This Instant Pot Mac and Cheese recipe is velvety, creamy, and cheesy. It’s easy one pot meal that requires no draining and is ready in 30 minutes.
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So when I’m short on time, Instant Pot mac and cheese is my go-to unless I am feeling like a little spicy, then I make this one pot chili mac.
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
- Easy one pot meal: Add ingredients and let Instant Pot do all the work. With no draining the pasta! Perfect for when you are feeling uninspired or tired.
- Crowd pleaser: The creamy melted cheesy macaroni is something people just can’t get enough of!
- Versatile dish: Serve as a main dish with a salad or it can be a side dish to complete any meal.
- Healthier version: Uses less cheese, whole wheat pasta or gluten-free pasta can be used too.
- Budget friendly: Great when you’re running low on groceries.
Ingredients for Instant Pot Mac and Cheese
To make this mac and cheese in Instant Pot, you will need just 8 simple ingredients.
- Pasta: Traditional elbow shape pasta is the classic. Any small pasta that can hold the sauce, like shells, fusilli, and cavatappi pasta works. You can use whole wheat pasta, white pasta, or gluten-free pasta.
- Cheese: I use marble cheese because it is combination of two cheeses and has high melting factor. Good quality sharp cheddar cheese is also nice. I recommend to buy a block of cheese and grate it yourself because it will not be coated in anti-caking agents that prevent it from melting. Also it tastes better.
- Milk: I always have 3.25% milk on hand, so that’s what I use. 1% or 2% regular milk will work as well. Just keep in mind, the higher the fat content, the creamier the mac and cheese.
- Spices: A touch of mustard, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.
How to Make Instant Pot Mac and Cheese
Here is a quick photo overview how to make Instant Pot mac and cheese. Just cook the pasta, and stir in cheese and milk. You can find full recipe card below.
- Add ingredients: Add pasta, butter, spices, and water to any size Instant Pot. Most Instant Pot recipes do not require stirring but with this one I prefer to stir to make sure the pasta cooks through.
- Cook: Close the lid and set valve to Sealing. Pressure cook mac and cheese for 3 minutes on high pressure. It will take your pressure cooker about 5-7 minutes to come to pressure. The smaller the pot, the faster it pressurizes.
- Release the pressure: Wait 8 minutes before releasing pressure, then turn the valve to Venting. Open the lid and stir the pasta. If you see some is stuck together, just separate it gently with a spoon.
- Add cheese and milk: Add cheese in portions, stirring in between. Instant Pot mac and cheese sauce might look stringy at first but once you start stirring in the milk, it will become creamy. Add milk and stir again.
Tips for Best Results
- Don’t do Quick Release: If you turn the valve to Venting right away, pasta water will splatter everywhere. Once the 8 minutes of Natural Release is up, go ahead and turn it then.
- For gluten-free pasta: I recommend to cook it for 1 minute with the same pressure release.
- If your pasta is undercooked: Close the lid, let it sit for 5 minutes and let residual heat continue to cook the pasta. Don’t worry, it will get there, it’s pasta!
- Different cheese to use and not: Any smooth melting cheese like gouda, gruyere, fontina, Swiss and Monterey jack would be great choices! Mozzarella cheese and provolone cheese are more stringy, so I recommend to avoid them.
- Don’t use canned milk: I see many Instant Pot mac and cheese recipes online call for evaporated milk. I don’t recommend to use it as it is processed food and lacks flavor.
- For 3 quart Instant Pot: No changes to the recipe are necessary.
- Adjust consistency: We like creamy macaroni and cheese, so 1 cup of milk is the perfect amount for us. You can add less or more in portions, if you prefer. Keep in mind pasta soaks up liquid by the minute.
- Extra heat: A touch of hot sauce like sriracha or Frank’s Red Hot adds more flavor than it does heat.
- Spices and seasonings: Everything bagel, Montreal steak spice, paprika, nutmeg, soy sauce and even honey are great additions for you creative types.
- Bacon: Leftover chopped bacon crumbles.
- Dairy free: Use your favorite plant-based milk and cheese but keep in mind taste will change and so might the texture.
