September 28, 2022

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The Best Instant Pot Mac and Cheese Recipe

1 min read
Bowl of Instant Pot Mac and Cheese Next to Blue Napkin.

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Instant Pot Mac and Cheese is the easiest way to prepare homemade creamy, cheesy macaroni and cheese. Ready in less than 30 minutes, this simple recipe for Instant Pot Macaroni and Cheese is sure to become a family favorite.

Creamy Instant Pot mac and Cheese in white bowl next to Instant Pot.

The Best Instant Pot Mac and Cheese

Instant Pot Mac and Cheese has quickly become a staple at our house. Not only do my kids adore this easy meal, but it is also easier to make than boxed mac and cheese, and tastes a MILLION times tastier!

There are three reasons this Mac and Cheese recipe stands out above the rest and will ensure you have the BEST Instant Pot Mac and Cheese.

  1. Perfected Cooking Time: I have experimented countless times with cooking pasta in the instant pot and have achieved the perfect timing that results in pasta that is fully cooked but not mushy. The key is to cook for half the cooking time the box of pasta suggests followed by EXACTLY 5 minutes of natural pressure release. This will result in perfectly cooked pasta every time!
  2. Freshly Grated Cheese: My recipe calls for grating the cheese yourself, rather than using bagged cheese. Don’t ignore this tip. It is best to freshly grate cheese from a block of cheese rather than using bagged cheese. Bagged cheese is coated in an anticaking agent, that can make the mac and cheese taste gritty as the cheese won’t melt as smoothly.
  3. Sour Cream: Adding sour cream may sound crazy, but the sour cream makes this mac and cheese super creamy and helps to balance the rich, sharp cheeses.

Notes on Ingredients

  • Noodles: This recipe calls for 16 ounces of dried elbow macaroni noodles, which is about 4 cups of noodles. You can use whole wheat or regular elbow noodles without changing anything to the recipe. I don’t recommend using gluten-free noodles unless using the Barilla brand. That is the only gluten-free brand I have used with success.
  • Cheese: For the cheese, use a combination of cheddar, Swiss, and Parmesan for the best flavor. And remember, it is extremely important to use freshly grated cheese.
  • Broth: I recommend using broth over water to really flavor the noodles as they cook. You can opt to use chicken broth or vegetable broth, but I suggest using low-sodium broth to control the level of sodium in the macaroni and cheese.
  • Milk: While whole milk will make the macaroni and cheese much creamier, any fat percentage of milk can be used.
  • Sour Cream: Use low fat or full fat, not fat-free sour cream for the creamiest results.

How To Make Instant Pot Mac and Cheese

  • To the inner pot of the instant pot, add the broth and seasonings and stir to combine.
  • Add the noodles and then gently tap down the noodles so that they are submerged in the liquid. This will ensure that the noodles cook evenly and don’t dry out while pressure cooking.
Side by side photo of broth with and without elbow macaroni noodles.
  • Place the lid on the instant pot, being sure the vent knob is sealed. Set to cook on high pressure for 3 minutes.
  • Once the cooking time has elapsed, let the pressure release naturally for EXACTLY 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, do a quick release of any remaining pressure, by using a pot holder or long wooden spoon to knock the venting knob from sealing to venting. Be sure to stand back from the vent knob, so you don’t get burned by the steam.
  • To the cooked noodles, stir in a bit of the milk and stir to combine and separate the noodles.
  • Add in a handful of cheese at a time, stirring to melt the cheese.
  • Once the cheese is melted or almost fully melted, stir in the sour cream.
  • If needed, add additional milk to thin the cheese sauce to achieve the desired consistency.
Side by side picture of mac and cheese before and after stirring in cheese.
  • Give the pasta a quick taste and add additional salt and then dish out the creamiest, cheesiest mac and cheese and enjoy!
Bowl of Instant Pot Mac and Cheese Next to Blue Napkin.

Serving Suggestions

This recipe for Instant Pot Mac and Cheese is so easy to make, that it is often a go-to recipe for a quick lunch at our house. However, it also pairs well with Instant Pot Ham during the holidays or with a side of steamed veggies for a light weeknight entree.

Storage Directions

Macaroni and Cheese is best when served immediately. However, with a few tips, you can enjoy the same creamy results with leftovers.

Store your leftover mac and cheese in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 3 days. To reheat the mac and cheese, place a serving in a heat-safe bowl and microwave in 1-minute intervals until warmed through, adding 1-2 tablespoons broth or milk if needed to add moisture to the pasta. I also like to add in a tablespoon or so more sour cream after reheating, which will help give the pasta new life and make it taste as though it was just made.

Another option for your leftover Instant Pot Mac and Cheese is to make Macaroni and Cheese muffins for a perfect lunch on the go.

More Easy Instant Pot Recipes

If you tried this recipe for Instant Pot Mac and Cheese, please be sure to leave a comment and rating below. 

Bowl of Creamy Macaroni and Cheese next to Instant Pot

Instant Pot Mac and Cheese

This recipe for Instant Pot Mac and Cheese creates the creamiest, cheesiest macaroni and cheese with less effort than boxed mac and cheese!

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Course: Main Course

Cuisine: American

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 5 minutes

Pressure Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 15 minutes

Servings: 8

Calories: 385kcal

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Instructions

  • Pour the broth into the inner pot of the instant pot. Stir in the salt, garlic powder, onion powder, and paprika. Add the noodles and gently push down the noodles to submerge in the liquid.

  • Place the lid on the pressure cooker and be sure the vent knob is pointed towards sealed. Set to cook on high pressure for 3 minutes by hitting manual or pressure cook and use the +/- buttons to adjust the time.

  • When the cooking time has finished, let the pressure release naturally for EXACTLY 5 minutes. Then do a quick release of pressure by using a pot holder or long spoon to move the venting knob from the sealed to the venting position. Stand away from the steam, so as to not get burned.

  • Add in ¼ cup milk and stir well. Add the cheese, one handful at a time, stirring to melt in between each addition. Once the cheese is added, add in the sour cream and stir well. Add up to ½ cup more milk to loosen up macaroni and cheese if needed.

  • Taste and add in additional salt or pepper if needed and then serve.

Notes

Important Note on the Cheese: It is best to freshly grate cheese from a block of cheese rather than using bagged cheese. Bagged cheese is coated in an anticaking agent, that can make the mac and cheese taste gritty as the cheese won’t melt as smoothly. 
Milk: Use any fat percentage of milk you like. Whole milk will result in the creamiest macaroni and cheese but even skim milk works.  
Gluten-Free Modification: Gluten-free noodles are a bit tricky in the Instant Pot. Barilla brand has been successful for me for other recipes, but other brands give off too much starch when pressure cooked. 
Storing/Reheating: Store leftover cooled macaroni and cheese in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 3 days. While it can be frozen, it does not have the same texture when reheated. To reheat the mac and cheese, place a serving in a heat-safe bowl and microwave in 1-minute intervals until warmed through, adding 1-2 tablespoons broth or milk if needed to add moisture to the pasta. I also like to add in a tablespoon or so more sour cream after reheating. 
See Instant Pot High Altitude Conversion if cooking 2500+ feet above sea level.

Nutrition

Calories: 385kcal | Carbohydrates: 45g | Protein: 22g | Fat: 12g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Cholesterol: 36mg | Sodium: 596mg | Potassium: 294mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 420IU | Calcium: 406mg | Iron: 1.3mg

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