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!

Low carb Instant Pot Cauliflower Mac and Cheese. The BEST mac and cheese I’ve ever had. CREAMY, easy, and healthy, and you can’t taste the veggies! Riced cauliflower mixed with whole wheat pasta, in the best mac and cheese sauce. One of our favorite pressure cooker recipes!

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!

Creamy Instant Pot Mac and Cheese. Evaporated milk, melty cheese, cauliflower and whole wheat pasta make this the BEST mac and cheese I’ve ever had!

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.

Low Carb Cheesy Instant Pot Cauliflower Mac and Cheese. The BEST healthy mac and cheese recipe!

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.

The BEST Instant Pot Cauliflower Mac and Cheese. You can’t taste the cauliflower! Easy, healthy, and low carb.

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.
Instant Pot Cauliflower Mac and Cheese. Low carb, creamy, and healthy! Easy pressure cooker recipe that families love.

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 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)
Low carb Instant Pot Cauliflower Mac and Cheese. The BEST mac and cheese I’ve ever had. CREAMY, easy, and healthy, and you can’t taste the veggies! Riced cauliflower mixed with whole wheat pasta, in the best mac and cheese sauce. One of our favorite pressure cooker recipes!

Instant Pot Cauliflower Mac and Cheese

4.79 from 28 votes
Instant Pot Cauliflower Mac and Cheese. CREAMY, easy, and healthy, and you can’t taste the veggies! Great for easy, healthy dinners.

Total: 30 mins

Servings: 8 servings, about 12 cups

Ingredients
  

  • 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

Instructions
 

  • 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.

Notes

  • 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.

Nutrition

Serving: 1(of 8), about 1 1/2 generous cupsCalories: 378kcalCarbohydrates: 48gProtein: 18gFat: 13gSaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 39mgSodium: 451mgFiber: 8gSugar: 7g

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Erin Clarke

Hi, I'm Erin Clarke, and I'm fearlessly dedicated to making healthy food that's affordable, easy-to-make, and best of all DELISH. I'm the author and recipe developer here at wellplated.com and of The Well Plated Cookbook. I adore both sweets and veggies, and I am on a mission to save you time and dishes. WELCOME!

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104 Comments

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  1. Ummm, the pumpkin bundt cake recipe if you should ever be granted that…I’ll second that on going up on the blog….love mac/cheese and I do cauliflower “surprises” all the time, nachos, buffalo style…It’s a blank palette waiting to be washed with flavor and color!!!

  2. Thank you for the delightful welcome back to the world of dairy! Clare and I had the leftovers for lunch. Clean plates again! Everyone should make this! Cheesy and delicious, but with a healthy twist from Erin. Now I just need to get an Instant Pot for Christmas . . .5 stars

  3. I have a serious obsession with my pressure cooker. I use it in place of many traditional slow cooker recipes. I think it would be really interested to see how a stuffing would work in the pressure cooker!

    1. I have a slow cooker stuffing in the words Danielle, and now I want to try a pressure cooker one too. Thanks for the idea!

  4. Was going to bring a frittata to the brunch I’m headed to today, but will be bringing this instead!  Just purchased my Instant Pot two weeks ago – loving it as well! My favorite recipe so far is this Beef Stroganoff.  http://abountifulkitchen.com/2017/03/instant-pot-beef-stroganoff.html/

    1. Tami, congrats on the new Instant Pot and thanks so much for sharing this recipe. I hope you all loved the mac and cheese!

    1. Hi Ce! I wouldn’t consider this low carb across the board, but because the cauliflower does add bulk, it will have fewer carbs bite for bite when compared with regular mac and cheese recipes. If you are limited to 20 carbs a day, I’m afraid this recipe is probably not the best fit, but I hope you can find many others to suit your needs in my recipe index.

  5. I’m torn about getting an instant pot.  Since childhood I have never liked pressure cookers, even though I had and used my mother’s for canning.  I just got a second slow cooker, to use for yogurt and granola, and cook my rice in a regular pot, and steam veggies that way as well.  I have no more room in my cabinets.  The only possible good reason I can think of for an instant pot is that it could speed up cooking, which tends to take me forever.  I’m curious to know how hard it is to adapt recipes to a pressure cooker, since I would not want to give up all my old recipes.

    1. Susan, I definitely agree that the cabinets can fill too quickly. If you look online, there’s a number of suggestions for adapting recipes to a pressure cooker, so that might be a good way to start.

  6. You are tempting me to take the plunge and get an instant pot! I also try to keep only my much needed kitchen gadgets. I don’t even have a Kitchen Aid, just an old hand-held. I’ve just been seeing so many awesome instant pot recipes that I’m afraid I may be missing out on something great! Like this cauliflower mac and cheese – which sounds delicious BTW. You had me at cheesy goodness, but add healthy in front of that? YES please!

    1. Danielle, I am seriously in love with mine and keep telling everyone to get one :) Your choice, but the combo saute feature is what really sold me, because I love one-pot meals. Oh, and how FAST it is is great too!

