Pressure cooker, Weeknight dinner
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Pressure Cooker Macaroni and Cheese

Pressure Cooker Macaroni and Cheese

Pressure Cooker Macaroni and Cheese

My go-to Macaroni and Cheese has evolved over the last year, but I have a new favorite – and of course, it uses the pressure cooker. 1

For years I made the mac and cheese from Pam Anderson’s The Perfect Recipe. Then I read Ideas in Food; their recipe was similar to Pam’s, stripped down to the basics.

Both recipes use evaporated milk as their secret weapon. Evaporated milk replaces the flour and milk béchamel sauce, and all the whisking that entails. I mashed the two recipes together, and that’s what I’ve been using ever since.

Now, even with the evaporated milk shortcut, this was a stretch to make on a weeknight. Especially if I want a toasted bread crumb topping. And if I’m making macaroni and cheese, it must have a bread crumb topping.

That’s why I jumped when I saw the pressure cooker macaroni and cheese in Pressure Cooker Perfection. They pressure cook the pasta and spices in a small amount of water, treating it like a risotto. This trick really speeds up the recipe – no waiting for a pot of water to boil, no draining, and one (pressure cooker) pot to clean. Weeknight macaroni and cheese is now within my reach. 2

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Pressure Cooker Macaroni and Cheese

  • Author: Mike Vrobel
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: 8 servings 1x


Pressure Cooker mac and cheese – quick, easy, and better than the dreaded blue box.

Adapted from: America’s Test Kitchen Pressure Cooker Perfection


  • 1 pound dried elbow macaroni
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon yellow mustard
  • 1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt or 2 teaspoons table salt
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 (12 ounce) can evaporated milk
  • 16 ounces shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese
  • 6 ounces shredded Parmigiano cheese

Bread Crumb Topping (optional)

  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs


  1. Pressure cook the pasta for 4 minutes with a quick release: Stir the macaroni, butter, mustard, hot pepper sauce, salt, and 4 cups water in the pressure cooker pot. Lock the lid on the pressure cooker and cook on high pressure for 4 minutes in an electric PC or stovetop PC. (For an Instant Pot, use Manual or Pressure Cook mode, and set the time to 4 minutes.) When the cooking time is done, quick release the pressure and remove the lid.
  2. Stir in the evaporated milk and cheese: Turn the heat under the pot down to low (or turn the electric pressure cooker to sauté-low or keep warm mode), and stir in the evaporated milk. Test a piece of pasta by taking a bite – it should be al dente, but cooked through. If the pasta is still tough in the middle, simmer it for a few minutes, until it is tender. Stir in the cheese one handful at a time, stirring constantly and waiting for the current handful to melt before adding the next handful.
  3. Top with breadcrumbs and broil: Optional step, if you like a toasted bread crumb topping: Pour the macaroni into a 3 quart broiler-safe dish, patting it down to level out the surface. Sprinkle the panko over the macaroni and cheese in an even layer. Broil the macaroni and cheese on high until the bread crumbs are toasted, about 5 minutes. Check the bread crumbs often – they go from pale brown to burnt in a flash.


4 cups of water is just enough to cook 1 pound (16 ounces) of pasta. No draining is necessary; the water will be absorbed by the pasta. If you have a smaller box of pasta – 12 ounces and 13.25 ounces are common sizes of whole wheat pasta – cut the water back to 3 cups. (Everything else can stay the same.)

Serve with a bottle of hot sauce at the table. I like Frank’s Red Hot or the smoky flavor of chipotle hot sauce.

I have burned a lot of bread crumbs in my day. I set a timer for 1 minute intervals while I’m broiling, in case I get distracted. (By a homework meltdown…just to pick a hypothetical example). I have the timer to remind me – “Oh no! The breadcrumbs!”


6 quart or larger pressure cooker (That’s a Cuisinart Electric Pressure Cooker in the pictures, in the video I use my beloved 6 quart Instant Pot)

  • Category: Weeknight Dinner
  • Method: Pressure Cooker
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: Instant Pot, Pressure Cooker, Macaroni and Cheese, Macaroni, Cheese, Recipe

Collage of images showing the steps to make mac and cheese in a pressure cooker

Pressure Cooker Mac and Cheese – Step by Step Tower

Video: How to make Pressure Cooker Macaroni and Cheese (5:13)

Video: Pressure Cooker Macaroni and Cheese []

What do you think? Questions? Other ideas? Leave them in the comments section below.

Related Posts:

Click here for my other pressure cooker recipes

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Filed under: Pressure cooker, Weeknight dinner


Hi! I’m Mike Vrobel. I’m a dad and an enthusiastic home cook; an indie cookbook author and food blogger with a day job, a patient spouse, and three kids who would rather have hamburgers for dinner.


  1. FABULOUS!!! I bought my electric pressure cooker three weeks ago, and with your recipes(and some modified recipes of my own) , I have used it almost exclusively. My family can’t wait to find out what I have made for dinner, and swooned over the Mac and Cheese. This is DELISH! Looks so beatiful in my pretty casserole dishes.

