This rich and creamy Instant Pot mac and cheese is made with three (yes, three!) types of cheese and finished with a crispy bread crumb topping. It may replace your favorite stovetop version. Consider yourself warned.
This is definitely an adult mac ’n’ cheese. The aromatic blend of cheeses creates a tangy, gooey, creamy meal. For a milder flavor, use all Cheddar cheese and leave out the dry mustard. The breadcrumbs come together quickly while the pasta is cooking and lend a just-from-the-oven finish.—Weldon Owen
Instant Pot Mac and Cheese FAQs
What can I add to this mac and cheese recipe to make it a full meal?
Oh, there are so many things you can stir in at the end. Try cooked chicken (I like to use store-bought rotisserie chicken), cooked bacon, cooked Italian pork sausage or turkey sausage.
If you want to keep it vegetarian, consider baby spinach, diced sun-dried tomatoes, and roasted veggies, such as cauliflower or broccoli.
To spice up the dish, grab some chili powder, garlic powder, Cajun seasoning, or your favorite spice blends. (Think za’atar or dukkah.)
Can you use gluten-free pasta in Instant Pot mac and cheese?
I’d avoid it. It doesn’t hold up well. It turns unpleasantly gummy and mushy.
Instant Pot Mac and Cheese
- 6- or 8-quart Instant Pot or multicooker
For the mac and cheese
- 1 pound medium shells macaroni or other short, dried pasta
- 2 1/2 cups water
- 2 cups heavy cream divided
- 6 tablespoons (3 oz) unsalted butter divided
- 2 teaspoons dry mustard
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup shredded Gruyère cheese
- 1 cup shredded white Cheddar cheese
- 1 cup shredded Fontina cheese
For the herbed bread crumbs (optional)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup fresh or fine dried bread crumbs or panko
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Make the mac and cheese
- In the Instant Pot, combine the pasta, water, 1 1/2 cups of cream, 4 tablespoons of butter, and the mustard. Season with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Stir the mixture, then lock the lid in place and turn the valve to Sealing. Press the Pressure Cook button and set the cook time for 7 minutes at high pressure.
Make the herbed bread crumbs (optional)
- While the pasta cooks, make the bread crumbs, if using. In a small skillet over medium heat, warm the oil. Add the bread crumbs and parsley, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring constantly, until the crumbs are well toasted, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.
- Let the steam release naturally from the Instant Pot for 10 minutes, then turn the valve to Venting to quick release any residual steam. Carefully remove the lid, add the cheeses, the remaining 1/2 cup cream, and the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Stir to mix well. Taste and adjust the seasoning, if needed.
- Divvy among individual bowls, top with the herbed bread crumbs, if using, and freshly ground black pepper, and serve.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
This Instant Pot mac and cheese was a big hit at our house! We’re pretty picky mac and cheese people, and I was impressed by both how easy this was and how great it turned out. How have I not been making mac and cheese like this forever? Throwing everything in the Instant Pot was so easy, and then when I added the cheese in at the end, it was like magic seeing how perfectly the sauce came together – no breaking, no stringiness, no lumps! Just creamy perfection.
With a little bit of extra salt, pepper, and hot sauce, this dish was a total dream. The suggested cheese combo was super delicious and definitely gave it a more adult flavor. And the texture of the bread crumbs took this over the top. We had fresh thyme that we needed to use, so I threw that into the breadcrumbs instead of the parsley and loved how it tasted. I will make this over and over again! The perfect weeknight recipe.
This is a delicious way to make mac and cheese. While you won’t get the same “crunch” as the oven-baked method, you will get a perfectly-cooked creamy, super-cheesy dish (and I mean cheesy in a good way!) I used fusilli pasta which has a multitude of nooks and crannies to hold the melted cheese and cream which very nicely mimicked the taste and feel of a perfectly-made béchamel. All without any of the effort.
Also, oven-baked dishes have a tendency to be dry which will not happen with Instant Pot pressure cooking. But be sure to let the steam release naturally for ten minutes as this is essential to finish cooking your pasta. Finally, this recipe would probably work with all cheddar or any of the three cheeses, but I highly recommend using all three to get a great punch of flavor.
Originally published February 23, 2022