One of the most popular side dishes just got easier and tastier than ever! This Instant Pot Mac and Cheese only takes 20 minutes and has a rich, creamy flavor with incredible texture!
One of the few things kids and their parents agree on is, mac and cheese is a delicious side dish or snack. Macaroni noodles are covered in a rich, creamy cheese sauce. Who wouldn’t love that? It is a side dish that goes well with such a variety of main courses or your kids may even prefer it for a snack. Finding an easy, kid-friendly food that doesn’t come out of a package covered in cartoon characters can be challenging, but this Instant Pot Mac and Cheese recipe is a pretty safe bet!
We also love to customize Mac and cheese. You can add some veggies or protein to make it a standalone or more substantial side dish. You can even adjust the spices or add a bit of sauce to satisfy your taste preference! This recipe does have a hint of Cajun flavor but it can easily be held for kids or adults that prefer a milder flavor. Preparing this mac and cheese in the instant pot makes it incredibly easy, and fast, and requires minimal cleanup since it is all prepared in the instant pot!
What you’ll love about this recipe:
- KID FRIENDLY – Mac and cheese is an extremely popular food for both adults and kids.
- EASY– Only takes 20 minutes to make and requires minimal cleanup.
- VERSATILE – This mac and cheese recipe goes well with a variety of main dishes. It is also easily customizable to add some additional flavor combos of your preference.
- INEXPENSIVE – This recipe requires only a handful of ingredients that are inexpensive and are likely already in your pantry.
Ingredients for Instant Pot Mac and Cheese
Listed below are the ingredients you need to make mac and cheese in the Instant Pot. Scroll to the recipe card at the bottom of the page to see the exact amounts for each ingredient.
- Dry macaroni noodles: this will work with regular noodles as well as Barilla gluten free elbow noodles.
- Low-sodium chicken broth: Adds flavor and is used to create the cheese sauce. If you are unable to locate reduced sodium broth just remember to skip the extra salt added later on.
- Spices: smoked paprika, garlic powder, salt, cajun seasoning, onion powder
- Unsalted butter: Adds flavor and helps create the perfect texture
- Smoked gouda, shredded: Helps create that rich, creamy flavor. You can sub in more shredded mozzarella cheese if you don’t have smoked gouda on hand.
- Mozzarella cheese, shredded: Adds that creamy, cheesy flavor
- Cheddar cheese, shredded: Adds that creamy, cheesy flavor
- Whole milk: Helps thicken the sauce and give it the perfect texture
How to Make Mac and Cheese in the Instant Pot
In addition to the ingredients listed above you will need an Instant Pot. Remember, cooking pasta in a pressure cooker is a bit different than cooking on the stove top. Follow the step-by-step guide below to make the best mac and cheese!
Cook the noodles
Add dry noodles, broth, smoked paprika, garlic powder, salt, cajun seasoning, and onion powder to the Instant Pot. Stir the ingredients well so everything is nicely incorporated and be sure no noodles are stuck to the bottom of the pressure cooker before you begin. Close the lid and set the venting knob to sealing, then pressure cook on high for 5 minutes. Note: My Instant Pot took 7 minutes to come to full pressure.
Add the Butter
After the 5 minutes of cook time, quick release the pressure and allow the pressure pin to drop. If you are new to the Instant Pot remember that when you set the cooking time it will take 10-15 minutes for the machine to come to pressure. Once the machine is at full pressure it will begin to count down from 5 minutes. When the cook time is done very carefully release the pressure. If you allow the machine to mannually release pressure the pasta will be very overcooked. Open the lid and add the butter, stirring until melted.
Add the Cheese
Add about half of the cheese and ½ cup of milk and stir constantly until melted and creamy. Next, add the remaining cheese and milk and stir until melted. Garnish with a sprinkle of smoked paprika or more cajun seasoning and serve!
Storage and Reheating Instructions
- Refrigerator Storage: This recipe can be stored in the fridge for up to 2 days in an airtight container.
- Freezer Storage: Freeze this mac and cheese in an airtight container for up to 3 months. When I froze mine, I sprinkled extra shredded cheese on it so when I heat it up again it’ll be extra cheesy!
