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Easy Instant Pot Mac and Cheese

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Mac and cheese is a dish that will never get old! It’s a kid-friendly food that adults love too. And when you make Instant Pot mac and cheese you can turn this classic baked side dish into a one pot, 5 ingredient meal.

It is the ultimate comfort food, which is creamy, cheesy, and simple to make. In other words, it’s perfect for everyone, from little kids to adults looking for a quick, filling meal.

With this recipe you can make this classic dish simply, with ingredients you already have in your pantry. That makes it perfect for busy weeknights or anytime you need a family friendly meal in a hurry!

closeup of mac and cheese in a blue bowl

Why You Will Love Instant Pot Mac and Cheese

  • Homemade mac and cheese is much tastier than making it from a box!
  • Even though there are only 5 ingredients this recipe is big on flavor.
  • It is all made in one pot, so there are fewer dishes to wash and no big pots of boiling water to drain.
  • This is also a great side dish that doesn’t tie up your oven. Make it for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner!
instant pot mac and cheese ingredients

The 5 Ingredients Needed for Instant Pot Mac and Cheese

Macaroni – I use elbow macaroni because it is my family’s favorite so I always have a few boxes on hand. You can use other types of pasta but you might need to adjust the cooking time. Check out this blog post to learn how to calculate the correct Instant Pot pasta cooking times.

Cheese – You can use almost any type you like. American, cheddar, mozzarella, gouda, provolone or Monterey jack all taste delicious. You will get better results if you shred it yourself rather than buying a bag that is already shredded. Shredded cheese can contain anti-caking agents which make the dish less creamy. Use all one type or a combination of cheeses.

Butter – The butter needs to be cut into small pieces before being added. Either salted or unsalted butter is fine.

Cream or Milk – This recipe works with cream, half and half or milk. The creamier the liquid you choose the thicker and creamier the resulting dish will be.

Seasoning – I always use salt with the pasta. Pasta cooked without salt just doesn’t taste the same! You can also add black pepper or onion powder or garlic powder or you can leave them out.

Love mac & cheese? Try these mac and cheese bites for a fun, cheesy appetizer!

bowl of 5 ingredient mac and cheese in front of instant pot

How to Make 5 Ingredient Instant Pot Mac and Cheese

1. Cook

Put the uncooked macaroni, water, pieces of butter and any seasonings you are using into the Instant Pot. Make sure the macaroni is pushed down into the water.

adding the butter

Tip: Do not be tempted to use milk or cream during the pressure cooking step. The milk will curdle and burn.

Double check that the sealing ring is in the lid and that the pressure valve is closed. Then put the lid on the Instant Pot and set it for Manual, high pressure, for 4 minutes.

2. Grate

It will take the Instant Pot about 10 minutes to reach pressure and start cooking, which gives you plenty of time to grate some cheese. You can use any combination of cheese or all one kind.

grated cheese

3. Combine

Once the pressure cooker finishes carefully do a quick release by turning the valve and allowing it to vent. This will cause quick a lot of steam to come out, so make sure you aren’t too close.

adding the milk

Take the lid off the pressure cooker and stir the mixture. Then pour in the cream or milk and stir again. Add the cheese, about 1 cup at a time and stir constantly after each addition until the cheese has melted.

adding the cheese

Tip: Don’t dump all the cheese in at once! Add it gradually and keep stirring.

How to Serve

Serve this dish right away as either a side dish or as a complete meal. Some of my favorite things to eat with it are air fryer hot dogs or fried chicken! But it goes with almost any meal, even a fancy Thanksgiving dinner.

stirring the cheese into the pasta

How to Store

This makes a lot, so leftovers are quite likely! It stores well in the refrigerator for about 3 days. It freezes very nicely and it will keep for about 3 months in the freezer.

How to Reheat

Reheat it in the microwave or in a sauce pan on the stove. It tends to thicken as it sits, so I usually add a little more milk as it reheats to keep it creamy.

Find More Instant Pot Recipes!

Variations

There are a number of easy ways to change up this simple recipe.

  • Stir in some steamed vegetables like broccoli or carrots to make it a little bit more healthy.
  • Sprinkle some bacon on top to make it extra yummy and add some protein.
  • Spice it up by using spicy cheese or stirring in a few tablespoons of hot sauce.
  • Use chicken broth or vegetable broth instead of water for cooking the pasta.
mac and cheese in a bowl on the table

FAQ

What is the secret to creamy macaroni and cheese?

If you want the creamiest results then use heavy cream as the liquid instead of milk. This recipe is good with milk but it is awesome with heavy cream!

What kind of cheese works best?

Soft, mild flavored cheeses that melt easily like gouda and Monterey jack are always excellent choices. Personally I love a combination of mozzarella and sharp cheddar cheese. But some people don’t like to use mozzarella since it is stringy, so use what you prefer.

Help! My Instant Pot mac & cheese is gloppy and clumpy!

This is most likely caused by not using a high enough quality cheese. Cheap shredded cheeses have preservatives and anti-caking agents like cornstarch or potato starch. 

These can cause the sauce to have a lumpy texture instead of creamy. Shred your own from blocks for the most consistent results.

Find More Instant Pot Pasta Recipes

Yield: 8

Instant Pot Mac and Cheese

mac and cheese in a bowl on the table

Make this easy Instant Pot mac and cheese and turn this classic baked side dish into a one pot, 5 ingredient meal.

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 4 minutes
Time to Reach Pressure 10 minutes
Total Time 19 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 pound box elbow macaroni
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons butter, cut in small pieces 
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup heavy cream, half-and-half or milk
  • 4 cups shredded cheese, any type or combination

Optional

  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder or garlic powder

Instructions

    1. Put the macaroni, water, butter and seasonings into the Instant Pot.
    2. Make sure the macaroni is totally covered with water. Push it down into the water if necessary.
    3. Make sure the Instant Pot lid has a sealing ring and that the pressure valve is closed. Put the lid on and set the Instant Pot to manual, high pressure for 4 minutes.
    4. It will take about 10 minutes for the Instant Pot to reach pressure. Grate the cheese while the pasta cooks.
    5. After the cooking time is up do a quick release by venting the valve.
    6. Carefully open the lid and stir in heavy cream, half and half or milk.
    7. Gradually add cheese, 1 cup at a time, stirring after each addition until completely combined and cheese is melted. Don't dump all the cheese in at once!
    8. Serve immediately.
    9. Store leftovers in refrigerator or freeze them for up to 3 months.

Notes

You will get better results if you shred it yourself rather than buying a bag that is already shredded. Shredded cheese can contain anti-caking agents which make the cheese sauce less smooth and creamy.

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Nutrition Information:

Yield:

8

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 389Total Fat: 25gSaturated Fat: 15gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 74mgSodium: 690mgCarbohydrates: 22gFiber: 1gSugar: 3gProtein: 18g

Nutrition facts are estimates.

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forkful of the side dish
collage pin for pinterest intstant pot mac and cheese
By on September 7th, 2021

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