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Rich, creamy, flavor-packed cheese sauce and a crispy buttery topping make this easy-to-make Instant Pot Mac and Cheese recipe stand out from the rest! We use a special blend of cheeses and seasonings to make it something truly special. And no worries if you don’t have an Instant Pot; you can easily make this on the stovetop!

mac and cheese

I originally made this mac and cheese a couple months ago. I made it on the fly, not bothering to measure any ingredients or write down any instructions. You know, the type of cooking where you just go into the kitchen and intuitively throw together whatever feels right. And of course, it ended up being the one.

The recipe that becomes the only recipe of its kind that that need because it’s that good.

Everyone who tried that mac and cheese told me it was the best mac and cheese of their life. I was shocked! As crazy as it is to say (because I’ve had some really mind-blowing mac and cheese in my day), I agree.

super cheesy mac and cheese recipe

Because I didn’t write anything down when I first made it, I spent the next couple months trying to replicate that perfect macaroni and cheese.

After much testing (it’s a good thing I like cheese, lol), I am sharing my recipe.

best mac and cheese recipe

Get ready for the homemade mac and cheese recipe that you will now use as a baseline to judge every other mac and cheese that crosses your lips. I don’t mean to ruin other mac and cheeses for you, but you deserve this!

If you’ve been searching for the best mac and cheese recipe, cross that one off your list, friends.

But fair warning, don’t make this recipe unless you’re prepared to crave it and have your family ask you for it…often!

homemade mac and cheese

Why You’ll Love This Easy Mac and Cheese

  • It’s easy! We make the entire thing in the Instant Pot, including the crispy, crunchy, buttery cracker topping. Normally you’d bake macaroni and cheese to get a crispy topping, but here we toast it in the Instant Pot before making the mac and cheese.
  • More about that crunchy buttery topping. The topping is easy to make and adds delicious crunch and buttery flavor on top! If you’re looking for a mac and cheese that tastes like you spent all day in the kitchen, this is it.
  • The 6-cheese blend. Six different cheeses might sound like a lot, but they add amazing depth of flavor here!
mac and cheese with description

The Best Instant Pot Mac and Cheese Recipe

This Instant Pot Mac and Cheese features a lusciously smooth and creamy, flavor-packed cheese sauce. And even though we use the Instant Pot to make it, it still has a crisp, buttery topping, which is also made in the Instant Pot!

And because it’s not baked, this mac and cheese isn’t dry at all. It’s rich and gooey with the most velvety cheese sauce.

But no worries if you don’t have an Instant Pot. You can easily make this on the stovetop instead!

Of course this decadent side dish is perfect for the holidays, but don’t limit it to that. It’s perfect accompaniment for just about anything.

instant pot mac and cheese

Ingredients in Mac and Cheese

instant pot mac and cheese ingredients

Buttery Cracker Topping:

  • Ritz crackers
  • Unsalted butter
  • Garlic powder

Macaroni and Cheese:

  • Unsalted butter
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Elbow noodles
  • Salt
  • Water
  • Cream cheese
  • Half and half
  • All-purpose flour
  • Frank’s RedHot
  • Dijon mustard
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Sweet paprika
  • Black pepper
  • Sharp white Cheddar
  • Gruyere
  • Havarti
  • Monterey Jack (or mozzarella)
  • Parmesan

Step by Step Tutorial for How to Make Mac and Cheese in the Instant Pot

How to Make Crunchy Topping in an Instant Pot

how to make crunchy topping in instant pot
  1. Add the crackers to a zip-top plastic bag. Roll over them with a rolling pin to lightly crush.
  2. Turn on the “Sauté” function on the Instant Pot and once hot, add the butter.
  3. Once melted, add the cracker crumbs.
  4. Stir to coat the crumbs in butter.
  5. And garlic powder, and stir again.
  6. Cook until the cracker crumbs are light brown, about 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Press “Cancel” to stop the “Sauté” function. Transfer the cracker crumbs to a bowl and set aside.

Pro Tip: After you make the crunchy topping in the Instant Pot, carefully wipe out the inside of the pot with a paper towel, and let it cool for 10 minutes (this is to avoid getting a burn warning).

How to Make Instant Pot Mac and Cheese:

how to make instant pot mac and cheese
  1. Press the “Sauté” function on the Instant Pot and wait for it to heat up. Once hot, add the butter.
  2. Once melted, add the onion and garlic.
  3. Cook until the onion is starting to soften, about 3 to 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
  4. Press “Cancel” to stop the “Sauté” function. This is how it looks when it’s ready.
  5. Add the elbow noodles, salt, and water.
  6. Give it a stir.
  7. Cover the Instant Pot, making sure to set the lid to “Sealing”, and cook on “Manual, High Pressure” for 3 minutes.
  8. Once it’s done cooking, carefully release the pressure. After I release the pressure, I like to place a cotton towel over the valve so the steam doesn’t go everywhere.

