by Olena

Instant Pot Mac and Cheese

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Olena Osipov
4.9 from 20 votes

Instant Pot Mac and Cheese is creamy and made healthy-ish with only 1 cup of cheese. Hands off family favourite comfort food in 15 minutes!

Our other favorites around here are Instant Pot beef stroganoff and Instant Pot spaghetti.

Instant Pot Mac and Cheese

Instant Pot Macaroni and Cheese

Instant Pot mac and cheese is not exactly instant but rather hands off macaroni and cheese. My stovetop healthy mac and cheese recipe requires constant stirring.

Where as if I really need dump and go pasta meal, mac and cheese in Instant Pot wins. It comes out creamy, saucy, cheesy and with perfect texture pasta. I use healthier whole wheat macaroni but gluten free or white pasta will work just as well.

So, this recipe serves 6 as I’m not a fan of macaroni and cheese leftovers. You can also cut ingredients in half and keep same cooking time to make less.

Instant Pot Mac and Cheese inside the pot with a wooden spoon

Ingredients for Instant Pot Mac and Cheese

  • Pasta: Traditional elbow shape pasta is the classic. Any other small shape pasta that can hold the sauce like shells works. Whole wheat, white or gluten free.
  • Cheese: I use marble or Tex Mex cheese because it melts well, adds colour and is available organic. I recommend to buy a block of cheese and grate yourself as it is not coated in anti caking agents that prevent cheese from melting.
  • Milk: We always have 3.25% on hand so that’s what I use. 1% or 2% will work. Just keep in mind, higher the fat, creamier mac and cheese.
  • Spices: A touch of mustard, garlic powder, salt and pepper is all, I think, macaroni and cheese needs.

Instant Pot Mac and Cheese ingredients

How to Make Instant Pot Mac and Cheese

  • Add pasta, butter, spices and water to any size Instant Pot. Most Instant Pot recipes do not require stirring but here I prefer to stir to make sure pasta cooks through. Instant Pot Mac and Cheese step by step
  • Cook for 3 minutes on high pressure with lid closed and valve set to Sealing. It will take your pressure cooker about 5-7 minutes to come to pressure. The smaller the pot, the faster it pressurizes.
  • Wait 8 minutes before releasing pressure. If you turn valve to Venting right away pasta water will splatter everywhere.
  • Open the lid and stir pasta. If you see some is stuck together, just separate it gently with a spoon. Instant Pot Mac and Cheese step by step
  • Add cheese in portions stirring in between. Mac and cheese might look stringy but once you start adding milk and stirring, it will become creamy.
  • Add milk. We like creamy macaroni and cheese, so 1 cup is perfect amount for us. You can add less and in portions. Keep in mind pasta soaks up liquid by the minute. Instant Pot Mac and Cheese step by step

New to Instant Pot? Check out Instant Pot guide to answer many of your questions. Don’t have one yet? See which Instant Pot I recommend to buy.Instant Pot Macaroni and Cheese in a bowl

Troubleshooting and Variations

  • More mustard: You can add more mustard, use Dijon instead of yellow mustard or skip all together. We like just a tiny touch.
  • Extra heat: A touch of hot sauce adds flavour without prominent hot sauce flavour.
  • Spices and seasonings: Everything bagel, Montreal steak spice, paprika, nutmeg, soy sauce and even honey.
  • Bacon: Leftover chopped bacon. I like to bake mine at 425 degrees F for 20 minutes. Way less mess.
  • Dairy free: Use your favorite plant based milk and cheese but keep in mind taste will change.
  • Lactose free: A few readers asked to use yogurt instead of milk. Absolutely you can, mac and cheese will be more tangy.
  • How long to cook 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.
  • 3 quart Instant Pot: No changes to recipe necessary.
  • Double the recipe? Yes, in 6 or 8 quart Instant Pot only. 3 quart is too small for it.

