Instant Pot mac and cheese is tender, cheesy, creamy and so delicious! It’s great for a quick and easy side dish the whole family will love.
I’ve recently shared my crock pot mac and cheese and before that, easy stovetop mac and cheese, our classic baked mac and cheese with a crusty top and for when you’re in a real pinch, microwave mac and cheese.
Today it’s Instant Pot mac and cheese, because the more versions, the better!
Plus, I love how easy and hands-off the Instant Pot is. Great for busy nights when you have other things you need to rush around and do at dinner-time.
Oh, and this macaroni and cheese gets so incredibly creamy!
The pasta is tender and flavorful from cooking in the broth, and then the cream cheese, cheddar cheese and Parmesan combo add a ton of richness and get all melty and coated over the pasta.
Every bite is soft, cheesy and downright delicious.
Plus, it takes just a few minutes to prep, so you can let it go while you work on the rest of dinner. Or pour yourself a glass of wine. 😉
Now, I’ve got some notes, tips and FAQs coming up below on how to make Instant Pot macaroni and cheese. Just tryin’ to be helpful.
(I’ve made a lot of mac and cheese in my day, so I have lots of tips and ideas to share.)
If you want to jump on down to the recipe, simply scroll right on through the rest of the text. The recipe card is near the bottom of the page, above the comments section.
Notes on Instant Pot mac and cheese:
- I used a classic elbow pasta for this recipe, but you can substitute other pasta types. (See more on that below.)
- The recipe calls for all cheddar (well, there’s cream cheese too, but the shredded cheese is all cheddar) and I used a sharp white cheddar. But you can mix and match cheeses if you’d like. I have details below on that too.
- Skim or 2% milk are fine for this recipe. You could probably also use an alternative milk such as soy milk or almond milk, but I haven’t tested in that way.
- The hot sauce here does NOT make this spicy at all, but it adds a really great background flavor. (This was a tip from a friend who knows how much I adore hot sauce.) I recommend using a hot sauce that’s more flavorful than pure spicy. We love Crystal brand. You could also skip it if you prefer.
Since we’re making this in the Instant Pot, I wanted to offer a few trouble-shooting tips, which will be especially helpful if this is your first time making it.
(Cause it’s a slightly different process than making a stovetop version.)
Tips on Instant Pot macaroni and cheese:
- You’re going to do 5 minutes of high pressure cooking for this recipe, followed by a manual or quick release.
- The cream cheese, milk and shredded cheese get added to the pot AFTER that initial cook time.
- You’ll want to add the shredded cheddar and the Parmesan a handful at a time, stirring in each batch until it’s melted and incorporated. Don’t just dump all of it in at once.
- Don’t worry if your macaroni and cheese seems a bit liquidy at first. It thickens up as it sits for just a couple of minutes, so I recommend letting it hang out for a few minutes after you’ve stirred in all of the cheese.
I know, it’s hard to wait, but it does make a big difference texture-wise.
A disclaimer: Instant Pot recipes often fail to mention the time it takes for the pot to come to pressure or to release it.
I have found it very misleading when trying to plan, so I wanted to be sure to include it here.
I’ve listed “additional time” as 15 minutes to account for the amount of time it will take for the pot to come to pressure and then the time for quick release. The exact amount of time for these will vary, but that’s at least a rough estimate.
Also, I should note this makes a lot! We're using a full 1-pound box of macaroni after all. You could halve the recipe, but it reheats great, so I always make the full thing.
And I have notes below on storing leftovers so you can have some on hand for another night. Always a good thing. 😊
OK, now for a few commonly asked questions….
What pasta should I use for macaroni and cheese?
- You can use a small elbow pasta, a small shell pasta, orecchiette or another small shaped pasta. (Here’s a cool list of all the different pasta shapes for a visual guide with a quick description for each one.) https://pastafits.org/pasta-shapes/
- It just needs to be on the smaller size so it cooks completely in the Instant Pot.
- Feel free to choose a whole wheat or whole grain pasta, regular pasta or even a gluten-free pasta.
- I used a classic elbow pasta here.
What cheese should I use for macaroni and cheese?
- A sharp cheddar is classic for mac and cheese. However, a combination of cheeses can be delicious as well.
- Gruyere is a great cheese for mac and cheese. You could make this recipe with half gruyere and half cheddar.
- Cheddar and Monterey Jack are another good combo for making mac and cheese.
- American cheese is another favorite for how melty it gets.
And of course I have to share some topping ideas with you! I mean, you know how I feel about toppings. (Hint: Bring them on all day, every day.)
Here’s a few ideas if you want to dress up and finish off this crock pot mac and cheese recipe.
