This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.
Who know the easiest way to make Mac and Cheese was in the Instant Pot? This creamy, comforting bowl of goodness is healthier than your favorite childhood boxed kind, but just as delicious and more! This recipe for Instant Pot Mac and Cheese is our new go to way of cooking it and we know once you try it, it’ll be yours too!
Let’s admit it: we all crave a big bowl of that boxed Mac and Cheese every once in a while. But what if I told you that you could make it even EASIER but homemade? This Instant Pot Mac and Cheese is all you wanted and more when the craving strikes! All you need is a few pantry ingredients and a few (largely hands-off) minutes of cooking and you’ve got yourself comfort in a bowl!
Here is what you need to make it:
- Elbow Macaroni (both gluten-free and traditional work here!)
- Cheese (this recipe calls for a combo of mild cheddar, colby jack and parmesan!)
- Hot Sauce (options, but recommended!)
Not All Cheese is Created Equally
It’s worth the extra step to grate the cheese from a block. We find it easier to use the large holes in a box grater, but you could also use your grating attachment on a food processor too!
While it is so much easier to buy pre-shredded cheese, we’re suggesting you take the extra step of shredded your own cheese from a block for this recipe. Commonly homemade Mac and Cheese recipes rely on a roux to add to the creaminess, but this recipe skips that step. Instead we rely on the starch from the pasta water AND the ability for the cheese to fully melt into the Mac and cheese. Pre-shredded cheese has other added ingredients to prevent the cheese from sticking together in the bag, but these added ingredients can prevent the cheese from melting fully.
How to Make Mac and Cheese in the Instant Pot
Making Mac and Cheese in the Instant Pot could not be easier! Simply:
- Pressure cook the pasta. No need to drain it here. We’ve tried it with several different types of pasta, both gluten free and not and they all work well!
- Stir in the cheese, milk and butter. Seriously, that’s all you need to do! If it looks too thin, give it a few minutes to thicken up, it will. If it’s too thick, add in a bit more milk, as needed.
- Taste the seasoning, and adjust. Add in salt and pepper to taste, some hot sauce and if desired, a bit more cheese!
A Word on Leftover Pasta Water
We’ve tested this extensively with all sorts of brands and shapes of pasta. We’ve noticed that the amount of leftover pasta water can change depending on the pasta shape, as well as the brand of pasta. If there is excessive amounts of water leftover, you can drain some of it.
How can you tell if it is excessive? Well, there should be some pasta water leftover, as it is needed to create part of the creamy sauce. But if your pasta is swimming in water, drain some of it. It is always easier to add back in more liquid in the form of milk than it is to take away liquid after the cheese sauce has been made.
Looking for other simple Instant Pot meals, check these out:
- Instant Pot Chicken Fajitas
- Instant Pot Cheesy Chicken, Broccoli and Rice
- Instant Pot Loaded Potato Soup
- Instant Pot Beef Stroganoff
If you like this pasta recipe, check out these others:
- One Pot Pantry Pasta with Chickpeas and Peppers
- Easy Baked Ziti
- Spaghetti Carbonara
- Instant Pot Creamy Cajun Chicken Pasta
Watch the video:
INSTANT POT MAC AND CHEESE
- 1 lb. elbow macaroni gluten-free or not
- 5 cups water
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 cup shredded colby jack cheese
- 1 cup shredded mild cheddar cheese
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese more for topping
- 2 tablespoons grass-fed butter
- 1/2 cup oat milk or milk of choice, more as needed
- 1-2 teaspoons hot sauce optional
- Add macaroni, salt and water to a 6 or 8 quart Instant Pot. Set the pressure valve to sealing. Cook on high pressure for 4 minutes. Once done, carefully move the valve to release the pressure.
- Stir the pasta. Add in the remainder of the ingredients and mix until fully combined. If pasta is too thick, add a bit more milk in. Taste and add additional salt and pepper, if desired.
- Garnish with additional parmesan cheese and serve immediately.
- Freshly shredded cheese works best here, as pre-shredded cheese can have added stabilizers and won’t melt as well.
- If you have an Instant Pot model that includes an air fryer you can add additional cheese to the top and swap the lids to broil for 4 minutes to get a nice crispy lid.
- If pasta has excessive liquid, drain some of it. There should be some liquid left, but the pasta shouldn't be swimming in it. We have noticed that some brands or shapes of pasta leave more water than others. See note in body of post for more info.
The key to no pasta water all over is I do a 10 minute natural release and ever since I did that I don’t have an issue anymore!!
Is this spicy since using the Colby jack cheese? If so, would you recommend another cheese to substitute with? Thanks 🙂
Oh dang dang dang I followed the recipe to the T and didn’t see step 3 🙁 🙁 🙁 I have Mac n Cheese soup! I drained some of the liquid after I realized this and it seems to be setting up ok. I will try this again and drain some water I’m sure it’ll turn out better. It tastes good still after messing it up.
Hi! Can you half this recipe?
I tried this as well and ended up with starch water releasing through the top of my instant pot. I’m not exactly sure what I did wrong so I may give it another attempt as it looks delicious!
Definitely love the flavor of the cheese variety, but will just make the pasta by boiling in a pot next time. This was the 2nd time I’ve done pasta in the IP (i have the 6 quart ultra) and releasing the pressure creates a volcano of hot pasta water all over the kitchen, lol. Just not worth it. Once that mess was cleaned up the dish was yummy. My 8-month old has been scarfing it down the last 2 days since making it:) if it makes him happy, it makes me happy.
Hi Allison! Thanks for letting us know. We are currently working on a solution and a full on post on how to successfully cook ALL pasta in the Instant Pot WITHOUT the spraying liquid. It seems it is related to the brand and shape of pasta. We’re close to having a solution that will work every time, and we can’t wait to share.
If I wanted to add ground beef to this recipe, how would I do that? Thanks!
I’d suggest cooking it separately on the stove and adding it in with the cheese. That’s how I’ve always done it! You could possibly cook it first in the Instant Pot on sauce, and cook with pasta, but I haven’t tried so I’m not sure how it would affect the cook of the pasta!
This did NOT work for me all i ended up with was a pile of gum (cheese) in the middle
Hi Jodie! Sorry this didn’t work out as it is supposed to. We are wondering how you ended up with a pile of gum in the middle? Did you put the cheese in after the pasta was cooked? We’ve never experienced anything close to this while cooking with this recipe.
This was spectacular and took no longer than making boxed mac n cheese. Perfect quarantine food! Thanks Lexi!
I usually love LCK recipes, but this one was a flop for me! I used Tinkyada GF noodles and followed the instructions to a T. The pressure released by spurting hot starchy water in a 3 foot radius around my Instant Pot. The noodles were overcooked, breaking into pieces when I stirred them. I also had to rinse my noodles because they were so slimy with starch. Not sure what went wrong to make my results so different!
Hi Kathleen–so sorry this didn’t work out for you. We’re trying to figure out why your noodles overcooked. What type of instant pot do you have any what shape noodles did you use?
This recipe was so easy and delicious! I also went the extra step and put it in a baking dish, topped with buttered GF panko! I used a smaller GF macaroni and it was a little overcooked (before baking) but I would definitely make again with a bigger noodle!!