Make the most deliciously easy macaroni and cheese in a flash with just a few ingredients and the magic of the Instant Pot! If you’re looking for a homemade macaroni and cheese recipe that’s so much better than the boxed stuff, this version will be your new go-to recipe!

Instant Pot Mac and Cheese ready to serve in a white round bowl. There is a blue plaid napkin on the left side of the bowl on the table.

When it comes to weeknight dinner recipes, I’m always up for something fast, delicious, and hearty. Macaroni and cheese has always been one of my favorite things to make, whether it’s a fast stovetop version or a baked version with buttered croutons and over a pound of cheese.

This creamy Instant Pot mac and cheese hits all the marks for me and it’s the first time I’ve made any sort of Instant Pot macaroni. I think I’m totally hooked now!

The elbow macaroni soaks up all the pasta water as it cooks, which is the first step in giving this mac and cheese such great flavor. 

And it’s just such a quick recipe to make that’s given me lots of inspiration to come up with other great options for other Instant Pot macaroni and cheese recipes, too!

Ingredients for Instant Pot Mac and Cheese are laid out on a white marble counter.

Ingredients

This is the basic shopping list for the best Instant Pot macaroni and cheese recipe. The full list of ingredients is in the recipe card below, so be sure to keep scrolling down to check it out!

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Elbow macaroni
  • Chicken broth — you can replace this with water, but broth gives it so much extra flavor!
  • Water
  • Butter
  • American cheese
  • Sharp white cheddar cheese from a block of cheese (don’t use pre-shredded cheese)
  • Dijon mustard
  • Garlic powder
  • Hot sauce, like Frank’s or sriracha
  • Heavy cream
  • Kosher salt
A close up photo of a fork scooping some of the Instant Pot Mac and Cheese out of the white bowl.

How to Make Instant Pot Mac and Cheese

Here are the steps for how to make this easy Instant Pot mac and cheese! The full Instruction list is in the recipe card below, so be sure to keep scrolling down to the card.

Adding butter to Instant Pot Mac and Cheese before adding the cheese to make the cheese sauce.

STEP 1: First, add the dry elbow macaroni, chicken broth, water, Dijon mustard, garlic powder, hot sauce, and salt to a 6 quart Instant Pot or other electric pressure cooker. Close the valve to the sealing position and set the pressure to High Pressure. Set the timer for 3 minutes. When it’s done, quick release all the pressure. Be careful because the valve will spittle hot liquid!

STEP 2: Now, open the pot and add the butter and cheeses. You want everything good and melted into the most delicious cheese sauce that beautifully coats the elbow macaroni.

STEP 3: Last, immediately pour the cream over the pasta and stir it into the cheese sauce to thin it out. Season with salt to taste before serving.

The cheese for the cheese sauce for Instant Pot Mac and Cheese has been added to the Instant Pot.

What is the Cook Time for this Mac and Cheese?

Macaroni and cheese can take a while to make, especially considering it’s so simple.

But thanks to the Instant Pot, this macaroni and cheese recipe is done so fast without waiting for water to boil or the oven to preheat! Here’s a quick breakdown of the cook time for this recipe:

  • 10 to 15 minutes for the Instant Pot to come to pressure
  • 3 minutes to cook the macaroni
  • 2 minutes minutes to melt the butter and cheeses at the end
A close up photo of the wooden spoon that has scooped some of the Instant Pot Mac and Cheese out of the pot.

This Instant Pot mac and cheese recipe takes about 20 minutes total from uncooked macaroni noodles to the finished dish. That’s faster than most weeknight dinner recipes take to make!

What Cheese Is Best in Mac and Cheese?

This is an Instant Pot version of my beloved Panera mac and cheese recipe. Thanks to the American cheese, this recipe gives you a super creamy macaroni and cheese. 

And we’re talking plain ol’ American cheese here. It’s nothing fancy. But it’s what makes my Panera mac and cheese such a huge reader favorite!

