One might say that I am somewhat of a macaroni and cheese connoisseur. It is – without contest – my favorite comfort food and I appreciate it in all its forms. When there is ample time, I will always turn to a baked version with a crunchy breadcrumb topping (this one in particular), but there are occasions that call for a quicker, more streamlined version of my favorite comfort food, and that is where the Instant Pot steps in. This Best Ever Instant Pot Mac and Cheese is my favorite “convenience” mac and cheese, if you will. It lets you create a homemade macaroni and cheese that’s on your table in only twenty minutes that is still utterly creamy and cheesy and satisfying.
While traditionally the sauce for macaroni and cheese starts with a roux, this one requires no fancy sauce-cooking techniques. Instead, the macaroni cooks in water or broth in the Instant Pot and as the starch releases from the noodles, it helps to thicken the sauce. A few tablespoons of butter add some richness to the cooking liquid.
No matter what style of macaroni and cheese I’m making (baked, stovetop, or pressure cooker), there are two ingredients I always add – mustard powder and cayenne pepper. Both are subtle, and both serve a similar purpose. I doubt you could take a bite of the finished product and identify either ingredient, but they do so much for the sauce! The acidity and the subtle hint of spice cut through the richness of the cheese and butter and cream, and they round out all the comforting flavors.
There is a key to making good mac and cheese and that is having the courage to put enough cheese in it. It takes quite a bit for a really good cheesy sauce, but it’s so worth it. After all, I think we can all agree that mac and cheese doesn’t need to be on a weekly dinner rotation. I’ve always loved the balance of gruyere and cheddar cheese, which is what I’ve used here. Gruyere brings in some nuttiness that balances well with a sharp cheddar. If you can’t find gruyere, Swiss is a great alternative.
This is a well-balanced mac and cheese – cheesier than it is creamy, but still plenty creamy enough. Where many mac and cheese dishes only register as ‘cheesy,’ I love that this one has a balance of flavors going on. It’s a great go-to recipe when you want some comfort on the table in a hurry!
Instant Pot Mac and Cheese
20 minutes to prepare serves 6
- 16 oz elbow macaroni
- 4 cups water or chicken broth
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1 teaspoon mustard powder
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated
- 1 cup gruyere or Swiss cheese, grated
- 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
- Add macaroni, water or chicken broth, butter, mustard powder, cayenne pepper, black pepper, and salt to Instant Pot.
- Place lid on pot and turn valve to 'sealing.' Set to manual mode at high pressure for 5 minutes.
- When cooking time is done, turn valve to 'venting' to do a quick release of pressure. (Leaving it to do a natural release will overcook noodles.)
- Once pressure has released, remove lid and add cream, cheddar, and gruyere cheese. Stir until melted, and taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Serve and enjoy!
Adapted from The Salty Marshmallow.