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Shells and Cheese in the Instant Pot

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If you like your macaroni and cheese super cheesy and over the top creamy, this Instant Pot shells and cheese recipe for you. It’s inspired by the boxed shells and cheese and is made easily in the instant pot.

close up bowl of creamy shells and cheese in front of instant pot.

Very few dinners aren’t made better with a generous helping of creamy macaroni and cheese. It is the ultimate comfort food for kids and adults alike. These cheesy shells practically make themselves with the help of the instant pot.

Little Dude is a huge fan of macaroni and cheese. Like me, he enjoys is as creamy and cheesy as possible.

I had one of those big blocks of American cheese in the pantry with the intention of making Kelly’s cheese soup. But the weather started warming up before I had a chance.

Now I can eat cheese soup all year long, but my husband is a hard sell on soup any time of year. So I figured rather than push it, I’d use the cheese to make ultra smooth macaroni and cheese.

Half of the block went into a stove top version.  I served it with some root beer braised pulled pork that I am sharing with you soon.

Little Dude was in heaven! He gave it twelve thumbs up and would have written his name on the leftovers with permanent marker if I had let him.

Serving spoon filled with cheesy instant pot Velveeta shells and cheese.

So when we took advantage of a nice day by grilling some burgers, I figured I’d use the rest of that cheese for more macaroni.

This time I pulled out some large shell pasta to more closely emulate that favorite boxed side dish.  Plus I pulled out the instant pot to make it so I could set it and forget it a bit more.

After making creamy spaghetti and meatballs in the instant pot, I was hooked on how easy it is. You don’t have to patiently wait for the water to boil and then watch the pot for boil overs.

bowl of macaroni and cheese in front of pressure cooker.

Instead you just set the time and pressure and enjoy your family! The only word of warning is that the starchy water can make a bit of a mess when you vent the steam.

Tip for Venting the Instant Pot

No worries though, I have a trick for that!  Just place a damp dishcloth over the vent when you release the pressure.

It will catch the mess and prevent starchy splatter. I learned that from MiMi after watching her make mashed potatoes in her pressure cooker.

After you watch your pressure cooker spit white starchy water all over the counter a couple of times, this will be a tip becomes second nature. It’s much better to catch it at the source rather than having to clean it up later.

Making the Cheese Sauce

One the pasta is cooked, the starch liquid left behind is the perfect base for the cheese sauce. Add a little milk and a whole heap of cheese to make it extra good.

bowl of macaroni and cheese in front of pressure cooker.

A couple of minutes on saute is all it takes to melt it together. It will likely be a little loose still, but will thicken a bit as it sits.

Just don’t plan on it sitting too long, it will disappear into bellies as soon as you give the go ahead! This version got 36 thumbs up from Little Dude and some happy noises from my husband too.

Tips and Tricks

  • Place a damp dishrag over the vent on the pressure cooker to catch any starchy splatter.
  • Start with just a splash of milk and add more if you need it.
  • Cutting the cheese into small cubes will help it melt faster and get dinner on the table quickly.

Frequently Asked Questions

What seasonings can I add to Velveeta shells and cheese?

If you want a little more pizzazz in your mac and cheese, you can add a little bit of garlic powder, mustard powder or paprika.

What toppings go on shells and cheese?

Try some crumbled bacon or a little bit of hot sauce. Crushed flamin’ hot Cheetos add crunch and spice. Or add some shredded cheese if you want.

close up bowl of creamy shells and cheese in front of instant pot.

Instant Pot Shells and Cheese

If you like your macaroni and cheese super cheesy and over the top creamy, this is the recipe for you. It’s inspired by the boxed shells and cheese and is made easily in the instant pot.
4.85 from 13 ratings
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Course Side Dishes
Cuisine American
Servings 12 Servings
Calories 178 kcal


  • 16 ounces large shell pasta
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 4 cups water
  • 16 ounces Velveeta or similar
  • ½ cup milk


  • Place pasta, water, salt and pepper in instant pot. 
    16 ounces large shell pasta, 1 teaspoon salt, 4 cups water, ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Cook on high pressure for 4 minutes, then quick release the pressure. Place a damp rag over the pressure release to catch any splatter.
  • Stir in milk and cubes of cheese, turn instant pot to sautee if needed to make sure all of the cheese is melted.
    16 ounces Velveeta, ½ cup milk
  • Allow to sit for about 5-10 minutes with the instant pot off to  thicken a bit, then serve. 



Serving: 1ServingCalories: 178kcalCarbohydrates: 16gProtein: 9gFat: 9gSaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 31mgSodium: 745mgFiber: 1gSugar: 3g
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Recipe Rating

William Conkel

Sunday 23rd of January 2022

What we have found in delving into instant pot dinner art is, if things come out to soupy or runny, a little corn starch and water mixture stirred in on sate will ticking it up. Corn starch has no flavor and your dinner is saved.


Sunday 23rd of January 2022

Yes, that is a good tip to have on hand in so many situations!


Saturday 11th of January 2020

Just tried it and it came out SUPER soupy. Turns out my box of shells was only 12oz and not 16oz. Damn you shrinkflation! Going to have to give this another go.


Saturday 11th of January 2020

Oh no!!! There are a lot of 12 oz boxes of pasta out there. That really sucks though. I hope you found something to stir in there to make it not a waste. Or make it a cheese soup!

Heidi ~ The Frugal Girls

Sunday 7th of April 2019

What a great idea! I love making pasta in the Instant Pot, and this looks like the ultimate comfort food dish!


Monday 8th of April 2019

Isn't it such a great way to do pasta? Thank you!

Big Rigs 'n Lil' Cookies

Sunday 7th of April 2019

I'm so excited to make this. Putting cheese on the shopping list!


Monday 8th of April 2019

I hope you love it! It makes a whole heap, but we didn't have any trouble eating it! The leftovers were good too. (But it would half easily enough.)


Saturday 6th of April 2019

I think that my son will like this better than the box! I am going to let him try making this today!!! Thanks!


Monday 8th of April 2019

I am sure he will! I hope you enjoy it!