This Instant Pot Mac and Cheese is ultra creamy, ooey-gooey, and made with three kinds of cheese! This is a one pot, quick version of a family favorite classic!
I am absolutely loving this instant pot take on a classic. Although my one pot mac and cheese and my slow cooker mac and cheese are delicious, I’m having tons of fun with my instant pot…and this instant pot mac and cheese might just take the cake. 😉
A few secret ingredients – vegetable broth and THREE kinds of cheese – make this the BEST macaroni and cheese recipe.
- Pasta – today, we’re using medium shells. There’s no need to cook your pasta first; it cooks right in the instant pot! If you’d like to use a different noodle, feel free, but you may need to adjust the cook time.
- Vegetable Broth – use veggie broth to keep this dish vegetarian. Feel free to use chicken broth if preferred. The noodles cook directly in the broth which gives the pasta depth of flavor. No broth? No problem! Use water, but you’ll need to adjust the seasonings for more flavor.
- Salt and Black Pepper – enhances flavor and adds just a touch of heat.
- Milk – the base for an ultra smooth, creamy, and cheesy sauce. Which whatever milk you have on hand: skim, almond, 2%, etc. The higher the fat content, the creamier the mac and cheese will be.
- Shredded Parmesan, Gruyere, and Sharp Cheddar Cheese – a nutty, tangy, smooth, slightly smoky combination of cheeses melted over the pasta. Make sure you shred your own cheese so it’s extra smooth!
How to make
This instant pot mac and cheese recipe is ready in just 20 minutes! Yep…you read that right.
- Spray your instant pot with cooking spray then add in uncooked pasta shells, broth, salt, and pepper. Cover and lock the lid then cook for 4-5 minutes.
- Once done cooking, remove the lid and stir in milk.
- Add in parmesan, gruyere, and cheddar, little bits at a time until fully combined then serve and enjoy!
Do you need to cook the pasta first?
You do not need to cook the pasta before making this mac and cheese recipe in the Instant Pot. Because the pasta cooks in the veggie broth directly in the instant pot there’s no pre-cooking necessary. Be sure to use UNCOOKED noodles or else you’ll end up with mush.
How long does it take to cook pasta in the instant pot?
If using uncooked medium shells, the pasta will cook in about 4-5 minutes in the instant pot. Set the timer for 4 minutes if you prefer more al dente pasta or, if you like it softer, set it for 5. Keep in mind, that doesn’t include the time it takes for the instant pot to come to pressure which takes about 15 minutes or so depending on how cold or warm your ingredients are.
Can you use a different pasta?
Yep! While cheese sauce paired with the shells is classic, feel free to use a different pasta shape instead. Try macaroni, rotini, gemelli, penne, etc.
What cheese is best in mac and cheese?
Cheddar, gruyere, and parmesan are the best cheeses to use in mac and cheese. Not only do they all melt deliciously, they also add slightly different flavors to the dish!
- Sharp Cheddar. Gives the pasta its bold flavor and that classic mac and cheese taste. Feel free to use mild or medium for a more subtle flavor.
- Gruyere. Adds a sweet, nutty flavor and smooth, velvety texture.
- Parmesan. Provides a rich, salty flavor to balance out the sharpness of the cheddar and richness of the gruyere.
If those three cheeses aren’t your thing, feel free to use others. Try to shoot for a bold flavored cheese (cheddar), something melty (gruyere), and something salty (parmesan). White cheddar, gouda, romano, etc. would also be fantastic choices.
- Make it spicy. Top it off with some hot sauce or cayenne pepper for extra heat.
- Give it a Mexican twist. Add in some taco seasoning, taco meat, and salsa for a flavor variation. Use my one pot taco mac for inspiration.
- Add veggies. Stir in roasted broccoli, asparagus, peas, spinach, sun dried tomatoes, bell peppers, etc.
- Add a protein. Mix in cooked chicken, bacon, ground beef, sausage, or check out my baked crab mac and cheese instead.
- Mix in some pesto. Add a dollop of pesto to your mac and cheese.
- Bake it. Once your mac and cheese is cooked, transfer it to a greased baking dish, sprinkle a bit of extra cheese and Panko on top, and bake it until the cheese is melted and the breadcrumbs are golden-brown and crispy.
What to serve with mac and cheese
You can serve this mac and cheese as a main with a couple of yummy sides or serve it as a side dish to a main!
- Roasted Broccoli
- Pear, Blue Cheese, Candied Pecan Salad
- Sloppy Joes
- Pigs in a Blanket
- Air Fryer Chicken Nuggets
How to store
Leftover mac and cheese will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for 2-3 days.
To reheat, warm either in the microwave or on the stove until heated through. Thin with a bit of milk if necessary.
Instant Pot Mac and Cheese
Equipment for this recipe
- 1 (16 oz) box medium pasta shells uncooked
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- 1 teaspoon salt more or less to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper more or less to taste
- 1/2 cup milk plus more, if necessary
- 1/2 cup shredded parmesan about 2 oz
- 1 cup shredded gruyere I used a hickory smoked
- 1 (8 oz) block sharp cheddar cheese shredded
- Spray instant pot with cooking spray.
- Add in pasta, broth, salt, and pepper.
- Cover and lock the lid (make sure the steam releasing handle is pointing to sealing).
- Cook using the manual button (set to high pressure) and adjust timer on the Instant Pot to 4 or 5 minutes.*
- The Instant Pot will beep when it's finished. Flip the valve to "venting" for a quick release.
- Remove lid and stir in milk.
- Stir in parmesan, gruyere, and cheddar. Stir in a little at a time for best results.
- Taste and re-season, if necessary, and enjoy!
- Reheat leftovers with a little milk.
- Take 5 seconds to rate this recipe below. We greatly appreciate it!
*Note: Nutrition information is estimated and varies based on products used.
This post was originally published March 12, 2018 and has been updated to provide more detailed content.