The Best Pressure Cooker Mac and Cheese
Tested, tested, and tested again, this pressure cooker mac and cheese is perfect! Super easy and fast, it is creamy, cheesy, and amazing.
I guess, right now, all I should really be doing is apologizing that it has taken me this long to get the best pressure cooker mac and cheese recipe in front of your face.
It took distance learning. That’s what it took.
Because, as if five months of quarantine weren’t enough to make me realize that the people residing in my house like to eat all.the.time, distance learning has solidified that fact.
One can only pull out the bread, peanut butter, and jam so many times before everyone gets grumpy and wants to run far, far away from lunch.
Enter this mac and cheese. It’s quick, it’s easy, and it’s absolutely delicious.
Tried-and-True Mac and Cheese
I really can claim this as “the best” because we made it every day last week. Every.Single.Day.
I wanted to get a pressure cooker mac and cheese recipe just right, and in my naivete, I started in the wrong place (dumb google) instead of going straight to where I should have: my own favorite recipes.
Rookie mistake! What was I thinking?
In the end I turned to this delicious skillet macaroni and cheese for the inspiration. A few extra tweaks (and tries), and the pressure cooker version is perfect!
So Easy to Make!
This is a two-step macaroni and cheese.
First a few key ingredients need to go into the pressure cooker:
- butter (this helps the noodles not stick while they cook)
- elbow macaroni
After the noodles go in, stir them just a bit to even them out.
Then, pour in the milk. But DO NOT STIR. Just pour it in and walk away. This will help eliminate the risk of getting the burn warning.
You can use regular milk or evaporated milk. I’ve made it with both. If using regular milk, I highly recommend 1% or higher (as in, leave the skim milk for other nefarious purposes).
Set the cook time to THREE minutes. After the cooking time is finished, let the pressure cooker rest/naturally release pressure for about five minutes.
If you try to release the pressure right away, liquid will spurt out of the valve and into your hair. And I haven’t yet read anywhere that milky noodle liquid is good for the roots, so don’t do that, ok?
Once you release the remaining pressure and remove the lid, the noodles might seem a little clumpy. Never fear! We’re going to resolve that.
A simple mixture of milk/evaporated milk + cornstarch + pinch of dry mustard + hot sauce (don’t be skeered, adds flavor!) goes into the hot, cooked noodles.
As you stir in the secret sauce, the noodles will break apart.
My Soapbox of Shredded Cheese
Yes, if you haven’t gathered this from past posts, shredded cheese is the hill I’m going to die on. You really, really should use freshly grated cheese for this recipe. I promise, you’ll be glad you did.
Pre-shredded cheese is coated with a powdery substance that keeps the cheese from clumping – but it also keeps your precious cheese from melting into creaminess.
Since this is mac and cheese after all, I’d say taking particular care with the cheese is paramount to the success of this recipe.
Add that very lovingly, freshly grated cheese one handful at a time, stirring to melt completely before adding the next handful.
If you follow all the rules, you’ll end up with the creamiest, cheesiest, easiest pressure cooker mac and cheese on the planet.
It’s quick enough for an easy lunch and plentiful enough for a weeknight dinner.
My kids, after seeing me agonize over the tried-and-true possibilities of this recipe, have happily volunteered to make it themselves.
I’m not sure if this is in an all-out effort to really help me as much as it is to make sure they have a palatable lunch on home-learning days.
I can’t blame them. My tragic flaw is that I’m such a sucker for really good food, and I’ve clearly passed that on to my progeny.
FAQ’s For Pressure Cooker Mac and Cheese
You can definitely experiment. You’ll want a creamy, melty cheese (like the Monterey Jack in the recipe) as well as a punchy cheddar cheese (like medium or sharp cheddar – you can use white or yellow).
Several people in the comments have made this mac and cheese gluten free with good results. Read through their comments (I haven’t tried it myself).
The best rule of thumb for pasta in the pressure cooker is to divide the package cooking time in half and then subtract another 1-2 minutes. Based on that, you could experiment with a variety of other noodle shapes and sizes.
