Quick and Easy Pressure Cooker Macaroni and Cheese Recipe

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instant pot mac and cheese

What’s Up, Hungry People

This week’s challenge was “inspired by music,” and immediately the song “Under Pressure” by Queen popped into my head—which was more than appropriate for the challenge, considering I received a pressure cooker as a Christmas gift this year.

Only being the second time I’ve used the Instant Pot, I wanted to ensure whatever I cooked was foolproof. I decided to try making some mac ‘n’ cheese because I’ve been reading that pasta can cook in under five minutes in a pressure cooker. And it’s true!

Here’s What You Need

  • Elbow macaroni: Creates a sturdy base that holds up well under pressure.
  • Evaporated milk: Offers a creamy texture and rich flavor.
  • Egg: Binds the sauce ingredients together.
  • Yellow mustard: Adds a tangy depth to the cheese sauce.
  • Whole grain mustard: Provides a robust, earthy flavor contrast.
  • Paprika: Gives a mild, sweet spice.
  • Tarragon: Offers a slight bittersweet, herbal note.
  • Sriracha: Injects a spicy kick.
  • Pepper Jack cheese: Brings heat and creamy meltiness.
  • Colby Jack cheese: Adds a mild and smooth cheesy layer.
  • Salt: Enhances all the flavors in the dish.
  • Pepper: Adds a slight bite and complements the cheeses.
  • Butter: Helps to thicken and enrich the sauce.
seasonings for mac and cheese

Let’s Cook!

While I cooked the noodles, I prepped the “sauce” that brings out all the flavor. The secret to the perfect mac ‘n’ cheese is using evaporated milk, instead of regular milk; it emulates the “out of the box” taste that many of us love.

In a bowl, whisk together the evaporated milk, egg, both mustards, paprika, sriracha, and tarragon. Oh, and don’t forget a pinch of salt and pepper for that extra kick of flavor. This mix is going to make our mac ‘n’ cheese irresistibly creamy and zesty.

sauce for mac and cheese

The noodles can be cooked to perfect al dente in just four minutes. Making the noodles in the Instant Pot is really the key to this whole recipe. Because when noodles are boiled, they move around and can turn mushy or start breaking down. In the Instant Pot, there is no boiling so the noodles stay put while they cook, resulting in perfect texture and shape. If there’s any remaining water in the pot, it can be drained out or allowed to evaporate naturally when the Instant Pot is switched over to “sauté” mode.

pressure cooker with noodles and butter

Once the noodles have cooked, the mac ‘n’ cheese process proceeds much like most standard styles—pour in the evaporated milk mixture and let it reduce down, while stirring, until it has thickened up a bit.

mixing noodles with sauce

Now, pour in that spicy, creamy milk mixture you just prepped. Keep stirring and watch it as it begins to bubble up. That’s your cue to throw in the cheeses—the pepper jack and Colby Jack. Keep stirring until every strand of noodle is coated in melty cheese goodness.

adding cheese to pressure cooker

Pepper Jack Mac ‘n’ Cheese Tips

  • Water-to-Pasta Ratio: Be mindful when adding water; just enough to cover the noodles prevents them from becoming too soft or mushy. This helps maintain the ideal texture of the pasta after cooking.
  • Cheese Choices: The combination of pepper Jack and Colby Jack provides a nice balance of flavor. Feel free to experiment with different cheeses according to your taste preferences. For instance, adding a bit of sharp cheddar can introduce an extra layer of complexity.
  • Using Evaporated Milk: Opt for evaporated milk over regular milk to achieve that classic, thick, and creamy consistency reminiscent of boxed mac ‘n’ cheese. This substitution also reduces the risk of the sauce breaking during cooking.
  • Pressure Release Method: Allow natural release for about fifteen minutes to avoid sudden temperature changes that might affect the texture of the noodles. If in a rush, use a quick release carefully to prevent any accidents.
  • Sauté Mode for Finishing: After cooking, using the sauté mode helps to evaporate any excess water and gives you control over the final thickness of the cheese sauce. Stir consistently to prevent any ingredients from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
serving pressure cooker mac and cheese

While 15 minutes may not necessarily be any faster than cooking mac ‘n’ cheese “traditionally,” the resulting flavors and texture that are created when cooked in the Instant Pot definitely make it worth it. Bonus points if you cook it while listening to Queen.

easy mac and cheese pressure cooker recipe

So there you have it, Hungry People—a spicy, savory twist on the classic mac ‘n’ cheese that’s sure to impress at any table, especially if you’re a fan of a little heat. Cooking with an Instant Pot can turn an everyday meal into something extraordinary with minimal fuss.

Whether you’re cooking under the rhythmic beats of Queen or the quiet of your kitchen, this dish brings the heat both literally and figuratively. The blend of pepper jack and Colby Jack, along with that kick of sriracha, elevates this from your standard mac ‘n’ cheese to something that really sings. Give it a try next time you’re looking for a quick, satisfying dinner that promises to deliver on flavor without the wait. Trust me, it’s a game changer for weeknight dinners.

pepperjack mac n cheese instant pot

Pepper Jack Mac ‘n’ Cheese | Instant Pot Recipes

The Starving Chef
Enjoy this creamy and spicy Instant Pot mac 'n' cheese, perfectly blended with pepper jack and Colby Jack for a quick, flavorful meal.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Instant Pot
Servings 6


  • 4 cups elbow macaroni uncooked
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 12 oz (1 can) evaporated milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon yellow mustard
  • ½ tablespoon whole grain mustard
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon tarragon
  • 2 tablespoons sriracha
  • 2 cups pepperjack cheese
  • 1 cup Colby jack cheese
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper


  • Add the macaroni noodles and 1-2 cups cold water (enough water to just cover the noodles) to the Instant Pot. Place the lid on the Instant Pot and select "Pressure Cook" setting it to "Normal" pressure. Set the timer for 4 minutes. Allow the Instant Pot to come to pressure and cook the noodles. Then, let it depressurize naturally for about fifteen minutes, or perform a quick release of the pressure valve (be sure to wear protective oven mitts if performing a quick release).
  • While the noodles are cooking, whisk together the evaporated milk, egg, yellow mustard, whole grain mustard, paprika, sriracha, and tarragon. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Once the noodles are done, drain any excess water if necessary. Set the Instant Pot to "Sauté" mode, pressing it twice to select "More" mode, and add the butter to the noodles. Stir until the butter has melted and is evenly coating the noodles. Pour in the evaporated milk mixture and stir until it just starts to bubble. Add the cheeses to the Instant Pot and stir until completely melted into the noodles.
  • Let it set for 10 minutes prior to serving to thicken up. Enjoy!
Keyword cheese, pasta, spicy
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