Instant Microwave Macaroni and Cheese in a Mug is a total game changer ~ this recipe makes a single serving ultra creamy mug of cheesy macaroni in just minutes!

Instant Mac & Cheese in a Mug
Of course I take a personal interest in all my recipes, but I’m extra interested in this one because I tend to get crazy hunger spikes in the middle of the day, and for some reason I have a block against buying anything remotely appropriate for lunch when I’m at the supermarket.  I’m always stuck roaming around the kitchen hunting for something, anything, to deal with my intense mid-day munchies, so imagine my excitement at finding an instant rich and creamy macaroni and cheese… for one… in a mug… made right in the microwave!  No leftovers to tempt you into eating too much, or to go to waste.  We tested this a whole bunch of times, and came to the conclusion that this recipe works best.  It’s perfect if you live alone or just happen to be alone and hungry.   Kids can do it themselves after school. or in a dorm.  If you like macaroni and cheese, you’re going to want to give this a try, trust me.  It may take a few tries to get it right for your mug and your microwave, but it will be worth it.

Set up for instant macaroni and cheese

This is quick and easy, but because we’re dealing with a recipe for one, and a microwave, it is fairly precise, so listen up carefully — you’ll need just a few simple things to get started —

  • a large mug
  • a liquid measuring cup
  • a 1/3 cup dry measuring cup
  • elbow noodles
  • some pre-shredded cheese
  • a little milk
  • and water.

shredded cheese for instant macaroni and cheese

Once you’ve got it down, you can experiment with variations, but for the first time I suggest trying it this way.  I found that store bought finely shredded cheese worked best, and made the creamiest sauce.  I used a cheddar/Monterey Jack blend, but other blends will also work.  I used whole milk.  My mug had a 1 2/3 cup (400 ml) capacity.  My microwave is a fairly standard 1000 watts.

instant macaroni and cheese in a mug

Put 1/3 cup of elbow noodles into your mug.  Add a scant 1/2 cup of water to it.  Be sure to use a liquid measuring cup to measure your water.  And by scant, I mean just shy of 1/2 cup.  Basically you will microwave this mixture until the water has evaporated.  In my microwave this takes about 4 minutes.  Microwave it for 2 minutes to start, then stir.  Then another minute, and stir again.  Then a final minute, and the water should be absorbed.  If not, microwave a bit more until it is.

macaroni and cheese for one, made right in the microwave

Stir in your milk and cheese, and microwave for a final 30-60 seconds.  Stir very well to blend everything together into a creamy sauce, and enjoy.

Instant Microwave macarone and cheese for one

We tried this many different ways, and found that the pre-packaged grated cheese made the creamiest sauce.  I was stumped about that until I read the ingredients and saw that there is some starch added to prevent clumping in pre-shredded cheese.  I think this may also help thicken the sauce.  Not sure, just a guess.  But we tried grating our own cheeses and the sauce came out thinner.  In that case I added a pinch (1/8 teaspoon) of cornstarch to the milk, and that seemed to help with thickening.

Instant Mac & Cheese in a Mug

Instant Mac & Cheese in a Mug


  • 1/3 cup small macaroni elbow noodles (uncooked)
  • a scant 1/2 cup water
  • a scant 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup pre-packaged finely shredded cheese (we like a cheddar/jack blend)


  1. Put the macaroni and the water into a mug. Microwave on full power for 2 minutes. Stir. (Note: the water will boil over just a bit, that is fine)
  2. Microwave for another minute. Stir.
  3. Microwave for a fourth minute, and then check to see that all the water has been absorbed. If not, microwave a bit more, until it is gone.
  4. Stir in the milk and shredded cheese and microwave for a final 30-60 seconds. Stir well, and enjoy.


If you are grating your own cheese, try adding a pinch (1/8 tsp) of cornstarch to the milk.

