Step-by-Step Guide on how to make Instant Pot Mac and Cheese! Easy to make gloriously creamy homemade mac and cheese in Instant Pot with pantry ingredients. Tender macaroni in a dreamy smooth and rich cheese sauce. Classic comfort food not just for kids!
Mac and Cheese
Many of us might be familiar with mac and cheese because of the blue box Kraft mac and cheese! If you haven’t tried homemade Macaroni and Cheese made from scratch, it’s about time.
It’s great for an after-school snack, lunch, and dinner; side dish for holiday dinners, hosting guests, and gatherings. You can also make a big batch of easy Instant Pot mac and cheese for parties, potlucks, BBQs, and summer cookouts.
Mac and Cheese usually Fail to Cook in a Few Ways:
- Macaroni texture: mushy/overcooked or hard/undercooked macaroni
- Cheese sauce texture: grainy, stringy, clumps, dry, pasty, gloppy, runny
- Flavor: bland, flat, one-dimensional, too cheesy, watery
- Macaroni-to-cheese ratio: too much or too little macaroni or cheese
- Macaroni-to-water ratio: too watery or too starchy
The cheese, pasta, milk, pasta-to-cheese ratio, pasta-to-water ratio, flavoring ingredients, cooking time, and temperature are key factors in making a tasty and creamy mac and cheese.
So, we carefully crafted this Mac and Cheese Instant Pot recipe with specific ingredients, ratios, and techniques. This way you can enjoy tender macaroni with a gloriously creamy, gooey, and flavorful cheese sauce.
If you want to take your Instant Pot Mac n Cheese to the next level, try our deluxe version – Loaded Mac and Cheese.
How to Make Instant Pot Mac and Cheese
Prepare the ingredients for making mac and cheese in Instant Pot.
We crafted this mac and cheese Instant Pot recipe with elbow macaroni.
Substituting with Other Pasta: You may need to adjust the pressure cooking time depending on the type of pasta you use.
- For reference: Check your pasta package’s recommended stovetop cooking time, such as “10 – 12 minutes”. Take the shorter time in the range, then divide that by 2 and minus 1. For example: (10 minutes / 2) – 1 = 4 minutes. This means test pressure cooking your pasta at High Pressure for 4 minutes, then gradual quick release.
Use High Quality Good Melting Cheese: Cheese is the soul of mac and cheese. The flavor profile and sauce’s texture highly depend on your cheese quality.
Use Freshly Grated Cheese: Pre-shredded cheese contains cellulose powder that doesn’t break down nor allows smooth melting. So it’s best to use freshly grated cheese to make mac and cheese. It may be a lot of cheese to grate, but the glorious creamy cheese sauce will be worth it. Just treat it as a mini-workout!
Velveeta Cheese: Velveeta cheese acts as an emulsifier to ensure the cheese sauce has a smooth finish. If you like, you can replace the mild cheddar with Velveeta cheese.
Evaporated milk is concentrated milk made by evaporating some of the water content from fresh milk. It gives the cheese sauce more body, richness, and helps make it more creamy smooth.
Not Sweetened Condensed Milk: A quick reminder to read the label to make sure you’re using evaporated milk and not sweetened condensed milk. 😉
Substitute with Fresh Milk, Heavy Cream, or Half & Half: If you need to substitute with these, it’ll work for this mac n cheese Instant Pot recipe. But keep in mind it’ll be more runny using regular milk, and the cheese sauce won’t be as smooth and creamy.
Homemade Evaporated Milk: You can make evaporated milk by reducing the water content in fresh milk. Reduce the water content by gently simmering 800ml of fresh milk until it reduces to 355ml.
Sriracha may be an unusual ingredient for making macaroni and cheese. Don’t worry! This Instant Pot mac and cheese is kid-friendly and not spicy at all. The Sriracha helps balance the overall flavors. You can omit the hot sauce and ground mustard powder if you like. The flavor profile will be slightly different, but still delicious.
- Sriracha Sauce – thicker consistency, more sweet and spicy
- Frank's Hot Sauce – thinner consistency, tastes sour and not sweet at all
Other Instant Pot Mac n Cheese Ingredients
Egg: The egg helps the cheese sauce bind and stick onto the pasta better. So it’ll make the Instant Pot mac n cheese a bit more smooth and creamy. If you prefer, you can omit the egg. It’ll still be tasty!
Unsalted Butter: We develop recipes with unsalted butter so we can better control the flavors and adjust the saltiness to our tastes. If you’re substituting with salted butter, taste and adjust depending on your butter’s sodium level.
Tools for Mac and Cheese Instant Pot Recipe
Pressure Cook Macaroni
Add 1 pound (454g) elbow macaroni, 4 cups (1L) cold water, and a pinch of kosher salt in Instant Pot.
Close the lid, then turn Venting Knob to Sealing Position.
Instant Pot Mac and Cheese Cooking Time: Pressure Cook at High Pressure for 4 minutes, then Gradual Quick Release.
1) Gradual Quick Release (see photo below): Use a wooden spoon to turn the venting knob from the sealing position toward the venting position just a bit so the steam starts to come out gently. Keep it in that position until all the pressure is released. This pressure release method prevents splatter, and it’ll take longer than a normal Quick Release.
2) Have a towel handy because there’s a slight chance that a tiny amount of foam will come out with the steam.
Carefully open the lid.
Mix Wet Ingredients
While the macaroni is pressure cooking, mix the wet ingredients in a medium mixing bowl.
