When a neighbor stops you mid dog-walk to ask if you own an Instant Pot the SAME DAY that three readers email you with a request for Instant Pot recipes, it is official: the Instant Pot is a thing. In my typically tardy fashion, I’m late to the game. Thus, it seems only appropriate that the first Instant Pot recipe I’m sharing involves another food trend for which I was behind schedule: All Things Cauliflower. Instant Pot Cauliflower Mac and Cheese has (belatedly) arrived!
It’s creamy. It’s ultra cheesy. It requires only four minutes of pressure cook time. By the time you finish reading this blog post, you could have an Instant Pot of healthy, cheesy goodness bubbling away.
This Instant Pot mac and cheese recipe also packs a hefty serving of secret cauliflower in every forkful, but I promise you (and any picky toddlers on the premises) won’t be able to detect it.
In fact, my very first taste testers of this Instant Pot Cauliflower Mac and Cheese were two of my best friends and their two-year-old daughter who never, under any circumstances, fails to share her candid opinion. She finished her entire plate and asked for seconds. When I asked her if she knew the secret ingredient, she responded, “Cheese?”
Judge. Jury. Verdict. Creamy, cheesy goodness is all you will taste!
After cooking with my Instant Pot for the last week, I honestly cannot believe I waited so long to buy one. I resisted because, despite my love of cooking, I’m a minimalist when it comes to my kitchen appliances. I am loathe to purchase any gadget I’m not absolutely certain that I need, and I wasn’t certain I needed an Instant Pot. Conclusion?
I LOVE IT. Could I survive without it? Sure. Do I want to? No way.
And I’m not alone.
When I posted a video of my shiny new Instant Pot to my Instagram story along with the question, “What should I make?”, I thought I’d receive one or two responses. Um, try 100. You all are ALL ABOUT the Instant Pot. You cook foods I didn’t even know could be made in an Instant Pot. To the talented woman who sent me the photo of the pumpkin bundt cake you baked in yours: I am in awe. Also, please send me that recipe, because YUM. (I’ve since compiled these awesome 15 Healthy Instant Pot Recipes too!)
My very first Instant Pot adventure was an adaptation of a coconut lentil curry (anyone want the recipe?), and I’ve been trying something new in it every night, low(er)-carb cauliflower mac and cheese included.
How this Cauliflower Mac and Cheese came to life: My friend Kate texted to inform me that the no-dairy dietary restriction she’d been under for the past several months had been lifted.
I’d knew immediately that we needed to celebrate with most dairy-iffic meal possible. Since I’m currently obsessed with all things Instant Pot, I decided to use this classic Instant Pot Mac and Cheese as a starting point.
How to Make Cauliflower Mac and Cheese
This Instant Pot Cauliflower Mac and Cheese begins with Lindsay’s classic Instant Pot mac and cheese as a base, then takes a few turns, the largest being the addition of the cauliflower. Here’s what you need to know:
- You can’t taste the cauliflower. I feel the need to state this clearly. I pinky swear that not one single person at our dinner party was able to detect it and everyone went back for seconds. I love me some cauli but in this Cauliflower Mac and Cheese, it’s an under-the-radar sneak veggie, not an in-your-face “hi, I’m a vegetable” veggie. (You’ll also love it in this Cauliflower Pasta.)
- Grate that cauli. The finer, the better. I like to do this in my food processor because it’s crazy fast, and fast is what I’m going for when I use my Instant Pot.
- Texture. Cauliflower mac and cheese recipes usually call for separately cooking, then pureeing the cauliflower so that it is silky smooth. While I see the benefits, to me, that extra step defeats the entire convenience factor of the Instant Pot. I skipped it and tossed the grated cauliflower right in with the noodles. It didn’t bother me or a single one of my cauliflower mac taste-testers.
- Cheese, please. Pick one (or two!) that are fully flavored and super ooey-gooey. Since this Cauliflower Mac and Cheese is on the lighter side, the cheese you choose plays a large role in the flavor. My favorite is sharp white cheddar.
How to Serve This Mac and Cheese
While I love this Cauliflower Mac and Cheese best straight out of the Instant Pot (a preference I confirmed repeatedly), it’s also prime for gussy-ing up.
- Just like my Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese, you can spoon it into a baking dish, top it with Parmesan and breadcrumbs, and pop it in the oven to make a baked macaroni and cheese.
