Make deliciously creamy homemade mac and cheese using your instant pot for quick and easy comfort food. This mac and cheese is a decadent and delicious side dish or a meatless meal the entire family will love!
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I probably don't have to tell you that macaroni and cheese is the ultimate comfort food. It's good any time of the year and while it can certainly be served as an entree, it really is best known as a side dish.
This recipe inspired my instant pot tuna casserole so definitely check it out if you like this one. Mac and cheese pairs well with SO many entrees, but some of my favorites are homemade sloppy joes, blackened chicken tenders, and low-carb air fryer fried chicken. Speaking of low carb, check out the variations section below to learn how to make this recipe low carb!
Ingredients and Substitutions
The ingredients for this mac and cheese are pretty standard, and can be customized to suit your dietary preferences as well as your tastebuds!
- Macaroni Noodles - You can use other pastas such as penne, bowtie, or rotini. Also, be sure to check out the variations section for a low carb alternative!
- Water or chicken broth for more flavor (note: if you are using chicken broth, you may wish to reduce the added salt)
- Salt and Pepper
- Evaporated Milk, Heavy Cream, or your favorite milk or milk alternative. Be aware that using low fat milk will result in a less creamy mac and cheese.
- Ground Mustard or prepared mustard
- Ground Cayenne (optional)
- Colby Jack Cheese and Gruyere Cheese or substitute with your favorite cheeses. Here are some great suggestions for mac and cheese!
- Sour Cream, full fat greek yogurt or cream cheese
See the recipe card for quantities.
Making macaroni and cheese in the instant pot is SO easy that you may never make it any other way!
Start out by adding the macaroni, water, salt, and butter to the inner liner of your instant pot. Give the pasta a stir to break up any clumps.
Tip: Make sure that you use cold water. Using warm or hot water will decrease the time it takes your instant pot to come to pressure, reducing the overall cooking time. This results in undercooked pasta.
Place the lid on the instant pot and set the valve to "sealing." Cook on high pressure for 4 minutes, then perform a quick pressure release to prevent the pasta from overcooking.
There are slight variations between different Instant Pot models. I have included instructions for the most common model, but if you are unsure how to operate your Instant Pot, then you can find your owner's manual here!
Once the pin drops, remove the lid. Add the evaporated milk, ground mustard, cayenne, black pepper, shredded cheeses, and sour cream. Stir until the cheeses have melted and everything is well combined.
Serve the mac and cheese immediately and enjoy!
There are about a billion and two ways to customize macaroni and cheese. Here are a few of my favorite ways to adjust this recipe.
Add Protein and/or Vegetables
Make this a full meal by adding your favorite protein and/or veggies. I like to add cooked shredded chicken and broccoli, peas and tuna, or for a real treat cooked lobster! Stir in fully cooked additions at the end of the cooking time when you add in the cheeses.
Baked Mac and Cheese
If you like your homemade mac and cheese with a crispy topping, simply transfer the cooked mac and cheese to a greased 9x13 baking dish. Top it with additional cheese or about ¾ cup of panko bread crumbs mixed with 2 tablespoons of melted butter. Bake at 425 degrees for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.
You can also use an instant pot air fryer lid (affiliate) to make a crispy topping right in your instant pot! Top the cooked mac and cheese with additional shredded cheese or breadcrumbs. Then set the air fryer lid to 'bake' at 375 degrees for 8 minutes.
Low Carb Mac and Cheese
Yes, you can make low-carb mac and cheese in your instant pot! Use Great Low Carb elbows (affiliate), and add 1 minute to the cooking time (5 minutes total). Then follow the directions as written using heavy cream instead of evaporated milk. Note, that 1 package of great low carb elbows is 8 oz, so you will need to either halve the recipe or use 2 packages.
There are several varieties of low-carb pasta on the market now, but I find great low-carb pasta to be the most similar to traditional and it is the only pasta that I have tested with this recipe. If you want to use another pasta alternative, I'd love to hear your method and results!
All you need to make this recipe is a 6 quart instant pot, measuring cups and spoons, a mixing spoon, and cheese graters (unless you buy pre-shredded cheese)
I recently upgraded to an Instant pot pro plus (affiliate) and I have to say that I am obsessed. I love that it sends alerts to my phone so I know when cooking is completed and I can set the cooking time remotely if I want to prep a meal before I leave the house.
But honestly, my favorite feature is that you can set the steam release method. which is really great for recipes that need a quick steam release, like this mac and cheese. In the past, I would always forget to release the steam right away and would often end up with overcooked food.
Leftover mac and cheese can be stored in the fridge for up to one week or frozen for up to 6 months.
I suggest reheating leftovers in the microwave or in the oven until heated through. Leftover macaroni and cheese has a tendency to dry out when it is reheated. If this is the case, you may find it helpful to add additional milk or cream when reheating.
Yes, with the right cooking method cheese can go into an instant pot. When cooking recipes that use cheese in the instant pot you have to ensure that there is enough liquid in the pot to prevent the cheese from burning. As in its macaroni and cheese, the best results are often achieved by stirring in the cheese at the end of the cooking process.
I like to use a combination of Colby jack and gruyere cheese. Other great options include cheddar, smoked gouda, or parmesan just to name a few.
Yes! If you prefer American cheese in your macaroni and cheese, simply swap some or all of the cheese in this recipe with cubed or shredded Velveeta cheese.
I recommend reheating leftover mac and cheese in the microwave or oven. But if you are determined to use the instant pot, I suggest using the 'keep warm' or 'sautee' setting on low. You will need to stir the mac and cheese frequently as it reheats to prevent the bottom from scorching and you may need to add additional milk or cream to prevent it from drying out.
Yes! In fact, I doubled the recipe when I was shooting the photos for this post. You will need to make a couple of changes for the best results. First, reduce the cooking time to 3 minutes. Second, if you are using a 6 quart instant pot, you may need to transfer everything to a large bowl to stir in all of the cheese, milk, and sour cream.
Make sure that you use cold water when making this mac and cheese. If you use warm or hot water, the instant pot will come to pressure much faster and the pasta will not cook long enough.
Creamy Instant Pot Mac and Cheese
- Instant pot
- Measuring Cups and Spoons
- Add the macaroni, butter, water, and salt to the liner of an instant pot.16 oz Macaroni Noodles, 4 tablespoon Butter, 4 cups Water, 1 teaspoon Salt
- Place the lid on the instant pot and set the valve to "sealing" Cook on high pressure for 4 minutes, then perform a quick pressure release to prevent the pasta from overcooking. For most models, press the manual button, then use the + or - buttons to adjust the time for 4 minutes. When the cooking time is complete, to quick release the pressure simply turn the sealing valve to "venting."
- Once the pin drops, remove the lid and add the evaporated milk, ground mustard, cayenne, black pepper, the shredded cheeses, and the sour cream. Stir until the cheeses have melted and everything is well combined.1 cup Evaporated Milk, ¼ teaspoon Ground Mustard, pinch Ground Cayenne, ½ teaspoon Black Pepper, 8 oz Colby Jack Cheese, 8 oz Gruyere Cheese, ½ cup Sour Cream
- Serve immediately and enjoy!
Be sure to read the entire post for tips, tricks, and help troubleshooting.
The nutrition information listed here is only an estimate and is simply provided as a courtesy. It nor any other information within this post should constitute medical or nutritional advice. Be sure to read all packaging and ingredient labels for potential allergens. Optional ingredients are not included unless otherwise specified.