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The Best Pressure Cooker Mac and Cheese
- 3 ¾ cups water (see note)
- 2 tablespoons salted butter
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 pound (454 g) elbow macaroni, about 3 cups
- 1 cup milk or evaporated milk (not skim milk)
Cheese + Sauce:
- ½ cup milk or evaporated milk (not skim milk)
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- Pinch dry mustard
- ½ to 1 teaspoon hot sauce, optional but delicious for flavor boost
- 1 ½ cups (171 g) freshly shredded cheddar cheese (see note)
- 1 ½ cups (171 g) freshly shredded Monterey Jack cheese
- Add the water to the insert of a 6-quart electric pressure cooker. Add the butter, salt and macaroni. Stir to even out the noodles.
- Pour in the milk. DO NOT STIR.
- Set the cook time for 3 minutes. Let the pressure naturally release for 5 minutes and then quick release the remaining pressure. If liquid spurts out of the valve, close it and wait 1-2 minutes and try again. Keep the pressure cooker on the warm/hold setting (don’t hit cancel).
- Whisk together the sauce ingredients: 1/2 cup milk, cornstarch, dry mustard, and hot sauce. Add the mixture to the cooked noodles, breaking up clumps of noodles as you stir to combine well.
- Add the cheese, one handful at a time, and stir until each addition is melted before adding more.
- Once all the cheese is melted, season to taste with additional salt, if needed. At this point, you can also drizzle in warm milk, a tablespoon at a time, for extra creamy mac and cheese. Serve immediately.
Recipe Source: adapted from this favorite skillet mac and cheese recipe
112 Comments on “The Best Pressure Cooker Mac and Cheese”
My Goodness this stuff is AMAZING!! Our new “go to” mac & cheese recipe and so easy! Thanks for another winning recipe.
This has become a staple in our house. So easy and everyone in my house eats it. Yum!
The kids love a good macaroni and cheese recipe and this one did not disappoint. Easy to make and tasty. Will make again
Amazing recipe! I made them this morning for my sons school lunch thank you so!
So easy! SO GOOD.
I know it’s generally advised not to eat raw cornstarch, does mixing it into the hot noodles technically cook it?
I don’t know for sure, but the noodle mixture is very hot, so I don’t think it’s the same as eating raw cornstarch?
Have you doubled this? I’m trying to figure out quantities to double. Does the cooking liquid amount remain the same?
I haven’t doubled it but if you do, I’d double everything (including the liquid).
I’ve been making another IP mac & cheese for a years and while it was good it never blew me away. This mac & cheese was AMAZING and just what I was looking for. This will be my new go-to IP mac & cheese.
I am not a mac and cheese lover, especially after it sets and gets really thick, but THIS recipe, fresh, is the best mac and cheese I’ve ever had. I still don’t care for it after it sets, but that’s a personal preference. The taste is fabulous, and I love that it’s so easy in the pressure cooker. Even if you keep it warm it thickens up, so eat it sooner rather than later if you don’t like it thick, or add some warm milk to it to thin it a little.
I used pre-shredded cheddar—that was all I had—and it still turned out great. Quick and tasty. I am sure it be even better with higher quality cheese!
In the blog post you say you can use regular or evaporated milk, but then in the recipe itself you specify “NOT skim or evaporated milk.” Is there a reason you indicate not to use evaporated? I’ve had good luck with it in past Mac n cheese recipes.
Sorry for the confusion on that. The way I wrote that in the ingredients list is confusing. It’s supposed to say 1/2 cup milk (not skim) or evaporated milk. So yes, you can use evaporated milk. I’ll fix that!
Oh! I see. Thank you for the clarification! 🙂
My family and I love this recipe so much! This feels so much easier than the skillet version, so thank you! One question though, i double it and when i try to do the quick release it is a mess, your instructions say if that happens to wait an additional few minutes but that doesn’t seem to help. Is it cause I’m doubling it? Any suggestions?
Yes, I think it’s probably the doubling because all that liquid is closer to the lid. You might need to take a minute off the cooking time and let it naturally release pressure.
