This lush and creamy mac and cheese recipe is made with 100 percent real cheese and couldn’t be easier or faster to make in the pressure cooker, with only 5 minutes of cooking time (thank you, Instant Pot!).
I grew up eating mac and cheese from a blue box. It was dubbed “yellow death” by my high school friends. It was described as delectable by me. In fact, it’s still one of those things we keep on hand in case of emergency…like when it’s Tuesday…or Wednesday…or Thursday…or…you get the idea.
But after making this homemade mac and cheese recipe in half the time and with all-natural ingredients, I’m not sure I’ll be replenishing my supply anytime soon.
I honestly can’t think of anything more comforting than a rich, creamy macaroni and cheese recipe, and I’m always looking for new ways to make my favorite cheesy noodle.
Now this creamy mac and chesee recipe has become a go-to weeknight solution for what to eat when you don’t have time to cook, I’ve created five doctored up versions of the basic mac and cheese recipe based on what I had in my fridge to create a super easy solution for easy entertaining and creating a mac and cheese bar where guests can mix and match to create their own.
How to Make Creamy Mac and Cheese
Years ago, for a dinner party, a friend made us the most amazing homemade mac and cheese. It was opulent. It was a breeze. It was rich, velvety, and everything a mac and cheese fan could want. I inquired about the secret to making it so creamy. Velveeta, he said. Ugh. I’ve been known to eat a few slices of the processed stuff, but the real cheesy stuff is much more my style.
So, if you don’t want to use processed cheese or make a butter, flour, and milk roux, how do you get that lush creamy texture?
Evaporated milk is the key.
Evaporated milk can be a little perplexing. Is it real milk or artificial milk? Evaporated milk is real cow’s milk that has been cooked down to remove some of the water, resulting in a shelf-stable, always-on-hand ingredient.
When we don’t have any milk or half-and-half, I use it as creamer for my coffee. It’s a concentrated milk with a slightly stronger flavor. It also prevents the cheese from breaking or becoming greasy in macaroni and cheese because there is less moisture to contend with.
The Best Cheese to Use in Creamy Mac and Cheese
Choosing the best cheeses is essential to a delicious mac and cheese. I’ve found a combination of yellow and white cheeses is the best combo out there.
Choose a cheddar that has a bite to it, such as medium or even better, sharp cheddar cheese. This is the key for the signature cheese flavor.
For the velvety quality, add a meltable white cheese like:
- Monterey Jack
When adding the cheese to this mixture, you’ll want to use a heavy wooden spoon to really get in there and stir things up and add the cheese in batches. The result is a mac and cheese that’s smooth and rich and creamy.
Instant Pot Creamy Mac and Cheese Recipe
Use a combination of sharp cheddar with creamy white cheeses to create a creamy mac and cheese with plenty of cheese flavor but won’t become chalky.
Ingredients of Creamy Mac and Cheese Recipe
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- 1 pound macaroni pasta such as shells or cavatappi
- 4 cups water
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon ground mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt optional
- 1 5- ounce can evaporated milk
- 4 cups shredded medium or sharp cheddar cheese
- 2 cups soft white cheese such as gouda Swiss, fontina, or provolone
Instructions to Make Creamy Mac and Cheese Recipe
- In the insert of an Instant Pot or pressure cooker, add the macaroni, water, butter, kosher salt, ground mustard and garlic salt. Cook in the pressure cooker for 5 minutes on high, then quick release. Add the evaporated milk and half of the cheeses and use a wooden spoon to vigorously stir until the cheeses have melted then repeat with the rest of the cheese, stirring until the sauce is creamy. Add any additional toppings or mix-ins below at this time. Serve warm.