Instant Pot Mac and Cheese

published Jan 16, 2024
Instant Pot Mac and Cheese Recipe

This super-creamy comfort food comes together with just six ingredients.

Serves6 to 8

Prep10 minutes

Cook14 minutes to 16 minutes

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Overhead shot of mac and cheese in a instapot.
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Food Stylist: James Park

Really good mac and cheese should be impossibly creamy, super cheesy, just a little bit gooey, and very flavorful. Personally, I want all of the above in a recipe that keeps things as easy as can be (and it definitely should not involve making a roux!). 

This recipe for Instant Pot mac and cheese checks all those boxes. Plus, it only requires six ingredients (three of which are cheese), is pretty hands-off with prep, and is ready in 25 minutes flat. 

Key Ingredients in Instant Pot Mac and Cheese

  • Cream cheese. This is one of my favorite ingredients to mix into just about any mac and cheese recipe — it makes it so much creamier.
  • Sharp cheddar cheese. Gives your mac and cheese way more flavor than using medium or mild cheddar. Ideally use yellow cheddar, but if all you have is a block of white, it will totally work and still taste delicious. The only difference is that your mac and cheese won’t have an orange tint.
  • Fontina cheese. Whatever you do, do not skip the fontina. This creamy, highly meltable cheese is the ingredient that gives the best flavor and really takes it from good to great.
  • Half-and-half or whole milk. If you have both in the fridge, definitely go for half-and-half; it makes a creamier, richer mac and cheese. Not to worry, though, if all you’ve got is whole milk — your mac and cheese will turn out great.

How to Make Instant Pot Mac and Cheese

  • Bring cream cheese to room temperature. This will make it easier to mix into the macaroni later.
  • Cook pasta. Add water, kosher salt, macaroni, and butter to the Instant Pot. No need to stir; just seal the lid and set the cook time for 2 minutes. Yes, it really is that short and it’s plenty of time — trust me. Meanwhile, grate the cheese.
  • Naturally release pressure. When the cook time is up, naturally release the pressure for 5 minutes, then quick release any remaining pressure. Doing a quick release immediately when the cook time is up results in starchy water sputtering from the steam release valve, and it’s a mess. Allowing the pressure to release naturally even just for a few minutes avoids this. The residual heat also cooks the pasta a little more.
  • Add half-and-half and cheese and stir. This is when the magic happens. After stirring in the dairy, cover and let sit for a few minutes (the residual heat will melt the cheese), then stir until smooth and creamy.
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Food Stylist: James Park

If You’re Making Instant Pot Mac and Cheese, a Few Tips

  • Don’t stir the macaroni. Because of the way the pasta releases starch under pressure, it is best to avoid stirring the macaroni before you put the lid on. When stirred too much, the pasta can seriously clump together and get gummy. Instead, just add the water, salt, and pasta, then top with butter. 
  • Avoid over-stirring the cheese. Over-stirring leads to a very stringy mac and cheese. You’ll get a little stringiness here (this is also normal, by the way), but not a lot. The best plan of action is to add the cheeses (and half-and-half or milk), stir to distribute, cover, and let it sit for a few minutes to allow the heat from the pasta to naturally melt the cheese, then stir again until just combined and creamy. 

Storage and Make-Ahead Tips

Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to four days. Reheat the mac and cheese with a splash of milk to loosen.

Instant Pot Mac and Cheese Recipe

This super-creamy comfort food comes together with just six ingredients.

Prep time 10 minutes

Cook time 14 minutes to 16 minutes

Serves 6 to 8

Nutritional Info


  • 4 ounces

    cream cheese

  • 4 cups


  • 1 teaspoon

    kosher salt, plus more as needed

  • 1 pound

    dried elbow macaroni

  • 3 tablespoons

    unsalted butter

  • 8 ounces

    yellow sharp cheddar cheese (about 2 cups)

  • 4 ounces

    fontina cheese

  • 3/4 cup

    plus 2 tablespoons half-and-half or whole milk


  1. Cut 4 ounces cream cheese into 1/2-inch pieces. Place in a single layer on a plate or cutting board and let sit at room temperature to soften while you cook the pasta.

  2. Place 4 cups water and 1 teaspoon kosher salt in a 6-quart or larger electric pressure cooker or Instant Pot. Stir to combine. Add 1 pound dried elbow macaroni in an even layer. Do not stir. Cut 3 tablespoons unsalted butter into 1/2-inch pieces and scatter on top of the macaroni.

  3. Lock on the lid and make sure the pressure valve is set to seal. Set to cook for 2 minutes under HIGH pressure. It will take about 10 minutes to come up to pressure. Meanwhile, grate 8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese (about 2 cups) and 4 ounces fontina cheese (about generous 1 cup) on the large holes of a box grater.

  4. When the cook time is up, turn the pressure off and let the pressure naturally release for 5 minutes. Quick release the remaining pressure.

  5. Uncover and stir the macaroni to loosen it up. Add the cream cheese, cheddar, fontina, and 3/4 cup half-and-half or whole milk. Stir to combine. The cheeses will not be completely melted. Cover and let sit for 2 minutes. Stir again until smooth, creamy, and just combined.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days. Reheat with a splash of milk to loosen.