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Try something different at your next cookout with BBQ Chicken Mac and Cheese made in your Instant Pot! This one pot side dish combines everything you love about creamy, cheesy pasta and leftover grilled chicken in a uniquely yummy 30-minute recipe!
A handful of my friends fall in the category of folks who love those partitioned plates to keep the components of their meals from coming in contact with each other.
I’ve personally never had a problem with my food touching.
Matter of fact, one of my favorite meals is a leftover Thanksgiving sandwich (remember Friends?). All the goodness of turkey day between some bread? Yes please.
This BBQ chicken mac and cheese is essentially two types of cookout food mashed together in one dish.
Are you here for it?
JUST TAKE ME TO THE INSTANT POT BBQ CHICKEN MAC AND CHEESE ALREADY!
If you’d rather skip my (pretty darn helpful) tips and tricks, essential cooking info, and similar recipe ideas – and get straight to this deliciously easy chicken mac and cheese recipe, just scroll right on down to the bottom of the page where you can find the printable recipe card!
Macaroni and cheese is one of those easy recipes that is somehow still really easy to mess up.
Stove top mac and cheese begins with a flour, butter, and milk roux, which is used to combine and thicken the cheeses into that classic sauce.
When you make your mac in an Instant Pot, you don’t use a roux.
Everything is made in one pot, and the pasta water isn’t drained, so the question is how to get that creamy, velvet-like texture?
And the answer is evaporated milk.
There is always at least a can or two of evaporated milk (cow’s milk that has been cooked down and concentrated) in our pantry. Mainly for those days when Abe has a craving for tres leches cake, or if we somehow run out of coffee creamer.
If you’re out of evaporated milk, you can make your own by simmering 2 1/4 cups of regular milk down to 1 cup. You can also simply replace it, using 3/4 cup of whole milk and 1/4 cup of half-and-half.
The Best Cheese for Macaroni and Cheese
This is a recipe that is really all about THE CHEESE! Of course, the combo of cheeses you choose will transform the flavor, but a mix of yellow and white cheeses is a good bet.
A nice medium or sharp cheddar kicks off the flavors, but the dish needs a melty white cheese for balance. My favorite is smoked gouda, but any of these will also be delicious:
- Monterey Jack
- Pepper Jack
The Best Pasta to Use in Chicken Mac and Cheese
OK, so this recipe is definitely also about THE PASTA. Picking the wrong noodles for mac and cheese is a good way to mess it up!
Look for pasta with plenty of texture and shape. Long, thin noodles with smooth surfaces are meant for spaghetti and ziti. Mac and cheese needs nooks and crannies to hold in all that cheesy, chicken-stuffed goodness.
Elbow macaroni is the default option for mac and cheese (thanks to that blue box), but try one of these fun shapes for a change and find a new fave:
- Small shells
How To Make Chicken Mac and Cheese in an Instant Pot
This is the easiest mac and cheese ever! One pot, no draining – just mix, cook, mix some more, and enjoy!
First, pour your pasta, chicken broth, and beer of choice (if you don’t like beer, just add more broth) in your Instant Pot. Sprinkle in some salt and pepper and stir it up.
Secure the lid and the pressure gauge. Press Manual (or your cooker’s equivalent) and set the timer for 4 minutes on High Pressure. When the cook time is up, perform a quick pressure release by opening the pressure gauge.
Next, carefully remove the lid. Press the Sauté button, then stir the butter into the pasta until it’s melted and smooth. Add evaporated milk, sour cream, mustard, and paprika and mix well.
Press the Cancel/Keep Warm button. Add the shredded cheese, 1 cup at a time to help it incorporate, stirring well after each addition until it combines. Once the cheeses are fully incorporated, stir in the shredded chicken and barbecue sauce.
If you’d like your mac and cheese even creamier, stir in additional milk a few tablespoons at a time.
When you’re ready to serve, transfer the mac and cheese to a large serving bowl. Drizzle the top with more barbecue sauce, and garnish with sliced green onions and ground black pepper.
LOOKING FOR MORE BBQ SIDE DISH RECIPES?
- Southern-Style Tuna Macaroni Salad
- Creamy Mexican Street Corn Salad
- Kielbasa & Pierogies with Summer Vegetables
- Warm German Potato Salad
HELPFUL KITCHEN TOOLS FOR MAKING MAC AND CHEESE:
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Instant Pot BBQ Chicken Mac & Cheese
- 16 ounces mini shell pasta or elbow macaroni
- 3 cups chicken broth
- 1 cup beer or more chicken broth
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 5 ounces (1 can) evaporated milk
- ¼ cup barbecue sauce plus more for topping
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
- 2 cups sharp cheddar cheese shredded
- 2 cups smoked gouda cheese shredded
- 2 cups shredded chicken
- Sliced green onions
- Add pasta, chicken broth, beer (if using), salt, and pepper to EPC, stirring to combine.
- Secure the lid and cook on high pressure for 4 minutes. Perform a quick pressure release, and carefully remove the lid.
- Select saute and stir butter into pasta until melted. Add milk, barbecue sauce, mustard, and paprika and mix well. Press Cancel/Keep Warm.
- Add the shredded cheese 1 cup at a time, stirring well after each addition until melted. Once the cheeses are fully incorporated, stir in the shredded chicken. Add additional milk, a few tablespoons at a time, if you’d like it creamier.
- Serve drizzled with more barbecue sauce and garnished with sliced green onions and ground black pepper.