Instant Pot Mac and Cheese

This Instant Pot mac and cheese recipe is so easy and soooo good! Perfectly cooked pasta bathed in a thick and creamy cheese sauce that’s ready in 20 minutes — no boiling or baking required. Kid-friendly, vegetarian, and easily gluten-free. You gotta try it!

Instant Pot mac and cheese recipe with pasta being poured from pot into serving bowl

I have vivid memories of my mom making her homemade mac and cheese when I was a kid. 

First, she’d boil the noodles, then make the cheese sauce, mix it all together, top it with buttered breadcrumbs, and put it in the oven. 

Was it a lot of work? Sure seemed like it. Did it contain a whole block of Velveeta? You betcha. Was it creamy, dreamy, and delicious? Heck yes!

In case it isn’t obvious, there are few things I love more in this world than mac and cheese — for sure my kids, husband, friends, and fam, but that might be about it.

overhead photo of a creamy bowl of instant pot mac and cheese recipe with a spoon on a gray textured background

This easy Instant Pot macaroni and cheese might be my favorite of all time because it’s just as thick and creamy as the mac and cheese I grew up on but has fewer ingredients, fewer steps, cooks all in one pot, and is ready to devour in just 20 minutes.

The cream cheese is what makes this mac and cheese super velvety-smooth. I personally think it’s best paired with sharp cheddar and Gruyere, but put your own spin on it with your favorite shredded cheeses or whatever you have on hand!

Ingredients for Instant Pot mac and cheese with cream cheese

  • Macaroni, cavatappi, shells or medium-sized pasta of choice 
  • Water or chicken broth
  • Kosher salt
  • Butter
  • Milk
  • Shredded cheese: Sharp cheddar and Gruyere are my favorites
  • Cream cheese
  • Garlic powder
  • Dry mustard
  • Flour

How to make macaroni and cheese in the Instant Pot

  • Cook the pasta first; add the dairy after. The secret to Instant Pot mac and cheese is pressure cooking the pasta first, and adding the milk and cheeses after. Pressure cooking will cause the proteins in milk and cheese to curdle. Adding them after ensures a lump-free mac and cheese.  
  • Use room temperature cream cheese. The cream cheese gives this mac and cheese the creamy, velvety texture of traditional stovetop mac and cheese but without the work of making a roux. I’ve made mac and cheese in the Instant Pot with and without it, and cream cheese is definitely the way to go! Room temperature cream cheese melts and blends the best. If your cream cheese is cold, I recommend cutting it into cubes and warming it in the microwave on medium heat in 5-second intervals for 15-20 seconds to minimize separation.
  • Use a combination of cheeses for the best taste. Using a couple of different cheeses will give your mac and cheese dimension. I love it with sharp cheddar and Gruyere but feel free to experiment with your favorites or whatever you have on hand!

What to serve with Instant Pot macaroni and cheese

This macaroni and cheese recipe makes an easy, kid-friendly dinner or a great side dish at holiday meals and parties. Here are some great foods to serve with it:

How to store leftover mac and cheese

Let leftovers cool to room temperature, transfer to an airtight food storage container, cover and refrigerate for up to 3-5 days. This mac and cheese reheats best on the stovetop over low/medium-low heat but can also be reheated in the microwave. When reheating on the stove, combine the macaroni with a generous splash of milk and warm over medium-low heat, gently separating the noodles with a wooden spoon. Serve once creamy and warmed through. 

Frequently asked questions

Can you freeze leftover mac and cheese?

You can freeze mac and cheese — but I prefer to make smaller batches of this macaroni and cheese and refrigerate leftovers since they tend to reheat better than frozen.

To freeze leftover macaroni in cheese, it’s best to divide leftovers into smaller portions rather than one large block. Freeze in airtight food storage containers or freezer bags, removing as much air as possible to minimize freezer burn. To reheat, defrost overnight in the refrigerator and reheat on the stove or in the microwave as noted above. 

Can you double this Instant Pot mac and cheese recipe? 

Yes, you absolutely can double this Instant Pot mac and cheese recipe. A single recipe makes about 6 cups (about 2-3 generous dinner-sized portions) so a double recipe will make about 12 cups (about 4-6 meals or 12, 1-cup servings if serving this as a side dish or party appetizer). 

