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.
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.
To make Panera mac and cheese in the Instant Pot, you will boil the pasta first using the pressure cooker. Then, stir in the milk and cheeses, using the residual heat of the pot to melt the cheese.
The Instant Pot makes a perfectly-textured pasta, with just a bit of firmness. Adding the cheeses and milk later creates a creamy mac and cheese, just like the Panera version.
An important note when making this recipe: After the pasta cooks and before you add the cheese and milk, drain any water that remains in the Instant Pot, if there is any.
You can do this by simply pouring off the water into a sink (with a colander in the sink to catch any pasta that may fall) without entirely draining the pot and removing the pasta.
If you drain the water, you may want to add a bit more butter and salt to the final mac and cheese, to taste, if needed.
An even more important note: The valve!!
To keep the pasta from overcooking, I use the quick release valve to let the steam escape as soon as the pressure cooker timer ends, 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.
It may take a bit of practice, but once you get the hang of your Instant Pot, you can whip up dishes in no time. In less than 20 minutes you can have perfect Panera Mac and Cheese.
Looking for dinner recipes for your pressure cooker? Check out this roundup of 20 Instant Pot chicken recipes.
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