This ultra creamy and easy Pressure Cooker / Instant Pot Macaroni and Cheese with two kinds of cheese and crispy bacon is sure to be a new weeknight dinner favorite.
This recipe for Instant Pot / Pressure Cooker Mac and Cheese keeps all of the creamy, comforting flavors and textures of traditional homemade mac and cheese, but takes out all of the hard work!
Even better (especially right now), it’s SUPER easy and made using just pantry staples and shredded cheese.
Honestly, I think it’s the best Instant Pot Mac and Cheese recipe out there!
Update: Since posting this recipe several years ago, I’ve been making pressure cooker mac and cheese regularly. And so have you! So I’ve updated this post with the tips and tricks I’ve learned. Enjoy!
How to Make Macaroni and Cheese in an Instant Pot
💨 This is a fantastic dump and go Instant Pot recipe!
First, if you’re a bacon fan, crisp up a bit of crumbled bacon. Reserve the cooked bacon while you finish the mac and cheese and use it as a tasty and crunchy garnish.
(No need to discard the bacon fat on the bottom—it’ll add flavor to the finished dish!)
Also: don’t be afraid of the dry mustard and cayenne! This is NOT a spicy recipe, and it’s 100% kid-approved. These spices add a subtle, but delicious, flavor to the macaroni and cheese.
What Pasta to Use
Stick with elbows or small shells for best results. They’re small, with enough surface area to absorb all of the liquid. A larger pasta shape, even penne, might not absorb the water as well. We usually use classic elbow macaroni for this cheesy dish.
💡 You can use whole wheat or a gluten-free pasta in this recipe, but you may need to change your cook time.
I recommend using half the cook time on the box minus 1 minute. (See my post on How to Cook Pasta in the Instant Pot for complete details.)
If you find that the pasta is not fully cooked after a quick pressure release, simply keep the sauce simmering using the Sauté function until you have al dente macaroni.
Make a Creamy Instant Pot Mac and Cheese Sauce without Flour or Butter
The secret to rich and creamy macaroni and cheese sauce without having to build a bechamel on the stove?
A can of evaporated milk.
After pressure cooking, select Saute and add the evaporated milk and stir for 1 to 2 minutes in order to heat through. Be sure to wait for the sauce to warm fully before you turn off the pressure cooker and add cheese.
🧀 When you add the cheese, there should still be a fair amount of milk in the bottom of the pot. This is OK! The pasta will continue to absorb the liquid while you add the cheese and will thicken as the dish cools.
Add the shredded cheddar and Monterey Jack cheeses by the handful, stirring to melt them in before adding more. (If you add the cheese all at once, it won’t melt smoothly and might clump together.)
We love the two different kinds of cheese in this Instant Pot mac and cheese recipe. Sharp cheddar brings a nice edge to this classic dish. And Monterey Jack adds a hint of warming spice. Together, the result is a silky, creamy cheese sauce that’s packed with flavor.
Doubling & Halving This Pressure Cooker Mac and Cheese Recipe
Double Batch: If you change the amount of pasta, aim for an equal amount of pasta and water by volume.
Don’t add more than 6 or 7 cups of liquid, however, to stay below the maximum fill line on your pressure cooker pot. You want the macaroni to be fully submerged before sealing the pressure cooker, but still under the max fill line.
More liquid also means the pressure cooker will take longer to reach full pressure, so reduce the cook time by a minute. If the pasta isn’t cooked to your liking, simply Saute until it reaches your preferred texture, as discussed above.
Half Batch: Halving this recipe is more straightforward. Simply cut all ingredients by half. No need to make changes to the cook time or procedure.
Can I Add Mix-Ins and Flavorings?
Absolutely! Think of this Instant Pot macaroni and cheese recipe as a blank (but delicious) canvas. Yes, it’s creamy and satisfying on its own. And we love it topped with crispy, crumbly bacon.
But the possibilities for dressing up this easy meal are endless!
Here are some of my readers’ favorite ways to flavor Pressure Cooker Mac and Cheese:
- Browned sausage
- Shredded chicken
- Steamed broccoli
- A pinch of smoked paprika for smokiness
- A dash of nutmeg and roasted Butternut squash for a warm, fall flavor
- Fresh herbs like thyme, sage, oregano
- Nuts like toasted walnuts or pumpkin seeds
We love your suggestions! Let us know how you would dress up Instant Pot Mac and Cheese in the comments.
More Fast & Flavorful Pressure Cooker Pasta Recipes
Love Mac and Cheese? You have to try our amazing Grown-Up Mac and Cheese in our Electric Pressure Cooker Cookbook. It features fresh rosemary and gruyere (and bacon!), and it’s the kind of good where you say “mmm” with every bite!
Or, try these other fast and satisfying Instant Pot pasta dishes:
- Pressure Cooker Chicken Bacon Penne Pasta in Garlic Cream Sauce
- Instant Pot Bowtie Pasta with Sausage
- Pressure Cooker / Instant Pot Chicken Lazone
- Instant Pot Skinny Chicken Alfredo from 365 Days of Slow & Pressure Cooking
- Classic Italian Pasta from Tidbits-Marci
Want more? See all of our Instant Pot Pasta Recipes here!
Note: Recipe adapted from Pressure Cooker Perfection by America’s Test Kitchen. I’ve made the recipe bigger, electric pressure cooker friendly, and added crispy bacon. (That last one is definitely optional, but everything’s better with bacon in my book!)
- ½ cup diced bacon*
- 1 package (16-ounces) elbow macaroni or shells
- 4 cups water
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoons dry mustard
- ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 (12-ounce) cans evaporated milk
- 2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
- 2 cups Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Select Sauté and add the bacon to the pressure cooking pot. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes, until crisp. Transfer to a paper-towel lined plate, leaving the bacon fat in the pot.
- Add the pasta, water, salt, mustard, and cayenne to the pressure cooking pot. Lock the lid in place, select High Pressure and 5 minutes cook time.
- When the cook time ends, turn off the pressure cooker and use a quick pressure release. When the valve drops, carefully remove the lid.
- Stir in the evaporated milk. (It will look like too much liquid, but it will thicken as it simmers.) Select Sauté on the pressure cooker and simmer until sauce is warm, thickened and pasta is tender, 1 to 3 minutes.
- Turn off the pressure cooker. Add both cheeses, a handful at a time, stirring between each addition, until the cheese melts and sauce is smooth. (It’s important to add the cheese a handful at a time so it doesn't clump together.)**
- Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.
*The bacon is optional—if you don't have it, just skip the first step and continue with the recipe.
**After adding the cheese, stir to check the sauce. It should be just slightly thinner than you like. It thickens as it cools, so by the time you dish it up, get everyone to the table, and sit down to eat, it will be the perfect thickness.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 414Total Fat: 30gSaturated Fat: 17gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 10gCholesterol: 87mgSodium: 1194mgCarbohydrates: 11gFiber: 1gSugar: 1gProtein: 24g
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