- For even more flavor variation, try adding other mix-ins after it is cooked. I stirred in chopped, sautéed chicken sausage and fresh tomatoes in one rendition, and it was AMAZING.
Now, I want to know: do you have a favorite Instant Pot recipe? Requests for recipes you’d like to see here? Let me know!
Recommended Tools to Make This Recipe
- This is the Instant Pot I own. As long as you are using a 6-quart pressure cooker, this recipe should work!
- Food processor (for the quickest-possible cauliflower grating)
Instant Pot Cauliflower Mac and Cheese
- 1 medium/large head cauliflower
- 16 ounces whole wheat pasta elbows, shells, rotini, or similar
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese
- 2 cups freshly grated melty flavorful cheese such as cheddar, gruyere, provolone, fontina, gouda, or a mix, divided (about 8 ounces; I used half extra-sharp white cheddar and half provolone)
- 8 to 12 ounces 2% evaporated milk
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- Prep the cauliflower: Cut the cauliflower into large florets, then shred with the large side of a box grater. For quicker grating, place cut florets in a large food processor fitted with a steel blade, then pulse until the cauliflower resembles small grains of rice. The smaller the pieces of cauliflower, the more it will blend in with the mac and cheese. You will have about 4 cups of riced cauliflower total.
- Place the pasta, cauliflower, 3 1/2 cups water, butter, and salt in a 6-quart or larger Instant Pot or pressure cooker. Stir well. Set to cook on high pressure (manual) for 4 minutes.
- As soon as the timer goes off, release the steam using the valve on top. Dot the cream cheese in small pieces over the top, then gently stir in the shredded cheese, 8 ounces evaporated milk, garlic powder, and black pepper. If the mac and cheese seems too thick, stir in a little more evaporated milk or water, until your desired consistency is reached. Taste and add additional salt and pepper as desired (I added one generous additional pinch salt). Serve hot.
- To make in a slow cooker (NOTE: I have not yet tried this, so it would be an experiment! This is my best-guess method.): To the slow cooker, add the pasta, cauliflower, 8 ounces evaporated milk, 3 1/2 cups water, salt, garlic powder, and pepper. Cook on low for 3 to 4 hours, until most of the liquid is absorbed. Check periodically and if the noodles seem too dry, add a bit of water as needed. Stir in the shredded cheese and cream cheese. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired.
- I don’t recommend gluten-free pasta, as it breaks down and becomes very gummy.
Join today and start saving your favorite recipes
Create an account to easily save your favorite recipes and access FREE meal plans.Sign Me Up
Erin, I tried the instant pot cauliflower Mac and cheese tonight. It was so good! It makes it better, too, knowing that there’s a whole head of cauliflower in it. And you’d never know it by the taste. I’ve made several of your recipes and they’ve all been delicious! Thank you!!! Gale
I’m so happy you enjoyed the recipe, Gale! Thank you for sharing this kind review!
This recipe has brought macaroni and cheese back to my life! I made it last night and was so, so pleased. Can’t wait to eat more for lunch; I may not make it that long, might have to have some for breakfast. My only change-up was to cut up a 1/2 a medium onion and saute that in the butter as the first step, then everything exactly as specified. The macaroni wasn’t even too mushy, I was amazed it could come out that good from the Instant Pot. Thank you, I will be sharing this far and wide.
I’m so happy that it was a hit, Libby! Thank you for sharing this kind review!
This was really good! It’s the first recipe I tried in my instant pot :) I used the Protein Plus pasta and it came out perfectly. I also used whole milk instead of evaporated and probably only needed about 6 oz. Thanks for the simple and delicious recipe!
I’m so happy that you enjoyed it, Kelly! Thank you for sharing this kind review!
This was FANTASTIC, thank you so much! A friend was visiting today and I was able to spontaneously ask them to dinner even though the only thing we had in our fridge was cauliflower and cheese. I made a few modifications that I thought I should mention for others: I didn’t have any evaporated milk so I used 4 ounces of cream cheese instead of two, and I didn’t grate the cauliflower. Next time I will put the pasta and other ingredients in first and stir, and then put the cauliflower on top, because there were some crunchy pieces of pasta when I opened it the first time, probably because the cauliflower wasn’t grated. I just stirred, closed it back up and set it for one minute longer, and it was perfect. And the cauliflower COMPLETELY disintegrated – our guest asked if there was really cauliflower in there. So no need to grate the cauliflower! Yay! Thank you for a delicious recipe. For cheese lovers, we also added some blue cheese crumbles that needed to be used up, and some parm. Thank you for a super easy, very tasty recipe.
