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If you think something sounds too good to be true, you haven’t tried Instant Pot Mac and Cheese yet. (Or rather, you haven’t tried this Instant Pot mac and cheese.)

A bowl of easy Instant Pot mac and cheese

Why You’ll Love This Pressure Cooker Mac and Cheese Recipe

  • It’s Tested, Tried, and True. After having multiple recipe fails on a dish that the internet assured me was foolproof, I can now attest this is the best, creamiest, most (actually) foolproof recipe of them all.
  • You Won’t Believe How Easy It Is. Water, noodles, four minutes of pressure cook time, add the cheese. BOOM. Better-than-the-blue-box bliss is yours!
  • The Silky Sauce. Just like Instant Pot Spaghetti, the starches the pasta releases as it cooks help thicken the sauce and make it extra creamy (you DO need to drain the water for the mac and cheese, heads up!).
  • Whoa, It’s Healthy Too. In Well Plated style, I was determined to come up with a healthy Instant Pot mac and cheese that didn’t skimp on flavor and comfort. (And if you don’t think that is possible, you clearly haven’t tried the Ultimate Creamy Mac and Cheese in The Well Plated Cookbook yet!)
  • It’s Super Customizable. Just like my Cauliflower Mac and Cheese and Gourmet Mac and Cheese, this is a recipe that can be tweaked to your liking by adding mix-ins like steamed broccoli or Sautéed Broccoli, crumbled cooked bacon, and more. Keep reading, because I share some of my favorite ideas below!
A pressure cooker of macaroni and cheese

5 Star Review

“This was delicious and so easy!”

— Amy —

How to Make Instant Pot Mac and Cheese

The Ingredients

  • Pasta. I used whole wheat elbow noodles for an extra boost of nutrition. Whole wheat noodles are better for you thanks to their higher amount of nutrients and fiber, and no one will notice the swap.

Substitution Tip

Whole wheat shells would also work well in this recipe.

  • Cheese. Extra sharp cheddar cheese has the intense, cheesy flavor that mac and cheese needs, and it melts beautifully into the creamy sauce.

Substitution Tip

For mac and cheese, use any flavorful, creamy melty cheese that you enjoy, or try a mix. Cheddar is classic, but feel free to swap or add gouda, fontina, mozzarella cheese, Monterey jack, or gruyere.

  • Butter. For necessary richness to call this a proper mac ‘n’ cheese. Plus, cheese + butter = perfection!
  • Greek Yogurt. Adds tanginess and helps make the sauce creamy without the need for heavy cream. Plus it’s high in calcium and potassium.
  • Spices. Dry or ground mustard adds depth and very subtle tanginess. Cayenne pepper gives the dish a touch of heat. Nutmeg is the secret ingredient that will leave people wondering if you’re a mac and cheese wizard.

The Directions

Noodles in a pressure cooker
  1. Cook the Noodles. Stir the pasta, water, and salt together in an Instant Pot. Cook on HIGH for 4 minutes, then release the pressure.
Noodles in an Instant Pot for mac and cheese
  1. Drain. Pour out all but a thin layer of water.
Butter being stirred into noodles for Instant Pot mac and cheese
  1. Season. Stir in the butter. Add the spices.
Greek yogurt being added to noodles
  1. Add the Yogurt. Don’t use fat free or it will curdle.
Cheese being added to an Instant Pot with noodles
  1. Add the Cheese SLOWLY. If you add it too quickly, it will make your cheese sauce lumpy. ENJOY!
Healthy Instant Pot mac and cheese

Recipe Variations

Creamy Instant Pot mac and cheese

Storage Tips

  • To Store. Refrigerate mac and cheese in an airtight storage container for up to 5 days. 
  • To Reheat. Rewarm leftovers in a pot on the stovetop over medium-low heat or in the microwave. 
  • To Freeze. Freeze mac and cheese in an airtight, freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating. 

Meal Prep Tip

Up to 1 week in advance, shred the cheese. Refrigerate it in an airtight storage container until you’re ready to finish the recipe.

A bowl of mac and cheese made in an Instant Pot

What to Serve with Instant Pot Mac and Cheese

The best Instant Pot mac and cheese

Recipe Tips and Tricks

  • Shred Your Own Cheese. It truly makes a difference! Pre-shredded cheese is tossed with cellulose, AKA the “powdery white stuff” that coats each shred to keep them from sticking to each other. This also keeps the cheese from melting as smoothly as we’d like.
  • Add the Cheese VERY GRADUALLY. As with Cheese Fondue, if you add too much at once, your sauce will end up lumpy.
  • Skip the Milk. Dairy burns easily in the Instant Pot, so do not use milk when pressure cooking. Instead of making Instant Pot mac and cheese with evaporated milk (or any milk), use water for the liquid, then add the dairy products (including cheese) after the pressure cooking cycle is complete.
  • Vent Quickly. Vent the Instant Pot as soon as the pressure cooker time is up. Called a “quick release” this ensures the pasta remains al dente.
  • Stick With the Winning Formula. I know it’s always tempting to make a recipe your own, but this is the kind of recipe where small tweaks like swapping regular yogurt for Greek yogurt or using milk instead of water can lead to disaster. You can customize your mac and cheese with different add-ins after it’s done cooking, but don’t switch up the main ingredients!

Instant Pot Mac and Cheese

4.53 from 19 votes
Thick and creamy Instant Pot mac and cheese with a healthy twist! This easy, foolproof recipe is great for fast dinners and sides.

Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 4 minutes
Total: 25 minutes

Servings: 4 servings

Ingredients
  

  • 8 ounces uncooked whole wheat elbow macaroni pasta or whole wheat shells
  • 1 3/4 cups water
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt divided
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter cut into 2 to 3 pieces
  • 1 (5.3-ounce) container full fat Greek yogurt do not use fat-free, about 1/2 cup
  • 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 8 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese* shredded (about 2 cups)

Instructions
 

  • Place the pasta, water, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a 6-quart or larger Instant Pot or electric pressure cooker. Stir well. Set to cook on high pressure (manual) for 4 minutes (for elbow macaroni noodles) or 5 minutes (for shells). As soon as the timer goes off, release the remaining pressure.
  • Carefully open the lid to the Instant Pot. If it still looks very liquidy, drain off all but a thin layer of the pasta water, reserving any water you drain away. (I used an oven mitt to pick up the Instant Pot insert and drain a small amount of excess water into a liquid measuring cup with a spout.)
  • Stir in the butter until it melts. Then, stir in the mustard, black pepper, cayenne, nutmeg, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt.
  • Next, stir in the Greek yogurt.
  • Add the cheese by small handfuls (a few tablespoons at a time), stirring to completely melt between each addition. Don't rush the process or your mac and cheese will be lumpy (your patience will be rewarded!). If at any point, the pasta cools too much, turn on the Saute function for a minute or two as needed. The mac and cheese should look very creamy and saucy, but if it is thicker than you would like, add a little of the reserved pasta water until your desired consistency is reached. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired. Enjoy!

Video

Notes

  • *For the smoothest, creamiest mac and cheese, shred your own cheddar from a block. Pre-shredded cheeses are coated with a powdery substance to keep them from flaking and will not melt smoothly. The fastest way to do this (it takes seconds!) is in a food processor fitted with a grater blade.
  • TO STORE: Refrigerate mac and cheese in an airtight storage container for up to 5 days. 
  • TO REHEAT: Rewarm leftovers in a pot on the stovetop over medium-low heat or in the microwave. 
  • TO FREEZE: Freeze mac and cheese in an airtight, freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating. 

Nutrition

Serving: 1(of 4)Calories: 504kcalCarbohydrates: 46gProtein: 26gFat: 26gSaturated Fat: 15gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0.2gCholesterol: 74mgPotassium: 225mgFiber: 0.1gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 771IUVitamin C: 0.1mgCalcium: 472mgIron: 2mg

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Frequently Asked Questions

Can I Make Gluten Free Instant Pot Mac and Cheese?

Yes, you can swap the whole wheat noodles in this recipe for gluten-free noodles. Since the cooking time can vary between these two types of noodles, I recommend checking them early and often to ensure they don’t overcook.

Would Regular Cheddar Cheese Work in this Recipe?

While regular cheddar cheese would work, its flavor is not bold enough to really make the dish taste its best. If you can’t find extra sharp cheddar cheese, the next best option is white cheddar.

Can I Double this Recipe?

I haven’t tried doubling the recipe myself, but I think it would work fine. The most important thing is to make sure you don’t fill the pot past the max fill line. Do not make any changes to the cooktime.

More Mac and Cheese Recipes

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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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16 Comments

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  1. My family overall liked this recipe, but the Greek yogurt gave it a sort of tangy flavor that wasn’t desirable. I doubled the recipe and could definitely taste the yogurt. Im wondering if it would be okay to leave out the yogurt altogether next time, or would it need to be replaced with milk or something else?4 stars

    1. Hi Joanna! Thank you for your review! I’ve only tested this with the Greek yogurt so I am not sure what you could use in place. Maybe sour cream? Also the dry mustard gives a subtle tanginess to the recipe, so you might want to try and decrease that first. If you decide to experiment, let me know how it goes!

  2. This is a wonderful adaptation using the Instant Pot, Erin. Really so much easier than the regular process of boiling water, adding the noodles, draining, putting everything together and baking for around a half hour! The Mac and Cheese was delicious; my husband loved it and I would imagine my grandson would, too. Thank you for coming up with it! Your recipes are often my “go to” site when I want something delicious, healthy and typically often quick. Keep up the good work.5 stars

  3. This was delicious and so easy! Very rich, though. I used some seriously sharp cheddar and loved the tanginess of it. I’ll definitely make this again. Maybe next time I’ll throw in some chopped spinach or kale.5 stars

  4. Have you ever tried using sodium citrate? It acts as an emulsifier to make cheese melt smoothly without becoming greasy. Also makes reheating work much better. I use it for my Mac and Cheese and it works like a charm. For 8 ounces of cheese, I would add 4 grams of sodium citrate to the “thin layer” of pasta water left over after cooking the pasta. Can be ordered from Amazon or other online retailers.

  5. This was super yummy and I liked that it uses Greek yogurt. It didn’t come out as smooth as the picture looked but tasted amazing my so who really cares what it looks like (my 2yr old definitely didn’t as she finished her 2nd bowl). Will be making again for sure!4 stars

  6. Sorry did not like this recipe at all..with the Greek yogurt gave it an awful taste….not a true mac and cheese flavor. Extra sharp cheddar did not help either.1 star

    1. I’m sorry to hear the recipe wasn’t to your taste, Kathy. I know it’s disappointing to try a new recipe and not enjoy it. I (and many other readers) have enjoyed it, so I really wish they would’ve been a hit for you too!