Pressure Cooker Macaroni and Cheese

My go-to Macaroni and Cheese has been evolving over the last year, but I have a new favorite – and of course, it uses the pressure cooker. 1

For years I made the mac and cheese from Pam Anderson’s The Perfect Recipe. Then I read Ideas in Food; their recipe was similar to Pam’s, stripped down to the basics.

Both recipes use evaporated milk as their secret weapon. Evaporated milk replaces the flour and milk bechamel sacue, and all the whisking that entails. I mashed the two recipes together, and that’s what I’ve been using ever since.

Now, even with the evaporated milk shortcut, this was a stretch to make on a weeknight. Especially if I want a toasted bread crumb topping. And if I’m making macaroni and cheese, it must have a bread crumb topping.


That’s why I jumped when I saw the pressure cooker macaroni and cheese in Pressure Cooker Perfection. They pressure cook the pasta and spices in a small amount of water, treating it like a risotto. This trick really speeds up the recipe – no waiting for a pot of water to boil, no draining, and one (pressure cooker) pot to clean. Weeknight macaroni and cheese is now within my reach. 2

Recipe: Pressure Cooker Macaroni and Cheese

Adapted from: America’s Test Kitchen Pressure Cooker Perfection



Pressure Cooker Macaroni and Cheese
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Pressure Cooker mac and cheese - quick, easy, and better than the dreaded blue box.
Recipe type: Pressure Cooker
Cuisine: American
Serves: 6-8 servings
  • 1 pound dried elbow macaroni
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon yellow mustard
  • 1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt or 2 teaspoons table salt
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 (12 ounce) can evaporated milk
  • 16 ounces shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese
  • 6 ounces shredded Parmigiano cheese
Bread Crumb Topping (optional)
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  1. Pressure cook the pasta and spices: Stir the macaroni, butter, mustard, hot pepper sauce, salt, and 4 cups water in the pressure cooker pot. Lock the lid on the pressure cooker and bring the cooker up to high pressure. Cook on high pressure for 4 minutes (both stovetop and electric), then quick release the pressure and remove the lid.
  2. Stir in the evaporated milk and cheese: Turn the heat under the pot down to low (or turn the electric pressure cooker to simmer), and stir in the evaporated milk. Test a piece of pasta by taking a bite - it should be al dente, but cooked through. If the pasta is still tough in the middle, simmer it for a few minutes, until it is tender. Stir in the cheese one handful at a time, stirring constantly and waiting for the current handful to melt before adding the next handful.
  3. Top with breadcrumbs and broil: Optional step, if you like a toasted bread crumb topping: Pour the macaroni into a 3 quart broiler-safe dish, patting it down to level out the surface. Sprinkle the panko over the macaroni and cheese in an even layer. Broil the macaroni and cheese on high until the bread crumbs are toasted, about 5 minutes. Check the bread crumbs often - they go from pale brown to burnt in a flash.




  • Serve with a bottle of hot sauce at the table. I like Frank’s Red Hot or the smoky flavor of El Yucateco chipotle hot sauce. Oh, and some cheap bubbly and sweet-hot mustard are also nice.
  • I have burned too many bread crumbs in my day. I always I set a timer for 1 minute intervals while I’m broiling. That way, if I get distracted (by a homework meltdown…just to pick a hypothetical example), I have the timer to remind me – “Oh no! The breadcrumbs!”


What do you think? Questions? Other ideas? Leave them in the comments section below.

Related Posts:

Click here for my other pressure cooker recipes

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  1. That’s right, macaroni and cheese without the dreaded blue box.

  2. In fact, the Pressure Cooker Perfection version looks like the Ideas version, which obviously built on Pam’s version, which she developed while she was working for Cooks Illustrated. What comes around, goes around…


  1. Matt Hanson /

    Do you think there might be any value in adding a little bit of sodium citrate to make the cheese sauce smoother, or is it already plenty smooth with the evaporated milk? In either case, I definitely like the idea of making m&c w/o roux.

