This Instant Pot Mac and Cheese is the very best out there! It’s loaded with three types of cheese and is super velvety and creamy thanks to a few secret ingredients!
How to make Instant Pot Mac & Cheese (step-by-step)
Here is exactly how to make mac and cheese in your Instant Pot – it’s SO easy!
- Add vegetable oil, chicken broth, macaroni and optional seasonings to the Instant Pot. Press the pasta gently under the liquid, but don’t stir it!
- Pressure cook on high for 4 minutes to cook the pasta, then do a quick release of the pressure.
- Gently stir in butter until melted, then add cans of evaporated milk and your three cheeses until fully combined and creamy. Serve and enjoy!
Just three easy steps and you’re done. Mac and cheese has never been easier!
How do you make mac and cheese sauce creamier?
My recipe has special ingredients that make it the creamiest and best Instant Pot mac and cheese you will ever taste. You’re going to want to keep this recipe handy because everyone loves this easy dinner!
There are three secret ingredients to making the creamiest Instant Pot mac and cheese. They are:
- Evaporated milk – Sub evaporated milk for regular dairy milk. About half of the water is removed from evaporated milk. As a result, it makes the sauce thicker and creamier than other recipes.
- Extra shredded cheese – You’ll also notice that I use two different kinds of shredded cheese. This adds more layers to the flavour of the dish. Plus, more cheese is always better!
- Cream cheese – The final unique ingredient you’ll notice is cream cheese. While your mac and cheese will cook up just fine without it, it undoubtedly adds something special. Cream cheese is a combination of unskimmed milk and cream. The fat in cream cheese makes dishes velvety smooth and adds a tang to the flavor.
I think you are going to love this mac and cheese Instant Pot recipe!
How to make a lighter mac and cheese
If you’re looking to make this mac and cheese lower in calories, you can do a few things to make it “lighter”. Here are my suggestions:
- Cut the amount of cheese in half or use light cheese
- Use water to cook the pasta instead of chicken broth
- Omit the butter and use just one can of evaporated milk when it comes time to stir in the cheese
You definitely have options when it comes to this Instant Pot Mac and Cheese. For instance, you can use pretty much any type of cheese that you have on hand in the fridge, including pre-shredded blends. I find that they aren’t quite as tasty as freshly shredded from a block, but if you need to use up cheese this is a great recipe for that!
You can also use regular milk instead of evaporated milk, but you may get a less creamy version of mac and cheese – instead, the texture will be a bit thicker. You can also use water instead of milk/evaporated milk then add in 1/4 of heavy cream for richness.
You also don’t need to add the onion powder or mustard powder – they are just there for extra flavour. Subbing in 1 tbsp Dijon mustard instead of the mustard powder also works and, again, is completely optional.
I love adding veggies and proteins to mac and cheese to make it healthier and more filling. If you do end up adding extra fillings, I would recommend dividing this recipe into 8 servings instead of the recommended 6 servings, since you will likely add more protein and calories. Here are my add-in ideas:
- Small broccoli florets
- Small cauliflower florets
- A bag of frozen veggies
- Cooked up ground beef or ground turkey
- Cooked, diced chicken breast
- Crumbled up bacon
- Chopped up bell peppers
Cooking pasta in the Instant Pot
While cooking pasta may not be the first thing that comes to mind, making pasta dishes in an Instant Pot is quick and easy to do.
As you add the recipe ingredients to the pot, add the pasta last. Then, be sure to press down on the pasta gently so all of it is covered by liquid.
Traditional mac and cheese recipes have you wait for water to boil and noodles to cook before baking the meal in an oven. With Instant Pot mac and cheese, everything cooks in one pot. Plus, from start to finish, the dish is ready to eat in just a few minutes!
Some recipes call for butter and pasta but I find this clogs the release valve upon doing your quick release or causes little sputters of pasta liquid to shoot up through the release valve. I use vegetable or olive oil in its place to avoid this issue and keep the pasta from sticking together.
What should I serve with macaroni and cheese?
Everyone loves mac and cheese, but is it a main dish or a side dish? Well, it can really be either!
It’s easy to add a protein to mac and cheese to make it more nutritious and filling. Bacon, cooked chicken, ham, and even canned tuna fish all taste great in mac and cheese.
