Instant Pot Mac and Cheese

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With this Instant Pot Mac and Cheese, you’re just 20 minutes away from this creamy, cheesy, quick, and comforting meal. This cheesy goodness is always a family favorite that promises to satisfy every palate at the table, whether it’s for a busy weeknight or a holiday feast.

spoon scooping out mac and cheese from the instant pot

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. With this awesome recipe, you’re on a mission to make the tastiest mac and cheese in under 20 minutes. 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
  • Paprika
  • 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.

Cheese Variations

Obviously, sharp cheddar cheese is a classic, and gruyere 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 that prevents it from melting.

  • Sharp Cheddar: Used in this recipe. It provides a bold and tangy flavor that forms the base of many mac and cheese recipes.
  • Gruyere Cheese: It has a rich and nutty flavor and melts well, contributing to the dish’s creaminess.
  • Gouda (plain or smoked): Adds a creamy and slightly sweet taste, contributing to the overall smoothness of the dish.
  • Monterey Jack: Melts well and has a mild flavor, complementing the sharper cheeses in the mix.
  • Colby: Another good melting cheese that brings a mild, sweet taste to the blend.

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 one pot meal. Here are some ideas to try. You’ll want to add these in after you’ve cooked the pasta and mixed the cheeses – right before you slide it into the oven to brown the top.

  • Add steamed veggies such as broccoli, cauliflower, 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: This is a quick and easy combination.
  • Buffalo Chicken: Shredded rotisserie chicken and hot sauce bring a spicy kick to your mac and cheese.
  • Lobster or Crab: Seafood lovers can enjoy the richness of lobster or crab mixed with mac and cheese.

You’ll Need the Following Ingredients:

ingredients for the mac and cheese: elbow pasta, milk, cheese, butter, paprika and Panko breadcrumbs

Please scroll ⬇️ to the recipe card to see the full ingredient amounts and instructions.

For the Mac and Cheese:

  • Elbow Macaroni – the standard and beloved pasta shape, but experiment with other shapes to keep it interesting! Just keep in mind that the pressure cook time may vary.
  • Water (or Chicken Broth) – needed to cook the pasta. You can also substitute chicken broth or use half water and 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, creamy taste. Grate your own cheese for the best results!
  • Whole Milk – definitely use whole milk; anything less will not thicken properly. You can make it creamier by adding sour cream or cream cheese.
  • Salt and Pepper – needed for taste.

For the Bread Crumb Topping:

  • Panko Breadcrumbs – 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.

Let’s Make Some Instant Pot Mac and Cheese!

Please scroll ⬇️ to the recipe card to see the full ingredient amounts and instructions.

  1. 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.
  2. Open the lid and add in the milk, cheeses, and salt and pepper. Stir until combined and creamy.
  3. Transfer to a baking dish and top with the cheesy panko mixture.
  4. Broil in the oven for approximately 5 minutes or until the top is slightly bubbling and golden brown.
wooden spoon taking a spoonful of mac and cheese topped with breadcrumb from a casserole dish

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.

How to Store and Reheat Leftovers


Any leftover mac and cheese can be stored in the 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 15 minute mark to see if it’s warmed through before continuing.

Serving Suggestions


wooden spoon taking a spoonful of mac and cheese topped with breadcrumb

Instant Pot Mac and Cheese

Quynh Nguyen
This macaroni and cheese is creamy comfort food that starts off in the instant pot to save you time. Then, it gets topped with a buttery breadcrumb and baked to cheesy, bubbly perfection in the oven.
5 from 49 votes
Prep Time 6 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American
Servings 8 people
Calories 477 kcal


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
  • ½ to 1 cup whole milk adjust to your desired consistency
  • salt and pepper to taste

For the bread crumb topping:

  • ¾ cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 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 (you might not need to add all of it), until the mac and cheese is smooth and creamy to your desired consistency. (Note: the pasta will soak up some of the liquid as it bakes and cools). 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 breadcrumbs, 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.
  • Serve warm. Enjoy!


This recipe was tested with an 6 quart Instant Pot DUO.


  • 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 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 reaches your desired consistency. Note that the pasta will soak up some of the liquid as it broils in the oven and as it cools down. It’s ok if it looks a little runny at first.
  • Add the milk in after pressure cooking the pasta. Only use whole milk. Low-fat milk will not be as creamy. You can also add sour cream or cream cheese to make it creamier.


Calories: 477kcalCarbohydrates: 28gProtein: 24gFat: 30gSaturated Fat: 17gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 0.2gCholesterol: 87mgSodium: 915mgPotassium: 178mgFiber: 1gSugar: 3gVitamin A: 881IUCalcium: 649mgIron: 1mg
Have you tried this recipe?Leave a star rating and let us know how it was!

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    I’m a sucker for spicy food so I threw in some cayenne pepper and hot sauce into this mac and cheese. I also used a mix of sharp cheddar and gruyere cheese, and it was deliciously gooey. It was the ultimate comfort food!

  2. 5 stars
    Made this mac and cheese with lobster and it was so creamy and cheesy that really melts in my mouth. Added cayenne pepper for a little kick. Super yummy classic comfort food!

  3. 5 stars
    So worth the try! They came out cheesy, creamy and absolutely perfect. This was also very easy to make and the whole fam loved it there were barely any leftovers!

  4. 5 stars
    Creamy, cheesy and so delicious! This mac and cheese recipe is my new go-to comfort food! I just want to bury my face in all the yummy cheesiness! lol