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


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. monica says

    i was quite skeptical, and the only reason i made it is because i’ve seen it referenced in numerous places and always with the highest praise.

    it is hands down the easiest mac n cheese to make. and it is delicious. it’s a perfect base recipe. great texture. i didn’t have my normal 5 cheeses on hand that i would usually use, so i used sharp and pepper jack. i added smoked paprika and cayenne pepper. can’t wait to make it again to see what else i can do with it.

    one of my kids, who never ever makes food noises (you know the ones) and never ever closes her eyes in joy, did just that. she eats just about anything but has very little outward show of enjoyment. this blew her away!

    thanks for a wonderful recipe!

  2. Made this tonight. Delicious! I had to buy the hot sauce, and found some with a bacon/smoky flavor and used it based on a comment above. How can I halve or even quarter this recipe?

  3. Lisa Jones says

    Love this recipe. But mine tasted powdery? I don’t know why but this is not the first time I’ve had this issue. It makes no sense. Make mac n cheese with powdered cheese. Tastes fine (at least no powdery taste) but homemade then I get this powdery taste. Weird. Any ideas?

    • I’m sorry – I don’t have any ideas. Maybe try shredded velveeta? I know it sounds weird, but it is designed for melting.

    • Did you by chance use pre-grated cheese? Cellulose (yes, from wood pulp) is added to pre-grated cheese to keep it from clumping. Apparently the amount used industrially is going up. Could be some brands have more filler than others. Maybe try a different brand or grate your own?

  4. Robyn says

    Hi, I made your Mac n Cheese tonight and it was absolutely delicious! I was wondering if you have ever added the butter melted. The reason I ask is when I released the pressure the steam seemed to be mixed with butter . Do you think melting it first would prevent that? Thanks, love your blog:)

  5. Paula says

    I want to add fresh broccoli..Should I add with the noodles in the beginning?

    • I don’t know – when do you add it in a regular Mac and cheese recipe? It feels like pressure cooking it will overcook it to me.

      • Trish Farano says

        I have not added broccoli to mac ‘n cheese because I haven’t made mac ‘n cheese yet. (I will tonight though, using this recipe.) However, when I make beef and broccoli or add peas to anything, I add at the very end because otherwise you will have khaki colored mush. (That’s khaki as a color, not a fabric or pants style!) If you are concerned it won’t cook enough, toss it in the microwave for 1 minute before you stir it in.

  6. Linda says

    Can I make this in a stove top pressure cooker? What would change, if anything?

  7. Patty says

    Has anyone tried stirring in extra proteins like crab meat or bacon? Any advice? I am thinking about just following the recipe as described, and once cheese is melted stirring it in?

  8. I made this tonight. The first time using my Instant Pot. I only used 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Figuring the cheese has a lot of sodium and we try to watch our intake. The only pasta I had was made out of chick peas. Not hubby’s fav. Used the cheese I had on hand. 3 year aged cheddar, colby jack, cheddar jack and a little pepper jack. Once all the cheese was melted I added some petite diced tomatoes. Was easy and pretty good for a first time. I will definitely try with regular pasta next time. Thanks for the recipe.

  9. Well. I am giving this a go. Spaced out and added the evap mil to the 4 cups water so I added a bit more macaroni. My family will laugh at me if it does not come out so I will report back!

  10. First time I made pasta in the Instant Pot and I was a little nervous. I hit ‘steam’ to cook the pasta. It took more than 4 minutes to release the pressure. But, it turned out really well, I added bacon and ground beef to the dish. Thank you for the recipe!

  11. This comes out just like the homemade versions that take so much longer. This is a great recipe!!

  12. Rachel E. says

    This came out amazing!! I substituted different cheese using Sharpe cheddar with parmesan cheese. Made it for the kids to eat on christmas. Definitely a hit. It was so easy to make when we can out I just made another batch!! Very easy and will make this version from now on!

  13. Nathaly says

    Hello, I really want to do this recipe, but the problem is that I live in Venezuela… so at this moment some of products are really difficult to find in a grocery or market, so what can I use to replace the evaporated milk? If I can replace of course, thank you so much, and sorry about my english 😀

    • Sherry says

      Nathaly, I would think that you could use heavy cream or even regular milk. It might affect the texture just a little bit, but probably not the overall taste.

    • Hi Nathaly!

      Can you get dry milk (powdered milk)? If you use a 2:1 ratio, or double the normal amount of dry milk to water it should work. Cheers! Evaporated milk is simply milk that has some of the water “evaporated” or taken out. Another option could be to boil milk until it reduces in half. Whole milk (fat content is 3.5%) and half and half (fat content about 18%) may be combined in a 3:1 ratio, so 3 parts whole milk to one part half and half.

