This instant pot smoked mac and cheese combines cheddar cheese with smoked gouda to make the best smoky cheese blend. Bacon is cooked in the instant pot then crumbled over top of the macaroni. Everything is made in the instant pot with a cook time of only 5 minutes. This quick smoked mac and cheese with bacon is a must try!
About The Recipe
This smoked mac and cheese with bacon is so quick and easy to make. Don’t spend more than 20 minutes in the kitchen making this delicious meal. Below are some things you should know about the recipe before giving it a try!
- This is a one pot meal. No need to dirty up the stove because everything is made in the instant pot.
- The smokiness of the smoked mac and cheese with bacon comes from the smoked gouda and pork bacon
- The pasta used in this recipe is elbow macaroni, you can substitute for shells instead
- While the instant pot cook time is only 5 minutes, total cook time is about 20 minutes. This includes the time it takes to cook the bacon and for the instant pot to reach pressure.
- This makes a lot of macaroni, feel free to half the recipe if you’re not serving a big crowd
- Many macaroni and cheese recipes use a roux which mixes butter and flour to thicken the creamy cheese sauce. This recipe does not require the hassle of making one. Simply dump all of your ingredients into your instant pot and voila it’s done. It’s like magic.
The Ingredient Notes to Make Smoked Mac and Cheese with Bacon
Bacon - Pork bacon is going to have the smokiness you’re looking for. Use hickory smoked bacon for even more smoky flavor. The macaroni is cooked in the bacon grease infusing it with more of that bacon flavor and the bacon is crumbled over top of the macaroni. It is everywhere in this recipe!
Chicken broth - This is used to not only cook the pasta but also to deglaze the pot after the bacon is done. You can substitute for water but your pasta may not be as flavorful. If substituting with water, add a pinch of salt.
Elbow Macaroni - Feel free to substitute with shell pasta or any other short pasta will work fine in its place.
Butter - This is going to keep your pasta from sticking together and will make it super creamy and delicious
Buffalo Sauce - This adds a little heat and even more flavor. Feel free to add hot sauce of your choice, you can even save some to garnish with at the end if you love hot sauce as much as we do.
Cheddar Cheese - It’s a no brainer if you’re looking for that orange creamy color that traditional macaroni and cheese comes with. I used a normal cheddar, nothing too sharp. However, you can use a sharp cheddar if that’s a flavor you’re looking for.
Smoked Gouda - This is a famous cheese commonly used in macaroni and cheese. It is smoky, creamy, and gets better with age. Substituting this cheese will leave out the smokiness you’re looking for.
Milk - You have to have milk in order to make your macaroni creamy. You may find that you only need a little or you need a little more. This will vary on your preferences. More on that later.
Choosing The Right Cheese
Picking the right cheese is so important for your smoked macaroni and cheese with bacon. Choosing the wrong cheese can mean making macaroni but the cheese main not melt or form together to make the creamy sauce you’re looking for.
Buying cheese can also be intimidating. There are so many different types and brands and many times they’re very different from one another. So how do you choose the right cheese? Well that’s a good question that I will help you navigate.
When choosing cheddar cheese:
- Look for a short ingredient list. You should really only see milk, cultures, enzymes, and salt.
- Opt for a mild cheese instead of aged or sharp. Since we’re using so much cheese in this recipe, opting for a lighter flavor will keep it from being so potent and overwhelming on your palette.
- Choose a block over shreds. There is nothing better than grating your own cheese. The pre-shredded alternatives are pricier and usually have more additives and preservatives to prevent caking. This may interfere with how it melts and forms into a cheese sauce.
When choosing smoked gouda:
- As mentioned above look for a short ingredient list and choose a block over shreds
- The longer your gouda has aged for, the more flavor and the more rich it will be. Choose a rich gouda for the best flavor.
