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Easy One-Pot BBQ Chicken Mac and Cheese

This is the creamiest BBQ Chicken Mac and Cheese you’ll ever make! Even better, it can be made in one pot – no muss, no fuss. Instant Pot mac and cheese is so easy (no roux!), and is ready in under 20 minutes.

a bowl of bbq chicken mac and cheese

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Ohhhhhhhh, friends, this creamy BBQ chicken mac and cheese recipe is so simple to make. You won’t even believe how quickly it comes together and with hardly any dishes.

The sauce in this mac and cheese is so creamy, even as leftovers. Which means it needs to go to the top of your list for easy meal prep.

Even better, you can use leftover chicken from a Paleo Roast Chicken, a grocery store rotisserie, or Pressure Cooker Chicken Tacos, making this the perfect make-ahead dinner.

I used my Whole30 BBQ Sauce for the chicken and love that it has no refined sugar. 

Can You Cook Macaroni in the Instant Pot?

Yes, and you absolutely should! The pressure cooker turns this into a one-pot wonder magic dish! You cook the butter, noodles, and water together, allowing all that awesome starchy goodness to create a base for creamy mac and cheese that will take your dinner to the next level.

3 photos showing how to make mac and cheese in the instant pot

No pressure cooker? You can use the base recipe from this Homemade Stovetop Mac and Cheese.

How Long do You Cook Macaroni in the Instant Pot?

You only need 4 minutes of cook time, and then a quick release. I used an 8-quart pressure cooker and it took 11 minutes to come up to pressure and 3 minutes to depressurize. 

What is the Best Cheese for Mac and Cheese?

I love a blend of extra sharp cheddar (Tillamook in the black label is our favorite) and mozzarella. The extra-sharp gives the mac and cheese some bite/tang, and the mozzarella creates that amazing creamy goodness we all love.

But feel free to get creative and use what you have on hand. Adding a bit of smoked gouda can take this dish to punch the wall level exciting. 

a box of noodles, butter, a can of evaporated milk, shredded cheese on a white board

What Do You Pair Mac and Cheese With?

Since this is not a “healthy” or lightened up dish, I recommend pairing it with veggies like Roasted Frozen Broccoli or Air Fryer Brussels Sprouts, Instant Pot Steamed Broccoli, or even a big kale chopped salad. You can also stir in some frozen peas (related: how to freeze peas) when you add the cheese and keep everything in one pot! Because you RULE and dishes don’t.

Oh, and if you have any leftover, use it to make these Mac and Cheese Egg Rolls. Drool!

Pro Tips/Recipe Notes

  • I have had multiple people test this recipe in their Instant Pots. One friend who had an off-brand pressure cooker did have an issue with not all of the water being absorbed when she cooked the pasta. If that happens, simply drain off any excess water before adding the cheese and evaporated milk.
  • It is not recommended you double this recipe. If you fill the inner pot too full, the water + melted butter combo might clog the vent during the quick release.
  • Fun additional toppings: bleu cheese, cilantro, or breadcrumbs (transfer mac and cheese to a baking dish, mix 2 tbsp of melted butter with 3/4 cup of breadcrumbs, sprinkle over the pasta, and put under a low broiler until lightly toasted). You can also use the chicken recipe from these Buffalo Chicken Fries to add some kick to your mac and cheese.
  • Sub in crispy air fryer tofu tossed with BBQ sauce for a fun vegetarian mac and cheese.
  • If possible, it’s worth the extra few minutes to shred your own cheese. Commercially shredded cheese has cellulose added to keep it from clumping up. Mmmmm, cellulose.
  • If you don’t have evaporated milk, you can sub in regular milk, half-and-half, or cream. Just make sure you heat it up before adding it to the hot pasta. This prevents the milk from curdling, resulting in a grainy cheese sauce.
  • Cooking time remains the same if you use whole wheat pasta, but increase the water by 1/4 cup.

a spoon scooping a serving of instant pot mac and cheese

More Easy One-Pot Meals

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BBQ Chicken Mac and Cheese

Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time4 mins
Pressurizing/depressurizing14 mins
Total Time23 mins
This is the creamiest BBQ Chicken Mac and Cheese you'll ever make! Instant Pot mac and cheese is so easy (no roux!), and is ready in under 15 minutes.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb elbow noodles {feel free to use any preferred pasta}
  • 4 cups water
  • 1/2 cup butter {1 stick}{cut into cubes}
  • 12 oz evaporated milk {1 can}
  • 3 cups cheese {shredded} {extra sharp cheddar + mozz}
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 cups chicken {cooked and shredded}
  • 1/4 cup BBQ sauce

Equipment

Instructions

For an 8 quart Instant Pot

  • Combine cooked shredded chicken and BBQ sauce. Set aside.
  • Cut butter into 4-5 pieces and combine with water and pasta in the Instant Pot.
  • Lock the lid into place and set the steam release handle to “Sealing”. Press Manual>High Pressure>4 minutes.
  • When it has finished cooking, flip the steam release handle to “venting” and allow any additional pressure to be released. Remove the lid. 
  • Turn the Instant Pot to "Off".
  • Pour in the evaporated milk, add the cheese, and stir gently until the cheese has melted.
  • Top with BBQ chicken, green onions, etc.

For a 6 quart Instant Pot

  • Combine water and noodles in the Instant Pot.
  • Lock the lid into place and set the steam release handle to “Sealing”. Press Manual>High Pressure>6 minutes.
  • When it has finished cooking, flip the steam release handle to “venting” and allow any additional pressure to be released. Remove the lid. 
  • Turn the Instant Pot to "Off".
  • Pour in the evaporated milk, add the cubed butter, cheese, and stir gently until the cheese and butter have melted.
  • Top with BBQ chicken, green onions, etc.

Notes

If your pressure cooker doesn't absorb all water while cooking the pasta, simply drain off any excess water before adding the cheese and evaporated milk.
 
It is not recommended you double this recipe. If you fill the inner pot too full, the water + melted butter combo might clog the vent during the quick release.
 
Cooking time remains the same if you use whole wheat pasta, but increase the water by 1/4 cup.
Nutrition Facts
BBQ Chicken Mac and Cheese
Amount Per Serving (0.5 cup)
Calories 216 Calories from Fat 108
% Daily Value*
Fat 12g18%
Saturated Fat 7g44%
Cholesterol 35mg12%
Sodium 168mg7%
Potassium 119mg3%
Carbohydrates 19g6%
Fiber 1g4%
Sugar 2g2%
Protein 8g16%
Vitamin A 352IU7%
Vitamin C 1mg1%
Calcium 174mg17%
Iron 1mg6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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