How To Make One-Bowl Microwave Macaroni and Cheese

Cooking Lessons from The Kitchn

This mac and cheese is for those times when you just can’t be bothered to pull out a pan. You need some cheesy goodness, and you need it now. One bowl. All yours. No leftovers.

I originally learned this method of making easy mac and cheese in the microwave from Beth Sheresh in her book, Picture Yourself Cooking With Your Kids. In the book, she includes a recipe for a full batch of mac and cheese made entirely in the microwave and using only a handful of very basic ingredients. Inspired by this, I thought I’d try a single-serving version made right in the bowl.

Both Beth’s original recipe and my single-bowl version are perfect for older children and teens who are ready to take responsibility for their own after-school snacks. For us grownups, it also makes the perfect after-meeting snack at the office – just pack the raw macaroni and a handful of shredded cheese with your lunch and snag a splash of milk from the coffee cart. Apologies in advance for your jealous coworkers.

If you’re at home, you can also jazz up your bowl however you like. Throw in some leftover veggies or cooked meat. Add a few pinches of your favorite spice mix or a squeeze of Sriracha. If you have some goat cheese or feta crumbles to add to your cheese scenario, all the better.

One thing to watch out for: During the initial few minutes of cooking the pasta, the water can sometimes bubble up and get very foamy in some microwaves. Use a deeper bowl than you might otherwise think you’d need, or just stop the microwave and stir the pasta if you see this happening.

The bowl can also get quite warm during microwaving. Use oven mitts or a kitchen towel to handle the bowl if you need to move it in and out of the microwave during cooking.

Tester’s Notes

I had completely forgotten how brilliant this little microwave trick can be. It’s so easy – perfect for a snack or a quick dinner when I’m eating on my own. There's just something so very nice about being able to make yourself a bowl of creamy mac and cheese without pulling out a pan or turning on the stove.

- Emma, May 2015

How To Make One-Bowl Microwave Macaroni and Cheese

Serves 1

What You Need

Ingredients
1/2 cup macaroni or shell pasta
1/2 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup milk, any percent
1/4 to 1/2 cup shredded cheese, like cheddar cheese, Monterey Jack, or provolone
Extra add-ins: diced vegetables, shredded or cubed cooked meat, cubed tofu, salsa, dried mustard, chili powder

Equipment
Deep microwave-safe bowl
Oven mitts or a kitchen towel
Microwave
Spoon

Instructions

  1. Combine the pasta, water, and salt in a microwave-safe bowl.
  2. Microwave the pasta for 2 minutes: Microwave on high power for 2 minutes, then stir. Watch to see if the water is foaming over the side of the bowl and stir sooner if needed. Use oven mitts or a kitchen towel if you need to move the bowl out of the microwave to do this.
  3. Continue microwaving in 2-minute intervals until the pasta is cooked. Stir between each interval and continue microwaving until the pasta is soft and cooked through. This should take 4 to 8 minutes total, depending on your microwave strength. If the pasta absorbs all the water before the pasta is cooked, add another 2 tablespoons of water.
  4. Stir the milk and cheese into the pasta. Use oven mitts or a kitchen towel to remove the bowl from the microwave. Stir in the milk, cheese, and any extra add-ins.
  5. Microwave in 30-second intervals to melt the cheese: Microwave on high power for 30 seconds, and stir. Continue microwaving in 30-second intervals, stirring between each interval, until the cheese has melted and forms a creamy sauce. This should take 1 to 1 1/2 minutes total. For a creamier sauce, add an extra tablespoon or two of milk and cheese.
  6. Eat immediately: This mac and cheese is best when piping hot from the microwave. If you need to reheat it, add an extra splash of milk.

This post has been updated — first published October 2012.

(Image credits: Emma Christensen)

Per serving, based on 1 servings. (% daily value)
Calories
404
Fat
17.1 g (26.3%)
Saturated
9.5 g (47.5%)
Trans
0.5 g
Carbs
42.7 g (14.2%)
Fiber
1.7 g (6.7%)
Sugars
4.6 g
Protein
19 g (37.9%)
Cholesterol
49.3 mg (16.4%)
Sodium
888.4 mg (37%)