This super simple, super easy recipe for 5 Ingredient Instant Pot Mac and Cheese is picky eater approved! Almost as easy as the boxed version, but with all the love of homemade. This is perfect for toddlers, kids, and even picky adults! Uses Velveeta for that creamy, addictive, and cheesy flavor we all love.
Mac and cheese is my love language. It's true.
I'm just getting started with sharing recipes on this blog, but something you will quickly learn is how much I love macaroni and cheese. I would expect that over the next year or so, you can expect no less than 5 or 6 macaroni and cheese recipes...and that's just the basic variety! I'm so obsessed with this classic comfort food, that I'm always coming up with new ways of preparing it.
This 5 Ingredient Instant Pot Mac and Cheese is probably the easiest yet. First of all, it's made in the Instant Pot. It rarely gets any easier than that! And secondly, it has just 5 ingredients! This is a recipe I developed specifically for my picky toddler, who tends to like things on the simple side. He's very much a bread, pasta and cereal eater. Which is really not what I expected, since I was rather adventurous during my pregnancy and throughout his early months of starting solids. But we all end up with unique challenges, no matter how hard we try to avoid them.
A Simple Mac and Cheese Recipe
And so I'm always looking for simple, relatively plain ways to prepare our favorite foods. Otherwise, my son would live on air alone! I always thought I would be one of those moms that ONLY lets their kids eat fresh fruits and vegetables, but nope. After a year or so of struggling to get him to eat anything, I'm simple happy WHEN he eats.
Thus, I dedicate this super simple, super easy, picky eater friendly 5 ingredient Instant Pot mac and cheese to all you moms out there who struggle with getting one (or more) of your kids to eat much of anything. Solidarity mama, solidarity!
Just 5 Ingredients
I'm calling this recipe "5 Ingredient Mac and Cheese" because it calls for just 5 "real" ingredients. In addition to the 5 ingredients, you will need water and salt. I'm not including those as my ingredients since I assume that everyone has those on hand all the time and do not need to add them to any sort of grocery list. If you happen to not have salt, don't worry about it too much. The salt from the butter and the Velveeta processed cheese will be plenty to season the macaroni and cheese.
You will also see some optional seasoning ingredients at the end of the ingredients list. These are completely optional, and just add a little extra flavor if desired. If you have a super picky eater though, you may opt to forgo any additional seasonings!
- Macaroni: You will need a small cut pasta for this recipe. Elbow macaroni is highly recommended! Any larger (or significantly smaller) cut pasta will throw off ratios for sauce and cook times, so it's best to stick to something very similar in size to elbow macaroni.
- Butter: You will need ¼ cup of salted butter. 1 tablespoon will be used for cooking the macaroni, and the remainder will be for making a roux for the cheese sauce.
- Flour: I recommend using unbleached all purpose or regular all purpose flour for this recipe.
- Milk: You will need some milk to make the base of the cheese sauce. I prefer whole milk for this recipe, but you can use 2% or 1% if desired.
- Processed cheese: You will need a half of a pound of processed cheese (like Velveeta), cut into ½" cubes. This is also known as American cheese.
- You will also need 2 cups of drinking quality water, and about ½ teaspoon of table salt.
- Ground black pepper: If you don't have ultra picky eaters, a little ground black pepper can be a welcome addition to your homemade mac and cheese!
- Dry ground mustard powder: This is a classic ingredient in homemade macaroni and cheese recipes, but isn't necessary for this recipe. It is a nice addition, and so if you have some on hand I would encourage you to add some.
- Seasonings, to taste
To get started, add the elbow macaroni to the insert of your Instant Pot. You can use either a 6qt or an 8qt. I haven't tested this in a 3qt Instant Pot, but it will probably work without a hitch!
Add the water, ½ teaspoon of salt, and 1 tablespoon of salted butter.
Place the lid on the Instant Pot and set the valve to "sealing. Cook on high pressure for 4 minutes.
Once the cooking time is up, flip the valve to "venting" to do a full manual pressure release.
Once the pin drops, indicating the pressure has been fully released, carefully open the lid of the Instant Pot.
Stir the macaroni and drain in a colander in the sink. Place a plate over the top of the colander to keep the pasta warm while you prepare the sauce.
Making Macaroni and Cheese Sauce in the Instant Pot
Once your pasta is drained, set your Instant Pot to the "sauté" function.
