Easy and tasty 5 ingredient Instant Pot Mac and Cheese is the creamy, cheesy pasta of your dreams done in half the time. It makes a great, comforting side on cold days and busy days and basically any day you’re feeling a mac and cheese craving.
If you love the Instant Pot but need some more recipes to try, I suggest trying my Instant Pot Pot Roast and Potatoes, my Instant Pot Parmesan Chicken and Rice with Mushrooms, and my Instant Pot Honey Teriyaki Chicken.
Even though I had spent the better part of a day a couple weeks ago creating, cooking, and shooting some new recipes, none of what I made was for some reason acceptable to the kids. Now, while I’m not one to give into their every food request (I’m not a short-order cook, after all), all they wanted was some mac and cheese. That was it. Plain and simple.
I took one little look at their adorable little pleading eyes and I thought, you know what, I got you babes. And, since I’d already used up and cleaned just about every dish in the house, and couldn’t bear the thought of any more dishes, I turned to my trusty Instant Pot. I knew making a homestyle, easy mac and cheese recipe would be a cinch and also just what we all needed after a long day. Luckily, I was right. (Well, truthfully the kids deserve all the credit for the idea.)
What Kind of Macaroni Works Best for the Instant Pot
For this recipe I used regular old macaroni noodles in the shape of a shell. There is no need to go for anything fancy here. I think this recipe works best with smaller noodles like shells (and kids love them too) because they are easier to pick up and have a little nook in them which holds lots of that cheesy goodness.
Other noodles that would work well in this Instant Pot Mac and Cheese recipe include:
In a pinch, you could also break up spaghetti into 2-inch pieces if that’s all you have in your pantry. Get creative — you could even combine two half boxes of different kinds of pasta and make “wacky mac.”
Can you Reheat Mac and Cheese in an Instant Pot?
If you want to reheat your mac and cheese right back in your instant pot the next day (or maybe later after the kids have gone to bed and you just need a little, cheesy somethin’ somethin’), here’s how!
I use the Steam function of the Instant Pot for reheating leftovers. It’s a faster way to heat your food and only requires a bit of liquid. Remember, adding the liquid is key. The Instant Pot can’t steam or reheat or cook without the liquid.
When reheating the mac and cheese, you can put the pasta dish in the Instant Pot itself or in a stackable stainless steel pressure cooker steamer insert (if you have one).
Add a cup of water to the main insert pot or the added inserts and put the Instant Pot’s lid on, turn the venting knob to its sealing position and press the “steam” function. I usually go about 3-5 minutes on steam, depending on how much I am reheating.
Is an Instant Pot Better than a Slow Cooker?
I like both the Instant Pot and the Slow Cooker but for different reasons. A slow cooker generally has only one main function, and that’s to heat up (either high, low, or keep warm) and to use it, you need to keep food in it for several hours at a low or high heat. Slow cookers are great for cooking food all day, and work well if you want to start dinner before you head out the door for the day and have it all ready by the time you arrive home.
An Instant Pot doesn’t need to cook all day and will have more functions (like steam, sautee, manual, or even settings for specific foods like soups, beans, or rice). An Instant Pot is an electric pressure cooker and uses steam that pressurizes inside to cook the food (whereas a slow cooker uses electric heat only).
So I guess my short answer is, they are both fabulous kitchen appliances and I guess it depends on what your goals are with the meal which one you’ll use for which recipe.
Did you make this Instant Pot Mac and Cheese recipe? YAY! Please rate the recipe below!
Instant Pot Mac and Cheese
- 5 cups macaroni noodles - or small shells
- 6 cups water
- 2 teaspoons salt - more to taste, divided
- 1 cup heavy cream - OR fat free half and half OR whole milk
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 ½ cups freshly grated sharp cheddar or white cheddar cheese
- In your Instant Pot/pressure cooker, combine uncooked noodles, water, and 1 teaspoon salt.
- Put the lid on and slide it into the locked position. Turn the vent to the SEALED position, and set the pot to MANUAL or PRESSURE COOK on HIGH for 5 minutes.
- Turn the valve to VENT position and remove the lid once the float valve drops.
- Drain excess water from the pot, then stir in the heavy cream (or milk) and the cheese and stir gently until cheese is completely melted.
- Add remaining salt and pepper, taste, and add more as needed. Serve immediately.