Just a note, freshly shredded cheese from a block doesn’t contain the anti-caking powder that the pre-shredded packaged cheese has. To make the cheese sauce smooth and not grainy, always shred your own cheese. Happy cooking!!
I just discovered this recipe in a “best of” email (or something like that), and we LOVE it. We add pulled pork and some BBQ sauce and make a main dish of it. (with leftovers for school-from-home lunches for our family of 4). The 15YO has now made it 3 times…
My 4 year old asked “is this Mel’s?” Then she told me to say thank you! So thank you from Callie, who loved it (along with 3 other girls!) we had a cook off with 2 Mac recipes and yours won all the way around! Thanks for always sharing yummy recipes, we all love you ‘round here!
That’s awesome – thanks for letting me know, Ashley!
So good! I subbed the water with chicken broth I had left over and it gave the kids more protein and was packed with so much flavor! Also added a dash of smoked paprika! I love a kick to Mac n cheese! Great recipe! Thank you!
We have made this recipe several times now. Our favorite way to have it is using smoked Gouda, smoked cheddar, and stirring in chopped, cooked bacon.
I’m pretty sure I’ll never be able to make boxed Mac and cheese in my house again! I made this tonight and it’s so good and super easy. Thank you for such a great recipe!
Adding my experience to the rest – I doubled this in my 6-qt instant pot tonight, and it worked great. Hard to stir the cheese in because it’s so full, but doable. I decreased the cook time to 2 minutes because I knew from last time that it would need to natural release longer than 5 minutes (it ended up needing more like 20). It is delicious! I have also added a chopped cauliflower to a single batch – the cauliflower was mush after 2-3 minutes but the flavor was great and we salvaged it by topping with buttered crumbs and baking it until it was crispy on top. I think I would probably steam the cauliflower separately if I did it again, but it all got eaten up anyway! I love how simple and fast this recipe is, thanks for figuring it out for us!
Amazing!!! So creamy and comforting!! I had lots of liquid spray out, so next time I’ll follow the directions and wait a minute or more. Thanks for a delicious recipe!
We tried this yesterday and it came out delicious!! For our pasta it was a little too soft so we would adapt our cooking time next time but other than that it was brilliant! Easy to do, time to prep a salad during the cooking time and easy cleanup! Thank you so much!
I have not made this yet but as I read through your past, at the bottom under the recipe you post “some other rave reviews.” The reviews are referring to a tomato soup the three of them all thought was pretty amazing. I am wondering were I can find that specific soup?
Oops, its located just above the recipe.
This was very easy to make and was a HIT! Thank you for sharing. I look forward to browsing your other recipes.
Wow. This was amazing! I’ve been looking for a go to recipe for mac and cheese and so far I’ve always been disappointed. But this was soooo good. And you can do it all in one pot!!! No cooking noodles and then cooking the sauce separately and dirtying lots of dishes. I’m in love. This recipe will be hard to beat!
Thanks so much, Annie! Glad you liked it!
We tossed in a few bacon bits at the end – mmm!!!
Made this tonight and halved the recipe with great results. Kept the cooking times the same. It was a hit with the family, and I loved how quick and easy it was!
Thank you, Heather!
This was the perfect quick and easy dinner I needed- it was delicious!
Do you set the IP on high for the cooking temp?
Could you double this do you think?
I think a few have doubled it and reported back. I haven’t – so I’m not sure if a double batch fits into a 6-quart (but if I remember right, someone said they tried it and it worked).
Just made your Instant Pot spaghetti a couple days ago, and can’t wait to try this! Total lifesaver for busy families like mine. Thank you so much for the time and attention you put into this!
We love to add diced green chiles to this (or your skillet Mac N Cheese). Picked up this trick from a local NM restaurant that serves green chile mac and cheese,
Great idea, Robin!
We do this too!
Can you double this recipe in the instapot?
I haven’t tried that, not sure if the 6 quart is big enough, but someone else commented down thread they have used 2 pounds of macaroni in the instant pot (just make sure the ingredients don’t exceed the halfway mark).
