Soup meets mac and cheese in this Instant Pot Broccoli Cheddar Mac and Cheese recipe! Incredibly flavorful cheddar cheese and paprika sauce is made right in the Instant Pot with elbow macaroni and hidden carrots and broccoli. A true 1 pot, 30 minute kid-friendly dinner for soup and mac and cheese lovers everywhere!
Broccoli cheddar mac and cheese is a creamy, cheddary soup and mac and cheese lovers dream. It's a 2-in-1 dinner packed with cheesy flavor and lots of veggies. This quick Instant Pot dinner is lovely on a chilly evening.
Craving soup? Kids want mac and cheese? Turn them into 1 with this recipe.
I am huge fan of simple, quick dinners. Quick dinners that can be made in 1 pot are like heaven on earth. And this is where the Instant Pot comes in. My little darlings are obsessed with mac and cheese, like most other kids. But they are particularly in love with Knorr's cheddar broccoli pasta side. They love the creamy sauce and little bits of broccoli.
So I came up with this broccoli cheddar "mac and cheese" recipe right in the Instant Pot, a quick and easy 30 minute meal! It's a combination of our favorite extra creamy mac and cheese and broccoli cheese soup. Eat it on it's own or as a side dish.
Benefits of Using the Instant Pot
The Instant Pot is commonly known for cooking foods in much shorter times by using the pressure cooker feature. But it's so much more than that. It's a time-saver, one-pot-meal-maker, makes-everything-tastier kitchen gadget.
There are many reasons why I love my Instant Pot. I have the 8 quart Instant Pot Air Fryer Duo Crisp. It's big enough to make a full dinner for a family of 8 or side dishes and snacks for large parties. With a working family or school in session, the Instant Pot is a must have. The Instant Pot can be left on in the background while you work from home, school your kids, or otherwise enjoy your day.
It's especially awesome during the summer when you don't want the oven to heat up your entire house. The Instant Pot is also awesome when you have small kids, especially ones like mine who love to watch what's going on in the kitchen and tug at my pants when I'm at the stove. My littlest one loves to put her hand on the oven door to see if it's "hot". These are all very dangerous things for a toddler with no fear to be doing! But if I use the Instant Pot, I can move it back far enough on the counter so she cannot reach it.
To make broccoli cheddar mac and cheese, you need:
- macaroni (elbow pasta is always perfect for mac and cheese)
- chicken broth (ready to use or bouillon cubes plus water)
- milk: whole milk for the richest flavor, but any cow's milk works
- evaporated milk
- white cheddar cheese
- yellow cheddar cheese: extra sharp for the best flavor
- salt + pepper
This easy dinner hides lots of nutritious vegetables inside the broth making it a dream come true for parents with picky little ones. By shredding the carrots and chopping them into little pieces and then cooking them inside the sauce, they turn into tiny soft bits that are barely recognizable to kids. The same goes for the broccoli. Chop it into tiny pieces, and the Instant Pot turns it into soft tiny bits that are spread throughout the sauce, barely noticeable by the little ones.
- Cheese: For the absolute best-tasting meal, use a combination of white cheddar cheese and extra sharp yellow cheddar.
- Always turn off the IP, remove the inner pot from the outer pot and wait a few minutes before adding the cheese. If you add the cheese to the pot when it's too hot, it will turn stringy instead of melt.
- Milk: I use evaporated milk and whole milk for extra creaminess. You can use reduced fat or low fat milk too, without compromising the taste. But don't skip the evaporated milk.
- This recipe has not been tested with a milk-alternative, such as almond or oat milk.
- The sauce will thicken upon standing. If you desire a more soup-like recipe, serve immediately. For a thicker sauce, let the meal sit for 20 minutes before serving.
*All of my recipes are tested in a 6 and 8 quart Instant Pot. But because of the amount of water used, this recipe should also work in a 10 quart pot.
- The first step is to prep the vegetables, which takes about 5-10 minutes. Use a vegetable peeler to grate the carrots into thin pieces. This reduces cooking time and makes them softer for picky vegetable eating children. Then chop the grated carrots further so you have thinly diced carrot shavings. Chop the broccoli into small ½ inch pieces. Then dice the onion and garlic cloves.
- Next, add the butter, onion, garlic, carrot, and broccoli to the Instant Pot. Set to saute for 4 minutes. When down sauteing, add 1 cup of water and deglaze the pot (scrape any stuck pieces from the bottom).
- Now, add the remaining 2 cups of water, chicken broth (or bouillon cubes and water), macaroni, paprika, salt and pepper. Do not stir. Close and seal the lid and set to pressure cook on high for 3 minutes.
- Complete a controlled quick release of the pressure. Add the milks and set to saute for 2 minutes. Stir often while the milk incorporates.
- Turn the Instant Pot off and remove the inner pot to another heat-proof surface. Add the cheeses 1 cup at a time, stirring constantly until the cheese is fully melted.
And last, taste the sauce and season it with additional salt and pepper if desired (but I don't think you'll need to!). Serve broccoli cheddar mac and cheese immediately, with extra cheddar, shredded carrots or chives as toppings.
*If the sauce seems watery, don't worry. It will thicken upon standing. It takes about 20 minutes to obtain a consistency more like that of traditional mac and cheese than that of a soup.
How to Store
Fridge: store for up to 7 days
Freezer: it's best not to store in the freezer, as the pasta will become mushy
For the "soupiest" version, enjoy immediately. As the meal sits, the sauce will thicken and absorb into the pasta a bit. The longer it sits, the less soupy sauce there will be.
While broccoli cheddar mac and cheese is still incredibly delicious even when enjoyed a few days later, the consistency will be more like mac and cheese.
If the meal thickens up too much for your preference while being stored, you can easily make more sauce by adding milk, salt and paprika to the pasta.
Mix 1 cup of milk, ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon paprika and add to pasta for a more soup-like consistency.
Instant Pot Broccoli Cheddar Mac and Cheese
- 4 tablespoon butter
- 1 large onion
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1 carrot
- 2 cups broccoli
- 2 cups chicken broth or 2 bouillon cubes + 2 cups water
- 3 cups water
- 16 oz elbow macaroni uncooked
- 2 ½ teaspoon paprika
- 1 ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- 2 cups milk
- 1 ½ cups evaporated milk one 12 oz can
- 2 cups extra sharp yellow cheddar cheese shredded
- 2 cups white cheddar cheese shredded
- Grate and chop the carrot into small pieces. Chop the broccoli into ½ inch pieces, and dice the onion and garlic cloves.
- Add butter, onion, garlic, carrot, and broccoli to the Instant Pot. Saute for 4 minutes on high. When done sauteing, add 1 cup of the water and deglaze the pot to remove any stuck pieces.
- Add the broth, 2 cups of remaining water, macaroni, paprika, salt and pepper. Do not stir. Set to pressure cook on high for 3 minutes. Complete a controlled quick release of the pressure when finished.
- Set to saute again for 2 minutes and add the milk and evaporated milk, stirring often. When done turn off the Instant Pot and transfer the inner pot to a heat-proof surface.
- Wait 2 minutes, then add the cheeses 1 cup at a time, stirring constantly until melted. Taste and season with more salt and pepper if desired. Allow to sit for 10 minutes for the sauce to thicken before serving.