  2. Adding sodium citrate can’t hurt, from what I’ve read in Modernist Cuisine. But it’s already pretty smooth with the evaporated milk.

    I like the flavor of sharp cheddar, but another way to get things a little smoother is to use a cheese that melts easier. Like a colby-jack mix. Or, if you want to really cheat, use a cheese that’s designed for melting – velveeta. (Yes, velveeta. It’s the secret of tex-mex combo plates everywhere.)

  3. Sherrene /

    I just bought my first pressure cooker and used your mac and cheese recipe to break it in. I had to modify it a bit as I didn’t have evaporated milk on hand, but I am in love…with both the PC and your recipe! I’m scouring your site for more recipes to use. Thanks!

  4. Great! Glad you enjoyed it. Have fun with your pressure cooker.

  5. Leslie /

    Just bought a PC – not yet used it. Hope to try this soon – but I have a question. The recipe says cooking time 30 minutes. I only see 4 mins on high, and perhaps a little simmering if the noodles aren’t al dente. Where is the other time coming from?

  6. Leslie,

    That’s an estimate of the total cooking time, start to finish. Roughly: * Ten minutes to get the pot up to pressure
    * 4 minutes under pressure
    * 5 minutes to stir in the cheese, waiting for it to melt
    * 5 minutes to get it in the pan and broil

    So, that’s about 24 minutes. I rounded up to 30 just in case. :)

  7. Holy cow, Mike, this recipe is AWESOME! I just made it for my family with my new pressure cooker (first one). I added some crispy bacon – because…bacon…but it would have been top notch without it. As a working Dad and the sole cook in the family I’m glad that I came across your blog recently while looking for pressure cooker recipes. Thanks again – keep it up!

  8. You’re welcome. Glad you liked it- and, of course, Bacon.

  9. Mike, I see that you’ve doubled the book’s recipe but only used 1 can (instead of 2) of evaporated milk. The first time I made this recipe (from the book) I thought the sauce was a little too thin but found that by the time I crumbed it and served it, it had thickened pretty well. Any special reason for halving the evaporated milk? Flavor?

  10. That’s from the Ideas in Food recipe, and I liked the results with one can. (I guess I like a thicker Mac and cheese.)

  11. Mike, you nailed the Mac & Cheese! I tried it your way and realized why, although we liked the extra-creamy version of the book’s for a change, it was really too creamy for us. Dropping that extra milk did the trick and it more resembled our standard favorite roux-based baked macaroni that my Mom used to make. Leftovers were also very good, although just a tad drier. One adult did not have the freshly made version but had 3 helpings of the leftovers! Thanks for sharing!

    Somehow “Ideas in Food” escaped my notice. I like what I see and it’s on my wish list and can’t wait to dive into it. I envy you your copy of “Modernist.”

  12. Instantpot-obsessed /

    This is awesome! I’ve been looking everywhere for pasta recipes for the instantpot. I’m really excited to try this macaroni and cheese – I would love to cook pasta without the hassle. Thank you.

  13. You’re welcome – glad you enjoyed it!

  14. Thanks for this, made it today for my teenagers,a hit where all previous attempts have been misses. Not sure what hot sauce is (Australia), so I left it out.

    Also shared via link with Facebook pressure cooking page too.


    • I used siracha, and that worked fine. Lousiana Hot Sauce or Tabasco would work too.

  15. This looks awesome. I want to make this for a large group. Can I double the recipe in the Instant Pot?

  16. You should be able to double it, but it will be a tight fit. Watch out when you’re stirring in the cheese – I’m a little worried about the pot overflowing while you stir.

    And, if you do it, please report back on how it went!

  17. Just in case it was too tight a fit, I only increased the recipe by half. It probably would have all fit, but it would have been tight. It took about 20 minutes for it to come up to pressure. It was delicious and well received by all the diners. The exact words from my son were, “You have to make this again. It was over the top.” I added a little liquid smoke and skipped the parm, but it was an excellent dish! Thanks!

