Instant Pot Mac and Cheese – the easiest homemade mac and cheese you’ll ever make! It starts with just a handful of ingredients yet it’s luxuriously rich and creamy and decadently cheesy!
Easy Instant Pot Mac and Cheese
Miracle Instant Pot mac and cheese, that’s incredibly indulgent and flavorful, and made with only real cheese of course!
You wouldn’t believe how well this recipe turns out even without a roux, without heavy cream, and without using multiple pans.
The trick is that the pasta is cooked in a concentrated amount of liquid therefor it gets super starchy and helps create a silky smooth and creamy sauce.
Honestly the recipe is almost too easy. Does it get any better than pour and cook, blend the cheese right in, and only one pot to clean?
The only thing here that even takes a little bit of effort is grating the cheese. Everything else is a breeze!
But if you really want to take it over the top then just saute some panko bread crumbs with butter (while the macaroni is cooking) and finish individual servings with that crave-able, golden brown, crunchy topping.
For a last minute dinner pair this with a store-bought rotisserie chicken and a steamed veggie like broccoli.
You’ll have a comforting, homestyle, family-friendly dinner everyone will enjoy, even on the busiest day of the week! And for you it will take hardly any effort at all.
Instant Pot Mac and Cheese Recipe Ingredients
- Chicken broth: I use low sodium broth but regular will work too. Vegetable broth could be substituted.
- Elbow macaroni pasta: This is added dry without cooking first. It only needs to cook 3 minutes in the Instant Pot to reach an al dente bite.
- Salt and pepper: Add to taste. Keep in mind the cheeses will add salt as well so don’t overdue it. I use about 1 tsp.
- Half and half: You may need a little more if you are in higher altitude or if you like a saucier pasta. Start with the 1/2 cup listed and add more as needed.
- Butter: Dice into pieces so they melt faster. At least 3 or more.
- Sharp cheddar cheese: If you are prefer a milder flavor you could use mild or medium cheddar, but personally I think sharp is best. Sharp white cheddar works well too.
- Gruyere cheese: This is a type of Swiss cheese you can get at the specialty cheese counter.
- Water: I like the combo of using water and broth. Broth adds a bit of flavor but we don’t want it to be overwhelming.
How to Make Mac and Cheese in the Instant Pot
- Add liquids, pasta and salt to Instant Pot: Pour water and chicken broth into Instant Pot. Add pasta, season with salt to taste and stir.
- Cook 3 minutes: Cover securely with lid, set valve to sealing position. Set to manual pressure and 3 minutes. It will take about 10 minutes to come to pressure then time will start to count down.
- After cooking is done do quick release: Once time is up, turn instant pot off and carefully do the quick release (stand back it will steam intensely!). Once steaming has stopped completely and there’s not pressure remaining remove lid.
- Add fats: Add butter and pour in half and half. Gently toss until butter has melted.
- Mix in cheese: Add cheese and stir. Let it rest for 1 minute then toss until cheese has melted (if needed you can set Instant Pot to saute mode just briefly to help melt cheese).
- Finish with pepper if desired (and toasted panko).
Tips to Make it the Best
- Only use elbow macaroni pasta for consistent results.
- Use freshly grated cheeses for a smooth sauce. Pre-grated cheeses are coated in starches and don’t have the best flavor anyway.
- Use boldly flavored cheeses so it doesn’t taste bland.
- Cook pasta for just 3 minutes for the perfect, non-soggy texture. If you like them a bit softer past al dente you can do 4 minutes but no more than that.
- Use quick release option to release remaining pressure once time is up. Otherwise if pressure releases naturally it will be too slow and pasta will become too soft.
- Add cheeses without heat on so they don’t separate but rather melt smoothly. If needed you can heat gently but be careful not to overdue it and scald the cheese.
Variations and Substitutes
- Serve with toasted panko breadcrumbs on top. To do this just melt 1 – 2 tablespoons of butter in a skillet over medium-high heat, add 1 cup panko and saute until golden brown.
- Use heavy cream for a richer option, or whole milk for a lighter option.
- Sneak in a steamed vegetable at the end like small diced broccoli or cauliflower.
- Try with other cheeses (see ideas below).
Best Cheeses for Mac and Cheese
Get creative. You can use up other cheeses you already have on hand (but at least once try the cheddar and gruyere option, I think it’s best).
Use a smooth melting cheese. Keep in mind some of these are more mild than others so pair with a sharper option.
- Cheddar (yellow or white)
- Monterey jack or colby jack
What to Serve with It
- Grilled or Baked Chicken with Homemade BBQ Sauce
- Roasted Broccoli or Steamed Broccoli
- Roast Chicken
- Sloppy Joes
- Slow Cooker Ribs
Follow Cooking Classy
Instant Pot Mac and Cheese
- 2 1/4 cups water
- 1 (14.5 oz) can low-sodium chicken broth
- 16 oz. dry elbow macaroni pasta (recommend Barilla for consistent results)
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup half and half, heated until just warm, plus more to thin as needed
- 3 Tbsp unsalted butter, diced into 1 Tbsp pieces
- 8 oz. (2 cup) shredded sharp cheddar cheese*
- 4 oz. (1 cup) shredded gruyere cheese (recommend Murray's)
- Pour water and chicken broth into Instant Pot. Add pasta, season with salt to taste and stir.
- Cover securely with lid, set valve to sealing position. Set to manual pressure and 3 minutes. It will take about 10 minutes to come to pressure then time will start to count down.
- Once time is up, turn instant pot off and carefully do a quick release (stand back it will steam intensely!). Once steaming has stopped completely and there's not pressure remaining remove lid.
- Add butter and pour in half and half. Gently toss until butter has melted.
- Add cheese and stir. Let it rest for 1 minute then toss until cheese has melted (if needed you can set Instant Pot to saute mode just briefly to help melt cheese). If needed thin with more half and half (it doesn't need to be warm).
- Serve warm with pepper if desired. Let cool slightly to thicken if needed.
- Only use freshly grated cheeses, pre-grated cheeses are coated with starches and won't melt smoothly. They don't taste as good either.
- Optionally you can top servings with toasted panko breadcrumbs. Prepare while macaroni is cooking. Melt 1 - 2 Tbsp butter in a 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add panko and spread even, let toast, tossing frequently until golden brown. Pour into a bowl so it doesn't continue to brown and set aside until ready to use.