Blog Recipes/ Side Dishes

Instant Pot Macaroni and Cheese

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Make creamy Instant Pot macaroni and cheese in minutes without heating up your kitchen! This one pot mac and cheese from scratch is tasty comfort food for a crowd.

instant pot macaroni and cheese in a blue serving bowl

Ever find yourself scrambling for a side dish before dinner? The first time I made instant pot macaroni and cheese, this is exactly the situation I was in! I started thinking salad, and then my children sweetly asked for macaroni and cheese. Having all the ingredients on hand, but not enough time for my oven baked macaroni and cheese, I turned to my pressure cooker!

Does this method save me time? How is it convenient?

Total time, I’d say it takes about as long to use your pressure cooker to make macaroni and cheese as it does to make it on the stove. The big difference is that you aren’t watching a pot. All you need to do is pour your ingredients into your Instant Pot and wait for the beep! Then you stir in your cheeses and voila, creamy, cheesy macaroni and cheese with minimal effort. We are all about simple comfort food recipes.

I also prefer to use kitchen gadgets like my slow cooker and pressure cooker when I want warm foods in the hotter months. A stove and oven can really heat up a kitchen! So I try to avoid using them when I can in the summer. It’s one thing to bake cookies at 5 a.m. or 10 p.m. when it’s cooler, and a whole other thing to tell the family they have to wait for dinner at that hour!

And let’s not even start on the holidays! When you’ve got what feels like every burner on the stove going and dishes and roasts scheduled to cycle through the oven at just the right times, all extra space is a blessing. I thought I wouldn’t get a lot of use out of my Instant Pot when I bought it, but it’s one of my most used kitchen tools.

How to make Instant Pot macaroni and cheese…

This recipe is so easy! You start by pouring your preferred pasta and some water or broth into your pressure cooker. As you know, any electric pressure cooker will do. You don’t have to use an Instant Pot. Then add some butter and your spices. Stir. Cook for 5 minutes on high pressure. This doesn’t mean cooking will only take 5 minutes.

When you plan your cooking time, you have to factor in the time it takes for the pressure cooker to actually pressurize. So plan for an additional 10ish minutes when you’re looking at total cooking time. This isn’t a big deal though, because you’ll need that time to grate your cheese.

I grate my cheese by hand. Partially because I like to use cheeses beyond the pre-shredded options, and partially because I feel that hand grated cheese melts better. And I reeeeeaaaally love cheesy macaroni and cheese. That means I add cheese to a saturation point. Because I love it. Who doesn’t love carbs and cheese?

instant pot macaroni and cheese top view

You can probably use the pre-shredded cheese too. Just understand it might not melt quite as well. Pre-shredded cheese is coated so the strings don’t clump together. Do I think anyone will fuss at finding a stray partially melted bit of cheese in their pasta? Probably not if they’re over the age of 4. Use what works for you.

As soon as your pasta finishes cooking, release the pressure manually! You don’t want to let the pasta sit in the Instant Pot waiting for natural release because it will continue to cook. A manual release right at the end of cooking gives you a perfect al dente. Open the lid.

serving spoon with macaroni and cheese made with shells

If you see a little leftover cooking liquid, don’t worry about it. Immediately add your cream cheese and milk. In the video, you see me add a hunk of cream cheese. Don’t do that. I’ve since started cutting it into smaller cubes first and it’s much easier to stir in. You start with the cream cheese and milk to simulate the roux typically made with classic macaroni and cheese recipes.

Then you add the cheese. Stir it in in batches, and briefly consider hiding away a bowl full of cheesy pasta goodness for yourself. It will smell AMAZING and look super creamy and tempting. Scoop a tiny bit into a tester bowl to check salt and seasoning levels. Adjust if needed, then transfer to a serving bowl.

thanksgiving side dish recipes instant pot

Serve warm and enjoy!

instant pot macaroni and cheese in a blue serving bowl

Instant Pot Macaroni and Cheese

Yield: 10 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes

Make creamy Instant Pot macaroni and cheese in minutes without heating up your kitchen! This one pot mac and cheese from scratch is tasty comfort food for a crowd.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound medium pasta shells or elbow macaroni
  • 4 cups water or broth
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened and cut into cubes
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (1/2 pound)
  • 1 cup shredded gouda cheese (1/4 pound)

Instructions

  1. Place your pasta, broth, butter, and spices into your electric pressure cooker.
  2. Using the manual setting, cook for 4 minutes at high pressure. The actual cooking time will be a little longer because you have to allow time for the cooker to reach pressure.
  3. While the pasta is cooking, shared your cheddar and gouda cheese. Set aside
  4. As soon as the cooking time has finished, use the manual release on your Instant Pot to release the pressure. Pour the milk and softened cream cheese into the pasta and stir until melted.
  5. Add the cheese in 3 batches, stirring each until fully incorporated.
  6. Transfer the pasta to a serving dish and sprinkle with additional paprika for garnish if desired. Serve warm. Enjoy!

Notes

  • I recommend using broth over water for the best flavor. If you use water, you may want to add a little more seasoning after you add your cheeses.
  • It doesn't matter if you use salted or unsalted butter. Use what you have on hand. If you don't have butter, use olive oil or a neutral oil. You'll want a little fat in cooking to ensure the super creamy comfort food results we want.
  • You can use whatever kind of cheese you like. The cheddar and gouda are a blend my family likes for "classic" macaroni and cheese. You can use all cheddar too, or add swiss, whatever you like. The best cheeses are good semi-soft melting cheeses. You can even get fancy with something like fontina and then stir in crisp bacon at the end. Get creative!

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