This Instant Pot Panera mac and cheese recipe is even better than the copycat Panera version, and it’s super easy to make in the Instant Pot.
Instant Pot Panera mac and cheese
I’m now fully immersed in the world of Instant Pot cooking. I wonder how I ever survived making weeknight dinners without the speed and ease of the pressure cooker. I’ve been slowly adjusting my dinner and side dish recipes from their stove and crock pot versions to whip up in the Instant Pot. And so enters the Instant Pot Panera mac and cheese recipe.
After discovering what is now my favorite and new go-to way to make macaroni and cheese, I realized how easily Panera’s take on the classic side dish can be made in the pressure cooker to mimic the taste almost exactly. With a blend of American and white cheddar cheeses, and a touch of Dijon, this mac and cheese is creamy, delicious, and perfect in every way, especially since it’s ready in less than twenty minutes.
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mac and cheese fan club
Clearly I love mac and cheese. I also have recipes for slow cooker beer mac and cheese, microwave mac and cheese in a mug, homemade Kraft Easy Mac, and even mac and cheese in a muffin tin. You might also like this roundup of 20 crock pot mac and cheese recipes.
tips on making instant pot Panera mac and cheese
- Drain the water. After you make the pasta in the pressure cooker and before you add the milk and cheese, if there is any remaining water in the pot, drain the pasta. I was able to pour most of the liquid from the Instant Pot slowly by tipping over the sink (with a colander beneath, just in case). If you do drain the pasta, you may want to add a pinch more salt and even a bit more butter to the final mac and cheese.
- The valve! To keep the pasta from over-cooking, I use the quick release valve to let the steam escape as soon as the 4 minutes of pressure cooking is complete, rather than let the steam release slowly and naturally. However, when cooking pasta, the pasta water can spurt up through the quick release valve. Wearing a potholder or silicone gloves, turn the quick release in short spurts, closing the valve if the pasta water begins to spurt through the valve.
how to make Instant Pot Panera mac and cheese
- Place a 16 ounce box of large shell pasta, 4 cups of water, 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse sea salt, and 4 tablespoons butter in the Instant Pot. Give it a quick stir. Secure the top and seal the valve. Use the pressure setting and set the clock to 4 minutes. The Pot will take about ten minutes to pressurize before the clock starts counting down.
- When the 4 minutes is up, use the quick release valve to release the steam. Protect your hands with a potholder or silicone gloves and turn the valve. If the pasta water starts to spurt, close the valve, wait about 15 seconds, and continue to turn the valve in brief intervals until the spurting stops. Let all of the steam release until the float valve descends and it is safe to remove the lid.
- If there is a significant amount of water in the pot, drain the water by gently pouring the water off into the sink. You needn’t drain every last drop. Keep a colander in the sink just in case the pasta falls from the pot.
- Stir in 8 ounces of freshly shredded white cheddar cheese (about 2 rounded cups) and 4 ounces white American cheese (4 to 6 slices). If you had to drain the pasta, you might also want to add a bit of butter and a pinch of salt, to taste. Stir in a teaspoon of Dijon mustard. If desired, stir in some black pepper and a dash of hot sauce.
- You may put the Instant Pot in warming mode to help melt the cheese. For less creamy cheese, start with only 1/2 cup of milk and add more as desired.
This recipe for Instant Pot Panera mac and cheese also appears on Food Fanatic.
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