I made a comment earlier, and I think it got lost when I hit submit. Sad day. I think technology hates me sometimes lol. If I have two comments, could you maybe delete one for me, please? Otherwise, forgive my redundancy…
Anyway, tried the recipe out this week when my meal plan went off course. Hubby was being helpful and packed his own lunch, but took the meat I had set aside from a roast chicken. Oh well. Mercifully, you had posted this that day. Coincidence? I think not!
I could only find rotini pasta and pepper jack cheese on such short notice, but it turned out perfectly, and wasn’t too spicy with the cheddar and milk to balance it out. I served it with some chicken sausage and broccoli, and everyone was satisfied after dinner. Thumbs up all around!
I especially loved the hands off aspect of the IP. I told my older boys I will teaching them how to make this so next time we have it, dinner will be even easier. Well, for me anyway.
Thanks so much for saving me during my dinner time scramble! It’s like your superpower… Rescuing family meal plans, one recipe at a time!
Hey Arlene! Thanks for the comment (I didn’t see the duplicate?). I love your variations! So happy this one rescued your dinner. That is the BEST feeling!
Delicious! Had something else entirely planned for tonight but offered this to the family as an alternative and the unanimously voted for it. Great job Mel, it was a hit and super easy. I stirred through cooked frozen peas at the end because that’s our tradition, the kids loved rhymes when they were little – Mac & cheese with peas or Mac & cheese with broccoli tress so that’s how we roll 🙂
That’s adorable! I love it!
I made this last night and to say it was a hit is the understatement of the century! I’ve made your amazing Skillet Mac ‘n’ Cheese several times and my family still said that the Instant Pot version was the best they’ve ever had. I used all evaporated milk and I added diced ham in at the end after I put the cheese in to make it a little more substantial as a main dish. I see a lot more Mac ‘n’ Cheese in my family’s future!
Really? They loved it more than the skillet?? That’s awesome news because this one is so hands off! Thanks, Emily!
This really is the best recipe! It’s super simple, tasty, and only takes one pot. The only problem is how good it is – I couldn’t stop eating it! Thanks so much, Mel 🙂
So happy to hear this! Thank you!
What a great recipe! A friend of ours was stopping by for lunch when traveling through on business…I made a half recipe and followed all the directions… It came out perfectly. Served it with Mel’s recipe for sloppy joes, Apple slices, ice tea and her coleslaw recipe…a perfect meal that everyone loved. Had the chocolate frosted pb sugar Cookies already in the freezer…so sent a baggie with him for the road! Thanks for so many great recipes, Mel.
Thanks so much, Gail! That sounds like an incredible meal. Yum!
oh Mel! You just nailed another one with perfect timing. I’m a week and half post wisdom tooth surgery and mac and cheese has been the only thing I’ve been able to eat with regularity without getting tired of it. Even my usual favorites, and I’ve tried all the ones in a box but at this point, they are all lacking flavor. I swear my taste buds have had a reset. I think you probably know the challenges of fleeting appetite and dental surgery. I’m over the hump, but food has taken on a different purpose at this point. This mac and cheese is gonna be my dinner plus whatever protein I can force myself to choke down. *sob* I love your recipes so much. I have spent a lot of time figuring out what I’m going to eat when I can properly chew and not have to worry about it.
Thank you for your blog/website! It has been invaluable to me–it changed the way I cook for which my family thanks you, too. I have six children (only one left at home now) and I know how how much time and effort is needed to take care of your family. So again, thank you for making the time to share your talent with the world.
Thank you so much, Julie! Your thoughtful comment was needed today. 🙂
I never comment. But I have to tell you I have now made it a habit, when I am looking for a new recipe, to come to your site first. You NEVER disappoint. Made this Mac and cheese yesterday and my family said it was the best homemade Mac and cheese they have ever had. I will definitely double the recipe next time! Thank you!
Stephanie! Thank you! I appreciate you taking the time to comment (I read every single comment and it means a lot to me that people take time out of their busy schedule to do that). I’m SO happy you and your family loved this mac and cheese. Yay!
