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This mac and cheese is creamy and delicious. Plus, because it’s made in the Instant Pot, it’s incredibly quick and easy!
Easy Instant Pot Mac and Cheese Recipe
This Instant Pot mac and cheese is almost a too-good-to-be-true situation. First of all, even though it’s easy, it still counts as homemade mac and cheese, and let’s be honest, *nothing* beats a good homemade mac and cheese.
Thanks to the addition of cream cheese, this macaroni and cheese is uber creamy. It’s special enough to be on your holiday dinner table and simple enough to be on your everyday dinner table.
How long does it take to make mac and cheese in the Instant Pot?
Y’all, this recipe takes hardly any time at all. The macaroni noodles will cook at high pressure in the Instant Pot for 4 minutes — keep in mind, though, that the Instant Pot will take about 10 minutes to come to pressure. So by the time your Instant Pot is at pressure, the noodles are fully cooked, and the cheese and other ingredients are mixed in, it’ll likely come in at about 20 minutes max.
Mac and Cheese Instant Pot Recipe Ingredients
Here’s what you’ll need to grab to get started on your Instant Pot mac and cheese:
- Elbow Macaroni – to start, you’ll need 16 ounces of dried elbow macaroni.
- Water – 5 cups of water will go into the Instant Pot with the macaroni noodles.
- Sea Salt – along with the water and macaroni, 1 teaspoon of fine sea salt will also be added into the pressure cooker.
- Butter – 3 tablespoons of butter helps to make this macaroni rich and delicious. It also keeps the noodles from sticking to one another.
- Cream Cheese – to take the creaminess to the next level, you’ll add 4 ounces of cream cheese to the mix as well.
- Heavy Cream or Milk – a ½ cup of heavy cream or milk helps to add some moisture to the mac and cheese so that all of the cheese can transform into a nice sauce.
- Cheddar Cheese – 1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese will get stirred in, as well as…
- Gouda Cheese – …a ½ cup of shredded gouda cheese!
- Black Pepper – a ¼ teaspoon of ground black pepper heads into the pot for a little extra depth.
If you want to tweak this recipe to make it work for you, feel free! Here are a few modifications that are worth trying:
- Make it gluten-free: to make your macaroni and cheese gluten-free, simply use gluten-free macaroni noodles!
- Use a different cheese: not a fan of gouda? Scrap it for another cheese, or just use more cheddar instead.
- Add some flavor boosters: to jazz up your mac and cheese even more, add some cooked and chopped bacon, chives, or garlic, once all of the cheese is fully combined and creamy. If you’re looking to add a protein, shredded chicken would be great, and for a veggie add, finely chopped steamed broccoli is delicious here!
Supplies You Need to Make this Recipe
How to make Mac and Cheese in Instant Pot
- Cook the macaroni in the Instant Pot – add the macaroni, water, salt, and butter to the Instant Pot, then seal and set to cook (on manual/high pressure) for 4 minutes. After the timer goes off, immediately release the pressure and remove the lid.
- Add the cheese and milk – add the cream cheese and milk to the pot and stir to combine. Once the cream cheese has melted, add the shredded cheese and pepper, and stir again.
- Taste, adjust, and serve – taste the macaroni and cheese for seasoning and add additional salt if needed. If the sauce is too thick, add milk one tablespoon at a time until you reach the right consistency. Once the cheese is fully melted, serve immediately.
What cheese is the best for mac and cheese?
We chose to use a mixture of cheddar cheese and gouda cheese to really just add some pizazz to the mac and cheese. While cheddar is the macaroni and cheese gold standard (see what I did there?), gouda has a deliciously creamy, slightly sweet flavor — combining the two makes for a more interesting finished product.
Feel free to use any shredded cheese you love in place of the cheddar and gouda, though. Mix and match or use just one — the choice is all yours!
How do you keep mac and cheese creamy?
For the creamiest mac and cheese, serve it immediately after stirring in the cheese. If you *need* to make your macaroni and cheese in advance, there’s a good chance it’ll thicken (and get slightly sticky) while being stored in the fridge. If this is the case, simply pop it over heat (think: in a pot on the stovetop) to warm it, and add more milk or heavy cream a tablespoon at a time until it’s creamy again.
What can you put in mac and cheese to make it taste better?
While boxed mac and cheese can certainly take some doctoring up to make it taste a little more homemade and a little less artificial, this Instant Pot mac and cheese is really delicious as written. If I were you, I’d follow the directions and ingredient list exactly, and then add more salt, pepper, or milk at the end until it reaches your desired taste and consistency.
How do you keep mac and cheese in the Instant Pot from drying out?