How to Store and Reheat

  • Keep Warm function: Keep in mind pasta absorbs liquids fast and the longer you heat it, the faster sauce dries out and pasta becomes mushy. You can rehydrate dish by adding a splash of milk or don’t keep warm and reheat leftovers before serving.
  • To reheat right in Instant Pot: Press Sauté and add a splash of water. Stir gently until heated through. Milk burns in a pressure cooker easily, so that’s why I recommend water.
  • Storing: Pasta doesn’t freeze well. You can refrigerate leftovers for up to 2 days. Or make less, by cutting recipe ingredients in half and keep same cook time.

Instant Pot Mac and Cheese garnished with black pepper

Serving Pairings

Obviously, we like pasta and cheese on its own. I mean, what not to like?! 🙂 But to make it healthier and a complete meal, here are a few ideas:

Please enjoy without the guilt! 🙂

More Instant Pot Pasta Recipes

Instant Pot Mac and Cheese recipe

Instant Pot Mac and Cheese

Instant Pot Mac and Cheese

Instant Pot Mac and Cheese is creamy and made healthy-ish with only 1 cup of cheese. Hands off family favourite comfort food in 15 minutes!
4.91 from 20 votes
Print Save Rate
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: North American
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 11 minutes
Total Time: 16 minutes
Servings: 6 servings
Calories: 383kcal
Author: Olena Osipov

Ingredients

  • 13 oz elbow macaroni uncooked (4 cups)
  • 2 tbsp butter unsalted
  • 1/2 tsp mustard from a bottle
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • Ground black pepper to taste
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup milk 2% or 3.25%
  • 1 1/4 cups cheddar or marble cheese, shredded

Instructions

  • To any size Instant Pot, add pasta, butter, mustard, garlic powder, salt, pepper and water.
    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.
    Instant Pot Mac and Cheese
  • After allow pressure come down naturally for 8 minutes to prevent splatters all over your counter. Then turn pressure release valve to Venting to release remaining pressure.
  • Open the lid and stir pasta gently.
  • Add cheese in portions, stirring in between. It might look stringy.
    Instant Pot Mac and Cheese
  • Then add milk in 1/4 cup portions until desired consistency, stirring in between. Mac and cheese will become creamy.
  • Serve immediately.
    Instant Pot Mac and Cheese

Video

Notes

  • More mustard: You can add more mustard, use Dijon instead of yellow mustard or skip all together. We like just a tiny touch.
  • Extra heat: A touch of hot sauce adds flavour without prominent hot sauce flavour.
  • Dairy free: Use your favorite plant based milk and cheese but keep in mind taste will change.
  • Lactose free: A few readers asked to use yogurt instead of milk. Absolutely you can, mac and cheese will be more tangy.
  • How long to cook 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.
  • 3 quart Instant Pot: No changes to recipe necessary.
  • Double the recipe? Yes, in 6 or 8 quart Instant Pot only. 3 quart is too small for it.
  • Keep Warm function: Keep in mind pasta absorbs liquids fast and the longer you heat it, the faster sauce dries out and pasta becomes mushy. You can rehydrate dish by adding a splash of milk or don’t keep warm and reheat leftovers before serving.
  • To reheat right in Instant Pot: Press Sauté and add a splash of water. Stir gently until heated through. Milk burns in a pressure cooker easily, so that’s why I recommend water.
  • Storing: Pasta doesn’t freeze well. You can refrigerate leftovers for up to 2 days. Or make less, by cutting recipe ingredients in half and keep same cook time.

Nutrition

Serving: 1.5cup | Calories: 383kcal | Carbohydrates: 49g | Protein: 15g | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Cholesterol: 39mg | Sodium: 505mg | Potassium: 220mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 420IU | Calcium: 233mg | Iron: 1mg
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olena osipov in the studio

Hello and welcome to iFOODreal.

My name is Olena Osipov. I'm a mom to 2 boys, a wife to Alex and we reside on magical Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada. This is our healthy family recipes blog. Originally from Ukraine, I grew up on real food. As an adult, I struggled with diets for years because none worked long-term. Now for over 10 years, I cook easy healthy meals for my family. I can help you with “What’s for dinner?” too.

