You’re just 20 minutes away from this creamy, cheesy, quick and comforting Instant Pot Mac And Cheese meal. Just made for busy weeknights, this cheesy recipe is always a family favorite.
Perfect for beginners and seasoned pressure cooker users, you’ll love the tender pasta and cheesy goodness of this recipe that turns out amazing, every time. It’s a no-fuss recipe that is open for yummy variations, too. Try different cheeses, seasonings and even add-ins to make it a feast that your family will rave about.
Just wheel on by that blue box mix in the store. You know the one. You’re on a mission to make the tastiest mac and cheese in under 20 minutes with this awesome recipe. Here, I share some of my best tips and variations on an already delicious macaroni and cheese recipe.
SEASONINGS TO TRY
Basic mac and cheese obviously needs salt and pepper to make it more tasty, but you can go further with seasonings by trying any of the following. Remember, start with just a little and taste as you go. You can always add a pinch more until you get it just right.
- Garlic powder
- Cayenne Pepper
- Southwestern or Taco Seasoning
- Hot Sauce
- White Pepper
Note: when you cook the pasta in the Instant Pot, you can substitute chicken broth for the water for a little more flavor.
Obviously, cheddar cheese is a classic and the gruyere cheese is a mild but flavorful cheese that works well with cheddar, but feel free to try other combinations. You really can’t go wrong. The following are all cheeses that will melt well with this recipe. Remember to grate your own cheese because store-bought pre-shredded cheese has a coating on it that prevents it from melting.
- Gouda (plain or smoked)
- Monterey Jack
TASTY INGREDIENT ADDITIONS TO TRY
While this mac and cheese recipe is totally fabulous in its classic form, you may want to customize it with some other delicious ingredients for a more substantial meal. Here are some ideas to try. You’ll want to add these in after you’ve cooked the pasta and added and mixed the cheeses – right before you slide it into the oven to brown the top.
- Add in steamed veggies such as broccoli florets, cauliflower florets, or cooked peas
- Add in cooked meats such as cubed ham, sausage, chicken, or crumbled bacon.
A few favorite combinations that my family likes are:
- Cubed ham and peas
- Shredded rotisserie chicken and hot sauce
For the mac and cheese:
- elbow macaroni – this is the standard and beloved pasta shape, but experiment with other shapes to keep it interesting!
- water – needed to cook the pasta. You can also substitute chicken broth or use half water, half broth. The broth will add more flavor.
- butter – unsalted, needed while cooking the pasta and to keep it from clumping together.
- grated sharp cheddar cheese and gruyere cheese – this cheese combo gives a rich taste and creaminess. Grate your own cheese for best results!
- whole milk – definitely use whole milk; anything less will not thicken properly.
- salt and pepper – needed for taste
For the bread crumb topping:
- panko crumbs – to help form the top crust with the other ingredients.
- butter – melted, to help mix the crumb topping.
- cheddar cheese, shredded – adds extra cheese and helps produce a bubbly crust topping.
- parmesan cheese, grated – adds flavor and cheesiness to the crust topping.
HOW TO MAKE INSTANT POT MAC AND CHEESE
- Add dry pasta, water and butter to the Instant Pot, close the lid and pressure cook on high for 4 minutes. When finished, vent for a quick release.
- Open the lid and add in the milk, cheeses and salt and pepper. Stir until combined and creamy.
- Transfer to a baking dish and top with the cheesy panko mixture.
- Broil in the oven for approximately 5 minutes or until the top is slightly bubbling and golden brown.
MAKE YOUR MAC AND CHEESE EVEN MORE CREAMY WITH THIS TRICK
After the pasta has cooked, you’ll add whole milk so that the cheeses will melt and thicken to a creamy lusciousness. However, you can make it even more creamy by using heavy cream instead. Or, use part whole milk and part sour cream to give it a little extra tang. Cream cheese can also be added for a smooth and creamier texture. Experiment with these ingredients and see which ones work best for you and your taste buds.
HOW TO SAVE AND REHEAT LEFTOVERS
Any leftover mac and cheese can be stored in your refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 3 days. You can easily reheat it in the microwave but you’ll probably want to add a dash of milk to it and stir it in to keep it creamy and from clumping.
You can also freeze cooked mac and cheese. Let it cool completely and seal it in an airtight container for up to two months. Defrost overnight in the fridge. Make sure it’s in an oven-safe container and reheat it at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. I like to poke a few holes in the mac and cheese and add a little milk for good measure. Cover with foil and heat for 20 to 30 minutes, checking at the 20 minute mark to see if it’s warmed through before continuing.
Instant Pot Mac and Cheese
For the mac and cheese:
- 1 pound (16 oz) dried elbow macaroni
- 4 cups water
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 3 cups freshly grated sharp cheddar cheese
- 1 cup shredded gruyere cheese
- 1 cup whole milk
- salt and pepper to taste
For the bread crumb topping:
- ¾ cup panko crumbs
- 2 tablespoons butter, melted
- ½ cup cheddar cheese, shredded
- ½ cup parmesan cheese
- To the instant pot, add dried elbow macaroni, butter, and water. Close the lid and turn the knob to the "sealing" position. Set the instant pot to [Pressure Cook] (or manual) mode at high pressure for 4 minutes.
- When it is done pressure cooking, quick release the pressure by carefully turning the knob to the "venting" position. Open the lid. Start by adding ½ cup of milk, stir; then add cheddar cheese and Gruyere cheese 1 cup at a time stirring with each addition. Slowly add the other half cup of milk, if needed, until the mac and cheese is smooth and creamy. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour the mac and cheese into a 9×13 inch oven safe baking dish.
- In a medium bowl, stir together panko crumbs, melted butter, parmesan cheese and cheddar cheese. Evenly spread this mixture on top of the mac and cheese. Broil in the oven for 4-5 minutes or until golden brown.½
- There’s no need to drain the pasta when it is done cooking. Instead of adding flour, the water that the pasta was cooking in will thicken up the mac and cheese.
- Depending on how much water is left over, you will need between 1/2 to 1 cup of milk. Start with 1/2 cup of milk, add the cheese and then add more milk until it reached the desired consistency.
- Only use whole milk. Low-fat milk will not be as creamy.