- This is completely optional but opt for a gouda that’s dipped in wax which seals the cheese as it ages. This rind also maintains moisture and keeps it fresh and delicious
How The Smoked Mac and Cheese with Bacon is made
Step 1: Turn your instant pot onto the sauté setting. Once your instant pot is warm, add the bacon and let cook until the bacon is cooked and crispy. Remove the bacon from the pan and set aside. If you find that your instant pot is getting too hot and smoky you may want to cancel your instant pot to let it cool down. Your instant pot will get black marks from the bacon but don’t worry about this because we will deglaze in step 2!
Step 2: Turn the instant pot off if you haven’t already. Add the chicken broth and using a wooden spoon, remove the black burnt marks. Add the macaroni noodles, butter, buffalo sauce, garlic powder, and salt and pepper. Place the lid onto the instant pot. Turn the sealing knob to the closed position. Set the cook time to 5 minutes. Allow about 10 minutes for the instant pot to reach full pressure and start cooking. While the macaroni is cooking, crumble the bacon into small pieces and save for later.
Step 3: When the timer is done, do a quick release. Once the pressure released enough to remove the lid, give the noodles a good stir so they do not stick. Add the cheese and milk. Start by adding 1/2 cup of milk at a time and add a little more if you feel it’s necessary. Serve the smoked mac and cheese with bacon with green onion and bacon bits.
Storing the Smoked Mac and Cheese with Bacon
This smoked macaroni and cheese with bacon is best the day of, however, you can store the mac and cheese easily. To store, place the macaroni in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to a week.
To reheat, place in a microwave for 30 seconds at a time until fully heated. You may want to add a splash of milk to add back the creaminess it may have lost in the refrigerator.
Why is my cheese sauce separating?
One of the most common reasons cheese sauces separate and become grainy is because of overcooking. Exposure to too much heat can cause the cheese to separate into cheese curds and oil leaving you with an unappetizing meal. To prevent this turn off your instant pot so it doesn’t stay on the warm setting and then mix in the milk and cheese.
Is Smoked Cheddar Good in Mac and Cheese?
Using smoked cheddar instead of a mild or sharp cheddar will certainly bring in more of that smoky flavor. This is a great substitute and can be used if you’re having a hard time finding smoked gouda.
Why is my macaroni and cheese dry?
It’s possible you didn’t add enough milk. The longer your macaroni and cheese sits, the more it will dry out. I recommend that you start adding 1/2 cup of milk with your cheese. You’ll notice the sauce getting thicker. When that happens add just a little more milk to thin out the cheesy sauce and make it more creamy. After the initial first 1/2 cup, add a few tablespoons at a time so you don’t overdo it.
Why is my macaroni and cheese watery?
As soon as you take off the instant pot lid and you give your macaroni a good stir, you may notice some residual liquid. This is perfectly normal. We use this liquid to make the cheese sauce so do not let it scare you. As you add the milk and cheese, the wateriness at the bottom of the pan will form into a delicious cream sauce that will coat your noodles.
More Instant Pot Recipes
Quick Instant Pot Smoked Mac and Cheese with Bacon
- 4 bacon slices
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 16 oz uncooked elbow macaroni
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 tablespoon buffalo sauce
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- Pinch of salt and pepper
- 2 cups cheddar cheese
- 1 1/2 cups smoked gouda
- 1/2-1 cup milk
- Pinch of green onion for garnish
- Turn your instant pot onto the sauté mode. Add bacon and cook until crispy. Remove the bacon from instant pot and set aside. Hit the cancel button on your instant pot to turn off. Deglaze the pot with chicken broth. Using a wooden spoon, remove any burnt pieces from the bottom.
- Add the uncooked macaroni, butter, hot sauce, garlic, salt and pepper to the instant pot
- Place the lid on the pot and set the knob to the sealed position. Cook on high pressure for 5 minutes followed by a quick release. While your macaroni is cooking, crumble the bacon into small pieces.
- After your instant pot has released pressure and you’re able to remove the lid, add the milk and cheese to the pot a little at a time, stirring each time you add more cheese. Continue to stir until it’s smooth and creamy. Serve with crumbled bacon and green onion to garnish.