Instant Pot Cauliflower Mac and Cheese
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. I recalled an Instant Pot Mac and Cheese recipe that Lindsay had recently posted. I am currently obsessed with all things Instant Pot. Destiny.
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.
- 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 for Making Instant Pot Cauliflower Mac and Cheese
- 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.
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