Instant Pot Mac and Cheese only requires four ingredients: pasta, butter, evaporated milk, and Cheddar cheese–lots of it. In only minutes, you get a creamy, perfect mac and cheese.
Who needs another recipe for mac and cheese? Me, that’s who. My first attempt at Instant Pot Mac and Cheese is delicious. It’s also a little…putzy. The recipe uses an egg, mustard, and hot sauce along with a good addition of cheese. It makes a delicious, and decidedly grown-up, mac and cheese.
For this version, I wanted something simple. The type of mac and cheese that defines classic American comfort food—a creamy pasta with no sharp edges from mustard or pepper. Basically, I craved a homemade version of Stouffer’s mac and cheese.
After working on it for a bit and eating too much mac and cheese. (Read: I wore stretchy pants a lot.), I came up with a recipe that uses only four ingredients. (I’m not counting water or salt.) That’s right, you don’t need a ton of ingredients to make a creamy, dreamy mac and cheese in your instant pot. So get your stretchy pants ready, this recipe is a comfort food miracle.
How to Make Creamy Instant Pot Mac and Cheese
- Use Elbow Macaroni. It cooks in only four minutes and doesn’t get mushy. To prevent starch from shooting out of the valve when releasing pressure, add butter during cooking. The fat helps keeps the foam down.
- Stir in Evaporated Milk After Cooking. Some recipes have you cook the pasta in milk. During testing, I found that the milk often scorched on the bottom of the pot. Cooking the pasta in water and then stirring in evaporated milk gives the best results. And why evaporated milk? Good question. The higher protein and fat content of evaporated milk lends a silky texture to the mac and cheese. For this recipe, skip low or no fat evaporated milk.
- Grate Your Own Cheese. Pre-grated cheese contains a starch to keep it from clumping. This starch causes a mac and cheese that’s a little dry and grainy. Skip it.
- Stir. Stir. STIR! Don’t add all the cheese at once. If you do, the temperature of the pasta can fall quickly and you’ll get clumpy mac and cheese. Instead, add the shredded cheese one handful at a time. Stir after each addition until the cheese is almost fully melted. Once that happens, add another handful. Repeat until all the cheese is added.
- Remove from the Heat. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that there’s a cooking plate under the insert of the pressure cooker. Like a traditional electric burner, this plate stays hot for a little while after cooking. That heat can cause the mac and cheese to overcook and get grainy. To prevent overcooking, remove the instant pot insert after you’ve added all the cheese.
That’s really all there is to it. If you’ve ever tried to make a mac and cheese by just dumping milk and cheese together with pasta, you know that you usually get a gloppy mess. Traditional mac and cheese usually starts with a roux–a combination of cooked flour and butter. Recipes that don’t use a roux tend to use cornstarch. You don’t need either with this recipe thanks in part to two things: the starch in the pasta cooking water and the evaporated milk.
Since the pasta cooks in a relatively small amount of water, there’s concentrated starch in the water remaining after the pasta cooks. This is key. Don’t drain that water. The starch it contains is what makes such a creamy mac and cheese.
The other key? Evaporated milk. While you might be tempted to swap the evaporated milk for whole milk, don’t do it. Evaporated milk contains 60% less water than regular milk. This reduction of water means that one cup of evaporated milk contains more protein than one cup of traditional milk. The milk protein makes it possible to make a mac and cheese without starting with a roux.
In only a few minutes, with just a few ingredients, you can make a mac and cheese that’s perfect as a main course or side dish. My advice: get out the stretchy pants and make this recipe.
Easy 4 Ingredient Instant Pot Mac and Cheese
4 Ingredient Instant Pot Mac and Cheese contains elbow macaroni, butter, evaporated milk, and Cheddar cheese. It makes a creamy mac and cheese that everyone will love.
- 1 pound elbow macaroni
- 4 1/2 cups water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 (12 ounce) can evaporated milk
- 12 ounces grated Cheddar cheese (see note)
- freshly ground pepper, optional
Combine macaroni, water, and salt in the pot of a pressure cooker. Stir. Add butter. Lock lid into place. Set pressure cooking time for 4 minutes on HIGH pressure.
Once cooking time completes, allow pressure cooker to cool for one minute. Carefully vent valve to release pressure. Remove lid away from your face to prevent burns.
Stir the macaroni to break up any clumps. If any water remains, drain the pasta.
Stir in evaporated milk. Allow the pasta to cool for one minute. Turn on the saute setting to low. Add the cheese in large handfuls. Stir after each addition. After the last addition of cheese, stir until creamy. Turn off the pressure cooker and remove the pot. (This prevents the cheese sauce from overcooking and getting grainy.)
Taste. Adjust salt and add freshly ground pepper to taste.