Macaroni and cheese toppings:
- Extra cheese (cheddar, Monterey Jack, Parmesan, etc.)
- Cooked, crumbled bacon 🥓
- Chopped fresh parsley or cilantro
- Chopped chives or green onions
- Hot sauce or sriracha for some heat 🌶
- Pickled jalapeños
- Pico de gallo
- Sour cream or Greek yogurt
- Sliced avocado or a dollop of guac
Some of those may sound a little crazy, but people do it.
And now that we’re all done with our pasta dish, let’s round out the rest of the meal!
What should I serve with Instant Pot mac and cheese?
- We love this with a big green salad for something fresh and light. 🥗
- It’s also great with steamed asparagus or broccoli, roasted or sautéed Brussels sprouts or green beans.
- Want a protein main to go with this? Grilled or baked chicken or pork would be great here. Try my crunchy baked pork chops or spice-rubbed pork chops. 15-minute paprika chicken or easy crunchy baked chicken would be great too.
- Or make a grilled or seared steak to go with this.
OK, and now let’s discuss any leftovers you may have and what to do with them.
Can I reheat Instant Pot mac and cheese?
- You definitely can and I have many times before.
- You can reheat single servings easily in the microwave, starting with about 45 seconds to a minute, then stirring and adding additional time until it’s nice and hot. This keeps everything moist as well.
- Pro tip: Cover your bowl or plate with a damp paper towel to help the food stay moist as it reheats in the microwave.
Let’s also discuss long-term storage…
Can I freeze leftover mac and cheese?
- Absolutely! Freezing leftovers is a great way to cut down on food waste, especially when a dish like this makes a lot. You’ll have dinner ready to go another night!
- Simply let the leftovers cool down, then transfer to a freezer safe plastic bag or container, label it, and keep in the freezer for 4-5 months.
- Defrost it overnight in the fridge and then reheat in the microwave or in a small casserole dish (details above).
And there you have it!
Your pressure cooker is ready to make you a delicious, incredibly creamy macaroni and cheese that will have your whole family running to the table.
P.S. Check out these fun flavor twists on mac and cheese:
- Pumpkin baked mac and cheese with bacon
- Healthy chicken broccoli mac and cheese
- Kale and butternut squash mac and cheese
- Baked taco mac and cheese casserole
- 16 oz. elbow macaroni (uncooked)
- 4 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth (or sub water)
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon hot sauce (see notes)
- ¾ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon ground mustard
- 2 oz. plain cream cheese (regular or reduced fat)
- 2-3 cups shredded cheddar cheese
- ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- ½ -1 cup milk (skim or 2%)
- Add the uncooked macaroni, broth, butter, hot sauce, garlic powder, pepper, and salt to the insert of your Instant Pot. Stir well to combine.
- Place the lid on the pot and set to sealing. Cook on manual function, high pressure, for 5 minutes. Then, do a quick release and wait for the pot to be safe to open.
- Add the cream cheese, ½ cup milk, then a handful of cheese to the pot and stir well. Add an additional handful of cheese, one at a time, stirring in between each addition until smooth and creamy. (Don’t just dump it all in; it won’t get well incorporated.)
- Season as necessary to taste with salt and pepper. Add extra milk if needed for desired consistency. (If it seems liquidy already, don't worry. Let it sit for just a few minutes and it will thicken up.) Serve hot and enjoy!
Hot sauce: The hot sauce here does not make this spicy at all, but it adds a really great background flavor. I recommend using a hot sauce that’s more flavorful than pure on spicy. We love Crystal brand. You could also skip it if you prefer.
Milk: I use 2% or skim milk for this recipe since that’s what we always have on hand, but it would work well with whole milk as well.
Cheese: I used a sharp white cheddar cheese for the cheese in this recipe. You can use regular cheddar or a combination of cheeses (such as cheddar and Monterey Jack, Gruyere or American cheeses.)
Reheating: You can reheat single servings easily in the microwave, starting with about 45 seconds to a minute, then stirring and adding additional time until it’s nice and hot. Feel free to add a few splashes of milk and/or some extra cheese to make sure it doesn’t dry out as it reheats.
Freezing leftovers: Extras freeze great! Simply let the leftovers cool down, then transfer to a freezer safe plastic bag or container, label it, and keep in the freezer for up to 5 months. Defrost it overnight in the fridge and then reheat in the microwave or in a small casserole dish (details above).
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 564Total Fat: 36gSaturated Fat: 21gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 12gCholesterol: 123mgSodium: 1241mgCarbohydrates: 24gFiber: 1gSugar: 3gProtein: 34g