Recipe found on Babble


  • Use a big mug.  Mine had a 1 2/3 cup (400 ml) capacity.
  • Use elbow pasta, anything larger will not cook quickly enough.
  • Whole milk seems to work best, although feel free to use cream or half and half for a decadent treat.
  • Measure carefully and accurately according to the recipe directions.  Use a liquid measuring cup for the liquid, and a dry measuring cup for the solids.
  • Cook your noodles until all of the water has all been absorbed.  Check carefully after the 4 minutes, and if there is still any water left in your mug, keep microwaving in short bursts until it is absorbed.  Microwaves, like ovens, can be finicky.
  • Set your mug on a small plate to catch any water overflow.
  • Pre-packaged finely shredded cheese made the creamiest thickest sauce.  If you are grating your own cheese, you might experiment with adding a pinch of cornstarch to the milk and cheese.
  • Stir well after adding the cheese and microwaving for the final 30-60 seconds.  The sauce will develop and get creamy as you stir.  It will continue to thicken as it sits.  You can reheat it briefly if you like.
  • If despite doing everything right you still end up with a thin sauce, you may have had extra water left in your pasta after the initial cooking,  Check it carefully because water = watery sauce.
  • Once you’ve got the basic operation down, experiment to your heart’s content with different cheeses, etc.

creamy macaroni and cheese for one

I have eaten SO much mac & cheese in the past few days of testing that I am totally sick of it, so now it’s your turn — Let me know in the comments is you try this, and what worked and didn’t work for you!

DIY Instant Mac & Cheese


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62 Responses to Instant Microwave Macaroni and Cheese in a Mug

  1. Amy says:

    I did use bigger pasta ( I had some leftover to use) and I just microwaved in a bowl with water I only added half the water at first but added more and my pasta was cooked through! I was so grateful because I read bigger pasta didn’t work. It did take more time but I just kept microwaving in 2 minute increments and stirring and it got the job done! It’s a great recipe and such a great portion for just one!

  2. Melinda says:

    I was making this as a late night snack for my picky daughter.. I thought it’d be easy and delicious. She loves mac and cheese. Well, it didn’t work out too well. The cheese clumped together at the bottom of the blow. I’m guessing I used the wrong cheese? I used packaged cheese because I’d figured it was quick. No. Go. I’ll try again with fresher graded cheese. Good idea though!

  3. Maureen Batali says:

    Double cream Gouda, organic caramelized onion English cheddar, a tablespoon of finely minced chorizo, a teaspoon of finally minced roasted red pepper, a dash of Wondra , Half-and-half and fresh ground pepper… This was amazing next time I will add fresh parsley I may even prep some of the cheese sauce ingredients in a food saver bag in the freezer for fast and easy Mac and cheese

  4. Ilona says:

    I’ve made it a bunch over the past month. A couple of things I noticed 1) I had to add an extra minute or two to cook shells (I needed to use them up before buying elbows). 2) If the water overflowed, I just put a plate underneath and dumped the water back in after each minute. Actually I do this every time now, it’s easier to clean. 3) a tiny bit of mustard (powder or sauce) makes the flavor more intense. 4) It helps make the taste better if I add a tiny pinch of salt to the uncooked pasta and water. Other than that, it’s pretty perfect! Thanks!

  5. Tracie says:

    I veganized this and it was great! Gluten free macaroni, unsweetened almond milk and two Follow Your Heart non-dairy provolone slices cut into pieces. Will be making this a lot! Thanks for the recipe!

  6. ddee says:

    can you make it in a video??? youtube??

  7. Sarah smith says:

    Could you please convert these to uk measurements as I can’t find conversions online. It would be much appreciated. The recipe looks so good!!

  8. HelpConvert says:

    Metric system is a huge pain in the ass … Get your shit together america

  9. Kathryn says:

    I just tried this and it was so good. It took my microwave about 7 minutes to absorb the water, and I used pre-shredded aged cheddar. Creamy and very flavourful, but somehow not heavy ? What a fantastic idea! I dislike reheated mac & cheese (the consistency is weird to me) I can’t wait to make this at work next week…my coworkers are going to be so jealous!

  10. Helen says:

    OMG what have you done? Winter weekday lunches will never be the same. Or my waistline… TFS this crazy wonderful recipe!
    Helen – Firenze Cards

  11. Linda says:

    This did not work in my microwave at all with this amount of water and timing….needed much more of both. Had to move the pasta to the stove add water and continue to cook. Once it was done added the cheese, but need more liquid than directed again to get creamy. Too bad, I really wanted this to work in the micro……my college son lives for mac and wants it with every meal if he can finagle it :)))

    • Sue says:

      Every microwave is different, Linda…and make sure you use the small elbow noodles, I’ve noticed bigger pasta does not work.