In my opinion, sharp white cheddar that is freshly shredded is the best cheese for other mac and cheese recipes. Sharp white cheddar melts smoothly and gives the cheese sauce a really nice punch of flavor.

Instant Pot Mac and Cheese ready to serve in a white round bowl. There is a blue plaid napkin on the left side of the bowl on the table and 3 forks on the right side of the bowl.

You could also try mozzarella cheese for a white mac and cheese option. It will have a sweeter flavor than recipes made with white cheddar cheese, but with all that gooey cheese, how could you go wrong?

Looking for different cheeses to try in your mac and cheese? Try fontina, gouda, Parmesan cheese, havarti, brie, goat cheese, feta, Gruyère, Monterey jack, or even cream cheese!

A hand is pouring heavy cream into the Instant Pot to finish the cheese sauce for Instant Pot Mac and Cheese.

What Makes this Better Than Other Instant Pot Mac and Cheese Recipes?

My recipe includes only basic pantry staples that most home cooks (and non-cooks!) likely already have in their kitchens. 

Almost all of the Instant Pot recipes I looked at for mac and cheese while developing this recipe included one ingredient in common: evaporated milk. 

A wooden spoon has scooped some of the Instant Pot Mac and Cheese out of the pot.

I have never used evaporated milk so obviously, it’s not an ingredient I keep in my pantry.

So, I developed my recipe without evaporated milk because I knew it isn’t a necessary ingredient. The American cheese makes such a creamy sauce in my recipe, so evaporated milk isn’t needed.

What Goes with Mac and Cheese?

Comfort food main dishes are staples in my meal plans. Sometimes you just need a food hug after a long day at work or a busy day of errands.

This Dutch oven roast chicken recipe is so easy and perfect for dinner parties. It’s fancy enough for company but easy enough for a Sunday meal prep. 

And speaking of chicken recipes, if you have someone in your life who loves chicken fingers, they will love these baked chicken fingers! They’re easy to make and you can change up the spices you mix with the flour.

Barbecue is one of my favorite food groups and I don’t crave it only in warm weather. These smoky ribs in the oven are just like a grill or smoker but in the comfort of your snowed-in home! 

My love of mac and cheese goes all the way back to fish stick and Velveeta mac and cheese nights when my parents went out and we had a babysitter. Make the adult version with beer-battered fish alongside this creamy macaroni and cheese.

More Instant Pot Recipes You’ll Love To Make

A wooden spoon has scooped some of the Instant Pot Mac and Cheese out of the pot.
A wooden spoon has scooped some of the Instant Pot Mac and Cheese out of the pot.

Instant Pot Mac and Cheese Recipe

Yield: 4 to 6 side dish servings
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes

Instant Pot mac and cheese is an incredible comfort food weeknight dinner that takes less than 20 minutes to make start to finish. The addition of American cheese to shredded sharp cheddar makes the cheese sauce unbelievably creamy, without the need for evaporated milk.

Ingredients

  • 8 oz (228 g) dry elbow macaroni
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ tsp Dijon mustard
  • ¼ tsp garlic powder
  • ¾ tsp Kosher salt
  • ¼ tsp hot sauce (like Frank's) or sriracha sauce (optional but see Note below)
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into chunks
  • 2 oz (59 g) white or yellow American cheese, chopped or torn into small pieces
  • 4 oz (115 g) sharp white Vermont cheddar, shredded
  • ¼ cup heavy cream

Instructions

  1. Add the dry pasta, chicken broth, water, Dijon mustard, hot sauce, garlic powder, and salt to a 6-quart Instant Pot. Seal the vent, turn on the Pressure setting to High and set the time to 3 minutes. Quick release the pressure once the time is up.
  2. Mix in the butter until melted. Gradually stir in the American and cheddar cheeses until almost completely melted. Stir in the heavy cream until the pasta is completely coated with the melted cheese sauce. Season with salt to taste.

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