This easy Instant Pot mac and cheese is extra creamy, super cheesy and ready in 15 minutes! Perfect lunch or dinner for the whole family.
There is something magical about making mac and cheese in an Instant Pot! This recipe is so creamy and cheesy, exactly like mac & cheese should be minus any extra dishes! It's also ready in just a few minutes, a perfectly cooked macaroni pasta covered in a rich cheesy sauce.
I make this mac and cheese at least three or four times a month, I usually have the ingredients on hand and it's always a hit. This recipe makes quite a lot of food, enough to feed 4 or 5 people and it pairs with so many great side dishes.
This recipe was inspired by my 15 minute creamy pasta also made entirely in the Instant Pot! And if you're on an Instant Pot pasta journey, why not give this Instant Pot pasta with jar sauce recipe a try!
You'll need only 8 ingredients to make this delicious creamy mac and cheese, most of which you probably have on hand already! I love making recipes that use pantry staples like this, then if I like the recipe, I can make it as often as I like!
You can also easily substitute a couple of these ingredients to suit what you have on hand.
For this recipe, the ingredients you'll need are:
- Elbow macaroni
- Garlic powder
- Salt & pepper
- Shredded cheese
- Whole milk
See recipe card for precise quantities and instructions.
This recipe comes together in 5 minutes and cooks for another 5-10 minutes - perfect for a quick lunch or for getting dinner on the table fast!
Step 1: Add the uncooked macaroni pasta, water, butter, garlic powder, salt and pepper to the Instant Pot and mix. Push the pasta into the water so it is covered.
Step 2: Place the lid on the Instant Pot and seal it. Pressure cook on high for 5 minutes (4 minutes if you live at high altitude or if you would prefer more al dente pasta) and quick release the pressure once the timer goes off.
Step 3: Pour in the whole milk and mix. Then add the cheese in small handfuls, stirring continuously until the cheese melts and is creamy. Taste, adjust the seasonings and serve while hot! Garnish with some black pepper.
Hint: If your mac and cheese isn't thick and creamy enough for your liking, add a dash of whole milk and an extra handful of cheese. Mix well until the cheese melts into the milk and pasta and makes a rich sauce that coats the macaroni. You can add up to 2 cups of cheese to achieve the desired texture.
🍝 What is the best pasta to use for Instant Pot Mac and cheese?
I used large elbow macaroni noodles for this recipe which are the obvious classic pasta to choose for mac and cheese. However, if you don't have macaroni on hand and are still craving the cheesy goodness of this recipe, you can easily make this recipe with the following pasta shapes instead:
⏳ How to cook macaroni pasta perfectly in the Instant Pot?
I use 4 - 5 minutes as the pressure cooking time for this pasta recipe as just a minute of pressure cooking can make a huge difference to your pasta in the Instant Pot.
Pasta cooks really quickly under pressure so factors like higher altitudes and your pressure cooker brand make a big difference. I found that 4 minutes of cooking time made the pasta nice and al dente, and then cooking it further in the sauce softened it up.
5 minutes of cooking time made the pasta perfectly cooked and soft so I could cook it and mix it a bit less to get the consistency right. Experiment when making this mac and cheese to get it just right for you.
You can easily substitute some ingredients in this recipe to suit what you already have on hand. In addition to using different types of short pasta shapes as mentioned above you can make the following substitutions:
- What cheese is best? - I find that the best cheese to use are the simplest ones! White and yellow cheddar work very well along with white and yellow gouda. You can add some parmesan or matured cheddar for an added cheesy tang.
- What milk can you use? - you can use any milk you have available really. Fat-free milk, 2% milk, and unsweetened non-dairy milks with a neutral flavor all work well.
- Gluten-free pasta - I have tried to make this recipe gluten-free using the Instant Pot but the pasta does become too soft. It's better in this case to make your gluten-free pasta separately on the stove-top and then add in the milk and cheeses.
The rich and creamy cheese sauce for this mac and cheese is a great base you can add flavor to. Here are some ideas for extra flavor and adding more protein to make this mac and cheese interesting every time you try it!
- Want more spice? - add red chilli pepper flakes before pressure cooking to add heat into the pasta sauce. You can also add a dash of hot pepper sauce as you are stirring in the cheese for more spiciness and extra flavor too!
- More protein - add crumbled crispy bacon to the top of your mac and cheese as a crunchy garnish that adds protein too
- Kid friendly - while mac and cheese is as kid-friendly a meal as it gets, it's actually the perfect meal to hide some extra veggies in! Add in some cooked chopped veggies (like broccoli, cauliflower or zucchini) while adding the cheese!
This recipe has been developed and tested using an 6 quart (5.5 L) Instant Pot. I love making quick pasta recipes in my Instant Pot. I know cooking pasta recipes in your Instant Pot can be frowned upon but getting a healthy lunch or dinner ready so quickly in one appliance saves the day sometimes.
If you want to make this recipe on the stove top, then follow these steps:
- add 1 cup of water as needed while cooking the pasta and until the pasta is cooked perfectly
- you need to cook the pasta in the sauce for about 3 - 5 minutes until the pasta is al dente, this is after you have added the cheese and milk
- stir the dish well while adding the cheese and adjust flavors as needed
You can store leftover mac and cheese in the refrigerator for up to 2-3 days in an airtight container. Reheat in the microwave or on the stove top on low heat. Stir well and enjoy! It's a perfect side dish for lunch or dinner if you have leftovers.
This dish doesn't stand up well to freezing.
❗️ Top tip
Use cheeses that will melt smoothly instead of cheeses that will melt and be more stringy - I used white and yellow cheddar for this recipe. Gouda, Swiss and Gruyère all work great in this recipe.
For some extra cheesy tang, add some grated parmesan to the recipe - it really makes the cheese flavor pop!
Easy Instant Pot Mac and Cheese
- 16 Ounces uncooked elbow macaroni (450 grams)
- 4 Cups water (1000 ml.)
- 4 Tablespoons butter
- 1 Teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ Teaspoon pepper
- ½ Teaspoon salt
- 3-4 Cups shredded cheddar cheese I used white and normal cheddar (you can also add some parmesan cheese too, about ½ cup)
- ½ - ¾ Cup whole milk
- Add the uncooked macaroni pasta, water, butter, garlic powder, salt and pepper to the Instant Pot and mix. Push the pasta into the water so it is covered.
- Place the lid on the Instant Pot and seal it. Pressure cook on high for 5 minutes (4 minutes if you live at high altitude or want the pasta more al dente) and quick release the pressure once the timer goes off.
- Pour in the whole milk and mix. Then add the cheese in small handfuls, stirring continuously until the cheese melts and is creamy. Taste, adjust the seasonings and serve. Garnish with black pepper.