Can I use cold cream cheese? 

If your cream cheese is cold, I recommend cutting it into cubes and warming it in the microwave on medium heat in 5-second intervals for 15-20 seconds. This will minimize any separation that might occur once it’s added to the pot.

Substitutions

For gluten-free mac and cheese: Substitute your favorite gluten-free pasta and flour of choice. In lieu of gluten-free flour, you can thicken the sauce with ¾ teaspoon of cornstarch or arrowroot powder mixed with a splash of water.  

Other recipes you might like:  

overhead photo of a creamy instant pot mac and cheese recipe in the instant pot
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Recipe

Instant Pot Mac and Cheese Recipe

This Instant Pot mac and cheese recipe is so easy and soooo good! Perfectly cooked pasta bathed in a thick and creamy cheese sauce that’s ready in 20 minutes.

  • Prep Time:
    5 minutes
  • Total Time:
    20 minutes
  • Makes:
    6 cups 1x
  • Prep Time:
    5 minutes
  • Total Time:
    20 minutes
  • Makes:
    6 cups 1x
  • Ingredients

    • 8 ounces dry macaroni or small pasta of choice (white or whole wheat)
    • 2 cups + 2 tablespoons water or chicken broth
    • ½ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
    • 1 tablespoon butter, cut into small pieces
    • ½ cup whole or 2% milk
    • 1 ½ cups freshly shredded cheese (I love cheddar and Gruyere)
    • 2 ounces cream cheese at room temperature, cut into cubes 
    • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
    • ½ teaspoon dry mustard
    • ½ tablespoon all-purpose flour

    Instructions

    1. Cook the pasta. Combine the pasta, water or chicken broth, butter, and salt in the Instant Pot. Secure the lid, making sure the valve is in the SEALING position. Set the Instant Pot to PRESSURE COOK — HIGH for 4 minutes (5 minutes for whole wheat pasta). When done, quick-release the steam. 
    2. Stir in the milk and cheeses until melted. After releasing the pressure, remove the lid and switch the Instant Pot to the SAUTE — MEDIUM. Add the milk and give the pasta a few gentle stirs. Add the shredded cheese, cream cheese; stir well until cheeses have melted. Add garlic powder, dry mustard, and flour and cook, stirring constantly, until the sauce thickened, about 2-3 minutes. Season to taste with additional salt, if desired. Serve immediately.

    Notes

    Favorite Equipment

    Ingredient Prep

    • Measure the pasta
    • Shred and measure the cheeses

    Little Helpers

    Involving little ones can decrease picky eating and increase appetite and willingness to try new foods. Here are a few ways they can help: 

    • Toddlers: Measure the pasta, water/broth, salt, and butter, and cheeses; add pasta ingredients to the cool pot before pressure cooking
    • Little Kids: All of the above plus help shredding the cheese and stirring in the milk and cheeses at the end (closely supervised of course!)
    • Big Kids: Give them the recipe and see how they do!

    Nutrition Notes

    Nutrition information calculated using water, whole milk, full-fat sharp cheddar, and cream cheese

    Nutrition

    • Serving Size: 1 ½ cups
    • Calories: 437
    • Sugar: 3 g
    • Sodium: 380 mg
    • Fat: 21 g
    • Saturated Fat: 12 g
    • Unsaturated Fat: 9 g
    • Trans Fat: 0 g
    • Carbohydrates: 46 g
    • Fiber: 3 g
    • Protein: 18 g
    • Cholesterol: 64 mg

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    Instant Pot mac and cheese with pasta being poured from pot into serving bowl with title text overlay

    Author: Elle Penner M.P.H., R.D.

    I'm Elle, Registered Dietitian and minimalism-obsessed mama with a thing for simplifying, particularly when it comes to clutter, calendars, and family meals. Favorite things include carbs, cooking, kid-free workouts, and high-waisted yoga pants.

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    • I’ve made this a couple times now and this is my first attempt at doubling the recipe! I didn’t adjust the pasta cook time for the Instant Pot, but I did double all ingredients. Thank you for sharing!