  12. Alina says:

    I had a bit of problem with the water bubbling over top of the mug (it was a pretty large mug that holds about 2 cups) and had to resort to 30 secs spurts instead of a minute.

  13. Anna says:

    So what would be the difference in the recipe if I used 2% instead of whole milk?

  14. Brandon says:

    Make sure if you are buying store bought shredded cheese to check the ingredients. Some are coated with cellulose instead of starch. The ones with cellulose do not melt early as well.

    I you want to make this with cheese you are shredding yourself try using a little bit of Wondra flour instead of cornstarch. It is great for preventing cheese sauces from separating and keeps them creamier.

  15. Jessica says:

    Thanks a million for this! I looove mac and cheese, but dislike resorting to the boxed stuff and my many previous attempts (both mugs and traditional stove top recipes) have been subpar. This was great and worked a treat following the recipe to the letter.

    I used extra sharp/mature cheddar in mine grated from a block using a microplane and added a pinch of himalayan sea salt and a pinch of corn starch. Just for funsies, I cut up half an avocado into small pieces and stirred it in until it semi-melted and half incorporated itself into the sauce. Delish!

    This will definitely be a staple in our household, and it’s perfect for pregnant ladies out there that want wholesome food fast with little fuss. :)

  16. Shut up! This is so brilliant, I am going to run home from work and make it for dinner. I love mac n cheese but don’t want to be stuck with a big batch, nor do I really want to scarf the boxed stuff. So perfect. Thanks for the recipe!

  17. Jennifer Andrews says:

    HOLY COW THIS IS ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS!! took a while for my noodles to cook but once they did, the whole process was super easy and the final product is fantastic!!!! thank you for this recipe!!!!

  18. Rachelle says:

    This is a great idea for my son who just moved in to a barracks. First time on his own and needs a few recipes for the microwave to save money on his food bill.

  19. Megan says:

    WOW this is good, I’ve made it a few times but whole milk seriously made a world of difference! This recipe is AWESOME.

  20. Heaven says:

    Where has this been for the last 13 years of motherhood? Pinned and stumbled! What a fantastic idea.

    • Sue says:

      I had to laugh, Heaven, I could have really used this with my youngest…she literally lived on the blue box stuff!

  21. lonnie thomas says:

    Will give it a try. And if you have a newwsletter sign me up.

  22. sharon says:

    Great idea. Think I will try mine with whole wheat pasta, evaporated milk (I use this in my traditional mac n cheese), some low-fat cheese, and some sundried tomatoes chopped.

  23. Ingrid Buxton says:

    I had the same wandering around the kitchen looking for “something” until I realized this was due to eating carbs for breakfast or lunch. Got rid of the carbs, got rid of the “munchies”

  24. cindy says:

    What the heck? My noodles will not get done and all the water keeps boiling out. Help?????

    • Sue says:

      Try a different size cup, Cindy. A little water boils over, but the rest should stay in and cook the noodles.

  25. Peter Gordon says:

    I am insulin resistant so full fat cheese and milk don’t do so well with me. I’ve done a similar recipe using fat-free cheese and omitting the milk. Usually there is enough moisture on the cooked pasta to make the concoction thin enough. If you don’t have a large mug or if you wish to make several portions the recipe can be doubled or tripled. With the microwave this means also doubling or tripling the cooking time for the macaroni. Melting the cheese and getting the final meal hot is done by watching and testing periodically. The 30-60 seconds doesn’t necessarily need to be tripled!

  26. Sue, I’ve been trying to think of some different, easy, just-for-me lunches. And here you are with this! I can’t wait to try it! I just hope I don’t like it *too* much because it would be too easy to make it repeatedly!

  27. Foodiewife says:

    I wish I had found this recipe when my son was a wee lad. This is a lot better than that boxed stuff with all the mystery ingredients. I get the munchies, too, so this would be something I’d like. I love mac ‘n cheese!

