Instant Pot Mac and Cheese

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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!

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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.

pressure cooker mac and cheese

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.

mac and cheese in instant pot

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

instant pot mac n cheese

Prepare the ingredients for making mac and cheese in Instant Pot.

mac and cheese ingredients

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Pasta

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.

Cheese

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

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.

Hot Sauce

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.

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

Step 1

Pressure Cook Macaroni

Add 1 pound (454g) elbow macaroni, 4 cups (1L) cold water, and a pinch of kosher salt in Instant Pot.

macaroni instant pot

Close the lid, then turn Venting Knob to Sealing Position.

pressure cook at high pressure for 4 minutes

Instant Pot Mac and Cheese Cooking Time: Pressure Cook at High Pressure for 4 minutes, then Gradual Quick Release.

Amy + Jacky’s Tips!

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.

gradual quick release

Carefully open the lid.

Step 2

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.

wet ingredients

Step 3

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.

Amy + Jacky’s Tips to Thicken Mac and Cheese: If the Mac and Cheese is too runny, use “Sauté Less” function to reduce it down.

instant pot macaroni and cheese

Is the “Keep Warm” mode Hot Enough to Cook the Egg?

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.

Step 4

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.

mac n cheese instant pot

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!

4.99 from 63 votes

Instant Pot Mac and Cheese

Author: Amy + Jacky
Easy to make gloriously creamy Instant Pot Mac and Cheese! Tender macaroni in a dreamy smooth and rich cheese sauce. Homemade mac and cheese is classic comfort food not just for kids!
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Servings 4 - 6
Total Time 35 minutes
Rate this Recipe

Ingredients

  • 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

Wet Ingredients

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Instructions 

  • 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~

Video

Notes

1) 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, 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.
2) Evaporated Milk
  • 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.
3) How to Avoid Graininess in Macaroni and Cheese?
  • 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.
4) Is the Mac and Cheese Spicy? No, it's not spicy at all. The Sriracha helps balance the overall flavors. You can omit the hot sauce and ground mustard powder if you like. It'll still be tasty!
5) Is the "Keep Warm" mode Hot Enough to Cook the Eggs? 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 Mac and Cheese should be between 158°F – 170°F, so the eggs will be fully cooked and pasteurized in it. If you prefer, you can omit the eggs. It'll still be tasty!
6) Unsalted Butter: If you’re substituting with salted butter, taste and adjust depending on your butter’s sodium level.
7) Gradual Quick Release: 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.
8) Freeze Mac and Cheese: You can freeze the leftovers into serving portions in air-tight freezer containers or freezer bags. First let it cool, then place them into freezer storage containers or freezer bags. With freezer bags, try to remove as much air as possible, then lay them flat in the freezer to freeze.
9) How to Reheat Leftover Mac and Cheese
  1. Place macaroni and cheese in a cold pan.
  2. Pour in some milk, then reheat mac and cheese over low heat.
  3. Stir constantly with a silicone spatula. Then, enjoy all the deliciousness again!
10) Can I Make a Half Batch? You can cut the amount of all the ingredients by half. Then increase the pressure cooking time by a minute to compensate for the shorter "get up to pressure" time.
11) Can I Double this Recipe in a 6qt Instant Pot? No, it'll be too full. For food that expands during cooking, don't fill the unit over ½ full.
12) Can I Make this on Stove Top? Yes! This recipe will work on the stovetop.
Rate Amy + Jacky's Recipe: If you've tried our recipe, rate the recipe in the Comments section. Thank you!
Calories: 621kcal
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American, British, Canadian
Keyword: instant pot mac and cheese, instant pot mac n cheese, instant pot macaroni and cheese, mac and cheese in instant pot, mac and cheese instant pot, mac n cheese instant pot, pressure cooker mac and cheese

Nutrition

Calories: 621kcal | Carbohydrates: 48g | Protein: 29g | Fat: 34g | Saturated Fat: 21g | Cholesterol: 143mg | Sodium: 511mg | Potassium: 340mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 1046IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 645mg | Iron: 2mg

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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