Here is what you are looking for - a simple mac & cheese recipe that does not require you to use any flour. Instead you will use the starchy water and evaporated milk to help thicken the sauce.
This easy recipe is perfect to make for Thanksgiving when you don't have any more room on the stove or in the oven. It can be made using the sauté feature of the Instant Pot.
For those that do NOT have an Instant Pot we have alternative for you too, so keep on reading.
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ℹ️ What to Know About This Recipe
- No flour added
- Creamy texture
- Use evaporated milk
- 6 ingredients (including salt & pepper)
- Use your favorite pasta
- Can be made in 30 minutes or less
Are you ready to make some mac & cheese!
Maybe you have tried recipes before that used flour to thicken the sauce, but you don't like the taste the flour adds to it. Or maybe you are just completely out of flour. Or you tried a recipe with eggs and didn't like that either.
If any of these are you, you are in the right place today. We are going to show you how easy it is to make mac & cheese without flour while also showing you how it can be done with the Instant Pot.
If you happen to be reading this in November, this is a great Thanksgiving recipe.
🚫 Why You Don't Need Flour?
Flour is normally use to thicken sauces for many things including mac & cheese. It certainly is helpful. But you don't have to have it.
For this method, you cook the pasta in just enough water. What happens then is the water is saturated with the starch released by the pasta as it cooks. The starchy water along milk and cheese is enough to make a creamy sauce without needing to add flour.
❓ Why Use the Instant Pot?
People love the Instant Pot at times for it's ability to dump and go. I will do that sometimes too, as long as it doesn't sacrifice the quality of the food.
I don't think it's the best idea to pressure cook pasta. Pasta varies so much from variety to brand. That's going to change the cook time.
Sure, you could use the same pasta every time and you would learn how long it needs. But what would be the fun of that, when there are so many great pasta choices out there?
I just can't risk overcooking pasta. There is not much more disappointing than eating overcooked pasta. It's why I regularly check my pasta as it's cooking to make sure I hit al dente perfectly. When it's locked in the Instant Pot I can't do that
So why use the Instant Pot at all?
The answer is in the name - "pot". The Instant Pot is a pot that you don't need to place on the stove top. You can take the Instant Pot to an out-of-the-way place, even in the other room. This is a great way to reduce stress in a tight kitchen.
Plus you can get someone else, like a kid, to make it for you. I love getting the kids involved with cooking but when you have a big meal and are low on time, it's not the always the best opportunity.
Giving kids something that they can easily do, in an out of the way place, can really make them feel like they are a part of the meal.
❔ What If I Don't Have an Instant Pot?
For those that don't have an Instant Pot, treat this as a stove top recipe. Or if you have a hot plate, you can do this with a regular pot and pretty much follow the same instructions. You could also use an induction burner and try making this in a cast iron dutch oven.
To make this cheese a one pot mac & cheese, you will need to make the pasta and sauce in the same pot. Normally I do this separately. So to make it work together I needed to make some changes. Still using simple ingredients.
Here is what you need
- Evaporated milk
- Sharp cheddar cheese (white or yellow)
- Seasonings - salt, black pepper (or white pepper), ground mustard
- Optional (add to taste) - garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne pepper
Use any of these types of pasta - elbows, penne, cavatappi (my favorite), ziti, shells, farfelle (bowties). The best macaroni is always going to be made with bronze dies. Look for the pasta to say that on the bag or box.
The easiest part of this recipe is that you just use equal proportions of each (minus the seasonings). A normal sized can of evaporated milk is normally 12 oz, so I use 12 ounces of pasta and 12 ounces of cheese.
I really don't want to have leftover evaporated milk and having leftover pasta and cheese isn't that big a deal, so normally I start with the size of the can.
Season with salt and pepper to taste. For 12 ounces, I do about ½ teaspoon of ground mustard. The ground mustard gives a richer flavor to the sauce without making it seem like you squeeze mustard into your sauce. If you have an allergy or aversion to mustard then you can just leave it out.
As for the cheese you want something with some sharpness to it. Mild cheddar usually doesn't have enough flavor. You could mix in some Monterrey Jack or Butterkase. And top with Parmesan cheese if you like.
Grab a block of cheese too when buying for this recipe. Cheese that has been shredded often has other ingredients add it to it so that it doesn't get moldy. Plus you will have more options if you buy a block.
🥛 Do You Need Milk?
Could you make mac & cheese without the use of milk. Sure you could, it would just be very clumpy and not smooth & creamy like you want. Think about a pizza. A pizza has cheese that is just placed on top, then melts in the oven. It's not a sauce.
You can use whole milk or evaporated milk to make mac & cheese. Never use sweet condensed, who wants sweetened mac & cheese?
X Can You Double?
Want to serve this as a main dish? Need to double? If your pot is big enough you can double the recipe. A larger Instant Pot like an 8 quart may work. A stock pot should be plenty big enough.
You aren't measuring the water. It should be just enough to cover the pasta, no matter how much you use.
Be sure whatever pot you are using there is room at the top, so you can stir it easily without burning yourself or risking that it will boil over.
Start by just covering the elbows with cold water. Hit the sauté button on your Instant Pot.
Stir frequently, especially at the start as the starches from the pasta are released into the water. Remember it's those starches that are going to thicken our sauce.
I have a glass Instant Pot lid that I picked up that is perfect for this or for when I am just keeping food warm in the pot. You don't need the lid, it will help the pasta come to a boil faster.
Remember to keep stirring frequently.
Once the pasta is just short of being al dente, pour in the evaporated milk and return to a boil.
Once you have reached a boil, add in the cheese in 2-3 installments, making sure the cheese melts in between installments.
When all the cheese is added, turn the Instant Pot off. Then keep stirring until the mac & cheese thickens. It may seem like it's going to be too soupy, don't worry if you keep stirring it will thicken up. Your patience will be rewarded.
🔥 Brown in the Oven
If you want to add to the flavor of your mac & cheese you can brown it in the oven. Set your oven to 350 degrees. Add to a baking dish and cook for about 30 minutes or until the top layer of the mac & cheese is brown. Some people like to add breadcrumbs on top. I am not one of those people!
📦 How to Store Leftovers
If you don't finish the mac & cheese, which is hard to believe, place the leftovers into a container. There are two things I look for in airtight containers for leftover food:
- Can go into the microwave
- Is made of glass
I don't want to have to waste another dish transferring the leftovers to a plate I can microwave. A glass container is easier to clean than plastic, especially when you have foods with fat in them like mac & cheese.
If you find that your leftovers are too dry, then you can add a splash of milk.
Simple Mac & Cheese Recipe Without Flour
- Instant Pot
- 12 ounces elbow pasta
- 12 ounces evaporated milk
- 12 ounces sharp cheddar cheese
- ½ tsp ground mustard
- kosher salt to taste
- Add the dry pasta to the Instant Pot. Cover with just enough water to cover the pasta. Add kosher salt so that the water taste a little salty.
- Hit the saute button.
- Stir the pasta frequently as it comes to a boil.
- Once the pasta is just short of being al dente, add in the evaporated milk and ground mustard powder.
- Keep stirring and bring the milk to a simmer.
- After you reach a simmer, turn off the Instant Pot, and add in ⅓ of the cheese. Stir until melted.
- Add next the ⅓ and stir until melted. Add in the rest of the cheese and keep stirring until it thickens up. If will look soupy at first but if you keep stirring it will eventually thicken up. It make take a few minutes.
- Serve immediately or set the Instant Pot to keep warm for later service.