This Instant Pot Mac and Cheese recipe is velvety, creamy, and cheesy. It’s easy one pot meal that requires no draining and is ready in 30 minutes.

Other modern day pressure cooker family favorites around here are Instant Pot goulash and Instant Pot chicken pasta.

Instant pot mac and cheese served in a bowl.

My stovetop healthy mac and cheese recipe requires constant stirring and baked mac and cheese with cauliflower needs time to bake.

So when I’m short on time, Instant Pot mac and cheese is my go-to unless I am feeling like a little spicy, then I make this one pot chili mac.

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

  • Easy one pot meal: Add ingredients and let Instant Pot do all the work. With no draining the pasta! Perfect for when you are feeling uninspired or tired.
  • Crowd pleaser: The creamy melted cheesy macaroni is something people just can’t get enough of!
  • Versatile dish: Serve as a main dish with a salad or it can be a side dish to complete any meal.
  • Healthier version: Uses less cheese, whole wheat pasta or gluten-free pasta can be used too.
  • Budget friendly: Great when you’re running low on groceries.

Ingredients for Instant Pot Mac and Cheese

To make this mac and cheese in Instant Pot, you will need just 8 simple ingredients.

Pasta, milk, Dijon mustard, cheese, garlic powder, salt.
  • Pasta: Traditional elbow shape pasta is the classic. Any small pasta that can hold the sauce, like shells, fusilli, and cavatappi pasta works. You can use whole wheat pasta, white pasta, or gluten-free pasta.
  • Cheese: I use marble cheese because it is combination of two cheeses and has high melting factor. Good quality sharp cheddar cheese is also nice. I recommend to buy a block of cheese and grate it yourself because it will not be coated in anti-caking agents that prevent it from melting. Also it tastes better.
  • Milk: I always have 3.25% milk on hand, so that’s what I use. 1% or 2% regular milk will work as well. Just keep in mind, the higher the fat content, the creamier the mac and cheese.
  • Spices: A touch of mustard, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.

How to Make Instant Pot Mac and Cheese

Here is a quick photo overview how to make Instant Pot mac and cheese. Just cook the pasta, and stir in cheese and milk. You can find full recipe card below.

Step by step process how to make mac and cheese in instant pot.
  • Add ingredients: Add pasta, butter, spices, and water to any size Instant Pot. Most Instant Pot recipes do not require stirring but with this one I prefer to stir to make sure the pasta cooks through.
  • Cook: Close the lid and set valve to Sealing. Pressure cook mac and cheese for 3 minutes on high pressure. It will take your pressure cooker about 5-7 minutes to come to pressure. The smaller the pot, the faster it pressurizes.
  • Release the pressure: Wait 8 minutes before releasing pressure, then turn the valve to Venting. Open the lid and stir the pasta. If you see some is stuck together, just separate it gently with a spoon.
  • Add cheese and milk: Add cheese in portions, stirring in between. Instant Pot mac and cheese sauce might look stringy at first but once you start stirring in the milk, it will become creamy. Add milk and stir again.

Tips for Best Results

  • Don’t do Quick Release: If you turn the valve to Venting right away, pasta water will splatter everywhere. Once the 8 minutes of Natural Release is up, go ahead and turn it then.
  • For gluten-free pasta: I recommend to cook it for 1 minute with the same pressure release.
  • If your pasta is undercooked: Close the lid, let it sit for 5 minutes and let residual heat continue to cook the pasta. Don’t worry, it will get there, it’s pasta!
  • Different cheese to use and not: Any smooth melting cheese like gouda, gruyere, fontina, Swiss and Monterey jack would be great choices! Mozzarella cheese and provolone cheese are more stringy, so I recommend to avoid them.
  • Don’t use canned milk: I see many Instant Pot mac and cheese recipes online call for evaporated milk. I don’t recommend to use it as it is processed food and lacks flavor.
  • For 3 quart Instant Pot: No changes to the recipe are necessary.
  • Adjust consistency: We like creamy macaroni and cheese, so 1 cup of milk is the perfect amount for us. You can add less or more in portions, if you prefer. Keep in mind pasta soaks up liquid by the minute.
Mac and cheese in instant pot with a wooden spoon.


  • Extra heat: A touch of hot sauce like sriracha or Frank’s Red Hot adds more flavor than it does heat.
  • Spices and seasonings: Everything bagel, Montreal steak spice, paprika, nutmeg, soy sauce and even honey are great additions for you creative types.
  • Bacon: Leftover chopped bacon crumbles.
  • Dairy free: Use your favorite plant-based milk and cheese but keep in mind taste will change and so might the texture.
  • Broth: Using chicken broth or vegetable broth instead of water will give your macaroni and cheese another layer of flavor.
  • Tangy: A few readers asked to use yogurt instead of milk. Absolutely you can, mac and cheese will be more tangy. Sour cream would have the same effect.

What to Serve with Mac and Cheese?

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

How to Store and Reheat

Store: This recipe serves 6 people as I’m not a fan of macaroni and cheese leftovers. However, you can refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 2 days. You can also cut ingredients in half and keep the same cooking time to make less.

