of Gruyere and cheddar
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. You can reheat the leftovers, though (I certainly do!), and it will still be delicious.
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.
Cooking Tips for the Best Instant Pot Mac and Cheese
- For even more flavor, try using low sodium chicken broth in place of half or all of the water that the pasta cooks in.
- When you quick release the pressure after the Instant Pot cook time ends, turn the steam release valve very carefully and move it just a little bit. You want to release the steam and pressure slowly to avoid a foamy 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. You can also put a kitchen towel over the valve to help contain the steam.
- 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 inside 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.
- This recipe makes a lot of mac and cheese. If you don’t need 8 servings or leftovers, you can halve this recipe. Halve the ingredients and the cook time will stay the same.
- This Instant Pot mac and cheese would be a perfect side dish for my flavorful Instant Pot chicken thighs or crispy baked chicken thighs!
More Easy Instant Pot Recipes:
Instant Pot Mac and Cheese
- 16 ounces uncooked white or whole wheat elbow pasta
- 4 cups water (or low sodium chicken broth)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- ¼ teaspoon paprika
- ⅛ teaspoon garlic powder
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 8 ounces sharp white cheddar cheese (about 2 cups shredded)
- 4 ounces 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 turn 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 pot 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.
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