  28. Mariette says:

    My sons are going to love me even MORE for making them these cheesy-mugs!
    Thank you so much!

  29. This looks great, Sue! For some reason your blog stopped coming to my email so I signed up again!

  30. Oh my word – what a perfect lunch! Your directions are detailed beautifully. Everyone should share this with college students and empty-nesters with traveling husbands – haha. Love the cheesiness – so beautiful! I have always wondered about making those single serve brownies in a mug – but thought I better not :) Have a wonderful weekend!

  31. grace says:

    something like this could definitely keep me from getting hangry, as i so often do. :)

  32. Brilliant! Immediately sending this off to my daughter in college. She’s a mac and cheese freak and missing it terribly. I’m absolutely sure she’ll make good use of it!

  33. PurpleQueen says:

    I live alone, so this is a no brainer for me. I usually make mac & cheese, (with ham, and mini penne pasta) in a 3 cup pyrex casserole, (not easy to find that size). This makes two servings. I use 2 pre shredded cheese (s), and some grated parm, or ricotta (to replace 1 one shredded cheese), plus all of the basics for white sauce, which I make while I am cooking the pasta. After combining the sauce, penne, & ham, I top the whole thing with some buttered panko bread crumbs, cover it with foil and bake, at 350 degrees for about 35 minutes, then I take the foil off and keep it in the oven for 10 more minutes, so that the panko can get crispy. I let it stand for 15 minutes before I dive in. Very time consuming, but worth it. I am fortunate enough to be able to come for lunch, so I will definitely give this instant version a try. I really enjoy comfort food on a cold Winter day. Thanks again for such a quick and easy take on just about every one’s favorite!

  34. This is so perfect for when you just need to satisfy a mac and cheese craving!

  35. I’ve never tasted mac and cheese before. Shocking, I know :D

  36. This is sheer brilliance – cannot wait to try this out!!!

  37. Liz says:

    I might be the lone voice of dissent, but I say NO!!

    I guess if one needs Mac n cheese in a couple of minutes, which I guess is your point, ok…but I love Mac n cheese with good cheese and good milk.

    I make it in one pot stovetop, single serving in about 15 minutes:
    1/3 cup macaroni cooked as usual
    drain and leave the mac in the pot
    Sprinkle 1/3 T flour on the mac
    Add 1/3 T butter
    Add 1/3 cup milk (I only use Whole Milk …local dairy!)
    Stir and let it thicken
    Add 1/3 cup fresh grated cheese of your choice or a mix
    Eat out of the pot if you want.

    If you can wait another few minutes, top with bread crumbs and put under the broiler.

    To each their own, but if I’m spending the calories on Mac n cheese it is going to be good Mac n cheese, i.e. good cheese. I know…my own hot button, but I very much dislike the pre-grated stuff.

  38. Perfect for hungry kids after school. Or older people living alone or as you say a quick lunch stop. Trying this immediately.

  39. Who would have thought? This is a little too dangerously delicious to know about…

  40. What a great idea! Can’t wait to give it a try. Thanks for sharing, Sue.

  41. yep this is the perfect recipe to stash away for a winter day when you need something warm in a fix. Love it. never ever thought to do it in a microwave before. Pinning this

  42. judith says:

    Trying this one for lunch (well, maybe elevensies). Then plan to move on to smoked gouda “with a pinch.” Thanks Sue!

  43. Whole milk always works best. ;-) This is brilliant! Love the idea. And where I shop the store brand shredded cheese is cheaper (but maybe a dime) than the block cheese. And I can’t distinguish between the two in a taste test. Weird. Anyway, terrific recipe — thanks.

    • Sue says:

      I agree about the milk, but aren’t people touchy about the subject? I think the shredded cheese makes sense anyway because the whole point of this exercise is convenience :)

  44. Christina says:

    We’re leaving for almost a week or I’d be testing this right away! What a perfect recipe for college kids, as you mentioned that they can make it in their dorms! I’m going to try with my 4 cheese blend copycat recipe of TJ’s Diner Mac & Cheese with a little cornstarch and will report back! So excited!

  45. What. This is insane. Mug cakes are one thing, but mug mac and cheese? I’m such a fan! Pinning & will try soon :)

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