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5 from 21 votes

Panera Broccoli Cheddar Mac and Cheese

This Panera Broccoli Cheddar Mac and Cheese is even better than the original. It is extra creamy, loaded with cheese, and made completely in the Instant Pot. This mac and cheese recipe could not get any easier or more flavorful. Plus there are even some veggies involved
Prep Time5 minutes
Cook Time15 minutes
Total Time20 minutes
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Servings: 6 people
Calories: 495kcal
Author: Brianna May


  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 cups chicken stock*
  • 1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground mustard
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 8 ounces medium shell shaped pasta
  • 2 heaping cups broccoli florets*
  • ½ heaping cup julienned carrots*
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 4 ounces cream cheese diced, room temperature*
  • 8 ounces extra sharp cheddar cheese shredded, room temperature*


  • Review all recipe notes and instructions before beginning.
  • Select “Saute” mode on the Instant Pot. Add the butter and stir until melted.
  • Turn the pot off. Add the stock, hot sauce, salt, garlic, onion powder, ground mustard, pepper, and pasta. Stir until combined.
  • Add in the broccoli and carrot on top of the pasta. Do not stir. These should be sitting on top of the pasta mixture.
  • Secure the lid and switch the valve to sealing. Select “Pressure Cook” and “High” on the Instant Pot. Set the timer for 5 minutes. Release the pressure immediately after the timer has finished.
  • Select “Keep Warm” on the pot. Stir in the half and half. The broccoli will begin to fall apart in the sauce.
  • Stir in the cream and cheddar cheese until completely melted and smooth. Turn the pot off and let stand for 5 minutes before serving so the sauce can thicken


Chicken Stock: Swap for chicken broth or vegetable broth. 
Broccoli Florets: Use fresh broccoli florets. I buy the pre-washed and pre-chopped broccoli to save time. I have not tested this recipe with frozen broccoli. 
Carrots: I like to julienne the carrots instead of using shredded carrots because the larger and thicker carrot pieces cook less and hold up better. The smaller and thinner the carrot pieces are the more they will fall apart during pressure cooking.  
Cream Cheese: Leave the cream cheese at room temperature while you prepare the other ingredients. 
Cheddar Cheese: You can use white or yellow cheddar, or one cup of each. Be sure to shred the cheese yourself instead of purchasing shredded cheese. It has a coating that does not allow it to melt as well. Lastly, I highly recommend using high quality cheddar cheese for the best flavor, like Cabot or Tillamook. These resulted in a more flavorful mac and cheese compared to the store brand cheese I tried.
Refrigerator: Store leftover mac and cheese in the fridge in an airtight container for 3-4 days.
Reheating: For a small serving, reheat in the microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring occasionally. For multiple servings, reheat the leftover mac and cheese on the stove over medium heat, stirring frequently. Add a splash of whole milk or broth if the leftover mac and cheese has dried out.
Use good quality cheddar. I recommend Cabot or Tillamook for the best flavor. 
Shred your own cheese. Store bought shredded cheese is coated in starch to prevent it from caking. This also prevents it from seamlessly melting in a sauce. So I always recommend shredding your own cheese.
The broccoli will fall apart. If you want more defined pieces of broccoli you can fold steamed broccoli florets into the pasta at the end. Add an extra ¼ cup of stock to the pot to compensate for the loss of water from the broccoli. 
The broccoli cheddar mac and cheese is not spicy. The hot sauce adds so tanginess that compliments the flavor of the cheese. 
The recipe can easily be doubled. This recipe doubles just fine in my 8 quart pressure cooker.
Pasta Shape: I have tested this recipe with penne and it takes 5 minutes on high pressure. The general rule for cooking pasta in the instant pot is to divide the shortest cook time on the package by 2 and subtract 1 minute for a softer pasta or subtract 2 minutes for very al dente pasta. 


Calories: 495kcal | Carbohydrates: 39g | Protein: 19g | Fat: 30g | Saturated Fat: 17g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 7g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 83mg | Sodium: 872mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 6g