  2. Julie says

    Just in case it was too tight a fit, I only increased the recipe by half. It probably would have all fit, but it would have been tight. It took about 20 minutes for it to come up to pressure. It was delicious and well received by all the diners. The exact words from my son were, “You have to make this again. It was over the top.” I added a little liquid smoke and skipped the parm, but it was an excellent dish! Thanks!

  3. You should be able to double it, but it will be a tight fit. Watch out when you’re stirring in the cheese – I’m a little worried about the pot overflowing while you stir.

    And, if you do it, please report back on how it went!

    • Kristina R. says

      I doubled this recipe no problem! Just needed two people to stir ha ha since it’s so much cheese! Was a huge hit at our family Sunday dinner and we’ve made it twice since with different pastas!

  4. Julie says

    This looks awesome. I want to make this for a large group. Can I double the recipe in the Instant Pot?

  5. Thanks for this, made it today for my teenagers,a hit where all previous attempts have been misses. Not sure what hot sauce is (Australia), so I left it out.

    Also shared via link with Facebook pressure cooking page too.


    • Alice says

      I used siracha, and that worked fine. Lousiana Hot Sauce or Tabasco would work too.

  6. Instantpot-obsessed says

    This is awesome! I’ve been looking everywhere for pasta recipes for the instantpot. I’m really excited to try this macaroni and cheese – I would love to cook pasta without the hassle. Thank you.

  7. Mike, you nailed the Mac & Cheese! I tried it your way and realized why, although we liked the extra-creamy version of the book’s for a change, it was really too creamy for us. Dropping that extra milk did the trick and it more resembled our standard favorite roux-based baked macaroni that my Mom used to make. Leftovers were also very good, although just a tad drier. One adult did not have the freshly made version but had 3 helpings of the leftovers! Thanks for sharing!

    Somehow “Ideas in Food” escaped my notice. I like what I see and it’s on my wish list and can’t wait to dive into it. I envy you your copy of “Modernist.”

    • saramcinky says

      Rita, when serving leftover pasta you get best results by adding a bit of moisture. For mac & cheese I usually add 1-2 tbsp milk per cup. As the pasta warms up and you stir, it will absorb the liquid. Creamy texture returned.

  8. Mike, I see that you’ve doubled the book’s recipe but only used 1 can (instead of 2) of evaporated milk. The first time I made this recipe (from the book) I thought the sauce was a little too thin but found that by the time I crumbed it and served it, it had thickened pretty well. Any special reason for halving the evaporated milk? Flavor?

  9. Ross A says

    Holy cow, Mike, this recipe is AWESOME! I just made it for my family with my new pressure cooker (first one). I added some crispy bacon – because…bacon…but it would have been top notch without it. As a working Dad and the sole cook in the family I’m glad that I came across your blog recently while looking for pressure cooker recipes. Thanks again – keep it up!

  10. Leslie,

    That’s an estimate of the total cooking time, start to finish. Roughly: * Ten minutes to get the pot up to pressure
    * 4 minutes under pressure
    * 5 minutes to stir in the cheese, waiting for it to melt
    * 5 minutes to get it in the pan and broil

    So, that’s about 24 minutes. I rounded up to 30 just in case. 🙂

    • Marie says

      THANK YOU for including the “getting to pressure time,” so many recipes don’t do that and the time is a little misleading – trying this tonight. For those who might not like the full on taste of sharp cheddar, when I’ve made my homemade mac&chs, I use half sharp cheddar and half monterey jack.

  11. Leslie says

    Just bought a PC – not yet used it. Hope to try this soon – but I have a question. The recipe says cooking time 30 minutes. I only see 4 mins on high, and perhaps a little simmering if the noodles aren’t al dente. Where is the other time coming from?

  12. Sherrene says

    I just bought my first pressure cooker and used your mac and cheese recipe to break it in. I had to modify it a bit as I didn’t have evaporated milk on hand, but I am in love…with both the PC and your recipe! I’m scouring your site for more recipes to use. Thanks!

  13. Adding sodium citrate can’t hurt, from what I’ve read in Modernist Cuisine. But it’s already pretty smooth with the evaporated milk.

    I like the flavor of sharp cheddar, but another way to get things a little smoother is to use a cheese that melts easier. Like a colby-jack mix. Or, if you want to really cheat, use a cheese that’s designed for melting – velveeta. (Yes, velveeta. It’s the secret of tex-mex combo plates everywhere.)

    • Jamie Jarvis says

      I have read that is important to grate your own cheese for a smooth sauce. Using pre-grated cheese from the store has an anti caking agent that will not make a smooth sauce.

      • That hasn’t been my experience. I almost always use pre-grated cheese, and it melts just fine for me.

  14. Matt Hanson says

    Do you think there might be any value in adding a little bit of sodium citrate to make the cheese sauce smoother, or is it already plenty smooth with the evaporated milk? In either case, I definitely like the idea of making m&c w/o roux.

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