I’m so happy that it was a hit, Susan! Thank you for sharing this kind review and your tips!
Distracted/pressured by my 4 year old, I accidentally added ALL of the ingredients (yep, including the cheese) right from the get go. Realizing my mistake after mixing, I pursued the 4 minutes of pressure cooking although worried for that entire duration if something terrible would happen. But it came out delicious! phew Mac is al dente. Added a bit of paprika and turmeric and a grated carrot for colour to trick my kid.
I’m so happy that it was a hit, Sarah! Thank you for sharing this kind review!
This is a great recipe! It’s fast, has veggies, and tastes really good! My two very picky kids LOVED it and asked for seconds. So, it is now on our weekly menu! Thank you so much!
I’m so happy that you enjoyed it, Laura! Thank you for sharing this kind review!
HELP!! I got a burn notice and idk why! I followed the steps on starting it but it got burnt and look like mush!
Hi Tiffany! I haven’t had experience getting the burn notice, so I’m afraid I don’t have any advice for this specific recipe, other than to try to make sure there’s nothing stuck to the bottom of the pot before sealing. I hope you were able to enjoy it, and I’m sorry to not have any specific recommendations!
Have made this twice now and been a massive success both times. I sub cream cheese in for evaporated milk and I have the IP on for 6 mins though as I have young kids that like their pasta less al dente, but this recipe is just brilliant.
I’m so happy that you’ve enjoyed it, Ania! Thank you for sharing this kind review!
This recipe has changed my life. I can hardly walk by a beautiful cauliflower without bringing it home to make this dish. I’ve lightened it up a bit; found that you can get by with just 1 cup of cheese and about 2-4 oz of condensed milk. Add a little more salt. Also I like to cut up an onion and some garlic and saute in the Instant Pot instead of the garlic powder. Also learned small shells get a burn message, but elbows and rotini seem to be okay. Yeah, that’s how many times I’ve made this.
I’m SO happy that you’ve enjoyed it, Libby! Thank you for sharing this kind review and your tips!
I’ve made this recipe at least ten times since discovering it. I love it! Thank you so much for sharing.
Hi Ania! So glad you enjoyed it! Thank you for this kind review!
I’m new to IP and love easy, kid friendly recipes. This was a hit! I did use gluten free pasta and it worked fine. MINE yhe brand? Great for an easy meal. I also used creamer and water as I don’t have evaporated milk. Also worked well :) Thanks for this!
Hi Sandra! So glad you enjoyed the recipe! Thank you for this kind review!
I made this twice- the first time, I used riced cauliflower, and 8 oz of evaporated milk, and it was good, but that was way too much milk and you could tell there was cauliflower in it. The second time, I only used 4oz of evaporated milk and I put the cauliflower in a blender with the 3.5 cups of water, and I basically made a cauliflower smoothie. I put that in the instant pot with the pasta, and it was so smooth that you couldn’t tell there was cauliflower in it at all except for the smell. This was really good!
Hi Laura! So glad you enjoyed them! Thank you for this kind review!
Loved how easy the recipe was but for some reason mine was too watery. I didn’t even get to add the milk bc it was too soupy. I also loved that it wasn’t loaded with pasta and we got our veggies in and added corn as well. My kids didn’t like the texture of the cauliflower even though it was grated. But we’ll probably make it again.
Hi Christina, at which point was it too watery? Also did you use the whole box of pasta (16 ounces of mac and cheese)? I don’t have step by steps photos or a video to show you what it should look like when it’s done cooking after the 4 minutes, but there is a video here: https://pinchofyum.com/instant-pot-mac-and-cheese (where I based the recipe off of) that shows you what it will look like when you take the lid off. As you will see there is no standing water.
Tried this with GF pasta, first go the Burn notice in the IP so I scraped the unburnt bits into a saucepan to finish on low heat. That scorched too and we were left with inedible glop highly resembling wallpaper paste. I’ll try PIP and regular pasta next time as this recipe sounds delicious.
I’m sorry to hear you had problems with the recipe, Susan. It sounds like to me that problem might of been the GF pasta. The original recipe worked well for myself (and others) and I wished it would of been a hit for you too.
Load More Comments