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The Best Instant Pot Mac and Cheese

The Best Instant Pot Mac and Cheese is a one pot, 20 minute (or less) dinner your whole family will love! The Instant Pot makes the easiest, creamiest homemade mac and cheese ever! 

Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Keyword dinner, instant pot, Mac and cheese
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 3 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings 6

Ingredients

  • 4 cups water
  • 3 1/2 cups macaroni (a little less than 1 lb*)
  • 2 teaspoons sea or Kosher salt
  • 4 tablespoons butter (I use unsalted) cut into tablespoons
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • dash cayenne (optional)
  • 4 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated or 1 lb
  • 1 12 oz can evaporated milk
  • 1/4 cup water, milk or half and half as needed*
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Combine 4 cups cold water, macaroni and 2 teaspoon salt in the Instant Pot.

  2. Set Instant Pot to the MANUAL or PRESSURE COOK or HIGH PRESSURE setting, placing timer to 3 minutes. Make sure the plastic seal is in place inside of the lid before placing lid on the Instant Pot and the valve on top of the lid is set to the SEALING position. While pasta is cooking, grate cheese and set aside. 

  3. After the timer goes off, carefully release the steam from the Instant Pot using the VENTING position on the lid. This is also referred to as quick or manual pressure release. There will most likely be some water left in the Instant Pot, but that will mix into the sauce. 

  4. Add the butter to the hot pasta inside of the pot and stir. Add dry mustard, paprika and cayenne. Stir until combined. 

  5. Turn the Instant Pot to the Sauté setting and add evaporated milk and cheddar and stir until smooth.  Immediately turn pot off after adding milk and cheese so it won't burn or overcook. 

  6. Add additional 1/4 cup of water, or milk, or half and half to the mac and cheese  if it is too thick and fold in. Serve immediately. 

Recipe Notes

  • For Stove top instructions: Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain off all water, reserving some for sauce. Add butter to pan and turn heat to medium. Mix until butter is melted. Add evaporated milk, heat until milk is hot about 2 minutes. add grated cheese and other spices. If needed, add a bit of pasta water to thin. Serve immediately. 
  • Make sure to release pressure manually after the timer goes off. If the pasta is allowed to sit for a long period of time it will overcook. After 3 minutes, I have found the pasta is cooked to perfection. This may vary depending on altitude
  • It is best to use cheese that is not pre-grated for best results. Pre-grated cheese has much of the moisture removed to preserve the cheese and keep it from molding, and as a result is not the best product for melting. 
  • You may use almost any type of cheese, but I think sharp cheddar works the best. If you like the taste of Velveta, cut 3 cups into cubes and add to recipe in place of grated cheddar. This recipe also works well with Sharp white cheddar or other flavors of cheese, such as smoked gouda, etc. You may also combine cheeses to equal 4 cups total. 
  • Additional items such as crushed garlic, chopped chives, parsley, and chopped ham or other cured meats may be added after the pasta is cooked. 
  • If you like your mac and cheese to have a little more of a kick, add 1 teaspoon of dry mustard instead of 1/2 teaspoon. If serving to children, leave out the cayenne.