This simple mac and cheese recipe is made without flour or cheese product, just REAL cheese. Homemade macaroni and cheese has never been this easy.
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Mac and cheese is the ultimate kid favorite, and let’s be honest, adult favorite, too. The boxed mac and cheese is popular for a reason…it’s easy as can be, and delicious. But this recipe is, too! We skip the flour so that you don’t have to whisk away at a roux, and we use real cheese- a major upgrade from cheese powder or cheese product. In addition, we’re boosting the nutrition, because, why not?
About this mac and cheese recipe
First thing – this recipe uses the instant pot, but you could make it on the stovetop if you are instant pot-less. (But seriously, you should get one. I resisted adding another cabinet space taking appliance for years. I *finally* got an instant pot after ignoring everyone praising them for like 7 years, and I wanted to smack myself. Why did I wait so long? They are speedy, easy, hands off, and don’t splatter food all over the place like when I cook on the stovetop. Love love. I have this one.)
Oh, and we’re adding some veggies in, too. I mean, would I even be a dietitian if I didn’t think about an extra nutrient boost? Canned pumpkin or butternut squash puree blend in seamlessly and add to the creaminess. In other words, you might never make mac and cheese without veggies again after you try it this way.
Canned pumpkin/squash is one of my all-time favorite ingredients, most importantly, because it is so versatile. I also use it in these muffins and this cheeseless kid-friendly pasta. When you use canned pumpkin or squash, you add a great serving of vitamin A, and fiber. I prefer the Libby’s brand for canned pumpkin. Some others to be a bit watery.
Many recipes use heavy cream or sour cream, however, I like using canned pumpkin or squash in place of those to make the dish a little bit lighter, too. Everyone in my house was happy with this version, so I’m like, why add heavy cream if we don’t need to?
The recipe does not call for any milk, but you may find you want to add a splash of milk (I prefer whole milk) if you want to thin it out a little bit.
Kinds of cheese for the best mac and cheese
This recipe has a combination of cheeses to boost the flavor. First up is shredded cheese — sharp cheddar cheese or extra sharp cheddar is the best. The sharp cheese works better than more mild cheeses like colby jack or monterey jack cheese.
Now, if you have a few extra minutes, I highly recommend shredding the cheese yourself from a block of cheddar cheese. Pre-shredded bagged cheese works in a pinch, but for the best flavor and best creamy texture, freshly shredded is best.
How do we make sure to get a creamy cheese sauce? Cream cheese! It helps make a creamy sauce. While the recipe calls for cream cheese, you can substitute butter, but I think the cream cheese adds a nice mild tang and creaminess that butter lacks. Still delicious with butter, though. And if you want to go nuts, feel free to add some grated parmesan cheese in there as well or just sprinkle some on top.
Easy mac and cheese ingredients
- Regular or whole wheat elbow macaroni
- Kosher salt
- Cream cheese or unsalted butter
- Canned pumpkin or butternut squash puree
- Shredded sharp cheddar cheese
My daughter loves it plain, I sometimes add some onion powder and garlic powder. I usually also stir in some peas and chopped frozen kale, too, to add something green. And, if you happen to have some caramelized onions or roasted garlic leftover in the fridge, that would be an amazing addition.
What to serve it with
This can be a main dish, especially if you add some peas, which totally count as a veggie and a protein (winning). Or it would be a perfect side dish to go alongside a roasted chicken, or a rotisserie chicken if you want to keep things super easy. An easy side dish and an easy main dish are the only dishes that are actually made in my house, tbh.
Get more easy recipes
Cooking for my family doesn’t always brighten my day. It often feels like a chore, something I have to squeeze in, and it just feels like work. That’s why chef & kids cooking instructor Heather Staller and I joined forces to create Simply Satisfying Meals, a recipe e-book with easy family meals that are majorly low effort. If you think of lazy in the most glamorous way possible, that’s what you get here. Seriously delicious dinners, very little to no prep involved. It’s a weeknight dream, I promise you. This mac and cheese recipe is in the ebook, along with other instant pot, crockpot, and one pot/pan meals (that will take away the dread of weeknight cooking for the fam). Check it out here.
Mac and cheese without flour
- Instant Pot
- 8 ounces Regular or whole wheat elbow macaroni* *Other pasta varieties (such as gluten-free pasta) or shapes might work for this recipe, but the cook time might change. Cook for the recommended 4 minutes then taste a piece of pasta to make sure it’s cooked. If the pasta is still pretty hard, put pressure back on for an additional minute and taste again.
- 2 cups Water
- 1/2 tsp Kosher Salt
- 1/4 cup Cream Cheese (or 2 Tbsp unsalted butter)
- 1/4 cup Canned pumpkin or butternut squash puree
- 1 cup Shredded cheddar cheese
- Add pasta, water and salt to your Instant Pot. Cover and set to manual high pressure for 4 minutes. When time is up, quick release steam. It’s okay if there is water remaining in the bottom of the pot. It will get absorbed as you stir in the remaining ingredients.
- Stir in cream cheese, pumpkin puree, and cheese. Continue to stir until creamy.
- Taste for seasoning and add more salt if needed. Serve right away.