- Broth: Using chicken broth or vegetable broth instead of water will give your macaroni and cheese another layer of flavor.
- Tangy: A few readers asked to use yogurt instead of milk. Absolutely you can, mac and cheese will be more tangy. Sour cream would have the same effect.
What to Serve with Mac and Cheese?
Obviously, we like pasta and cheese on its own. I mean, what’s not to like?! But to make Instant Pot mac and cheese healthier and a complete meal, here are a few ideas:
- Chicken: Serve with baked chicken breast or oven baked chicken thighs for a protein-packed dinner.
- Veggies: Roasted cauliflower or baked asparagus adds necessary fibre, vitamins, and color to the plate. No time? We always whip up this green smoothie when in a rush.
- Side dish: Making this recipe as a side dish? Check out these healthy Thanksgiving recipes and holiday recipes.
How to Store and Reheat
Store: This recipe serves 6 people as I’m not a fan of macaroni and cheese leftovers. However, you can refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 2 days. You can also cut ingredients in half and keep the same cooking time to make less.
Pasta doesn’t freeze well, so I don’t recommend to do it.
Keep Warm function: You can use it but keep in mind pasta absorbs liquids fast and the longer you heat it, the faster the sauce dries out and the pasta becomes mushy. You can rehydrate it by adding a splash of milk once in a while.
Reheat: On your pressure cooker, Press Sauté and add a splash of water or milk. Stir mac and cheese in Instant Pot gently until heated through. On the stove top, do the same over low heat. If you’re only reheating a serving or two, pop it in the microwave.
It could be due to a few reasons. The first being the altitude of where you live affecting the pressure.
The second, is perhaps you didn’t add enough liquid to your pot. In order for the noodles to cook properly and absorb the right amount of liquid, you need to make sure your liquid to pasta ratio is spot on.
Lastly, even if your pasta to liquid ratio is right, if you didn’t make sure all pasta was submerged in the liquid, that could have been the cause for some of it to remain undercooked.
Either you added too much liquid or let it naturally release for too long, especially for the type of pasta you used. Pasta still cooks as it sits in the pot. If you’re not following the time accurately, you can easily overcook the macaroni.
A little bit of excess water is OK. Close the lid and let pasta sit for 5 minutes, the water will eventually get absorbed.
If there is a lot of water left, it is a sign you measured pasta wrong. 13 ounces dry pasta equals about 4 cups. When you use scales in the kitchen, you put a bowl or large measuring cup on it, press “On” so display doesn’t include the vessel in calculations, and only then add pasta. This should help with your “soupy pasta” issues.
You can drain the pasta and keep following the recipe or use less cheese and milk.
Yes. Cut all ingredients in half and cook mac and cheese as per recipe, keeping same cooking time.
Yes, you can double mac and cheese in 6 or 8 quart Instant Pot only. 3 quart pressure cooker is too small for that.
More Instant Pot Pasta Recipes
- Instant Pot chicken alfredo
- Instant Pot spaghetti
- Instant Pot ground beef stroganoff
- Instant Pot meatballs and pasta
For more dinner idea, browse these 45 healthy Instant Pot recipes.
Instant Pot Mac and Cheese
- Close the lid, turn pressure release valve to Sealing and press Pressure Cook on High or Manual for 3 minutes.
- Open the lid and gently stir the pasta. Add cheese in portions, stirring in between. It might look stringy. Then add milk in 1/4 cup portions until desired consistency, stirring in between. Mac and cheese will become creamy.
- Serve hot and immediately for best results.
- Store: Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 2 days. Or make less, by cutting recipe ingredients in half and keep same cook time. Reheat on Sauté in Instant Pot and add a splash of water or milk, then stir gently until heated through.
- Freeze: Pasta doesn’t freeze well.
- For gluten free pasta: I would cook it for 1 minute with same 8 minute pressure release.
- If pasta appears undercooked: Usually due to altitude or whatever other reason because it is Instant Pot. Then close the lid, let it sit for 5 minutes and it will get there.
- Instant Pot size: No changes to recipe necessary if using 3 quart Instant Pot. Recipe can be doubled in 6 or 8 quart Instant Pot only.