Instant Pot mac and cheese is fast, easy, and so much more fabulous than I ever imagined. Our version packs all the classic homemade stovetop mac and cheese flavors and textures. It's become one of our most-loved recipes, period.
Why we love this recipe
I'm very picky about my Instant Pot recipes, since I like to cook and don't mind using the stove. In order to be IP-worthy, a recipe needs to fit three criteria:
- First, you have to be able to place all the ingredients in the pot at once and walk away. Just because you can sautée in the Instant Pot does not, in my mind, mean you should.
- Second, the recipe needs to have long-cooking ingredients that truly cook faster in the Instant Pot, even when you account for the time it takes for the IP to come up to pressure.
- And third, there can be zero loss of flavor, texture, or authenticity based on the use of the Instant Pot.
This recipe qualifies in spades. The IP method is both faster and much easier than making a béchamel sauce on the stovetop and boiling the pasta separately. And the flavors and texture of this Instant Pot mac and cheese are excellent. (As a homemade mac and cheese purist, I almost didn't want to think so — but I couldn't help it.)
As a little bonus, while not light by any means, the method here results in a rich and creamy mac and cheese that's a little less full of fat and calories than homemade macaroni and cheese made with a traditional béchamel sauce.
I first published this recipe here in 2019. I've since updated the post a bit for clarity, but the recipe remains the same.
What you'll need
Here's a glance at the ingredients you'll need to make this recipe.
- Elbow macaroni makes classic mac and cheese. You can use rotini or gemelli instead, with no further changes, if you'd like to change things up a bit.
- Good vegetable or chicken broth may surprise you in creamy mac and cheese, but it works so well here. Reduced-sodium Imagine No Chicken Broth is my favorite boxed veggie broth by far, since it somehow magically has the flavor profile of a good chicken stock rather than being weirdly red and tasting tinny or sweet, as some other vegetable broths can do.
- A minced shallot adds tons of flavor while practically melting into the sauce. Don't skip it.
- Hints of Dijon mustard, ground nutmeg, and ground cayenne pepper gently elevate the flavor of this simple dish
- Small amounts of whole milk and sour cream create exactly the right creamy texture.
- Aged Gruyère, extra-sharp cheddar, and Parmigiano Reggiano offer the perfect combination of flavors. You can double the cheddar and leave out the gruyere if you prefer. If you want to make this dish vegetarian, be sure to buy vegetarian versions of the cheeses.
How to make it
Here's an overview of what you'll do to make a dreamy batch of pressure cooker macaroni and cheese. There are two easy phases. You'll put some of the ingredients in before cooking and stir in the rest afterward. You can see the steps in action in the video that accompanies this post, and get all the details in the recipe card below.
- Place the macaroni, broth, shallot, mustard, nutmeg, cayenne, salt, and pepper into the Instant Pot.
- Five it all a good stir.
- Place the lid on the pot and set the vent to sealing position. Set the pot to manual, high pressure, for four minutes. The pot will take ten minutes or so to come up to pressure and then will count down the four minutes of cooking time. When the pot beeps and the display switches to counting up in "keep warm" mode, you will carefully release the pressure manually by turning the switch to vent. The pot will hiss as steam comes out the vent. It's a little exciting, not gonna lie. When the pot stops hissing it means all the steam has been released, and it's safe to open the lid.
- Pour in the milk and the cheeses and stir until the cheese is melted and creamy. Then stir in the sour cream to make it extra creamy, with a slightly more complex flavor. That's it! You're ready to serve.
Expert tips and FAQs
Use a 6- or 8-quart Instant Pot or other electric pressure cooker. With pasta (along with legumes and some other ingredient types), you don't want to fill the IP more than halfway, since the contents will grow and foam up a little as they cook, and nobody(! anywhere! ever!) has wanted to clog the valve of a pressure cooker. In a 6-quart Instant Pot, you'll have plenty of room.
The combination of milk and sour cream is a trick I've long used in various versions of mac and cheese from boxed (ahem) to homemade. If your child has ever passed through my house, chances are they've come home proselytizing about this life-changing tip.
It's everything for the texture of this Instant Pot mac and cheese recipe.
IP mac and cheese is quick, easy, and best shortly after it's made — so I don't typically make it in advance.
That said, leftovers are good, too. They'll keep well in an airtight container in the fridge for a week. Reheat in the microwave. You can stir a spoonful of sour cream into each reheated serving to reignite the creaminess if you like.
Love your Instant Pot?
Here are some more of our favorite Instant Pot recipes:
- Hearty vegan Instant Pot chili
- Instant Pot shredded chicken breast
- Butternut squash soup
- Instant Pot bone broth
- BBQ pulled chicken
- How to cook dried beans in the Instant Pot
- 1 pound (454 grams) elbow macaroni
- 4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth or chicken broth
- 1 small shallot, minced
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- ⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cayenne
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ½ cup (120 ml) whole milk
- 6 ounces (170 grams) Gruyère cheese (about 2 ½ cups shredded)
- 6 ounces (170 grams) extra-sharp cheddar cheese (about 2 ½ cups shredded)
- 2 ounces (60 grams) Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (about ½ cup grated)
- ½ cup (60 grams) sour cream
- Place macaroni, broth, shallot, mustard, nutmeg, cayenne, salt, and pepper into Instant Pot and stir.
- Set vent to sealing position. Cook on manual mode, high pressure, for 4 minutes. (Pot will take about 10 minutes to come up to pressure before timed cooking begins.)
- Carefully do a manual pressure release by turning the vent to open. (We like to use a towel or a long-handled spoon to do this.)
- Stir in milk and cheeses until cheese is melted.
- Stir in sour cream.
- Serve hot.
- IP mac and cheese is quick, easy, and best shortly after it's made — so I don't typically make it in advance.
- That said, leftovers are good, too. They'll keep well in an airtight container in the fridge for a week. Reheat in the microwave. You can stir a spoonful of sour cream into each reheated serving to reignite the creaminess if you like.
- For a more budget-friendly (and equally delicious) option, replace the gruyere with six ounces more cheddar, or four ounces more cheddar plus two ounces of a good-quality American cheese.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 457Total Fat: 19.3gCarbohydrates: 47gFiber: 1.9gProtein: 22.8g