I just made this last night. It was a crowd pleaser! Best macaroni and cheese I have ever had. Also I am cursed with homemade mac and cheese, it never turns out for me. So imagine my delight when this recipe was a huge success! I will now only make mac and cheese in the instant pot. Thanks Mel you have done it again!
So happy to hear this, Brooke! Yay!!
Any chance you have tried this with other noodles? Bow tie, rotini, penne?
I haven’t, but it should work just fine if you follow the IP pasta rule of thumb I mention up there (take the cooking time on the back of the package, divide in half, and then subtract another 2 minutes).
I’d love to know what brand/kind of hot sauce you use when you make this?!
I think I have Cholula in my fridge right now.
You saved our dinner! Made it. Loved it and even my toddler who is not a fan of pasta nor Mac’’n cheese asked for more. Yummy and easy…my two favorite dinner results. Thank you!!! I really do appreciate the time you take to tweak and make recipes that are delicious. You are my dinner angel (not to forget breakfast, lunch, dessert and snack time too)!
Thank you for such a kind comment! It means so much to me. I have a lot of anxiety when I post a new recipe because I want people to love it (and I try so hard to make them *mostly* foolproof). Thank you!
I made this tonight. Perfection. I set the cook time for 2 minutes and then let it naturally release for about 10 minutes. It was amazing. Thank you!
Thanks for letting me know, Therese! Appreciate it!
Here’s my GF comments. I used Jovial Elbow pasta. Other than that, I followed the recipe exactly. I like my pasta with a bit more bite. I think the 3 minutes was too long, and when I released the pressure after 5 minutes, I had a huge mess of milk/water spraying everywhere. I think next time I’ll try the manual setting for 1 minute and the natural release for 7 minutes, hoping that will help with both spray and mushy pasta issues. We still loved the Mac and cheese and we all snarfed it right up. Thanks, Mel, for helping me overcome my feat of cooking pasta in the IP. 5/5 wiki make again.
Thanks for the review, Wendy! I’ll add a note to the recipe, but if it keeps spurting everywhere, close the valve and wait a 1-2 minutes, that usually does the trick for all the foamy liquid to go down.
Made this tonight! Worked perfectly!! Thank you for your consistency and reliability for wonderful quality recipes.
Thank you so much, Meridith!
We just ate this for dinner. It was tasty, although I will say some things about it. I had milk liquid spewing out of the valve when I released, even after 5 minutes of natural release – I’ve never had stuff spewing out before! I thought 3 minutes was too long as the noodles were a little too soft (I used Barilla elbows – there was also pretty much no liquid left in the pot when i opened it, I’m not sure if that’s normal), I would do 2 min next time probably. However, my husband just informed me that I’m not allowed to make this again because the clean up on the pot was incredibly messy as the cheesy sauce was stuck all over, oopsy! There will probably still be a next time, haha.
Hey, Nancy, thanks for the review! I knew there’d be some variables depending on brand of pasta, so I appreciate you checking in with those details. What brand of pressure cooker do you have (instant pot?)? If there’s liquid still spurting out after 5 minutes, you can close the lid and wait a few more minutes. That usually does the trick. I’ll add a note to the recipe about liquid – it does help the texture to have a bit of liquid in the bottom of the pot (although if you had a lot of liquid spurting out, that’s probably the liquid that should have stayed in the bottom!). 🙂 The cleanup is a bit of a pain, but I find if I let the pot soak a minute, it’s not too bad. Tell your husband I’m sorry. Haha.
Yes I have an Instant Pot. Since I use it a bunch and actual liquid never has come out before, I didn’t pay attention as I turned the valve and heard the normal sound of it depressurizing. I turned my attention elsewhere for a few seconds before noticing liquid spurting out. I did close it for a minute which helped. It didn’t seem like tons of liquid came out – at least it seemed like i was just cleaning some splatters (or maybe a lot evaporated?) In any case, it was still good, just need to do some adjustments next time on my end i think. Thanks again for the recipe, a perfectly timed post— I was having the “what should i make for dinner” problem at 3pm when I saw the email notification about this recipe!
