This Instant Pot Mac and Cheese is ultra creamy and rich with a velvety smooth sauce! Ready in about 20 minutes, it’s always a family favorite. Perfectly cooked, every time, and no need to babysit the pasta, or even drain it! Made with no canned milk and no Velveeta.
This Instant Pot Mac and Cheese is the perfect comfort food! Recipes like my Instant Pot Beef Barbacoa and Instant Pot Sausage Tortellini Soup are great for when you want an ultra-comforting family meal that’s ready incredibly fast. This is one of my Pressure Cooker recipes you’ll definitely want in your recipe box!
INSTANT POT MAC AND CHEESE
You’ve been asking for it, and I’ve been working on it… this is the Instant Pot Mac and Cheese that will make your mouth completely water, and have you reaching for seconds.
The lusciously creamy cheese sauce, enveloping every noodle… so full of flavor, yet so simply made.
This mac and cheese is just as easy as making that macaroni in the blue box – but is SO much better for you. No preservatives and other hard to pronounce ingredients. Just pure cheesy goodness!
When I was developing this recipe, I used cheeses that I found melted really well, and gave a good classic mac and cheese flavor, however, I’ll also be detailing different cheeses you can use if you prefer another mixture.
HOW TO MAKE INSTANT POT MAC AND CHEESE
- Add pasta, liquids, butter, hot sauce and seasonings.
- Don’t stir. Just gently press down with a wooden spoon to make sure all the pasta is submerged. This ensures the pasta will cook and not be hard. Stirring could result in a “burn” notice on your Instant Pot.
- Pressure cook for 4 minutes.
- Quick release. I tested performing a natural pressure release, and it usually resulted in overcooked pasta, so I prefer to do a quick release.Be aware, this recipe is starchy, and can sputter quite a bit when venting. I usually place a folded paper towel loosely over the vent to prevent any kitchen messes. Keep in mind, this isn’t recommended by Instant Pot, just something I do… do this at your own risk.
- Turn off your Instant Pot. This prevents any possible overcooking by keeping it on “keep warm”.
- Stir in heavy cream, and cheeses. Add in the cheese a handful or so at a time, stirring really well after each addition. Keep stirring until a creamy sauce forms.
ADDITIONAL COOKING TIPS
- THE HOT SAUCE AND MUSTARD POWDER – don’t worry, this doesn’t make the mac and cheese spicy or taste like mustard. They really round out the cheese sauce and bring out the flavors of the cheese.
- WATER – when you open your Instant Pot lid, there will be a little water left in the pot. That’s normal and don’t drain it. It helps create the smooth creamy sauce.
- THICKENING – this mac and cheese does thicken as it sits, so if it seems on the thin side, just let it sit for a minute or so, and it will thicken up.
- SHRED YOUR OWN CHEESE – I know it’s a pain, and it’s SO tempting to use the pre-shredded cheese in the bags. But those bags of cheese contain a starchy substance that keeps the cheese from clumping… which also prohibits it from melting as well as it should.
VARIATIONS OF THIS RECIPE
- PROTEIN – Feel free to add in some shredded chicken, pulled pork, or some crispy bacon for an extra protein punch.
- VEGGIES – Trying to get your veggies in? Stir in some steamed broccoli or cauliflower.
- TOPPINGS – If you love a topping on your mac and cheese, transfer the cooked cheesy mac to a baking dish and top with either some extra cheese, buttered panko breadcrumbs, or buttered crushed Ritz crackers. Broil a few minutes until crispy.
- COOKING LIQUID – If you prefer to use all chicken broth, or all water… feel free to do that. Just make sure there are 4 total cups of liquid.
- DIFFERENT CHEESES – Gruyere, Gouda, Fontina, Mozzarella, Monterey Jack, Colby, or all Cheddar. These are all good melting cheeses and will give you a smooth sauce. However, feel free to play around with different combinations that you like!
MAKING INSTANT POT MAC AND CHEESE AHEAD OF TIME
Some recipes are great, and even better, when made ahead – but mac and cheese just isn’t one of them.
As the pasta sits, it absorbs more and more of the sauce, making the mac and cheese dry, and the noodles mushy.
In my opinion, this is a recipe that just tastes the best when made right before you eat it.
Leftovers should be refrigerated in an airtight container and consumed within 3-4 days.
When reheating, add about 1 Tbsp of milk or cream for each cup of mac and cheese you’re heating. If you’re microwaving, add the milk right to the bowl and stir it about halfway through cooking.
SPECIAL EQUIPMENT FOR THIS RECIPE
- Instant Pot – I recently upgraded to this model and I love it!
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- 16 oz dried elbow pasta
- 2 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
- 2 cups water
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 1 tsp hot sauce (optional)
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/4 tsp dried mustard powder
- 1/4 tsp onion powder
- 2 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (mild, medium, or sharp - use personal favorite)
- 1 cup shredded colby jack cheese
- 1/2 - 1 cup heavy cream
- Add the dried pasta, chicken broth, water, butter, hot sauce, salt, garlic powder, pepper, smoked paprika, dried mustard, and onion powder to the liner of an Instant Pot. Use a wooden spoon to gently press down to make sure all pasta is submerged in the liquid. Don't stir.
- Secure Instant Pot lid, making sure the valve is set to "sealing". Press the Pressure Cook or Manual button and use the +/- buttons to set the timer for 4 minutes.
- Once the timer beeps, let out the pressure by carefully moving the valve to “venting" to perform a quick release. Be aware, this recipe is starchy, and can sputter quite a bit when venting. I usually place a folded paper towel loosely over the vent to prevent any kitchen messes.
- When the pin drops, remove lid and set aside. Turn the Instant Pot OFF to avoid overcooking your pasta. There will be some water left in your pot - don't drain it. This helps create the smooth, cheesy sauce.
- Add heavy cream and stir. Add in cheeses, a handful or so at a time, stirring after each addition. Keep stirring until they have completely melted into a creamy sauce.
- As a side note, this mac and cheese does thicken as it sits, so if it seems on the thin side - just let it sit for a minute or so, and it will thicken up. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
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- Other cheeses may be used - Gruyere, Gouda, Fontina, Mozzarella, Monterey Jack, Colby, or all Cheddar. These are all good melting cheeses and will give you a smooth sauce.
- You may need slightly more or slightly less heavy cream.
- Prep time does not account for the time your pot takes to come up to pressure or the time it takes to stir your cheese/cream into a sauce. These will vary a bit from individual to individual. For reference - my pot took about 10 minutes to come up to pressure and it took about 2 minutes to turn into a creamy cheese sauce.