Pressure cooker, Top-Posts, 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


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, Top-Posts, 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. Christine says

    We absolute LOVE this recipe! Thank you so much for posting. I make it exactly as stated and add cooked finely sliced bacon after the cheese has melted. We like it best after it sits in warm for a little while. The flavors really mix together and it is SO good. ????

  2. Jobeninst says

    Just got my Instant Pot today, and made this for dinner. Hubby was skeptical, but it worked great!! I also had the issue with butter coming out with the steam, but I’ll just put off adding most of the butter until after cooking next time. I also thought it was a bit too salty, so I think I’ll cut back a bit. Thanks for a great recipe!

  3. I’ve made this recipe a few times now and it’s delicious. Is there any way of avoiding the liquid from erupting out of the vent? I have to hold a glass above it to contain the mustardy steam.

  4. Michele Cohen says

    Great recipe! I just got my Instant Pot a month or so ago, and this was my first mac&cheese. I used Meuller’s Hudden Veggie twisted elbows pasta. Four cups of water was perfect for 12 ounces.

  5. This is an incredible recipe: fast, incredible taste, creamy, minimal ingredients & cost effective. I’m not a mac and cheese fan and even I like this. I’ve started keeping all the ingredients on hand because my family asks me to make this all the time. Thanks for making the ideal mac and cheese recipe, we love it!

  6. Kathy says

    Thanks for this recipe! I purchased my electric pressure cooker between Thanksgiving and Christmas 2016. I’ve been using it almost daily since the beginning of the year and now that I have my feet “wet,” I’m on the hunt for more tasty recipes and yours certainly fits the bill for me! I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before but adding the mustard (we like dry mustard powder) and hot pepper sauce (Louisiana Hot Sauce is the favorite in our house) really made a difference for me. Other recipes I’ve tried were kind of blah and needed some zing in the recipe and not just hot sauce on top after. After saying all this, we have a grandchild visiting who LOVES macaroni & cheese but not spice so I need to tame things down again *sigh*. Also, would you recommend subbing out both cheeses for the Velveeta or maybe half and half mild cheddar and Velveeta for extra meltiness? Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

  7. Lauren says

    This is probably a very silly question, but do you ever shred your own cheese? I know this says 16oz of shredded cheese (I’m assuming pre-shredded), but I shred my own 8oz blocks and I would have to think that one would be enough, right? Do I need to use two blocks of cheese that I’ve shredded?

  8. Brett B. says

    Love this recipe as it has become one of our most popular go to Instantpot recipes we do. I do add cooked crumbled bacon to mine (bacon makes everything better. ) I also add some cheese to the pan topping along with a little seasoning. (Came from my old Emeril recipe) the canned milk is the ingenious part of this recipe making it possible to skip the bechemel sauce.

  9. Meghan says

    This is an older post, so I apologize, but has anyone tried freezing leftovers from this recipe? I would think the evap milk would freeze better than a recipe made with regular milk, but has anyone tried it? I’d like to freeze single portions for emergency meals and snacks for the kiddos.

    • Jamie says

      I freeze it all the time. I add a splash of milk to make it creamy again. Freezes beautifully.

  10. Can I just tell you…I love this recipe. Just the way it is. I work from home, and kids are not home today, but I just made this for myself and it was AWESOME. Thank you for this great recipe!!
    Kids will get in an hour. I couldn’t wait 🙂

  11. We are a retired couple. I usually fix 2/3 C small elbow macaroni.
    The recipe looks like a 2:1 ratio of water to pasta. 2/3 C weighs 3.25 oz.
    Sooooo 6.7 oz water to be safe? Is this too small volume to use for the IP?
    Have never tried freezing it. Would timing still be 4 min manual? Hubby likes just velveeta… “gourmet” stuff. Thinking grandchildren when we visit, but want to test for us first. Thanks.

    • That should work fine. Use the same timings; even if you cut back on the amount, it takes 4 minutes to cook pasta through.

  12. Emily says

    I have a big PC- 10qt and i doubled this. I used 1 &1/2 can of evaporated milk. I left out the hot sauce. i wish i had not, but it was kids and i was not sure how it would be for them. It seemed to take only about 10 mins to get to pressure and cooked perfect in 4 mins. I am so pleased and this is a huge hit. I used to make a from-scratch white sauce and had at least 2 pots and water boiling for 15 mins,steaming up the kitchen. This is fabulous. Thank you.

  13. Emily says

    Also,i used Barilla elbows. It has a slightly different texture than the store brand and help up beautifully.

