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. Sherry says

    I make this at least 2-3 times a month. I do skip the crumb/oven step since my daughter doesn’t like “fancy” mac ‘n cheese. I sometimes play around with the type of cheese, depending on what I have in the fridge. I really like adding some Gouda cheese, along with cheddar. I started buying Barilla brand elbow macaroni, and that seems to hold up to the pressure cooker better than other brands I’ve tried. The leftovers make a good school lunch for my daughter, she takes it in her thermos.

  2. Audrey says

    To those who are wondering if a double batch will fit in a 6 quart it will.

    Btw this was super yummy! My one year old had a good sized portion and my 4yo kept saying thank you and that its soooo yummy.

  3. Kathy Brock says

    Is it ok to double this recipe in an 8 quart Instant Pot? What adjustments would I need to make? Thanks in advance!

  4. Valerie says

    A favorite! Hooray for evaporated milk… I use it often in place of heavy cream/half n half in soups and such. It’s one of those aces in the hole. Thank you for sharing this recipe — we really enjoy it and I like that it doesn’t require a lot of hands-on time!

  5. Debra says

    Will it work to halve the recipe (that will be way too much pasta for us)? Just cut all ingredients in half but leave the cooking time the same? Thanks!

  6. Kathie Williams says

    Are ounce measurements (e.g. for cheese) by weight or by volume?

  7. Wouter says

    Is there a specific reason for the mustard and/or hot sauce? How noticeable are they in the final result? Our son has sensory issues and tends to pick up on things that people generally would not notice, both by taste and smell. If these were left out, would it change the taste dramatically, or make it too bland? Or are these components used in general in commercial settings like restaurants?
    I typically make my mac and cheese with a bechamel base as a start, and with a variety of cheeses, but he won’t eat it unless it looks like the blue box kind. I could use cheddar to address some of that here, but just curious about those two elements.

    • Wouter says

      I actually did try it tonight, with the hot sauce and mustard powder. Came out well. He ate the entire bowl, although it was not entirely smooth. Thinking though it may have been the sharp cheddar versus a more mild cheddar. Baby steps I guess.

  8. Leslie says

    I have made this many times and LOVE it. Planned on it today and alas! No Evaporated milk. Does it work with regular milk? I also have heavy cream. Help

    • Lisa says

      I know this is too late, but I made this yesterday with 9 oz of whole milk and 3 of whipping cream. It was delicious.

  9. Paige says

    Hello- I’m making this in my instant pot for children at an adult/children party. I have so much to do that I’m planning to make this the night before as we will be at the pool the next day. Do you think that it will be dry if I make night before, then warm it up on the stove the following day? Should I make any modifications? Also, is the hot sauce too much for kiddos? Thanks and glad I found your page! Love my pressure cooker!

    • It will be fine made the day before – just keep an eye on it and stir fairly often while you reheat it on the stove. My kids – even the one who is very sensitive to heat – don’t notice the hot sauce.

  10. Dezgirl says

    This recipe makes great cauliflower Mac and cheese! I steamed a smallish head of cauliflower in a steamer basket in my IP with 1 cup water ( steam setting 2 mins) then made recipe as written but added crumbled cauliflower florets to the pot with first ingredients. I also added real bacon crumbles at the end after the cheese and plenty of black pepper ( my personal taste preference). This is a fantastic comfort food dish made a little less guilty because of the addition of the cauliflower. My kids know it is in there and don’t care in the least because it is so yummy.

  11. Scotland says

    I just made this exactly as the recipe is written. I did have the problem when venting my Instant Pot that the butter came out with the venting steam. No worries, next time I will just add the butter after cooking the noodles. But let me tell you, this is the best macaroni and cheese. So good that I’m writing this review while eating my second bowl. Seriously, will never again use boxed mac and cheese. And it does not get any easier. The sauce is perfectly creamy and cheesy – so yummy. Thank you for this recipe.

  12. Barbara says

    I’ve made this and it’s awesome – thank you! One day I was planning it but only had egg noodles on so I tried this recipe with a little less chees, added tuna and peas – it turned out great!

  13. Anna says

    Hi there,

    Is there a hot pepper sauce that you recommend? And does it affect the spicyness level at all?

    • I use Franks Red Hot (seen in the pictures) because it has a relatively low level of heat. When I want to add a little more zing, I go with El Yucateco green habaerno sauce.

  14. Has anyone doubled the recipe in a 6q InstantPot? I’ve got a crowd coming on Saturday. I could make 1 batch, throw it in a crockpot and then make a 2nd batch if really necessary.

    I did make this as written once before and it is awesome.

  15. If anyone’s wondering if this technique works with gluten free pasta, I’m happy to report it works just fine. The only changes I made (other than substituting GF pasta for regular) is I sauted a finely diced onion (as per my mother’s recipe) and used dijon mustard instead of yellow (again, it’s a Momma thing).

  16. I loved it as is. I used sricha for the pepper sauce and Dijon mustard for the mustard (I didn’t have yellow).

    However, I had some roasted poblano pepper and some sautéed onions. They were a delicious addition too.

  17. In a word – awesome. Had the Instant Pot for a month, this recipe is a keeper, pasta cooked to perfection, great zing with the mustard…thanks 🙂

    • Was the pot over low heat, and did you Stir in the cheese one handful at a time, stirring constantly and waiting for the current handful to melt before adding the next handful? I get into trouble when I try to rush that step.

  18. Courtney says

    Such a great recipe, thank you!! I’m brand new to pressure cooking and besides hard boiled eggs and mashed potatoes, this mac and cheese is my first actual dinner using the IP. Like a pp mentioned, my IP erupted like a volcano after releasing the pressure and it made a huge mess all over my counters and floors; spewing liquid all over the place. Can I throw a towel over the top next time? Does that work to contain any mess but not interfere with the pressure releasing?

    • When this happens to me, I close the pressure valve and let it sit for a few minutes to cool – up to 5 minutes – before opening the pressure valve and releasing the pressure again. And, when this happens, I make sure to rinse out the pressure valve and the lid to clean them out.
      That said, I’ve never seen it with this recipe – it usually happens when I’m pushing the “max fill” line on my cooker, like making chicken stock.

  19. Thanks for the recipe and clear instructions! This was the first thing I attempted in my Instant Pot, and I’m in love! Not just with the ooey-gooey awesomeness of this mac & cheese but with how easy it was with the pressure cooker. The family loved it and I’m so glad we had leftovers for additional meals.

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