Instant Pot Mac and Cheese: Selecting the Cheese
You really want to grate your own cheese for this recipe. Pre-grated cheese is coated in a starch that can make this recipe dry, clumpy, and a little grainy. Sharp Cheddar is the best; extra-sharp, which I love, tends to be a little too dry for this recipe.
Can this be doubled or tripled in the same pot? Or would I need to make separate batches and combine?
It depends on the size of your pressure cooker. You never want to fill it more than halfway.
Can I make this in a pot on the stovetop?
I haven’t tried this on the stove. Sorry!
I made it on the stove. All the instant pot does is cook the macaroni. So just follow the cooking instructions on the pasta box
I have tried so many M&C recipes looking for THE one and this is it! It is fast, easy, and delicious! One of my toddlers had 3 servings. I used whole grain shells because those are my oldest’s favorite shape pasta and it still worked out really well. Thank you for this recipe!
What size pressure cooker is this recipe meant for?
It was tested in the 5 quart model.
What kind of cheese do you use? Sharp or medium cheddar?
Did you use low pressure or high pressure? I live at an elevation of 6,500 so it takes longer for water to boil so I sometimes use the low pressure instead of high pressure.
The easiest Mac & Cheese I have ever made and one of the better tasting recipes. Turned out perfect.
I’m going to try this tomorrow
Angie Cianfrone says
Mine turned out way to watery? Noodles seemed perfect but way to much water? Any suggestions?
What type of noodles did you use? That really affects the texture.
I just made it and it was too watery. Do I reduce the amount of water next time?
I wouldn’t. Instead, I’d drain the pasta after cooking. Then return to the pot and proceed as directed.
Alicia Jones says
Trying it out tonight, it has all the ingredients that I have in my kitchen. No need to run to the store.
If I double this recipe Should I extend my cook time?
If you double the recipe, the cook time remains the same.
This is the best Instant Pot recipe I have found so far. The process and the ingredients really work well. Too many IP recipes have you starting and stopping too many times for my taste. This one is a single cook and ingredients are just plain simple and easy. I like the explanations of how the cooking worked. To make it maximum creamy, I added 4 oz of shredded mozzarella from by experiences with backed mac & cheese. This will likely kill those altogether! One note: I have gluten free in the family and this worked well with Ronzoni elbows and reducing the pressure cook time to 3 minutes from 4. I will try it without the 1 minute resting next time.
Jill Frazier says
Came out wonderful! Thank you. Creamy and so much better than nasty boxed stuff. My family loved it
If I double it how do I adjust the time?
The cooking time does not need to be adjusted for a double recipe.
Can you use something other than evaporated milk? Maybe half & half?
E Hall says
Very good. I improvised a bit, adding in some leftover swiss to the cheddar and also tina and frozen peas. Result was amazing. Forgiving recipe you can play with and be creative.
Our go to Mac and cheese recipe! We have it twice a month at least. I prefer my pasta more toward the firm side, and have had bad luck (in general) with QPR, so after some playin around I now set my timer for 0 minutes, then do NPR for 10-15 min. No spitting, perfect texture pasta. Thank you!
This is the best Mac & cheese. I only had mild cheddar but it was still delish! Thank you
How many cups of macaroni is one pound?
For elbows, it’s about four cups.
When doubling the recipe would you double the water or just add an extra 2ish cups? I’m new to this entire pressure cooking thing!
I’d double the water. If a lot of water remains after cooking, simply drain it and proceed as directed. Enjoy!
Can you use American cheese rather than cheddar??
I haven’t tested it with American cheese but I think that would work. Enjoy!
Just made this. Delicious!
I cut the recipe in half for my husband and I. Turned out perfect, very yummy and very easy. Served with a Sam’s club rotisserie chicken, doesn’t get any easier then that! I did drain my water as suggested and I also let the pan sit ouside the pot for 5 minutes before serving, consistancy was perfect. I’d like to experiment with some different kinds of cheese. Definitley will make this again!
This is my third time making this recipe. It couldn’t be easier and is wonderfully creamy, cheesy and delicious!
Thanks for this recipe.
Tami Strodtbeck says
Yes this is amazing
Followed directions and it was perfect!!
I love this recipe. I usually use sharp cheeses. I do add other seasoning, though. I don’t recommend halving the recipe.
Soooooo good. I take this to every pot luck and come home with an empty pot. I add a dash of mustard powder at the end too. Gives a little tang especially if you aren’t using sharp cheddar.
So so yummy. I’ve tried so many recipes, and this one is perfect.
I make this recipe a lot. The one modification I made is to use Everything Bagel Seasoning, instead if regular salt. I even add some after the Mac n cheese is done.