How to Make Super Creamy Cheese Sauce for the Best Homemade Mac and Cheese:

how to make cheese sauce for instant pot mac and cheese
  1. Open the pot. At first glance you’ll think there’s too much liquid; don’t worry because there isn’t!
  2. Stir the noodles.
  3. Add the cream cheese, and put the lid on the pot for 2 minutes (this will melt the cheese).
  4. Uncover the pot, and stir to combine the cream cheese.
  5. Add the half and half, flour, hot sauce, Dijon, Worcestershire, paprika, and black pepper.
  6. Stir to combine.
  7. Stir in the Cheddar, Gruyere, Havarti, Monterey Jack, and Parmesan a handful at a time.
  8. Continue stirring until the cheese is fully incorporated, and then serve it up!
scooping mac and cheese

Storage

Store homemade macaroni and cheese covered in the fridge for up to 5 days.

easy mac and cheese recipe

Tips for Making Homemade Mac and Cheese

  • Don’t use pre-shredded cheese. I know it can be a big time-saver, but it’s not worth the trade-off. Pre-shredded cheese has anti-caking agents and/or preservatives added. They don’t have the same flavor or texture as freshly-shredded cheese.
  • Take the extra couple of minutes to use fresh onion and garlic. In a pinch garlic and onion powder will work, but fresh adds a whole different level of flavor.
  • If the mac and cheese looks watery when it’s done cooking, trust the process! Follow the recipe and it’ll come out right in the end.
  • For a more complex flavor profile similar to fondue, add white wine. To do so, reduce the water to 3 2/3 cups and add 1/3 cup dry white wine.
instant pot mac and cheese graphic

Mac and Cheese FAQs

What is the Best Cheese for Mac and Cheese?

When you’re making macaroni and cheese, you want a perfect blend of gooey, creamy texture and rich, deep flavor. This is why I like to use a blend of cheeses so you get the best of both worlds!

Here are the types of cheeses we use in this mac and cheese recipe:

  • Sharp White Cheddar. This is classic. Sharp white cheddar cheese melts well and gives mac and cheese the traditional flavor that we all love.
  • Gruyere. Taking a note from fondue, Gruyere is wonderful in mac and cheese! It melts great, and adds a slightly nutty flavor.
  • Parmesan. Similar to Gruyere, but with a sharper bite, Parmesan also amps up the salty nutty factor in mac and cheese.
  • Havarti. I absolutely love adding Havarti to mac and cheese! Havarti is smooth and buttery, and melts down and adds unparalleled creaminess to this dish.
  • Monterey Jack. With a high fat content and a mild yet buttery flavor, Monterey Jack melts well and adds a lot of gooey richness. You can use mozzarella instead if that’s what you have on hand.
  • Cream cheese. This lends a slight tanginess and body to our cheese sauce.
holding bowl of creamy mac and cheese

And here are few more different types of cheese that work well in mac and cheese:

  • Brie
  • Smoked gouda
  • Provolone
  • Fontina
macaroni and cheese recipe

How Do You Keep Mac and Cheese Creamy?

  • Don’t skimp out on the half and half. Not only does it lend richness and body to the cheese sauce, but its high fat content helps stabilize it.
  • The secret ingredient: cream cheese! You only need a little bit, but it goes a long way.
  • Don’t bake it. As far as I can tell, the only reason to bake macaroni and cheese is to get a crunchy topping. And we already took care of that by toasting up some crushed crackers in butter. An unfortunate side effect of baking mac and cheese is that it dries out; but we’ve solved that problem!
best instant pot mac and cheese

How Do You Reheat Mac and Cheese?

The quickest and easiest way to reheat mac and cheese is in the microwave! I like to microwave it in 45-second intervals until warm, stirring in between each interval. Once it’s warm, stir in 1 to 2 tablespoons of milk per 1 cup of mac and cheese to make it creamy again.

If you have a little more time (or a larger amount to reheat), you can reheat mac and cheese in the oven. Here is how to do it:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  2. Put as much mac and cheese as you will eat in an oven-safe dish. Cover the top with foil.
  3. Bake until warm throughout, about 20 to 30 minutes.
  4. Once it’s warm, give the mac and cheese a stir. If it’s a little dry, stir in a little milk (about 1 to 2 tablespoons of milk per 1 cup of mac and cheese) until it’s creamy again.

Pro Tip: Only reheat as much as you want to eat, so you’re not reheating it, and then refrigerating leftovers, and then later reheating it again.

mac and cheese recipe

More Cheesy Side Dishes to Try

easy macaroni and cheese from scratch

Let’s Connect

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Instant Pot Mac and Cheese Recipe

5 from 1 vote
Prep Time20 minutes
Cook Time10 minutes
Other Time20 minutes
Yields: 12 servings
Rich, creamy, flavor-packed cheese sauce and a crispy buttery topping make this easy-to-make Instant Pot Mac and Cheese recipe stand out from the rest! We use a special blend of cheeses and seasonings to make it something truly special. And no worries if you don’t have an Instant Pot; you can easily make this on the stovetop!

