This Instant Pot Spinach Mac and Cheese is creamy and delicious, packed with veggies and fit for a meal or a side dish the family will love!
This post is sponsored by Cabot Creamery.
This Spinach Mac & Cheese will remind you of the best stovetop mac and cheese you’ve had. Made in the pressure cooker, it’s easy and packed with a veggie boost to make the perfect plant-forward recipe.
Ingredients for spinach mac and cheese
To make this recipe, you’ll only need a few ingredients:
- Macaroni noodles
- Sharp cheddar cheese
- Baby spinach
- Vegetable broth
- A little Dijon mustard
- Milk or half and half
What’s the best cheese for mac and cheese?
The key to great Mac and Cheese is the cheese. I’m using a combination of Cabot Vermont Sharp Cheddar which melts into a smooth, creamy sauce with lots of flavor.
And for a hint of nutty, Parmesan-like flavor, I added some Alpine Cheddar Cheese from their Legacy Collection. Cabot’s Alpine Cheddar goes very well with the spinach.
If you are not familiar, Cabot Creamery is a co-operative owned by farm families throughout New England & New York and 100% of profits go back to the farmers. All Cabot cheddars are naturally aged and 100% naturally lactose-free, which I love.
Tips for success for this recipe:
Use a cheese that melts well. For that creamy goodness, choose a good cheese. Sharp or Extra Sharp Cheddar works great but Monterey Jack is also delicious. It has a more mild flavor so it would be a good backdrop for a jalapeno mac and cheese or something with a southwest flair.
Don’t overcook the noodles. Because this recipe is made in the pressure cooker, the pasta will cook in less than half the time. Probably the best tip I can give you? Do a quick release. If you forget and let the Instant Pot release pressure naturally, the pasta will get way too soft.
Along those same lines, remember that once the cook cycle ends, the pressure cooker will switch to warm. This can also overcook the pasta.
Use broth for flavor. I like letting the macaroni noodles soak up the flavor of a vegetable broth. Don’t have any broth? You can absolutely use water to cook your pasta but be sure to taste the mac and cheese before you serve it. You’ll likely need to add a little salt.
And be sure to use a good vegetable broth that’s not too high in salt. It will affect the final flavor of this mac and cheese.
Will this mac and cheese be creamy?
Yes. Though it won’t look like it when you add the milk and cheese to the Instant Pot. Be patient.
The sauce will thicken.
Best vegetables to add to mac and cheese
I added fresh baby spinach because it was quick, easy and what I had on hand. It’s also quick-cooking and won’t change the flavor much. That means most everyone in the family will love the dish.
Chard will also work the same as it cooks very quickly. But I know not everyone has chard just hanging out in the fridge.
If you add hardier vegetables like kale or broccoli, you might saute those before adding to the pot. I also love making my butternut squash mac and cheese recipe, but it’s a bit of a different process. Still just as easy though.
Frequently Asked Questions
What’s the best milk?
I haven’t tried this recipe with low fat or skim milk nor non-dairy milk. This recipe uses just ½ cup milk (or half and half) for 4 -6 servings. It’s not much, but adds just enough richness for a smooth and creamy sauce.
Can this recipe be doubled?
Yes. This recipe can be easily doubled. I have not tried it with more than 1 pound of pasta at a time though.
Can this recipe be made gluten-free?
Probably. I just haven’t tried it. Whole grain, quinoa or other gluten-free pastas, will behave differently in a pressure cooker. I have not used them so please let me know if you try it out and what time changes need to happen.
TIP: If you are lucky enough to live in an area that sells Cabot Mac & Cheese shreds, grab a bag for a shortcut. I used it the first time I made this recipe and found it to melt perfectly into a creamy, dreamy sauce.
Instant Pot Spinach Mac and Cheese
- ½ pound elbow macaroni
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (or ¼ teaspoon ground mustard)
- ⅛ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ cup warm milk
- 2 cups shredded Cabot Vermont Sharp Cheddar
- ¼ cup shredded Cabot Alpine Cheddar Cheese
- 6 cups fresh baby spinach
- fresh ground pepper to taste
- Add pasta, broth, mustard, and garlic powder, to the inner pot of the pressure cooker. Stir to combine.
- Close the lid and set to sealing. Cook on manual high pressure 3 minutes. Wait for it to come to pressure. (It took my Instant Pot 5 minutes to reach pressure.) Using an oven mitt or towel, do a quick release and carefully open the lid so the steam escapes away from you.
- While hot, add the warm milk and shredded cheeses. Stir continuously until the cheese melts into a smooth creamy sauce. If there’s excessive liquid, saute the mixture for 3-5 minutes on normal heat.
- Stir in the spinach. Let sit for 5 minutes to thicken. Taste and add cracked black pepper to taste and salt if needed. Enjoy warm with a salad if you’d like even more veggies.