How to Make Perfect Instant Pot Macaroni and Cheese in Just 20 Minutes
This 20-minute homemade macaroni and cheese is so quick to make—and it’s absolutely delicious.
Instant Pot macaroni and cheese is the happy medium between two classic preparations—your favorite boxed childhood macaroni and cheese with the neon powder cheese packet and a homemade version that requires a time-consuming béchamel sauce. The Instant Pot promises to simplify time-consuming, complex recipes; this 20-minute homemade macaroni and cheese certainly fits that description and we were impressed with the result. The pasta was cooked perfectly al dente and the cheese sauce was as creamy and flavorful as versions that take three times as long to make. Plus, you can feel good about feeding your family macaroni and cheese that’s only made with a handful of ingredients (rather than a long list of additives that you can barely pronounce). Follow along to learn how to cook macaroni and cheese in an Instant Pot. (Note: This recipe is designed to be cooked in a 6- or 8-qt. Instant Pot, but you can cut it in half if you are using the mini Instant Pot.)
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Instant Pot macaroni and cheese takes about the same time to make as a store-bought box but the quality in on par with traditional recipes like mom made. Creating a smooth, flavorful sauce is key for that authentic, homemade taste. When it comes to choosing which type of cheese to use, consider both flavor and texture. Cheddar cheese and Swiss cheese have a sharp, savory bite while provolone, mozzarella, and American cheeses melt evenly for that perfect pull—choose a couple to combine together for the ultimate gooey sauce. Whole milk is best for creating a thick, creamy consistency, but you can swap out for a can of evaporated milk for more decadence without extra fat. When it comes to spice, freshly grated nutmeg is a classic gratin ingredient that mimics the flavor of a fancy French sauce without all the fuss.
Once your basic Instant Pot macaroni and cheese is made, the add-ons are endless. Mix in grilled chicken or barbecue pulled pork for a hearty, protein-packed entrée, or broccoli and jalapeno peppers for crunch and a spicy kick. You could also transfer the macaroni and cheese to a baking dish, top with more cheese and breadcrumbs, then broil in the oven for an extra crispy finish. (If you don't have an Instant Pot, we like this one from amazon.com.)
- 1 lb. short pasta, such as elbows, shells, or cavatappi
- 4 cups water
- 2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated
- 1 cup American cheese, grated
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
- 1½ teaspoons kosher salt, divided
- Combine pasta, water, and 1 teaspoon salt in an Instant Pot; stir to incorporate. Turn on Instant Pot to Manual/Pressure Cook and set timer for 3 minutes. Turn steam valve to Sealing. Once the timer goes off, release steam following Quick Release method and turn valve to Venting.
- Drain pasta and return to pot.
- Add cheddar and American cheese, milk, butter, black pepper, nutmeg and ½ teaspoon salt to pot. Stir until the cheese is melted and the sauce has thickened, about 4 minutes.
Once you learn how to make this lightning fast Instant Pot macaroni and cheese, feel free to add your favorite mix-ins—steamed broccoli or peas, bacon or even sliced hot dogs—or top with toasted breadcrumbs for added crunch.