  7. I made this because I was too lazy to cut up my butternut squash for a soup recipe. I had pre “riced” cauliflower from Trader Joe’s and gemecili noodles. I forgot to throw in the cream cheese but it was still delicious. And I used sharp cheddar. I can only imagine how divine it would be with a fancier cheese!!5 stars

    1. Susan, I’m so happy you loved the recipe! Thanks for taking time to leave this lovely review. It is so helpful to myself and others considering the recipe!

  8. All right, I’m sure, that I will love this one. As I’m a big cheese lover – in any form basically, I cannot say no to this meal. It’s a little bit too late now to try and prepare it now, so I’ll have to make it tomorrow – maybe even in the morning as I have Mondays as the day off :) Thanks again!5 stars

        1. Hi Chloe! I haven’t and I’m afraid I can’t recommend that, since it’s tricky to make pasta in the crock pot without it overcooking. I do have one crock pot pasta recipe here if you’d like to check it out: https://www.wellplated.com/crock-pot-pasta/.

  9. Just made this – delish! Did make some changes. Used about half the amount of evaporated milk…anymore would have been too much. Added a bunch more spices (paprika, garlic, S+P) and frozen peas. Once pressure cook was done we used the sautéed function for a couple min to thicken it up. 5 stars

  10. Hi Erin, this looks yummy! Can you tell me why you used evaporated milk? It’s not something that I tend to have in my pantry. Is there something else that I can substitute it for, like almond milk or whole milk?

  11. I just made this tonight for the first time and it is AMAZING! I will never go back to my old way of making mac & cheese. I do not like cauliflower but you were right when you said you can’t even taste it in there. Thank you for this recipe!5 stars

    1. Heather YAY!!! Isn’t it great when you get a serving of veggies but no one knows? :) Thank YOU for trying the recipe and leaving this great review!

    1. Hi Stacey, I think that could work! I haven’t tried it myself, but I would recommend thawing/draining it first though to try to remove some of the excess moisture that frozen vegetables can release when reheated.

  12. This is quite delicious with many varieties of cheeses, and adding other Mac and cheese mix ins like bacon, chicken, or jalapeño work great, too. I’m curious, is it possible to make this with just the cauliflower? Cutting out the noodles would help with carbs.5 stars

    1. Hi Junior, the noodles’ starch is part of what thickens the sauce, so they are important to this recipe. If you’re looking for a recipe only with cauliflower, I’d suggest doing an internet search! These are different recipes, but if you’re looking for something grain free, you might like my cauliflower fried rice or chicken bacon stuffed spaghetti squash!

  13. This  was really, really good! Love that there’s a whole cauliflower in here!! And you’re right- totally not detectable!5 stars

    1. HOORAY Anna, I’m so glad to hear you enjoyed the recipe! Thanks so much for taking the time to leave this wonderful review!

  14. This recipe was great! I had it last night for supper and leftovers for lunch today, yum yum! Will for sure make again.5 stars

  15. Yum, Erin, thank you for this delicious recipe! I should’ve read your note about gluten-free pasta as I did use that, but it was still great – just a mushier version ;)5 stars

  16. This recipe was SO good- I got my Instant Pot about a month ago, and this is easily the best thing I’ve made in it. Would highly recommend trying (it’s also super quick/easy with a food processor!)5 stars

  17. This has quickly become one of my favorite dinners! My husband and I were very excited about how delicious this turned out! I used gouda and sharp cheddar in mine and the taste was amazing. I added some grilled chicken to it and served it with a salad and boom instant dinner. I’m actually making it tonight instead of going out for my favorite burger place for a cheat night, yes it’s that good! 5 stars

  18. This turned out like magic. I used cheddar/gruyere and it was wonderful. You don’t really realize there’s cauliflower except for it’s smell. Super easy. The noodles did stick to the bottom a bit but I don’t even care. Magical recipe. Thank you so much. Everyone loves this recipe including my toddler. You rock.5 stars

  19. I’d love to try out this recipe, but I keep getting a “burn” error on my Instant Pot every time I try to make it. Any suggestions?

    1. Hi CJ, 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’re able to figure it out, and I’m sorry to not have any specific recommendations!

    1. Hi Liz, I use evaporated because it’s a little thicker, but I think whole milk could be okay. I haven’t tried it myself, but if you decide to experiment I’d love to hear how it goes.

  20. Hi Erin, how would you recommend adding meat protein to this recipe? I just got an instant pot and I’m looking forward to trying this recipe!

    1. Hi Dave, I haven’t tested this recipe with an added protein, but I think this would work well as a side dish alongside a protein of your choice. You could also try adding in a cooked, shredded protein (like chicken) after the pressure cooking to warm through with the mac and cheese. If you decide to experiment, I’d love to hear how it goes.

