Instant Pot Macaroni and Cheese is a real game-changer! Who knew you could make this beloved recipe from scratch in an Instant Pot? This should be incentive for you to throw away the box, because it only takes 6 minutes of cooking under pressure to deliver mac ‘n’ cheese loaded with flavor.
There are various versions of this recipe on the interwebs, most with the same basic directions. Of course, I have to put my own spin on it. Who knew pasta would cook in a mere 6 minutes in the Instant Pot®? (Well, it will take 8-10 minutes for it to come up to pressure, to be honest, but it takes about the same time to bring a big pot of water to the boil.)
At any rate, this will be my go-to version from now on because it is so easy! No need to make a cheese roux, as with other homemade mac ‘n’ cheese recipes. It’s all done in one pot. Be forewarned that this is NOT a diet recipe. It is rich, creamy, and pure heaven.
Check my Notes at the end for suggestions and substitutions.
Instant Pot Macaroni and Cheese Recipe
2 Tablespoons butter
1/2 cup fine-diced sweet onion (see Notes)
4 cups water
2 teaspoons kosher salt, or to taste
1 pound of pasta (elbow macaroni, shells, rotini, or small penne work well)
1 Tablespoon chicken bouillon powder (see Notes)
1 teaspoon powdered dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
4 cups (16 ounces) grated sharp Cheddar cheese (see Notes)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup real bacon bits (see Notes)
Sliced green onions (scallions) or chopped parsley for garnish, optional
Set the Instant Pot® to Saute mode. Add the butter and sweet onions. As soon as the butter has melted, hit the cancel button. Slowly pour in the water, then add the pasta, chicken bouillon powder, dry mustard, onion powder, garlic powder, and salt. Give it a good stir.
Place the lid on the Instant Pot® (6-quart) and seal. Set to High Pressure and time for 6 minutes. It should take 8 to 10 minutes to come to pressure. (I use this time to grate the cheese and measure out the cream and bacon bits.)
Once the time is up, immediately turn off the pot and do a quick release of pressure. Watch out for that steam! Once the pressure pin drops, remove the lid and add the cheese, heavy cream, and bacon bits. Give it another stir, then place the lid back on the pot. Wait a few minutes to allow the residual heat to melt the cheese.
Stir again and serve with garnishes, if using.
Yield: about 10 generous servings
• The onions pretty much melt into the cheese sauce and lend so much flavor without an onion taste.
• Vegetable bouillon may be substituted for the chicken.
• I prefer to buy a block of sharp Cheddar and grate it myself. (Bonus: Grating your own is less expensive.) The pre-shredded bagged stuff just doesn’t have that great flavor I crave. The bagged stuff also has additives to keep it from clumping. However, feel free to choose for yourself. You may substitute mild or medium Cheddar or splurge on Gouda or a mixture of cheeses. If you prefer your mac ‘n’ cheese more like the boxed version, go ahead and substitute a cheese product like Velveeta® cut into cubes. I might shed a tear, but it’s your decision. 🙂
• Please use real bacon if you can, but turkey bacon or the soy substitutes will also work.
• The dry mustard may seem like an odd ingredient, but it really intensifies the cheese flavor. You won’t taste mustard, I promise.
Instant Pot Macaroni and Cheese Recipe Photo ©2021 Peggy Filippone