While this Instant Pot mac and cheese recipe is pretty amazing just the way it is, feel free to jazz it up with any extras you like.
Instead of adding protein to the mac and cheese, you can choose other dishes to serve with it. Any of these will make it a more nutritious meal:
- Instant Pot steamed vegetables
- Garden salad
- Sweet potato fries
- Instant Pot chicken wings
- Broccoli slaw
- Fresh fruit salad
Storing leftover mac and cheese
Store any leftovers in the refrigerator, in meal prep containers or another airtight container. It should stay fresh that way for up to five days. There are specific reheating instructions below as leftover pasta in general, and especially mac and cheese, can be tricky to completely revive as new.
Freezing Instant Pot mac and cheese
You can freeze cooked mac and cheese believe it or not! I prefer to freeze in individual portions in foil or glass containers. With glass, you should reheat in the microwave, and with foil, you should reheat in the oven. The concept would be similar to a TV dinner and works great as a last minute dinner idea.
To freeze, bring the pot of mac and cheese closer to room temperature, then divide into individual portions. Freeze up to 3 months.
When you’re ready to reheat, microwave for 6-7 minutes, stirring halfway through. You may choose to add some milk or water before reheating to ensure a creamy texture. If using foil containers to freeze, simply take one out of the oven and then reheat at 350 F. You’ll usually need close to an hour to completely heat through and again, you’ll want to add some milk or water overtop as the mac and cheese becomes defrosted.
How do you reheat Instant Pot mac and cheese?
You can reheat macaroni and cheese in a microwave or an oven; it’s your choice.
Keep in mind that due to the starch in pasta, the longer mac and cheese sits, the less creamy it will be. It’s never quite as good as it is right after cooking it.
That being said, to make leftover mac and cheese creamier, it helps if you stir in a tablespoon or so of milk before reheating. If you’re reheating in the microwave, stop half way through and stir everything again.
If you have a little more time, I suggest reheating it in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Stir in a little extra milk and cover the dish with aluminum foil. It just needs to cook until everything is warm throughout; 25 minutes or so is usually enough time.
You can always add more cheese to the top after you reheat it, too. After all, who doesn’t want more fresh cheese?
Can you double the recipe?
In short, I would not recommend doubling this recipe and that’s primarily because it already makes so much pasta! You can change the number of servings in the recipe card below so you could make 8 or 10 servings, but with 12 servings you run the risk of adding pasta past the fill line of the Instant Pot so everything may not cook as a result.
Freshly grated vs bagged cheese
I always recommend going with freshly grated cheese from the block as opposed to shredded cheese in order to really get that creamy taste and texture. Sometimes bagged cheeses contain additives such as a dusting of cornstarch, which may make your sauce thicker and chunkier.
Pick out a high-quality block of cheddar and a ball of mozzarella cheese (the kind used for pizza) and you will have the best mac and cheese EVER!
More Instant Pot resources
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Meal prep tools for this recipe
- Grab some glass meal prep bowls if you plan on storing any leftovers
- Freeze this recipe in glass microwave-safe bowls up to 3 months
Instant Pot Mac and Cheese
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 3 1/2 cups chicken broth
- 1 lb dry macaroni pasta
- 1 tsp onion powder (optional)
- 1 tsp mustard powder (optional)
- 1/2 tsp each salt & pepper
- 1 tbsp butter
- 2 (354mL) cans evaporated milk
- 2 cups grated mozzarella cheese
- 2 cups grated cheddar cheese
- 1/4 cup cream cheese (optional)
- Add vegetable oil, chicken broth, macaroni, onion powder, salt & pepper and mustard powder to Instant Pot in that order. Press pasta gently under the liquid without stirring. Place lid on Instant Pot and make sure valve is set to seal.
- Press the pressure cook button and set to high, then cook for 4 minutes. Instant Pot will take about 10 minutes to come to pressure then pressure cook the 4 minutes.
- Do a quick release of the pressure on the Instant Pot by flicking the switch at the top with a spoon. Open the lid when pressure gauge has dropped and the lid opens easily.
- Gently stir in butter, evaporated milk and three cheeses until fully combined and creamy. Serve and enjoy!