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5-Ingredient Instant Pot Mac and Cheese

This 5-ingredient instant pot mac and cheese came out when we were low on food. We needed to go grocery shopping because the fridge and freezer were basically empty.

Or at least the kids didn’t want anything we had.

I’m sure you heard that one before!

Instant Pot Macaroni and Cheese in a white bowl

It was a big win because I prefer macaroni and cheese as easy and healthy as possible. This includes just 5 ingredients: pasta, butter, salt, cheese, and milk.

They’re ingredients that are staples in our family, so we can make it for the kids whenever we want. That’s more often than I care to admit, but hey, I love it too!

The best part is, if you have a favorite cheese you love adding to your mac and cheese, you can also add it in!

Now, I’ve scoured the internet looking for macaroni and cheese recipes and they always include weird and processed ingredients.

I also wanted one without evaporated milk and no sour cream. It just needed to be easy, but still delicious.

I created a stove-top variety without the processed food as well, but I had that urge to create it in the Instant Pot, so it had to be made a little differently.

The idea of a one-pot mac and cheese really spoke to me.

I made this in my 6-Quart Instant Pot Duo Nova. It has the same functions as the normal Instant Pot Duo but has an improved seal that will last longer.

Title and Shown: Instant Pot Macaroni and Cheese (in a white bowl)

How to Make 5-Ingredient Instant Pot Mac and Cheese

Place the inner pot into your Instant Pot. This is the pot you will cook inside. Add the pasta, butter, salt, and water.

Raw elbow noodles, water, and butter inside Instant Pot

Do not stir, but you can slowly move the noodles around to make sure the water covers them as best as possible.

Close the lid and push the pressure cook button for high pressure and turn it to 4 minutes. It may also show as manual mode.

Instant Pot Closeup of 4 minutes set to pressure cook

It will take about 10 minutes for the pressure to build in the pot and then the clock will start counting down.

The little metal knob will also pop up when it’s officially at pressure.

When the Instant Pot beeps and the time is at zero, carefully use the quick release to release the pressure.

When the knob drops back down, the pressure has been released and you can open the lid.

Cooked Macaroni in Instant Pot

Change the Instant Pot to Saute mode and add in cheddar cheese and milk and stir to combine until fully melted.

Turn Instant Pot off.

Transfer the 5-ingredient Instant Pot Mac and Cheese into a serving dish away from the heat and enjoy it immediately.

Closeup of pressure cooker mac and cheese in a white bowl

Can I Make This If I Don’t Have the Saute Feature?

If you do not have a Saute mode, change it to a high slow cook and add the milk in slowly until the cheese is fully melted to avoid it getting soupy.

You may end up using less milk than called for using this method.

Instant Pot Mac and Cheese with a fork picking up noodles

How to Quick Release the Instant Pot

A quick-release refers to when you immediately remove the pressure from the Instant Pot instead of waiting for it to go down on its own over time (a natural release).

Take an oven mitt or some sort of heat resistant glove/mitt and flip the venting switch to vent. It will let out a lot of steam, so be careful if this is your first time using a quick release.

Allow for enough room above the pressure cooker for the steam to vent. I turn mine backward so the steam faces forward instead of under the cabinets.

If it starts to spray water, close the vent back up, wait 15-20 seconds and try the quick release again until it no longer sprays.

Pressure cooker macaroni and cheese in white bowl with fork and second bowl in the background

Can I Cover the Vent with a Towel to Stop it From Steaming?

While it can be tempting to cover the vent with a towel of some sort, it is not safe. Keep the vent open and steaming by itself.

If it is spraying water, butter, or any other liquid in another recipe, close the vent and try again in 30 seconds or so.

5-Ingredient Instant Pot Macaroni and Cheese inside a white bowl

This Makes A Lot of Mac and Cheese, Can I Make Less?

As you can see, this recipe makes more than the average family needs for one night of dinner. That’s because our family loves to eat leftovers.

We made this 5-ingredient Instant Pot mac and cheese one night and used the leftovers to eat quickly after my daughter’s dance class the next night,

If you’re making this recipe in a 6-quart Instant Pot, you can half or even quarter the recipe without issues.

This size only requires 1 cup or more of water to pressure cook food successfully.

If you have an 8-quart pressure cooker, you can still half this recipe without issues.

Pressure Cooker Mac and Cheese in a white bowl with fork to the left

Can I Cook the Pasta in Milk Instead?

Cooking pasta in milk is a great trick to making your macaroni and cheese extra creamy on the stove.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that in a pressure cooker. Putting milk into a pressure cooker will cause the milk to curdle and separate.

I don’t know about you, but I want cheesy smooth macaroni and cheese, not curdled cheese.