Gah. I’m sorry about the liquid everywhere. That’s the worst.
I sprayed my pot with cooking spray before adding the ingredients and it helped reduce the splatter.
I’m happy about this! The original skillet mac is a favorite!
Oye, yes! Lunch woes! I’m tired of the lunch same-old-same-old as well and am looking for ways to shake it up for our crew of six at home every day. My husband and I are ok with leftovers for lunch, but that doesn’t fly with the kids. If you have any other lunch ideas, please share! 🙂
This sounds really good. I’m sure my macaroni and cheese fiends will be excited to try it.
Question: what are your thoughts on Halloween this year with the pandemic? What are your thoughts of the Great Pumpkin?
I told my 10 year old that reason the Great Pumpkin didn’t visit Linus was because it only visit children who can’t go trick-or-treating. He could’ve gone, but choose not to. So since she can’t go tick-or-treating this year maybe the Great Pumpkin would come to visit her.
Hey Tammy, to be quite honest, I haven’t given Halloween a single thought yet. I only have one trick-or-treater (the others haven’t gone for a few years on their own accord), and admittedly, our family doesn’t get super into Halloween (maybe living outside of a subdivision makes a difference? I don’t know). The Great Pumpkin sounds like a fun idea for your 10-year old!
What’s your hot sauce of choice for this recipe?
Larissa – I like Cholula!
We’re each going to decorate our own bedroom doors and go door to door. It will be fun to see how each person decorates and we might even throw some fun tricks in the mix. We’ll pick their favorites treats and maybe some Halloween themed snacks to hand out to each other.
That’s a cute idea, Keri!
We make your skillet mac and cheese weekly, often more than weekly so this is super exciting! I know what we’re having for lunch tomorrow!
Believe it or not, I have been waiting for this! The no babysitting part of the IP makes it magical. Can’t wait to try it, and I will report back!
If you had a regular pressure cooker, would you just bring it up to pressure and keep it that way for three minutes? I only have a very good pressure cooker. Thanks.
A stovetop pressure cooker, Patrick? If so, you can probably get away with cooking for two minutes since stovetop pressure cookers cook at higher pressure than electric pressure cookers.
I already had a tried and true instant pot mac and cheese recipe, but since you posted one, of course I had to try it. This one was easier, didn’t stick to my pot, and tasted even more amazing. Even though I used bagged shredded cheese (I know, I know), the texture was perfect. Thanks for another winner. I’m trying to stop eating it.
Oh yay, Laurie! Thanks for letting me know!
I love using my pressure cooker! Thanks for the adaptation from your original recipe. Now I need to go get some cheese!!
I’m going to give this a go for lunch this week. My strange children only seem to like the Kraft Mac n Cheese. Every time I’ve made a “fancy” version, they won’t really eat it. But, I’m going to try this one because it looks pretty darn good!
Haha, not strange; I think that’s pretty normal! 🙂
I’m a noob. Would this double easily in the IP? Looking to feed a larger group. We love your recipes, Mel. Thanks!
The ingredients will double just fine, but I haven’t tried doubling it to know if this quantity will fit in a 6-quart IP/pressure cooker safely. You don’t want to fill over the halfway point if cooking pasta.
I have made 2 lb of noodles in my 6qt IP and it just fits.
You know, it’s so quick that I think I could just do it in two stages! Thanks, Mel.
This looks amazing! Do you pre-grate the cheese for the week or just grate each day? If pre grated, how long does that typically last if sealed? Thx!
Hi Rowena, I’m usually not good about planning in advance, so I just grate it when we need it, but if we have extras, I throw it in a sealed bag in the fridge. It’ll last a week or so!
Would it work to halve the recipe?
Yes, I just added that to the FAQ section. Halve the ingredients straight across (but I’d leave the cooking time the same)
Yes it works! Same time settings!
This will be cooked tonight. Thank you, Mel!
Hope you love it, Alicia!
I have tried and tried to find a good IP mac and cheese with ‘meh’ results. Can’t wait to try this! Have you tried this with whole wheat noodles?