  14. Rich says

    ANOTHER new family favorite that my kids will actually eat. They had gotten used to grandma’s mac and cheese made with processed cheese (not a fan), so I tried this and they really liked it. My only issue is that I make this with the wings and I have to time it so I can make one and then the other using only 1 instant pot.

  15. Rita says

    We are 2 retired folks. How much water for 2/3 cup small elbow macaroni?

  16. Janette says

    Tonight’s original plan was to grill hamburgers. Alas the propane was out and we had no more coal. Thanks to your recipe I was able to come up with a rescue meal that everyone loved! It will even go into our regularly planned meals now l, not just a rescue meal!

  17. Trish F. says

    I made this last night as a side for my dinner. I used 4 cups of boiling water to help the IP come to pressure more quickly. I 16 oz of sharp white cheddar but skipped the parmesan because I didn’t have any. I also added 1 tsp. of ground yellow mustard to the noodles before cooking and used evaporated milk because I had it on hand. It turned out great! I really enjoyed it. I found that the longer it “sat” the grainier the cheese got. That’s not a deal breaker for me though. 😉

  18. Lucie H. says

    LOVED it! I melted 1/2 a TBSP on butter in the microwave on the panko crumbs then stirred for buttered bread crumbs. Very good. Thanks for the recipe!

  19. Eliza says

    Hi Mike, this mac and cheese is the best! Do you think I could double it safely in my 6 qt? Wanting to make it as a side dish for about 40 people for my daughter’s first birthday. Thanks!

  20. Elise says

    This was my first pasta, and third instant pot use… every time I touch it I am more amazed. Four minutes and it was perfectly al dente!!!! Heck with the bread crumbs, I ate it just like that! One mini cube velveeta and some Colby Jack…. this recipe rocks my noodle-lovin world!!!!

  21. Maria says

    I made this today, and it turned out better than any homemade mac & cheese I’ve ever made! Thank you!

    I’d like to make this for a party this weekend, and I was wondering if I’d be able to double the recipe in a 6 qt instant pot. Thanks so much!

  22. Patty says

    My favorite Mac & cheese recipe!! I love how flavor is cooked into the noodles even before any of the cheese comes into play. This is also very versatile. I wasn’t fond of the slight yellow mustard taste in the noodles after making it as written, so I drop the mustard to 1/2 a 3/4 tbsp and all food has to have garlic in my book, so I put @1/2 tbsp of garlic in with the noodles. I also don’t like evaporated milk so I use @1 1/4 cup of heavy whipping cream. Then the cheese…you can get as wild or as mild as you like. I’ve ended up with a different mixture every time I’ve made it (based on what’s in the refrigerator) and it’s been good every time.

  23. First time making macaroni and cheese in the Instant Pot! Delicious! Will be making again! Can’t wait to try your other recipes!!

  24. Margaret says

    Another keeper from your blog! The entire family gobbled it up. I followed the recipe exactly except for adjusting salt (cut in half). I can’t believe how fast it was to prepare. Thanks for the recipe!

  25. Lizzie O says

    Wow! I just got an Instant Pot and wanted to try your recipe first. It was simple and delicious! The only thing I did was add 1 lb of diced ham to it. Incredible. I will be looking for some more great recipes from you!

  26. Angela says

    This was the first dish I made with the instant pot. I doubled the recipe and used cavatappi instead of macaroni and 6oz cream cheese instead of Parmesan. But I might have messed something up because it was so, so cheesy with just half the cheese (I didn’t double the cheese.) Anyways, it was so, so good! I took the Mac for an office lunch and everybody raves about it!

    Thanks so much!

  27. barbara gardner says

    I sliced a couple of slices of bread into tiny cubes and toasted in a tablespoon of butter in a frying pan. I used this on individual servings. Absolutely delicious !

  28. My kids said it was the best mac they ever had, felt like a rock star. Thanks

  29. Kamble says

    If made a day ahead, where do I stop—after putting in the baking dish ? Any tips on reheating in the oven?

  30. This mac and cheese recipe was the 2nd thing I’ve cooked in my new 3qt mini IP. My particular cheese mix was Vermont sharp cheddar and gouda, since I had those on hand. I skipped the hot sauce for a little Worcestershire.

    It turned out fantastic! I feel like I really can cook beyond boiling water!


  31. It’s really good! Easy, fast, yum!
    I doubled it, but in retrospect I don’t think I would double it again. It’s a nightmare to quick release.

  32. Alex mum says

    Mike, this is the best ever recipe for mac’n’cheese in our Instant Pot! We don’t like ‘heat’ so I use 1/2 tsp of Tabasco, chicken broth instead of water, and it is always a big hit. Thanks!