  21. This has become a staple in our household with 2 boys, 5 and 8. I tried it recently with farfalle (forgot to buy elbow macaroni) and it just wasn’t the same. Today I used the Trader Joe’s Cheddar Gruyere blend and added lemon zest and smoked paprika with the other spices, and then we grownups topped ours with canned fire-roasted green chiles and coconut bacon. Sadly we have very little left over for tomorrow!5 stars

  22. I followed this recipe to a T and 8oz was WAY too much. It was SO watery. I had to add more cheese and pasta in order to make this recipe “ok.” I personally will not be making this again. Very bland and a pain in the butt to fix. 2 stars

    1. Hi Jamie, I’m sorry this recipe didn’t work out for you! I didn’t have this problem when I tested it and others have made it successfully, but I know it’s disappointing to try something new and not have it come out, so I truly wish you would have loved this.

  23. I made a gluten free version and it worked!
    I’ve made it in the past and just ate the mushy version. But this time I put the pressure on  LOW for the same four minutes and there was no mush! I followed the rest of the recipe as posted.
    I used Barilla’s gluten free elbows.
    I hope this helps your gf readers!

  24. This recipe sounds amazing! I definitely want to try it! My husband does not like cheese (gasp i know!). Would this reheat okay if i just made it for myself for lunches/dinners during the week?

    1. Cheryl, we eat leftover pasta all the time! I think it will be just fine :) Just splash on a bit of water/chicken or veggie broth before you reheat it so it doesn’t dry out.

  25. Yummy! This was great. I made it in my 8-qt Instant Pot and lowered the cooking time to 3 minutes since it takes longer to come to pressure. I like my pasta on the al dente side anyway, so 3 minutes was perfect for me. Will definitely make again! 4 stars

  26. Sounds amazing. Can I use full fat everything instead of reduced fat cream cheese and evap milk? Will using regular evaporated milk negatively affect the recipe? Can’t wait to try this! I’m drooling. 5 stars

    1. Hello! The sugar is primarily from the milk. The nutrition info is just an estimate, so I’d recommend doing your own estimate with an online calculator like My Fitness Pal if precise numbers are important to you!

  27. I could not believe how quickly this recipe came together! What a perfect side or main dish for a week night meal.  Thank you so much for posting!  I completely forgot about the milk and found the creaminess to still be delicious.  Thank you Erin!5 stars

  28. I am looking to make this recipe this weekend, but do not have cream cheese or evaporated milk. I do have non-fat greek yogurt and skim milk. I’ve noticed comments that said they did not use one or the other and the recipe came out great! What would your recommendation be? Should I stop at the store to grab either or both of these? Could I use greek yogurt in place of the cream cheese? Should I get whole milk? Thanks for your suggestions in advance! :)

    1. Hi Renee! I always recommend following the recipe as written, as this is how I’ve tested (and retested) it. The recipe as written will come out and give you the best mac! If you do decide to play around, I’d love to hear how it comes out for you.

  29. I liked the idea of this recipe and the flavors were good. I didnt find that the cooking time was long enough and my cauliflower was a bit crunchy. I also found it to be quite liquidy and that the milk was not needed. I think the flavor of the sauce would have improved with the milk, but if I had added it, it would have been soup.3 stars

    1. Hi Heather! I’m sorry this didn’t turn out as you hoped. I (and many readers) have enjoyed the texture, so I really wish it would’ve been a hit for you! I’m happy you still liked the flavors!

    1. Hi Ri! I always recommend following the recipe as written, as this is how I’ve tested (and retested) it. The recipe as written will come out and give you the best mac! If you do decide to play around with coconut milk, I’d love to hear how it comes out for you.

  30. Can I use regular pasta instead of whole wheat or do you think I’d need to adjust the time?  TIA!

    1. Hi Kristin! You can certainly swap in white pasta for the whole wheat, and you shouldn’t need to adjust the time. I hope you enjoy the recipe!

  31. Tried this last night and it was amazing. And I am no fan of cauliflower.
    Being a single person, do you think it would matter if I halved the recipe? I’m new to the instant pot world.5 stars

    1. Hi Missy! I haven’t tried to halve this recipe, but you could experiment with it. You can keep the cooking time the same, and I’d suggest using 3/4 cup of milk vs. 1/2 though to make sure that the recipe has enough liquid. If you decide to experiment, I’d love to hear how it goes!

    1. Hi Kathryn! I haven’t tried freezing this dish, but I think it should work fine. If you decide to experiment with it, I’d love to hear how it goes!

  32. 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!!!  Gale5 stars

  33. 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.5 stars

  34. 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!5 stars

  35. 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.5 stars

  36. 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.5 stars

  37. 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!5 stars

  38. HELP!! I got a burn notice and idk why! I followed the steps on starting it but it got burnt and look like mush!

    1. 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!

  39. 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.5 stars

  40. 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.5 stars

  41. I’ve made this recipe at least ten times since discovering it. I love it! Thank you so much for sharing.5 stars