Pasta doesn’t freeze well, so I don’t recommend to do it.

Keep Warm function: You can use it but keep in mind pasta absorbs liquids fast and the longer you heat it, the faster the sauce dries out and the pasta becomes mushy. You can rehydrate it by adding a splash of milk once in a while.

Reheat: On your pressure cooker, Press Sauté and add a splash of water or milk. Stir mac and cheese in Instant Pot gently until heated through. On the stove top, do the same over low heat. If you’re only reheating a serving or two, pop it in the microwave.


Why is my pasta not cooked?

It could be due to a few reasons. The first being the altitude of where you live affecting the pressure.

The second, is perhaps you didn’t add enough liquid to your pot. In order for the noodles to cook properly and absorb the right amount of liquid, you need to make sure your liquid to pasta ratio is spot on.

Lastly, even if your pasta to liquid ratio is right, if you didn’t make sure all pasta was submerged in the liquid, that could have been the cause for some of it to remain undercooked.

Why is my mac and cheese mushy?

Either you added too much liquid or let it naturally release for too long, especially for the type of pasta you used. Pasta still cooks as it sits in the pot. If you’re not following the time accurately, you can easily overcook the macaroni.

Why is there lots of water left after cooking pasta?

A little bit of excess water is OK. Close the lid and let pasta sit for 5 minutes, the water will eventually get absorbed.

If there is a lot of water left, it is a sign you measured pasta wrong. 13 ounces dry pasta equals 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 “soupy pasta” issues.

How do I fix watery Instant Pot mac and cheese?

You can drain the pasta and keep following the recipe or use less cheese and milk.

Can I cut the recipe in half?

Yes. Cut all ingredients in half and cook mac and cheese as per recipe, keeping same cooking time.

Can I double the recipe?

Yes, you can double mac and cheese in 6 or 8 quart Instant Pot only. 3 quart pressure cooker is too small for that.

More Instant Pot Pasta Recipes

For more dinner idea, browse these 45 healthy Instant Pot recipes.

Side view of a bowl with mac and cheese.
Instant pot mac and cheese served in a bowl.

Instant Pot Mac and Cheese

This Instant Pot Mac and Cheese is velvety, creamy, and cheesy. It's easy one pot meal that requires no draining and is ready in 30 minutes.
4.89 from 27 votes
Servings 6 servings
Calories 383
Diet Vegetarian
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 3 minutes
Pressure Up & Down Time 22 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes



  • 13 ounces elbow macaroni uncooked (4 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons butter unsalted
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard from a bottle
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 4 cups cold water
  • 1 cup milk 2% or 3.25%
  • 1 1/4 cups cheddar or marble cheese shredded


  • To Instant Pot, add pasta, butter, mustard, garlic powder, salt, pepper and water.
  • Close the lid, turn pressure release valve to Sealing and press Pressure Cook on High or Manual for 3 minutes.
  • After allow pressure come down on its own 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 gently stir the pasta. Add cheese in portions, stirring in between. It might look stringy. Then add milk in 1/4 cup portions until desired consistency, stirring in between. Mac and cheese will become creamy.
  • Serve hot and immediately for best results.



  • Store: Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 2 days. Or make less, by cutting recipe ingredients in half and keep same cook time. Reheat on Sauté in Instant Pot and add a splash of water or milk, then stir gently until heated through. 
  • Freeze: Pasta doesn’t freeze well.
  • For 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.
  • Instant Pot size: No changes to recipe necessary if using 3 quart Instant Pot. Recipe can be doubled in 6 or 8 quart Instant Pot only.


Serving: 1.5cup | Calories: 383kcal | Carbohydrates: 49g | Protein: 15g | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Cholesterol: 39mg | Sodium: 505mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 4g
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: North American
Author: Olena Osipov
Did you make this recipe?Mention @ifoodreal or tag #ifoodreal!

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About Olena

Welcome! I grew up in Ukraine watching my grandma cook with simple ingredients. I have spent the last 11 years making it my mission to help you cook quick and easy meals for your family!

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  1. 5 stars
    I made this tonight and it was outstanding. The pasta was perfectly cooked no the taste was amazing. I used New York sharp cheese, and though I halved the other ingredients, I used the full amount of cheese. Rich and satisfying main dish!

  2. Hi Olena
    Can I add chopped onion and sliced fresh tomato to the mac and cheese?
    At what stage will I have to add them?

    1. Sure! Depends how you like your onion – cooked or crunchy. If you want them cooked, add at beginning. If you want them crunchy, stir or top with at the end. Add tomatoes at the end for a fresh taste would be best! Really depends on your taste preference. 🙂

  3. 4 stars
    Olena, I love your recipes, especially for the instant pot. I tried the mac n cheese tonight. Nice and creamy! I used sharp cheddar cheese. It was very mild in flavor. I think a cheese with more flavor might be better. Next time!!

  4. 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

  5. 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!

  6. 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.

  7. 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!

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