Instant Pot mac and cheese is creamy, cheesy, and everything you want from macaroni and cheese. Works great with whole wheat pasta, too!
Why you’ll love it: The macaroni cooks right with the cheese sauce in your Instant Pot; no messy colander or extra pan to wash.
How long it takes: less than a half hour
Equipment you’ll need: Instant Pot
Macaroni and cheese probably falls directly behind freshly popped buttered popcorn on my list of weaknesses. There’s just something about creamy, cheesy pasta that I cannot get enough of.
Truth be told, I’m not all that discerning when it comes to macaroni and cheese. You’d have to really screw it up for me to dislike it. Boxed macaroni and cheese, frozen mac and cheese, restaurant mac and cheese, whatever, if it has pasta and cheese, I’m a happy gal.
With that being said, this Instant Pot recipe is really good mac and cheese! Do you believe me after my “I’ll eat any and all mac and cheese” speech? Maybe I should rethink that intro, but I’m all about honesty.
It’s kind of like beer, I can appreciate everything from Coors Light all the way to a beautiful sampler of craft beer or a Boddington’s served at cellar temperature at a pub in London. But, I still know what the good stuff is.
Same applies to mac and cheese. I’ll eat it all, but given the choice between this homemade mac and cheese, and the blue box? I bet you know which one I’d choose.
This isn’t the first macaroni and cheese recipe on Rachel Cooks (check out the other recipes below) but it’s the first recipe for Instant Pot Mac and Cheese. I love my Instant Pot recipes, but I bet you already know that, especially if this isn’t your first visit to my little corner of the internet.
I love, love, love how easy this recipe is. Everything is made in your pressure cooker and there’s no need to cook and drain the pasta separately. It’s quick, easy, and almost completely hands-off. Less cleanup, too.
About This Recipe
This Instant Pot macaroni and cheese starts with water and pasta, just like any macaroni and cheese recipe. It cooks under pressure for 4 minutes before the pressure is released. After that, all that’s left to do is stir in the seasonings, evaporated milk, and two types of cheese. Stir, stir, stir until it is melted, and then EAT!
What You’ll Need
- Elbow Macaroni: The recipe makes a pretty large batch with a 16 ounce box of macaroni, which is about 4 cups of dry pasta.
- Water: Just like when you boil pasta, you need quite a lot of water to make this recipe, 4 cups. The dry pasta absorbs all that water as it cooks. It’s kind of amazing.
- Kosher Salt: I usually use kosher salt for cooking. If you substitute regular table salt, use a bit less.
- Evaporated Milk: Look for canned evaporated milk in the baking aisle. Evaporated milk is regular milk that has had some of the water removed. It’s shelf-stable which means you can keep a can or two in your pantry all ready for recipes like this one.
- Ground Mustard: A dry light yellow powder, ground mustard is a subtle seasoning. It won’t make your recipe taste like mustard.
- Garlic Powder: This is optional but if you enjoy garlic, it adds a subtle garlic flavor that really does enhance the recipe.
- Sharp Cheddar Cheese: Buy a block of cheese and shred your own for the best results. Pre-shredded cheese has additives which prevent the cheese from clumping in the package but which also prevents it from melting smoothly. However, I’ve used both types with no problems (see the FAQs below).
- Shredded Parmesan Cheese: With two types of cheese, there’s plenty of cheesy goodness in this recipe.
I’ve tried this recipe with both, and I’m happy to say they both work. My preference is to grate the cheese yourself. It yields a slightly creamier end result with a better overall consistency, but the difference is pretty minimal, and I’m all about a shortcut here and there, so if all you have time for is store-bought shredded cheese, go for it!
YES! I make this recipe with both whole wheat pasta and regular macaroni, and both turn out fantastic.
YES! I’ve done this too and it’s super delicious. I’m a sucker for crispy pasta on the top of baked macaroni and cheese. Make sure to grease your baking dish with nonstick spray, and sprinkle the top with extra cheese, crushed crackers, or buttered bread crumbs for good measure. This is usually how I reheat the leftovers. It’s fun to repurpose it a little so you don’t feel like you’re eating exactly the same thing.
YES! Go wild, sister. Or brother. I love the flavor of sharp cheddar in macaroni and cheese, but you could also use Colby Jack for a more mild mac, or you could get fancy with Gruyère, or spice it up a little with pepper Jack cheese. Have fun, that’s what cooking is all about!
What To Serve with Mac and Cheese
As a side, macaroni and cheese goes well with grilled chicken or grilled salmon. We like it with air fryer chicken tenders or air fryer chicken nuggets. Or how about tender melt-in-your-mouth ribs and tangy homemade coleslaw?
More Mac and Cheese Recipes
- Instant Pot Mac and Cheese with Broccoli (cook healthy green broccoli in your mac and cheese, all in one pot!)
- Easiest Ever Baked Macaroni and Cheese
- Panera Copycat Mac and Cheese
- Green Chile Mac and Cheese
- Mac and Cheese Pizza
- Crockpot Mac and Cheese
- Microwave Mac and Cheese
- 1 pound (16 oz.) uncooked elbow macaroni
- 4 cups water
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 can (12 oz.) evaporated milk (shake before opening)
- ½ teaspoon ground mustard
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder, optional
- 3 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- ½ cup shredded parmesan cheese
- Ground black pepper, to taste
- Add macaroni, water, and salt to the Instant Pot and stir, making sure that all macaroni is submerged in the water.
- Secure lid of Instant Pot, making sure valve is turned to “seal.” Set on Pressure Cook (or Manual high pressure, depending on your model) for 4 minutes. It will take about 15 minutes to come to pressure.
- When cooking has finished, quick release pressure (see note). When valve lowers, carefully remove cover and stir in evaporated milk, mustard powder, and garlic powder if using. One cup at a time, stir in cheddar and parmesan. Taste and season with pepper as desired.
- Serve immediately.
- The valve tends to sputter a little when you release the pressure. You can place a towel over the valve to prevent a mess. Just be careful when removing towel because it may be hot.
- I prefer to grate my own cheddar cheese. I find it yields a smoother, velvety result. (Plus it’s cheaper!). I have used pre-grated, though, and it also works. It doesn’t stay quite as smooth as it cools, though.
- I have made this with whole wheat pasta and it works great!
- Baking Instructions: Place cooked mac & cheese in greased baking dish. If desired, top with additional cheese, cracker crumbs, or buttered bread crumbs. Bake at 350ºF for 20 to 30 minutes or until golden brown and a little crispy on the top.
- Recipe adapted from Food Network.
This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition data is gathered primarily from the USDA Food Composition Database, whenever available, or otherwise other online calculators.