Adding the milk and cheese at the end of this recipe helps it stay creamy while getting the macaroni and cheese you know and love.

Other Recipes You’ll Love:

Yield: 8 servings

5-Ingredient Instant Pot Mac and Cheese

Instant Pot Macaroni and Cheese in a white bowl

A simple pressure cooker pasta dish made with ingredients you'll already have in the house.

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 6 minutes
Additional Time 10 minutes
Total Time 21 minutes

Ingredients

  • 16 ounces elbow macaroni
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 chunks
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup whole milk

Instructions

  1. Add elbow pasta, butter, salt, and water in the Instant Pot. Do not stir the pasta, but gently use a spoon to make sure all pasta is covered with water.
  2. Cook on high pressure for 4 minutes, then quick release carefully.*
  3. Change to "saute mode" and add in cheddar cheese and milk.
  4. Stir to combine until fully melted then remove from heat.
  5. Enjoy immediately!

Notes

* If releasing the pressure causes splatter, stop the release and try again in 10-15 seconds

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

8

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 264Total Fat: 16gSaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 45mgSodium: 329mgCarbohydrates: 19gFiber: 1gSugar: 1gProtein: 10g

This nutrition information is based on the exact products I used in this recipe. Brands and sizes of products could alter exact nutrition and should always be calculated independently.

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samantha

About Samantha

I’ve always had a love of cooking and creating new recipes, so it only made sense to create a food blog so I could share those recipes with you. This site is designed to provide easy and flavorful recipes with as little ingredients as possible. That means you still get great flavor combinations without all that extra time and effort. Read more...

57 thoughts on “5-Ingredient Instant Pot Mac and Cheese”

  1. This came out perfect! I was a bit concerned after reading some of the comments, but they must not have measured right or maybe their instant pot is not working properly. I added a bit of extra cheese on top when serving and it was great. I love that it has such few ingredients. Thank you for sharing!

    Reply
  2. I’ve made this recipe several times now with HEB shredded sharp cheddar and whole milk and it always comes out perfect!! It’s so good!! If I want to double or even triple this recipe to make huge batches of this, how would I go about that? Would I just double/triple the ingredients? What about the time?

    Reply
    • Hi Jenny, I’m so glad you’re loving it! You can double or triple all of the ingredients and keep the same pressure time! Just make sure you are under the max lines and keep an eye on the quick release. The more water and content in there can cause a little more spraying.

  3. Hmmmm… does the type of pasta matter? There was also still a boat load of water leftover. Should it have been gone or should I have dumped it before adding the milk and cheese? And much like everyone else my cheese was clumpy and didn’t mix in well with the noodles and milk. And I used Kraft shredded cheddar cheese.

    Reply
    • The kind of pasta can matter depending on the size. It’s also important to measure the pasta before adding it as it’s easy to use too little or too much. With more water in the pot, you can use the sauteed mode while continuously stirring it to help evaporate some of it out, and then the cheese will help with the rest.

      Kraft shredded cheddar cheese contains preservatives, so that can cause clumping.

  4. I’m making this for the first time and so far, so good! I drained the macaroni and allowed the pasta to cool completely. I also let the sauce cool before I mixed the two so that there is no residual cooking from the heat of the sauce which will also continue to cook the pasta a bit. The key is to shred the cheeses yourself and make sure the cream cheese is softened. After making your roux and adding the milk and cream, either lower the heat or remove completely before adding the cheese slowly. Whisk, whisk, whisk. Also, taste your sauce to see if you need to add anything. I always use about 1 teaspoon of ground mustard. I won’t be baking this for another few hours and wanted to make ahead and refrigerate it. I’m sure it will be a success!

    Reply
  5. This Mac and cheese recipe turned out absolutely amazing! Thank you so much for posting this. It made prepping dinner so easy. Not sure what everyone else is doing wrong but don’t listen to them. I will definitely be making again!

    Reply
  6. I made this once and it turned out perfect. However, my 10 year old son didn’t care for the cheddar cheese i think. Could I use American cheese instead or would that be weird?:

    Reply
    • I would suggest a mix of cheeses like Colby jack, greyure, or even mozzarella (it will be stretchy with that one).

  7. This was a watery mess! I measured all ingredients perfectly after reading the comments.
    Very disappointed and a waste of some good cheese.

    Reply
    • The recipe will need to sit on saute for a few minutes to help get any excess water out of the recipe, but there shouldn’t be much if the pasta and water is measured correctly.

  8. Just made this with zero issues. Added extra cheese, put it in an oven proof dish, added a cheese/cracker crumb topping and popped it in the oven at 400 for 10 minutes. Delish!

    Reply

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