Beat 2 large eggs. Then, mix in 1 teaspoon ground mustard, 1 teaspoon Sriracha sauce, and 12 ounces (355ml) evaporated milk. Mix well.
Make Mac and Cheese in Instant Pot
Use the “Keep Warm” function (this keeps the heat on low or medium low).
Give the macaroni a quick stir. See if there’s any excessive liquid in the pot. If there’s more than ¾ cup of water left, drain some of the liquid.
Add 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter to the pressure cooked macaroni. Mix well with a silicone spatula, and let the butter melt.
Pour in the wet ingredients and mix well.
Add grated cheese (⅓ portion at a time), then stir constantly until the cheese fully melt.
Egg pasteurization starts at 140°F and keeping them at that temperature for three and a half minutes will kill any bacteria. The full pot of Instant Pot Mac and Cheese should be between 158°F – 170°F, so the eggs will be fully cooked and pasteurized in it.
Serve Instant Pot Mac and Cheese
Taste and season the Instant Pot macaroni and cheese with kosher salt and ground black pepper. You’ll likely need a couple pinches of kosher salt to brighten the dish.
For the best tasting experience, eat pressure cooker mac and cheese immediately! Or the smooth creamy cheese will cool and harden as it sits at room temperature.
What to Serve with Mac and Cheese
Creamy Instant Pot Mac and Cheese is a very versatile side dish that goes well with many meat, seafood, vegetables main and side dishes.
What meat goes well with mac and cheese?
Mac and cheese goes well with a variety of protein including Beef, Pork, Chicken, Lamb, and Seafood. It’s a popular side dish for BBQ or summer cookouts. So you can serve mac and cheese with tasty Instant Pot Ribs, Instant Pot Pulled Pork, or Instant Pot Brisket. For holiday dinners, you can serve Mac and Cheese with Instant Pot Roast Beef or Instant Pot Ham.
Main Dishes that Go with Mac and Cheese
What vegetables go well with mac and cheese?
Many side dishes including leafy green vegetables, salads, and beans go well with mac and cheese.
Enjoy Dreamy Creamy Instant Pot Mac and Cheese!
Instant Pot Mac and Cheese
- 1 pound (454g) elbow macaroni
- 4 cups (1L) cold water
- 4 tablespoons (60g) unsalted butter
- 14 ounces (397g) sharp cheddar , freshly grated
- 6 ounces (170g) mild cheddar or Velveeta cheese , freshly grated
- Kosher salt and ground black pepper
- 2 large eggs , beaten
- 1 teaspoon ground mustard
- Optional: 1 teaspoon Sriracha sauce or Frank’s hot sauce
- 12 ounces (355ml can) evaporated milk
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- Pressure Cook Macaroni: Add 1lb (454g) elbow macaroni, 4 cups (1L) cold water, and a pinch of kosher salt in Instant Pot. Close the lid, then turn Venting Knob to Sealing Position. Pressure cook at High Pressure for 4 minutes, then Gradual Quick Release. Carefully open the lid.Amy + Jacky's Tips: There's a slight chance that a tiny amount of foam will come out with the steam. Have a towel handy.
- Mix Wet Ingredients: While the macaroni is pressure cooking, mix the wet ingredients in a medium mixing bowl. Beat 2 large eggs, then mix in 1 tsp ground mustard, 1 tsp Sriracha, and 12 ounces (355ml) evaporated milk. Mix well.
- Make Mac & Cheese: Use "Keep Warm" function. Give it a quick stir. If there's more than ¾ cup of water left in the pot, drain some of the liquid.Add 4 tbsp unsalted butter to the pressure cooked macaroni. Mix well with a silicone spatula and let the butter melt. Pour in the wet ingredients and mix well. Add grated cheese (⅓ portion at a time), then stir constantly until the cheese fully melt. Amy + Jacky's Tips: If the mac and cheese is too runny, use "Sauté Less" function to reduce it down.
- Serve: Taste and season with kosher salt and ground black pepper. You'll likely need a couple pinches of kosher salt to brighten the dish. For the best tasting experience, serve immediately! Enjoy~
- For reference: Check your pasta package's recommended stovetop cooking time, such as "10 – 12 minutes". Take the shorter time, then divide that by 2 and minus 1. For example: (10 minutes / 2) - 1 = 4 minutes. This means test pressure cooking your pasta at High Pressure for 4 minutes, then gradual quick release.
- Not Sweetened Condensed Milk: Make sure you're using evaporated milk and not sweetened condensed milk.
- Substitute with Fresh Milk, Heavy Cream, or Half & Half: It'll work for this recipe, but it'll be more runny using regular milk, and the cheese sauce won't be as smooth and creamy.
- Make Your Own Evaporated Milk: Reduce the water content in your fresh milk by gently simmering 800ml of fresh milk until it reduces to 355ml.
- Use high quality good melting cheese
- Use Freshly Grated Cheese: Pre-shredded cheese contains cellulose powder that doesn’t break down nor allows smooth melting.
- Use Velveeta Cheese: It acts as an emulsifier to ensure the cheese sauce has a smooth finish. You can replace the mild cheddar with Velveeta cheese.
- Use Low Heat: Because melting cheese with high temperatures may cause lumps in the cheese sauce.
- Place macaroni and cheese in a cold pan.
- Pour in some milk, then reheat mac and cheese over low heat.
- Stir constantly with a silicone spatula. Then, enjoy all the deliciousness again!
This recipe is inspired by the Macaroni and Cheese Recipe from the cookbook – The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science by J. KENJI LÓPEZ-ALT. His work & dedication to food truly inspires us.
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