  33. Best Macaroni and Cheese, and super easy. My conventional recipe is very good but this one beats it. I usually double up the recipe and it did perfectly in my 6 quart Indtant Pot. I finish it with extra cheese on top and panko, broil in the oven for a few minutes. Told many friends about this recipe

  34. Russ Gladden says

    This is quite good! A couple of notes for readers… there are just two of us so I made half the recipe, successfully. I didn’t have any evaporated milk and I didn’t want to go to the store on New Year’s Day. I had half and half though, and it worked beautifully. This will be my go-to quick Mac & Cheese recipe. Love your blog. I’ve found it to be one of the food blogs I can trust. Thanks Mike!

  35. Kathryn Biallas says

    I was curious about which evaporated milk works best — regular or 2%. Have you a preference?

  36. Kathryn Biallas says

    Holy cow. This recipe was such a hit with my child that it makes the Instant Pot purchase worth it. Two thumbs up from the boy.

    I was curious about which evaporated milk works best — regular or 2%. Have you a preference?

    • I think it would be a matter of personal taste. I’d prefer the regular, but if you’re cutting fat, the 2% should work almost as well. I’d avoid the fat-free variety.

    • KAT WILTON says

      Just FYI, I use cream cheese instead of the milk, and it works wonderfully!

  37. I made this earlier today. Very creamy and good, but a tad salty. I used Morton coarse kosher salt, not Diamond Crystal as specified, maybe that’s why. Will make it again. Prep time was more than 5 minutes, but that’s because I shredded the cheese by hand (while the macaroni was cooking). Next time I may add a can of chopped green chilies.

  38. Huge success! It was recommended on a Facebook gluten free group. I used Tinkyada elbow pasta, cooked for 4 minutes, and GF bread crumbs. I also mixed in a bag of broccoli florets (steamed in bag in microwave). I’m gluten-free, my kids are not. We all enjoyed this!

  39. Kathryn Biallas says

    Have you used chicken broth to replace the water? Or does that make the flavor profile weird?

  40. I saw several questions about doubling, what about halving? Is that simple ingredient math and same cook time?


  41. Maria Kalapatiiiii says

    I just want to say thank you for coming up with a homemade mac’n’cheese recipe that’s not dry or grainy. My kids FINALLY liked a homemade version just as much if not more, than their favorite box recipe. What a win! BTW, I omitted the hot sauce and only used 8 oz. of mild cheddar. I think it tastes the closest to Luby’s mac’n’cheese without using the dreaded Velveeta… which is a “cheese product” and not real cheese.

  42. Krista Gorman says

    I noticed the recipe calls for parmigano cheese. I made it today with the parmigano cheese and it was good but a little too cheesy for my family’s tastes. When I make it the next time, is Parmigano cheese good for the texture or can I just use parmesean and reduce the amount of cheddar cheese? Thanks so much

    • I don’t think that will work right – Parmesan doesn’t melt as well as Cheddar. Try substituting Colby Jack cheese instead of the cheddar.

  43. Christine says

    My sister just made this for our family’s Easter get-together yesterday and it was a huge hit! My husband has asked me to make it but I don’t have an IP. Are there any hacks so I can make this recipe without one?

  44. Amyb says

    Great recipe. I also add ground beef and bacon. Yummy

  45. Aaron Friedman says

    I’ve made versions of this quite a few times, great technique (although I like it better with the original 2 cans of milk). This time my wife picked up sweetened condensed milk instead of evaporated milk. No, I did not use it. However, I did use a 2 to 1 ratio of milk to half and half and the results were very good. It came out slightly runnier, which my family actually enjoyed.

  46. Jennifer Kaye says

    Since I’m only cooking for two, I cut this recipe exactly in half and it turned out scrumptious in my Instant Pot! I did not change the cooking time.

    Thanks so much for another wonderful recipe!

  47. Jennifer says

    Made this today. Oh my goodness it was amazing. Normally I do a recipe as posted first time. I had a cheese situation. I had no parm 😟 so I used a mix of marble and regular cream cheese cubes to get to total number of ounces correct. It was so darn good. I will definitely do with parm as it’s now on my grocery list.

    I saw a few questions above about the mil and shredding. I shredded my own cheese and all I had on hand was skim evaporated milk. So creamy and delicious. It was faster than anything that comes out of a box or a microwave meal box.

    I toasted it after cooking because I’m also on board with the bread crumb making it perfect train. Thanks so much for the recipe. It’s the only IP Mac and cheese I’ve made that actually worked and was so much better than expected given my forced cheese changes.

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