Good question! The butter, heavy cream (or milk), and cream cheese all really help to keep the macaroni and cheese creamy, moist, and far from dried out. Remember, if you feel like your mac and cheese is too thick, simply add a bit more milk until it’s the consistency you’re looking for.
What do you do if your mac and cheese is too thick?
If your macaroni and cheese is too thick, just add milk or heavy cream a tablespoon at a time until the sauce is your preferred consistency.
What goes best with this homemade mac and cheese Instant Pot recipe?
I personally think this mac and cheese is creamy and special enough to be a part of your holiday spread, but because it’s so, so easy, it’s also really great for any ole weeknight! If you’re making it as a dinner side, I’d serve it alongside a really simple protein and veggie. Grilled steak, grilled chicken, or even a rotisserie chicken would be delicious protein options, and simple sauteed or roasted green beans would be great veggie additions.
How do you store Instant Pot Mac and Cheese?
Store your leftover macaroni and cheese in an airtight container in the refrigerator. I don’t recommend freezing your mac and cheese, as the texture would likely be compromised through the freezing, thawing, and reheating process.
How long does the mac and cheese Instant Pot recipe last?
Stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, your macaroni and cheese will last for 4-5 days. Enjoy!
Just for You
Instant Pot Recipes
Want more recipes and ideas like this?
- 16 ounces elbow macaroni
- 5 cups water
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 4 ounces cream cheese
- 1/2 cup milk or heavy cream
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- 1/2 cup shredded gouda cheese
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- Add the macaroni, water, salt, and butter to the Instant Pot, then seal and set to cook (on manual/high pressure) for 4 minutes.
- After the timer goes off, immediately release the pressure and remove the lid.
- Add the cream cheese and milk to the pot and stir to combine. Once the cream cheese has melted, add the shredded cheese and pepper and stir again.
- Taste for seasoning and add additional salt if needed. If the sauce is too thick, add another tablespoon of milk one tablespoon at a time until you reach the right consistency. Once the cheese is fully melted, serve immediately.
Susie Sidebottom says
Hi there! I cannot wait to try this!! Do you have any recommendations for a gluten free elbow macaroni that won’t turn to mush?
Melissa Guevara says
Hi Susie! I like Jovial Gluten Free Elbows and find this pasta holds up well. You can shop it on Amazon here or on their website here. I hope you enjoy! ~Melissa
This is deliciously easy. I have a smaller instant pot so I will have to cut the recipe in half next time. I did not end up needing the milk either. I also used jumbo elbows. I cannot believe how easy it is and how good it tastes!!
Melissa Guevara says
Hi Kristy! Thank you for taking the time to share with us! I am so glad that you enjoyed AND that it made for an easy meal! ~Melissa
This recipe is a game changer! I’m 6 weeks pregnant; between the food aversions and major fatigue, cooking dinner has been a struggle. I just made this recipe and it was the BEST! Fast, simple, and easy. InstantPot did all the work, and it came out perfect! This is definitely going to be a repeat recipe!
Melissa Guevara says
Congratulations, Anna! We are so glad this recipe came in clutch for you in the early weeks of pregnancy. Thank you for taking the time to share with us! -Melissa
Unfortunately I tried subbing GF pasta (Trader Joe’s) and it was completely mushy for our Easter dinner. Has anyone found a GF pasta that for sure works with this recipe?
Melissa Guevara says
Hi Michelle, I am so sorry you had this experience. Our GF pastas of choice for this recipe are either Barilla or Jovial. -Melissa
April T says
Made this as a side for tonight’s dinner. Big hit with all the kids and even bigger hit for this busy mama of four! Absolutely love how easy this was!
Melissa Guevara says
We are so glad to hear this, April! Thank you for taking the time to share with us. -Team F&F
Hallie Doyle says
This is SUCH a great, doable recipe that is a hit with my family. I’ve tried it with Gruyere cheese and love the nutty taste! I have a houseful of college kids and am making it tonight to serve as a side (they asked for it a second time). I’m so grateful for Fed+Fit…and so are all my friends I share recipes with! Thank you so much!
Brandi Schilhab says
Aw, that’s awesome, Hallie! Thank you so much for taking the time to share this with us!
Julie Ann says
I made this tonight, and it turned out so yummy! Plus, it was super easy to throw together on a week night. Husband & kid approved! I used Banza shells instead of elbow macaroni. Not only did add some extra protein and make it GF, but it didn’t turn out *too* mushy! I think I probably could have gone one minute less in the instant pot, and it would’ve been perfect.
Brandi Schilhab says
We’re so glad you all loved it, Julie Ann! Thank you so much for taking the time to share this with us!