One Pot Macaroni and Cheese
This extra cheesy macaroni and cheese is ready in less than 20 minutes. It cooks in one pot and you don’t need to drain out the water.
[Update! If you own an Instant Pot or similar pressure cooker, I’ve successfully made an Instant Pot one pot macaroni and cheese. It comes out super creamy and perfectly cooked. It’s my favorite way to make macaroni and cheese!]
After making so many one pot pasta recipes, I decided to tackle macaroni and cheese. I actually made this two ways: one method involves cooking everything together at once and the other involved adding the cheese at the end. Both take about the same amount of time and it really comes down to preference as which version you may enjoy better.
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Add all the ingredients together into the pot and cook them at the same time.
I have to admit, I was a little worried. If you’ve ever made macaroni and cheese from scratch, you know the cheese is always mixed in at the end. I wasn’t quite sure what would happen if I had it cooking the whole time. Ignore the Greek yogurt in the pot. I was experimenting with ways to break down the cheese and make it creamier, but cooking Greek yogurt did nothing for this recipe.
In both versions, the pasta is cooked in milk. This eliminates the need to drain out the water. The milk tenderizes the pasta and adds a creaminess to the finished result. It also evaporates while cooking. While I often make macaroni and cheese with different types of pasta, for this recipe I recommend you stick with the mini elbow macaroni noodles because you want something that will cook fast (before the milk evaporates) and that will stay submerged under the milk.
As I guessed, the cheese started to melt and clump together as it boiled with the pasta. Some of the cheese does coat the noodles and some of the oils from the cheese separate and coat the noodles as well, making them slightly oily. Once it’s finished, you can give the pasta a little more of a stir to break up the cheese chunks. They won’t completely break down, but they will melt a little more into the pasta.
End Result: The macaroni gets a light coating of cheese and is slightly oily from the cheese oils cooking with the pasta. Mixed in are small pieces of cooked melted cheese which taste a little like the squeaky cheese curds found in poutine though not nearly as chewy or squeaky. To get a more uniform look, I sprinkled the top of my bowl with additional shredded cheese. Since the pasta was still piping hot, it easily melted on top, giving the pasta an extra layer of melted cheese that stays with you for each bite. Yum!
Cook the pasta in the milk and then stir in the cheese at the end.
End Result: The cheese melts uniformly and creates a thick coating on the noodles. It’s a little bit grainy in appearance so I made it a little creamier with some Greek yogurt. Though it’s the same amount of cheese, I felt that the cheese overwhelmed in this version and the Greek yogurt added a little tanginess to the sauce that I didn’t love as much.
I preferred the first version with the lightly coated noodles and separate melted cheese. But you can go ahead and try both and judge for yourself.
- 1 cup small elbow macaroni (see note)
- 1 cup fat free milk
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- 1/4 tsp ground mustard powder
- 1/4 tsp onion powder
- 1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese optional for version 1, to get an extra layer of melted cheese on top
- 1-2 tbsp nonfat greek yogurt optional, for version 2, to make the sauce creamier
In a medium-sized pot, add macaroni, milk, cheese, mustard and onion powder. Bring to a boil and stir pasta so it does not stick to the bottom or clump together.
Place lid on pot, leaving slightly ajar. Cook on medium heat for about 10 minutes or until noodles are tender. Check occasionally and stir to keep noodles from sticking to the bottom or to each other. Once noodles are done, milk should be mostly evaporated. You want a little milk left. If there is a lot of milk left, cook another 1 minute without lid, to evaporate the milk faster. Then turn off stove.
There will remain small clumps of cheese. Continue to stir to break down the cheese a little more, though you won't be able to fully break them down. Pour pasta into bowls and then immediately top with additional shredded cheese to create a melted uniform layer on top. (I highly recommend adding more cheese on top and it makes it look nicer and taste better)
In a medium-sized pot, add macaroni, milk, mustard and onion powder. Bring to a boil and stir pasta so it does not stick to the bottom or clump together. Place lid on pot, leaving slightly ajar. Cook on medium heat for about 10 minutes or until noodles are tender. Check occasionally and stir to keep noodles from sticking to the bottom or to each other.
Once noodles are done, milk should be mostly evaporated. You want a little milk left. If there is a lot of milk left, cook another 1 minute without lid, to evaporate the milk faster. Then turn off stove.
Immediately add in cheese and greek yogurt, if using, and mix with a large spoon for a few minutes until yogurt is blended and cheese is completely melted and coating the noodles.
- I don't recommend substituting another pasta shape because you want something small that cooks quickly and can stay submerged under the milk.
- Nutrition estimate does not include the optional ingredients.
The nutrition information provided are only estimates based on an online nutritional calculator. I am not a certified nutritionist. Please consult a professional nutritionist or doctor for accurate information and any dietary restrictions and concerns you may have. All images and content are © Kirbie's Cravings.
One Pot Macaroni and Cheese
Amount Per Serving (0.5 of recipe)
Calories 499 Calories from Fat 179
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 19.9g 31%
Saturated Fat 10.9g 55%
Trans Fat 0.5g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1.2g
Monounsaturated Fat 5.4g
Cholesterol 58.4mg 19%
Sodium 424.3mg 18%
Total Carbohydrates 53.7g 18%
Dietary Fiber 2g 8%
Protein 25.1g 50%
Vitamin A 13%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Instant Pot Macaroni and Cheese