This Instant Pot Mac and Cheese recipe cooks in only 4 minutes in a pressure cooker. Homemade mac and cheese is way better than any box, it's quick & easy to make at home, so creamy, and your family is going to love this easy Instant Pot recipe for dinner.
Instant Pot Macaroni and Cheese Recipe
Mac and Cheese is a classic comfort food recipe that everyone loves! How can you not love creamy & super cheesy covered pasta noodles?
This version of a classic macaroni and cheese recipe is so simple to make thanks to the short 4 minute cook time in the Instant Pot. It's a dump & go recipe that needs no babysitting or constant stirring.
Ingredients You'll Need
Making mac and cheese in the pressure cooker requires simple ingredients. Read below to see what you'll need to make this recipe and read my tips for each ingredient.
- Chicken Broth - I prefer to use reduced sodium chicken broth in this recipe but you can use regular chicken broth as well. It just depends on taste preferences.
- Elbow Pasta - No need to pre cook the pasta! Just dump it in. I have only ever tested and made this recipe with elbow pasta, it's the classic pasta shape to use when making macaroni and cheese. You could experiment with other pasta shapes if wanted, but cook times may vary if using something different.
- Salted Butter
- Salt, Pepper, Garlic Powder, Onion Powder - Easy dried seasonings is all you will need to make this.
- Dried Mustard Powder - This may seem strange but it really is necessary. Trust me, it just tastes good.
- Hot Sauce - This does not make the food hot or spicy at all. It just adds lots of needed flavor. Some of my kids, who can't tolerate any spice, don't even notice it and gobble it up.
- Shredded Cheddar Cheese - I like to use mild or medium cheddar cheese.
- Colby Jack Shredded Cheese - I love the combination of cheddar with the Colby Jack. It melts smoothly and provides lots of flavor.
- Heavy Cream - You want the heavy cream because of the fat, thickness, and creaminess it provides. If using something different, stick with the higher fat milks like whole milk or half & half.
How to Make Mac and Cheese In The Instant Pot
- Ingredients : Add the ingredients into the Instant Pot in the order listed in the recipe below. Except for the shredded cheese and heavy cream. Gently push down on the pasta to make sure that it is all in the broth/liquid. Do not stir it, just gently press down on the pasta that needs it.
- Cook : Cover with the lid and set the valve to the 'sealed' position. Manually set the cook time for 4 minutes.
- Quick Release : When done, do a quick release of the pressure. Meaning, switch the valve to the 'venting' position when the cook time is done. This will release all the pressure. It may sputter a bit so stand clear of it. It takes a few minutes and then once the pressure is all released you will be able to take the lid off.
- Cream : Stir in the heavy cream. At this point, it may look like there is too much liquid but as you add the cheese and let it sit for a minute, the mac and cheese thickens up nicely.
- Shredded Cheese : Add the shredded cheese, one handful at a time, and mix well after each addition. Doing the cheese in a few handfuls will help the cheese melt smooth into the pasta.
Tips For Success
Here are my tips that will hopefully make this recipe for macaroni and cheese a success in your own kitchen.
- Handfuls of Cheese : Probably the most important tip. Do not add all the cheese at once because it will clump up and have a stringy texture in the pasta. Add handfuls of each, about 1 cup each time, stirring well after each addition until the cheese is melted.
- Don't Stir : Once you add the ingredients into the insert of the Instant Pot do not stir at all. The only thing you need to do is gently press down on the pasta if it's sticking out of the liquid. Naturally as you add the broth and pasta it will all be covered, but if there are a few pieces sticking out, those are the ones you will need to gently push down on.
- Hot Sauce : I know lots of recipes say hot sauce is optional, but it's not in this recipe. You want that flavor that it adds to the macaroni and cheese. It does not make the mac and cheese spicy at all.
- Thick or Thin? : This recipe produces a creamy Mac and cheese that is not dry but also not swimming in liquid. When you first take off the lid it will seem like there is too much liquid, but as you add the cream and cheese, and it sits for several minutes, it comes together nicely and is creamy and thick. If you prefer it thinner then add more of the heavy cream. If you want it thicker then don't add as much of the heavy cream.
- Use Elbow Pasta : This recipe has been made and tested with elbow pasta noodles. I highly suggest using those because it's the classic macaroni and cheese shape and I know it will work with the elbow pasta. Other pasta shapes are bigger and have different cook times, so watch it carefully if using a different pasta.
Variation & Substitution Ideas
There are so many ways to switch up this classic recipe for macaroni and cheese.
- Make It Spicy! : Add more hot sauce than what is called for in the recipe. You can also add chili powder and/or ground cayenne pepper in with the other dried seasonings.
- Add Protein : To make this more of a meal try adding some grilled chicken strips, chopped Rotisserie chicken, or ham chunks.
- Vegetables : You can also add some steamed broccoli into the mac and cheese or any other vegetable you want.
- Cheese : You can really use any cheese you want in this recipe. You could use all cheddar cheese, use half mild cheddar cheese + half sharp cheddar cheese, white cheddar cheese, Monterey Jack cheese, or even Pepper Jack Cheese. Freshly grated parmesan cheese is also a good addition for a different flavor.
Instant Pot Mac and Cheese FAQ's
- How To Store Leftover Mac and Cheese
- Leftovers keep well, in an air-tight container, in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.
- When reheating leftovers, I like to add just a little broth or water to make it creamy again. Pasta leftovers will soak up any liquid/cheese as they refrigerate.
- Heat up leftovers in the microwave.
- Can I Freeze Mac and Cheese?
- It's best not to freeze mac and cheese. The cheese and cream will curdle and separate once frozen and thawed.
Instant Pot Mac and Cheese
- 2 cups water
- 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 1 box (16 oz) elbow pasta
- 2 tablespoons salted butter
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon hot sauce
- ¼ teaspoon dried mustard powder
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 3 cups shredded mild or medium cheddar cheese
- 1 cup shredded Colby Jack cheese
- ½ cup heavy cream
- Into the insert of an Instant Pot add the water, chicken broth, elbow pasta, butter, salt, garlic powder, onion powder, hot sauce, mustard powder, and black pepper. Add the ingredients in the order listed.
- Do not stir! Instead, gently push down on any pasta that is not in the liquid.
- Secure the lid and set the valve to the 'sealing' position. Manually set the cook time for 4 minutes on high pressure.
- Once done, do a quick release of the pressure. Which means that you immediately move the valve to the 'venting' position and let the pressure release. When the pressure is released, you will be able to take off the lid.
- Stir in the heavy cream.
- Add the shredded cheese, one handful at a time, stirring and mixing it in well after each addition. * If you add the cheese all at once it will clump up and have a stringy texture. Make sure you add it, a little at a time, stirring it in well until it's melted before adding more cheese.
- Serve & enjoy!