  18. Great dish…..yummy

  19. FABULOUS!!! I bought my electric pressure cooker three weeks ago, and with your recipes(and some modified recipes of my own) , I have used it almost exclusively. My family can’t wait to find out what I have made for dinner, and swooned over the Mac and Cheese. This is DELISH! Looks so beatiful in my pretty casserole dishes.

  20. This is a delicious recipe, but a word of warning. When I vented my cooker, it erupted like a volcano, with liquid flying out the top all over the place. Guess I should have seen that coming, since the pasta went in dry and cooked with all its glorious starchiness. Next time, I’ll have a kitchen towel ready to throw over the top.

  21. Sandra /

    Great recipe!! Simple and delicious and the whole family loved it! Thanks for posting!! Pressure cookers are life savers :)

  22. Tried this tonight. While it did take only a half an hour, it wasn’t al dente, it was squishy. I might try modifying it a bit, cook less, leave out the parm so my son will eat it. Hopefully I can salvage what’s left so my family will eat it.

  23. Ruby T /

    I recently purchased a pressure cooker with a cookbook. The cooker is great and so are most of the recipes, except the mac and cheese. The recipe is designed so everything can just be dumped into the pressure cooker at once, so the recipe calls for twelve slices of American cheese.The resulting dish was simply disgusting. All I could taste was the American cheese (one slice on a cheeseburger is okay, but twelve slices in a dish – UGH!!!). I tried adding different ingredients but there was nothing to cover the taste. I had to throw it out. Your recipe, on the other hand, is terrific! I changed the hot sauce to Worcestershire sauce. This is a great dish and very easy. Thank you!

  24. Jamie /

    Has anyone tried with whole wheat noodles? Would you increase cooking time a bit?

  25. Jamie /

    My kids really enjoyed this tonight, thank you!

  26. This was a hit! I used veggie elbow macaroni and it turned out great! I love that I don’t have to drain the pasta.. One less dish to wash!

  27. Martin /

    This is the best mac and cheese recipe we have used for our pressure cooker. The two boys devoured their plates after a long day playing outside. Grandparents also really enjoyed it. Legend

  28. Has anyone made this with gluten free pasta? If so, did it turn out well. Thanks!!

  29. Jonathan /

    Dude – this is the BEST Mac and Cheese I have ever eaten! Very easy to make, though my pressure cooker took a bit longer than the 4 minutes (wasn’t quite al dente after 5….so I put it back under pressure for 2 more minutes (total 7) and it was perfection! Thank you!

  30. What button do you push on the electric pc to “simmer” if the macaroni isn’t al dente? Thanks.

    • It depends on what brand of electric PC you have – check the manual. For my instant pot, it is the “sauté” button, and for my cuisinart there is a “simmer” setting.

  31. Hello! I have a ten quart elite pressure cooker (electric). I really want to try your recipe, but I would need to double it. Would I double ALL the ingredients, liquid and all? Would the cooking time change? If anyone has tried to double this, I’d appreciate your input. Thanks!

    • You should double everything, and the cooking time will not change. Good luck, and let me know how it goes.

    • PS: you don’t have to double this recipe for it to work in the 10 quart PC. Only double it if you need twice as much Mac and cheese.

  32. Yes, I need twice as much Mac and cheese! I’m feeding a small army! Are ALL ingredients doubled?

  33. Ah!! Ok! Just saw your first reply! Thank you!!

  34. SarahMoon /

    You do not drain the pasta?

  35. Christina /

    Wowza. Surly 5 year old who EATS NOTHING but rare steak and baked potatoes (she was an investment banker in a previous life) just killed a whole bowl. Cruising for seconds. I need to sit down.

  36. I’ve made this several times just as the Recipe states & by adding some other variations of my own. I love how the mac & cheese is thick. My husband is a big fan of this recipe. Top notch! Thank you for sharing.

