Use the Instant Pot to make mac & cheese on Thanksgiving when you don't have any more room on the stove or in the oven. Or maybe your oven is currently broken or you do even have one. This Instant Pot recipe is not like the others.
For those that do NOT have an Instant Pot we have alternative for you too, so keep on reading.
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🧠 What to Know About This Recipe
- Use evaporated milk
- 6 ingredients (including salt & pepper)
- Use your favorite pasta
- Can be made in 30 minutes or less
Finding enough oven or stove space on Thanksgiving can be a challenge.
Especially for something like mac & cheese that you may want to serve for the kids but just don't have the space to do it.
Never fear, the Instant Pot is here!
Now, there are plenty of Instant Pot mac & cheese recipes out there already. So why am I wasting my time adding yet another one to the world?
Mine is different - I know they all say that!!!
Why is mine different? Because I am not pressure cooking it.
Let me say it for you - huh? What's the point then?
Explanation is forth coming, but first....
📖 Why I Don't Like Most Recipes
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? Thanksgiving!
🍲 Why Use the Instant Pot
The answer is in the name - "pot". The Instant Pot is a pot that you don't need to place on the stove. 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.
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, if you have a hot plate, you can do this with a regular pot and pretty much follow the same instructions. I want to get 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 need to change up my ingredients.
Here is what you need
- Evaporated milk
- Sharp cheddar cheese (white or yellow)
- Seasonings (salt, pepper, and/or ground mustard)
🧀 Use any of these types of pasta - elbows, penne, cavatappi (my favorite), ziti, shells, farfelle (bowties)
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.
🥛 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?
❓ Why this Recipe Works
Cooking pasta in a just enough water allows you to concentrate the starches that come from cooking pasta. Those starches can be used to thicken the milk, so that you have a sauce and not soup.
Start by just covering the elbows with water. Hit the saute 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.
🦃 Other Side Dishes to Make for Thanksgiving
Here are some more side dishes you could make for Thanksgiving day. Or any day, they are all really yummy!
- Instant Pot Mashed Potatoes
- Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Bacon
- Butter Flake Rolls
- Spiced Cranberry Sauce
No Pressure Instant Pot Mac & Cheese
- 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.