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Equipment

Ingredients
 

Buttery Cracker Topping:

Macaroni and Cheese:

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 3 cloves garlic crushed
  • 1 pound elbow noodles or your favorite pasta
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 4 cups water
  • 4 ounces cream cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups half and half
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons Frank’s RedHot Sauce or any hot sauce you like
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 ounces sharp white Cheddar shredded
  • 4 ounces Gruyere shredded
  • 4 ounces Havarti shredded
  • 2 ounces Monterey Jack shredded (or mozzarella)
  • 2 ounces Parmesan grated
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley for garnish

Instructions
 

For the Buttery Cracker Topping:

  • Add the crackers to a zip-top plastic bag. Roll over them with a rolling pin to lightly crush.
  • Press the “Sauté” function on the Instant Pot and wait for it to heat up. Once hot, add the butter. Once melted, add the cracker crumbs and garlic powder, and stir to combine. Cook until the cracker is very light brown, about 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Press “Cancel” to stop the “Sauté” function.
  • Transfer the cracker crumbs to a bowl and set aside.
  • Carefully wipe out the inside of the Instant Pot with a paper towel, and let it cool for 10 minutes (this is to avoid getting a burn warning).

For the Macaroni and Cheese:

  • Press the “Sauté” function on the Instant Pot and wait for it to heat up. Once hot, add the butter. Once melted, add the onion and garlic. Cook until the onion is starting to soften, about 3 to 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Press “Cancel” to stop the “Sauté” function.
  • Add the elbow noodles, salt, and water. Give it a stir.
  • Cover the Instant Pot, making sure to set the lid to “Sealing”, and cook on “Manual, High Pressure” for 3 minutes.
  • Once it’s done cooking, carefully release the pressure and open the pot. Stir the noodles, add the cream cheese, and put the lid on the pot for 2 minutes (this will melt the cheese). Uncover the pot, and stir to combine the cream cheese.
  • Add the half and half, flour, hot sauce, Dijon, Worcestershire, paprika, and black pepper. Stir to combine.
  • Stir in the Cheddar, Gruyere, Havarti, Monterey Jack, and Parmesan a handful at a time until fully incorporated.

To Serve:

  • Top each serving with a sprinkle of the buttery cracker topping and minced parsley.

Notes

  • White Wine Suggestion: For a more complex flavor, reduce the water to 3 2/3 cups and add 1/3 cup dry white wine. This gives it more of a fondue flavor profile.
  • Shred Your Own Cheese: Don’t use pre-shredded cheese for this recipe. I know it can be a big time-saver, but it’s not worth the trade-off. Pre-shredded cheese has anti-caking agents and/or preservatives added. They don’t have the same flavor or texture as freshly-shredded cheese, and the resulting mac and cheese won’t be as smooth and creamy.
  • Storage: Store homemade mac and cheese covered in the fridge for up to 5 days.

How To Reheat Mac and Cheese in the Oven

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  2. Put as much mac and cheese as you will eat in an oven-safe dish. Cover the top with foil.
  3. Bake until warm throughout, about 20 to 30 minutes.
  4. Once it’s warm, give the mac and cheese a stir. If it’s a little dry, stir in a little milk (about 1 to 2 tablespoons of milk per 1 cup of mac and cheese) until it’s creamy again.

Nutrition

Calories: 431kcal | Carbohydrates: 34g | Protein: 17g | Fat: 25g | Saturated Fat: 15g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 7g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 73mg | Sodium: 666mg | Potassium: 202mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 820IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 375mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutritional information is automatically calculated and should be used as an approximate.

Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Best Mac and Cheese Recipe, Easy Mac and Cheese Recipe, Homemade Mac and Cheese Recipe, Instant Pot Mac and Cheese, Mac and Cheese, Mac and Cheese Recipe

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instant pot mac and cheese recipe pin
Faith, author of An Edible Mosaic.
About Faith

I’m the writer, recipe developer, photographer, and food stylist behind this blog. I love finding the human connection through something we all do every day: eat! Food is a common ground that we can all relate to, and our tables tell a story. It’s my goal to inspire you to get in the kitchen, try something new, and find a favorite you didn’t know you had.

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Recipe Rating




5 Comments

  1. Ann Mangini says:

    Faith!! I’m making this tomorrow looks amazing!
    Can I double it with same
    time
    etc ?
    Thank you!

    1. Ann, Thank you very much, it’s a favorite here! I hope you enjoy it!! :)

      It will cook in the same time if you double it, just make sure that your Instant Pot is big enough to handle double the capacity. I have a 6-quart Instant Pot and once it was cooked, it was almost up to the fill line.

      1. Ann Mangini says:

        oh mine is only 6qts- so you mean the reg recipe qty fills up the 6 qt?
        so i can’t double? or could i 1.5 it?

        (And THANK YOU SO MUCH for responding so quickly!) so excited!
        Thank you!
        A

        1. Ann, Yes, it almost fills up the 6-quart (there is a little space under the fill line), but I think there may be space to 1.5 it! Hope you enjoy it and have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

  2. 5 stars
    Faith, you’re right! It’s by far the best Mac & Cheese I’ve ever had! And I have bragging rights on the world’s greatest Mac N Cheese conesuir! This recipe is my new best friend! ☺️💖🥰❤️

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