  37. Thank you for posting this! I normally only make mac and cheese a few times a year because I detest stirring the base sauce for so long. Never thought of using my pressure cooker until I stumbled upon this. I used my large stovetop size, doubled your recipe, and it turned out fantastic. And oh goodness, SOOOOOooooo much easier!

  38. KellieT /

    I love Mac ‘n cheese but boy it can be a real production to make–with making the sauce, boiling the macaroni, and baking. This was sooo much easier and very very tasty!! I even broke out the Marie Sharp hot sauce (which I have been rationing as I’m almost out of) for this. Thank you for the terrific recipe!

  39. I just got my Instant Pot today, and this was the first thing I tried. It’s incredible! I did leave out the hot sauce and skipped the crumb topping, since I think my daughter wouldn’t like it. Just a question, have you ever tried doubling this recipe in the 6 quart Instant Pot? If so, is the cooking time the same and all ingredients (including the water) exactly double? Thanks.

    • I haven’t tried to download unless it, but it do think it will work by doubling all the ingredients and leaving the time the same.

  40. I doubled it and it turned out great. However, I used my Fagor 10 qt cooker. Shocking how easy and fast the recipe was, and how well it turns out!

  41. This is a great recipe! I made two separate batches in two Instant Pot inserts for a crowd of 25 people (BBQ) and it disappeared quickly. (No time for topping- or oven!) Everyone raved about how good it was.

    I did cut back on salt using 1 1/2 tsp fine pink sea salt. My husband and daughter would have preferred a bit less salt so next time will try 1 1/4 tsp for them…but I thought it was salted perfectly at 1 1/2 tsp.
    Also may knock 1 minute off the cooking time next time, as the pasta got softer as it sat.
    I did not turn my pot back on after releasing the pressure and needed no extra heat to finish the dish or melt the cheese/or warm it up. I just put my glass lid that goes with the Instant Pot on the pot as soon as the cheese melted and it stayed warm for service. (I stirred it a couple of times and it thickened)

    Note: At first it seemed like it was going to have too much liquid, but as it sat it thickened perfectly!

    Thanks for the great recipe! So fast and easy and will be a go-to for me. The most difficult part was grating the parm by hand for two batches, but next time will use my food processor to grate the cheese :) I did use pre-grated packaged Kraft Sharp Cheddar to save time, which I normally wouldn’t do but it was very good.

  42. This was SO DELISH! Thanks for sharing!

  43. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!! I have browsed the web for the PERFECT mac n cheese….and I found it here! I just made it and it was beautiful! I am totally new to the pressure cooking scene…and I am wondering why I haven’t gotten one sooner!!! I have done applesauce, pulled pork tacos, and now, this recipe has been added to my list!!! I tried a couple other recipes, and I will just say…scrub a dub dub :-( I was nervous as I started it, but it turned out like a dream! To make it a little more “yellow” lol for my kids I added 2 teaspoons of Nutiva’s Red Palm oil. It added a little more color and enhanced the flavor. I keep some on hand for homemade popcorn :-)
    Again, thanks so much! You have nailed it!
    Browsing now through your other PC recipes!!

  44. I gotta say, this was the first recipe of yours I’ve had trouble with, and honestly, I’m not sure why. The noodles were perfect, I really like the flavor of the evaporated milk vs my usual ovenmade, but I could NOT get it to thicken at all. I even drained the cooking water before adding the evap milk, and while I guess some starch water would have helped, it just didn’t get thick.

    On another note, I have sucessfully made the beef and turkey stock in my 6qt electric, its not a DUO, but it gets the job done. The turkey was interesting, whole carcass didn’t fit, so after it was done, I took the bones and big veggies out, added a new mirepoix and garlic and the rest of the carcass and just topped it off. Nice coming out of the PC already cooked down.

    • You shouldn’t have to drain the water – that’s why it’s not in the instructions. Add evertyhing to the pot and stir.

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