- Reheating Instructions: In 30-second increments, reheat this recipe in the microwave, in a microwave safe dish, until reheated to your desired level.
What to Serve with Instant Pot Mac and Cheese
- Crockpot Crack Chicken: Requires just six ingredients and is always a hit at parties! This easy chicken recipe is loaded with ranch, bacon, and cheese, making it perfect for salads, wraps, sandwiches, and more!
- Chicken Rollatini: Perfect for meal prepping and special occasions! Tender chicken coated in a crunchy breading and stuffed with flavorful pepperoni and melty mozzarella will impress your guests every time.
- Baked Pork Chops: This easy pork chop recipe features a homemade rub and is ready in less than 20 minutes!
- Creamy Cajun Chicken: Perfect for a quick weeknight dinner! This one-pan chicken recipe is low-carb, easy, and ready in under 30 minutes.
- BBQ Chicken and Smoked Sausage Skillet: A delicious one-pan dinner! This meal is loaded with veggies and protein and is about 4 net carbs!
How to Customize Your Mac and Cheese
- Add a protein. Bacon bits, bbq chicken, smoked sausage, or another protein are delicious add-ons.
- Add some veggies. For a healthier, well-rounded side dish add broccoli, cauliflower, peas, jalapeños, or another vegetable!
- Top with cracker crumbs. Cracker crumbs truly are the icing on the cake. It adds some crispness to create the perfect blend of texture with the smooth, creamy mac and cheese.
- Add your own flavor twist. Add some hot sauce or another sauce of your choice.
Instant Pot Mac and Cheese FAQ
Yes, barilla gluten-free noodles will work in this recipe. I suggest reducing the cooking time to 4 minutes, as gluten-free pasta does not do well if overcooked.
Yes. Bring the chicken broth to a rolling boil. Add the uncooked elbow noodles and cook according to the package directions. When the pasta is al dente drain off any extra water. Add the spices, milk, butter, and half the cheese and stir the mixture over low until the cheese melts and a sauce begins to form. Add the remaining cheese and serve when the cheese has melted.
An Instant Pot ensures everything cooks in one pan quickly. It is an easy and convenient way to make the perfect mac and cheese to feed a crowd.
Yes, but I recommend using an 8-10 quart Instant Pot.
Other Instant Pot Recipes
- Easy Buffalo Chicken Soup: low carb, keto-friendly and perfect for a chilly night!
- Instant Pot Whole Chicken: this is great for meal prep!
- No Bean Chili: hearty, delicious chili made right in the Instant Pot!
- Instant Pot Pepper Steak: everything you love about a classic stir fry dish but made quickly and easily in the Instant Pot!
- 16 oz dry macaroni noodles
- 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp cajun seasoning
- ½ tsp onion powder
- 3 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 ½ cups shredded smoked gouda about 4 oz
- 1 ½ cups shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1 ½ cups shredded cheddar cheese
- 1 cup whole milk
- Add dry noodles, broth, smoked paprika, garlic powder, salt, cajun seasoning, and onion powder to the Instant Pot. Close the lid and set the venting knob to sealing, then pressure cook on high for 5 minutes. Note: My Instant Pot took 7 minutes to come to full pressure.
- After the 5 minutes of cook time, quick release the pressure and allow the pressure pin to drop. Open the lid and add the butter, stirring until melted.
- Add about half of the cheese and ½ cup of milk and stir constantly until melted and creamy. Add the remaining cheese and milk and stir until melted.
- Garnish with a sprinkle of smoked paprika or more cajun seasoning and serve!
- This mac and cheese is smoky and spicy but decadent and ultra-cheesy!
- My Instant Pot took 7 minutes to come to full pressure.
- Feel free to sub in more shredded mozzarella cheese if you don’t have smoked gouda on hand.
- Cajun seasoning is optional but adds a ton of flavor and gives the mac and cheese a little kick!
- Store in the fridge for up to 2 days, or freeze in an airtight container for up to 3 months. When I froze mine, I sprinkled extra shredded cheese on it so when I heat it up again it’ll be extra cheesy!
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 8 Serving Size: About 1 heaping cup
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 461Total Fat: 18gCholesterol: 56mgSodium: 827mgCarbohydrates: 47gFiber: 3gSugar: 4gProtein: 26g