51 comments on “Instant Pot Mac and Cheese

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  1. Sounds easy would like to try it but only 2 small eaters to feed. Can I half recipe please? Only 2 cups dry pasta as I don’t want leftovers.
    Thankyou Geraldine

  2. 5 stars
    Hi Olena,
    I made the Mac and Cheese tonight. Pasta was cooked but there was still a lot of water. I let the pasta sit and it thickened up a bit. Still very saucy but the flavour is wonderful! I wonder if whole wheat pasta would absorb more water? Any ideas? Oh, I weighed my pasta, too.

    1. Hmmm, I never had this issue. I find white and whole wheat pasta absorb same amounts. Next time try reduce liquid by 1/2 cup and see if it helps.

      1. Hi Olena,
        Your comment about weighing got me thinking. I do know how to use my weigh scale, but decided to check my liquid measuring cups. I have one American 8 Oz.cup, and one British 10 Oz. cup. I think that was where my problem lay. I’m thinking you use an 8 Oz. measure for the water?
        Thank you.

        1. I use American cups in all my recipes. But oz on a measuring cup are for liquids, not for dry ingredients. It is like twice less amount. If you just take a bowl, place it on a scale, turn it on and add up to 13 oz it all should work. Hope this helps!

    2. This happened to me too! And I think I know why… It’s the amount of pasta, or how I’m measuring it. 13oz pasta came out to abt 1 and 2/3 cups dry pasta. As I was measuring it I already thought to myself that this was too little. Then when I opened the lid it was soup!! So disappointed! The pasta was already overcooked so I wasn’t gonna let it sit on it more so I drained out the liquid, skipped the milk and just added cheese. When I served one adult and one 5 year old, there must’ve been enough for just one more child. So I definitely think it was way too little pasta. I’m hoping you could tell me how much dried pasta measured in cups so I can do this again.

      1. This explains it all. You are measuring pasta wrong. 13 oz dry pasta is 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 pasta soup issues. Enjoy!

  3. 5 stars
    So easy and good. I did need to slip it into the oven to crisp it up the way I like it but you don’t have to, good right out of the pot. Since I am just cooking for one I use the insert sacking pots and clean up or storage is super simple for any left overs.

  4. 5 stars
    A family favorite and soooo easy!! No stirring over the stove forever. No time for that with little ones. Have made this again and again!!Thank you Olena!

      1. Sorry about the confusion Linda! We have new software for our recipes and sometimes it has been putting both measurements. 1 1/4 cup is equal to 5 ounces of shredded cheese!

  5. I got the 6-quart instant pot like you got now I just got the 8th Court do you have a tutorial on how to clean that one? Thank you

  6. 5 stars
    Another very successful recipe. I did add in frozen kale and spinach powder in the IP to up the nutrients. Easy, fast, nutritious and delicious. My family loved it. Thank you Olena!

  7. 5 stars
    Oh my goodness, this was so delicious! Literally whipped it up in no time. When I’m craving Mac and Cheese, this will be my go to recipe. Thank you for this perfect recipe!

  8. 5 stars
    This is the easiest and most delicious Mac and cheese I have ever made and ever tasted. It was effortless. I don’t think I’ll ever make box Mac and cheese again. This is far superior and takes just about the sane amount of time without having to worry about boiling water!

  9. 5 stars
    Very good. Made it for 4 adults and was told this is a keeper so now bookmarked on my iPad. Thank you for this easy meal.

  10. 5 stars
    Love this Mac and cheese. Light,creamy and love the hot sauce…and I didn’t feel terrible after eating…any tips for easy cleanup? I had it in the instapot for some hours. Thanks

  11. 5 stars
    Easy. Healthy. Delicious.
    When I follow all your recipes EXACTLY how you write them, I can be proud of what I make (finally).

  12. 5 stars
    So freaking easy and super delicious! My go to for mac n cheese- forget Kraft this one is waaaayyyyy easier and tastes so much better!

  13. 4 stars
    This recipe was so simple and the Mac & Cheese so creamy and fabulous. Had enough for left overs for another meal and was jsut as great warmed up.

  14. Do you have a vegan version of this? If not could you make one???..you do such a good job!!

  15. 4 stars
    Made with whole wheat pasta & it turned out good.
    Recipe makes a very large amount of Mac & Cheese!

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