  14. Sissy Sproles says

    Absolutely the easiest, quickest and delicious mac and cheese ever! And in 4 minutes! This recipe could be dangerous to any mac and cheese lover! Amazing!

  15. melanie says

    Hi, when the pasta is finished cooking is there liquid left over to be drained or is all 4 cups of water used up? thanks!

  16. I gotta say, this was the first recipe of yours I’ve had trouble with, and honestly, I’m not sure why. The noodles were perfect, I really like the flavor of the evaporated milk vs my usual ovenmade, but I could NOT get it to thicken at all. I even drained the cooking water before adding the evap milk, and while I guess some starch water would have helped, it just didn’t get thick.

    On another note, I have sucessfully made the beef and turkey stock in my 6qt electric, its not a DUO, but it gets the job done. The turkey was interesting, whole carcass didn’t fit, so after it was done, I took the bones and big veggies out, added a new mirepoix and garlic and the rest of the carcass and just topped it off. Nice coming out of the PC already cooked down.

    • You shouldn’t have to drain the water – that’s why it’s not in the instructions. Add evertyhing to the pot and stir.

      • I’ll have to try that next time. The leftover were amazing reheated with Buffalo chicken.

        • Just to check, because this happened to me after your original Comment: did you have a 1 pound box of pasta?

          I bought a “high fiber” brand and didn’t notice it was only 12 ounces of pasta…until I opened the lid after cooking and saw extra water left in the pot. (I had to simmer for 15 minutes to get it to thicken up. )

          • Actually, yes, and I didn’t even think about it at first. Used farfalle (bowties) instead of elbows, and thought surface area could win the battle, but that was something I thought about after I posted.

            They keep making pounds of everything smaller; coffee, pasta, juice concentrate, canned veggies really need to pay more attention when I’m shopping

            If you ever come around PGH, let me know, be happy to fire up the smoker and introduce you to my chipotle cherry BBQ sauce.

    • I didn’t have anything in the house but 1/2 lb bowties, so I halved the recipe and used the bowties (as did Rev, I think?) — apparently the bowties just don’t absorb/expand as much as the elbows. Even though I used only 2 cups water, I had way too much liquid left after QR — the noodles were done just fine. Since it was my first time trying this, I went ahead and left the water and hit Saute for a bit. Ended up dumping the whole mixture (after adding milk and cheese) into a casserole, topping with crumbs, and popping in the oven to dry out a bit. This is not the fault of the recipe — just wanted to point out to others using a different style of pasta that they may need less water or to drain after PC step. 🙂

  17. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!! I have browsed the web for the PERFECT mac n cheese….and I found it here! I just made it and it was beautiful! I am totally new to the pressure cooking scene…and I am wondering why I haven’t gotten one sooner!!! I have done applesauce, pulled pork tacos, and now, this recipe has been added to my list!!! I tried a couple other recipes, and I will just say…scrub a dub dub 🙁 I was nervous as I started it, but it turned out like a dream! To make it a little more “yellow” lol for my kids I added 2 teaspoons of Nutiva’s Red Palm oil. It added a little more color and enhanced the flavor. I keep some on hand for homemade popcorn 🙂
    Again, thanks so much! You have nailed it!
    Browsing now through your other PC recipes!!

    • I made this recipe tonight for the first time. I added about 1/2 teaspoon of Tumeric to add to the color and just because. It was great! Will definitely be making this one again.

  18. This is a great recipe! I made two separate batches in two Instant Pot inserts for a crowd of 25 people (BBQ) and it disappeared quickly. (No time for topping- or oven!) Everyone raved about how good it was.

    I did cut back on salt using 1 1/2 tsp fine pink sea salt. My husband and daughter would have preferred a bit less salt so next time will try 1 1/4 tsp for them…but I thought it was salted perfectly at 1 1/2 tsp.
    Also may knock 1 minute off the cooking time next time, as the pasta got softer as it sat.
    I did not turn my pot back on after releasing the pressure and needed no extra heat to finish the dish or melt the cheese/or warm it up. I just put my glass lid that goes with the Instant Pot on the pot as soon as the cheese melted and it stayed warm for service. (I stirred it a couple of times and it thickened)

    Note: At first it seemed like it was going to have too much liquid, but as it sat it thickened perfectly!

    Thanks for the great recipe! So fast and easy and will be a go-to for me. The most difficult part was grating the parm by hand for two batches, but next time will use my food processor to grate the cheese 🙂 I did use pre-grated packaged Kraft Sharp Cheddar to save time, which I normally wouldn’t do but it was very good.

  19. I doubled it and it turned out great. However, I used my Fagor 10 qt cooker. Shocking how easy and fast the recipe was, and how well it turns out!

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