Once the pot is hot, add the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter to the Instant Pot.
Add the flour to the melted butter and whisk to combine.
Keep whisking the flour until no dry bits remain. Continue cooking, whisking frequently, until a light golden hue is reached the the flour smell is no longer present.
Slowly drizzle some of the milk into the instant pot, whisking until smooth.
Continue whisking the mixture, slowly adding milk and whisking between each addition.
Once the milk has been added, cook for an additional few minutes until thickened.
Add the cubed processed cheese.
Adding in the Macaroni
Whisk in the processed cheese, continuing until the sauce is smooth and the cheese is fully melted.
Add in the cooked macaroni and fold it into the sauce until it's completely covered.
If desired, add additional seasonings like black pepper, dry mustard powder, paprika, or cayenne.
If you can't find Velveeta (or American cheese) in your country or local grocery store, you can make a great substitute using gelatin, dry milk, and cheddar cheese. Here's a recipe for homemade Velveeta from Brown Eyed Baker.
This largely depends on the brand of gluten free flour. Some get super gummy when heated, so I can't recommend this method if you need to eat gluten free. There is a method that uses cassava flour to make a gluten free roux. You can find the recipe from Cotter Crunch here.
Yes! Use the amount of macaroni called for in the recipe, and cook on high pressure for 4 minutes.
Bacon Mac and Cheese: Add some cooked and crumbled bacon into the macaroni.
Queso Mac and Cheese: Add in 1 small can of diced green chilies into the cheese sauce.
Broccoli Mac and Cheese: Add in 2 cups of steamed broccoli florets to the sauce. Toss to coat.
More Easy Meal Ideas:
- Instant Pot Homemade Hamburger Helper
- Instant Pot Creamy Chicken Tortilla Soup
- Slow Cooker Queso Chicken Tacos
- Slow Cooker Lemonade Chicken
- Air Fryer Chicken Fajitas
Easy Instant Pot Mac and Cheese
- ¼ cup butter divided
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 cup whole milk
- ½ pound velveeta cut into ½" cubes
- 2 cups elbow macaroni
- 2 cups water
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Optional: ⅛ teaspoon ground black pepper
- Optional: ½ teaspoon dry mustard powder
- Add the elbow macaroni, water, 1 tablespoon of butter, and 1 teaspoon of salt to the inside of your Instant Pot. Stir well to ensure the macaroni is submerged under the water.
- Place the lid on your Instant Pot and move the valve to "sealing".
- Cook on high pressure for 4 minutes.
- When the cook time is finished, hit the "cancel" button to turn the Instant Pot off. Carefully move the valve to "venting". Do a full manual pressure release.
- Once the pin has dropped, indicating the pressure has been fully released, carefully remove the lid from the Instant Pot.
- Stir the macaroni and drain in a colander in the sink. Place a bowl over the colander to keep the macaroni warm while you prepare the sauce.
- Select the "Sauté" function and let the instant pot warm up.
- Once the pot is warm, add the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter to the Instant Pot.
- Once the butter is melted, add the flour and whisk well until all no dry flour remains.
- Continue cooking, whisking often to prevent burning. You want to cook the "flour" taste out, and you are looking for a very light golden hue. You will need to cook and whisk for 2-3 minutes to achieve this, but it may be less time if your pot is particularly hot.
- Once the roux has been sufficiently cooked, slowly pour in a small amount of the whole milk. Whisk to combine. This mixture will become very thick, very quickly. This is what will thicken your sauce. Whisk until it is lump free, then add more milk and whisk again. Repeat this until all the milk is gone and you have a lump free sauce.
- Let the sauce cook until thickened, whisking frequently. This should take 1-3 minutes.
- Add in the cubed processed cheese, and stir well to help it melt into the sauce.
- Once the processed cheese is melted, add the cooked macaroni. Fold the macaroni in until it is completely covered in sauce.
- Optionally, you may add ⅛ teaspoon (or more) of ground black pepper, and ½ tsp. dry ground mustard for a little extra flavor if desired. You may also season to your own particular tastes. Seasoned salt, paprika, and/or cayenne all make great additions if desired.
- Serve macaroni immediately. This macaroni and cheese does not reheat very well, so I recommend serving it and eating it the day of preparation.
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