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Healthy Mac and Cheese vs. Kraft Mac and Cheese

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DISCLAIMER:  This article may contain affiliate links and we may earn a small commission if you purchase through one of our affiliate links.  We only recommend products we love.

I know you’re probably here for the “Better-Than-Kraft Mac and Cheese Instant Pot Recipe”, but I have to give you a little background first (um…or you could scroll to the bottom or click here if you don’t want the story).

I used to live on boxed macaroni and cheese. You know, the kind that comes in that blue box, with the pasta and cheese sauce packet inside? You cook and drain the pasta and add milk and butter and the cheese sauce packet contents and stir it up and eat on the couch while watching Party of Five. Oh. Maybe not that last part. But that’s what I did. Hey! I was a poor college student and boiling pasta was about the extent of my cooking skills. (And that was a pretty good show, after all! Don’t judge me!)

The highlights, for me, of the blue box were that it was cheap (or relatively so— buying the brand name kind definitely felt like a splurge back then), it was easy (again, relatively— it sure made a lot of dirty dishes, even if I did choose to eat it right out of the pan, which of course I never ever did, Mom, in case you’re reading this), and it was as close to food as I needed at the time. It did the job, and it was a step up on the health-o-meter from Easy Cheese and Tater Tots, (not that I ever did that, either, Mom.)

The truth is, at that time, I was content in my understanding (misunderstanding) that if you bought it at a grocery store, it was food. If it wasn’t designed to be dessert, then it was probably pretty healthy.

Oh, how my attitude has changed! I’m very very conscious about what I’m putting into my body now, and what I’m offering my kids to put in their bodies. For a long time, I didn’t buy “the blue box” and we just didn’t eat mac-n-cheese. (Out of sight, out of mind?)

But I did miss it. And my kids missed it (they, too, had been introduced to the blue box). So I set out to try to make it, and make it fit within the 90/10 Nutrition guidelines which had served me so well for so long. I have to say here that the homemade stuff was SO much better than the blue box. After tasting the homemade, healthy mac and cheese, the blue box no longer held a piece of my heart. It started to taste like plastic. It was really something! Usually when you make something healthier, it’s not quite as good, but it’s worth it because it’s healthy. This time it was better. And a lot better.

And then came the instant pot.

The instant pot, with its genius no-drain pasta, changed the way I make mac and cheese forever. No more powdered cheese. No more straight, tubular refined wheat pasta that couldn’t call itself an elbow if its life depended on it. No more cooking two boxes because one is never enough. And no more macaroni and cheese from the “junk food” category.  With the instant pot, I can make better tasting, healthier macaroni and cheese in the same amount of time as the blue box, with fewer dirty dishes. This is all kinds of winning, people.

Better-Than-Kraft Mac and Cheese Instant Pot Recipe

So, without further ado, here is a simple replacement for that blue box.  The Better-Than-Kraft Mac and Cheese Instant Pot recipe.

Easy Macaroni and Cheese Recipe

Instant Pot Macaroni and Cheese

Author: Heidi Boortz
Servings : 4


  • 16 oz 100% whole grain elbow noodles
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 3 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 cups cheddar cheese shredded
  • 2 tsp salt
  • water
Need to make a plan?This recipe is already preloaded in MyFoodPlanet!


Mac-N-Cheese (in the instant pot):

  • Combine elbows, 4 c. water, butter, and salt. Seal. Set manual to high and set timer for 4 minutes.
  • Manual (quick) release the pressure. Set instant pot to sauté, and add milk and cheese. Stir until cheese melts.

Mac-N-Cheese (stovetop):

  • Bring 8 cups water to a boil. Add pasta. Cook 8 minutes or until al dente. Drain.
  • Return hot noodles to pan, and add milk, cheese, butter, and salt. Stir until everything is melted and creamy.


For gluten free, use 100% whole grain gluten free noodles
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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