Instant Microwave Macaroni and Cheese

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instant microwave macaroni and cheese

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

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!

DIY Instant Mac & Cheese

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.

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!

If you’re a mac and cheese freak like I am, try my other recipes ~ here are a few of my faves:

Instant Mac & Cheese in a Mug
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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.


Don’t forget to pin this Instant Microwave Macaroni and Cheese!

Instant Microwave Macaroni and Cheese in a Mug is a total game changer ~ this easy recipe makes a single serving ultra creamy mug of cheesy macaroni in just minutes! #dinner #cheese #pasta #macaroniandcheese #mac&cheese #microwavemacaroniandcheese #singleserving #microwave



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  • Reply
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  • Reply
    November 7, 2018 at 5:41 pm

    Its taking a long time to cook. Had to add more water.

    • Reply
      November 7, 2018 at 6:05 pm

      Possible problems could be your microwave is a lower wattage? Or maybe your pasta is either a different size than mine was? Sometimes it’s a matter of getting the formula down for your oven and the pasta you like.

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    September 5, 2018 at 9:47 am

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  • Reply
    August 5, 2018 at 9:06 am

    Tried this recipe last night and it was really good! One thing I would recommend is putting a bit of butter with the cheese and milk.

    • Reply
      August 5, 2018 at 9:35 am

      Thanks Kat, I think that sounds like a good idea.

  • Reply
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  • Reply
    April 30, 2018 at 7:32 pm

    This was a great recipe and idea! However, I am not one to follow instructions so I just put in some pasta, added enough water to cover the pasta, boiled it until it was al dente and then microwaved some cheese and milk in the same mug. Everything still worked out great so really, you don’t need exact measurements

    • Reply
      April 30, 2018 at 8:02 pm

      Great discovery Dasha!

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    Rebecca Rowe
    March 3, 2018 at 3:32 am

    I’m going to try it now by using Chopped up Bacon pieces. Hell yeah. First time doing mug recipes but can’t resist.

  • Reply
    January 18, 2018 at 1:59 pm

    Can you please tell me what you mean by a “scant”????

    • Reply
      January 18, 2018 at 2:24 pm

      Just slightly under, Diane. The main message is that you don’t want too much, with a recipe this small, even little increments make a difference.

  • Reply
    August 1, 2017 at 1:51 pm

    I didn’t have any shredded cheese on hand so I made do with what I had. I used 3 thin slices of american cheese, 1 thin slice of sharp provolone, and some freshly grated parmesan. Delicious! Thanks for the idea!

    • Reply
      August 1, 2017 at 2:17 pm

      That’s great to know Jessica, it makes this hack even more do-able when there’s ‘nothing’ to eat in the house!

  • Reply
    July 27, 2017 at 11:34 am

    Tried this with corkscrew pasta and it worked perfectly (better than when I tried with the elbows). The pasta cooking right wasn’t the problem, though. When I added the cheese and milk, I stirred it thoroughly, to the point where the milk started to look pretty orange before I microwaved it. But then, I heated it for no more than 20 seconds and it started popping, so I stopped it. The cheese had hardened on top and looked like it was on the verge of burning. My microwave isn’t new and I never mess with the settings, so it’s not some over-powered piece of machinery or anything, but I have no idea how this happened. Pasta was still nice and well-cooked, but the sauce was more like a crispy, flaky coating. :/ I’ve tried this several times, with more milk, adding butter, different cheese, a different microwave (from work), and even a total of five different mugs. No clue as to what bit of this isn’t working, but I’ve pretty much given up and gone back to making big pots of my cheesy Macs instead.

    • Reply
      July 27, 2017 at 12:09 pm

      That sounds odd, Mackie, the cheese shouldn’t get hard in 20 seconds…you might experiment with a different type of cheese.

  • Reply
    July 7, 2017 at 10:30 pm

    This is a great base recipe, thank you so much. Since mac n cheese is my very favorite thing in the whole world besides my son, I’ve adopted a few staples to any recipe I ever make: sub water for veggie broth, garlic, cayenne, mustard powder, onion powder, and butter. So I made the cups using your directions with broth in place of water, added spices, and about a teaspoon of butter after cooking the pasta in water. I loved how easy this was for single servings, usually I make a whole batch and end up with freezer lunches for a year, this was perfect! So easy, so quick, delicious. Thank you!

    • Reply
      July 8, 2017 at 6:51 am

      I love how you put that, Shoni, mac and cheese does inspire great passion in lots of us! And thanks for your tips, it sounds like you make a gourmet version :)

  • Reply
    June 30, 2017 at 11:29 am

    I just tried this and thought it was really good. The flavor was right on and the noodles were cooked exactly how I wanted. The cheese sauce had a kind of odd, grainy texture to it though. How might that be addressed?

    • Reply
      June 30, 2017 at 11:30 am

      Maybe try a different brand or type of cheese, Dan, that should fix the problem.

    • Reply
      Sarah LeDoux
      September 23, 2017 at 6:41 pm

      Cheese will separate like that when it’s overheated! I make my pots of mac and cheese by boiling noodles, draining, adding butter, milk, and grated cheese, and stirring it all together over low heat. It’s the best. BUT if I have the heat too high or leave it on too long, it gets grainy and separated like that.

      My guess is, you overheated on the final spin!

  • Reply
    May 17, 2017 at 4:05 pm

    Sue, I just made your microwave mac and cheese, it is amazing! I added a few ingredients to mine. Before, I cooked the macaroni, in a two cup measuring cup, I added onion powder and a small amount of salt to the water. My microwave is small, so I had to cook it for five minutes. I then added the cheese and whole milk and cooked it for a minute and thirty seconds. It came out very bubbly and looking amazing. I added freshly ground pepper and a bit of additional salt, stirred and consumed…delicious! Will definitely make again!!!

    • Reply
      May 17, 2017 at 4:11 pm

      I’m so glad, Kallie, you’re making me hungry with your description :)

  • Reply
    March 22, 2017 at 1:49 am

    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!

  • Reply
    November 15, 2016 at 10:55 pm

    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!

    • Reply
      November 17, 2016 at 8:51 am

      The only thing I can think of is that you didn’t stir enough, Melinda. I usually use the packaged cheese with success.

  • Reply
    Maureen Batali
    November 5, 2016 at 6:07 pm

    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

    • Reply
      November 5, 2016 at 6:14 pm


    • Reply
      September 2, 2017 at 6:45 pm

      Holy smokes Maureen you’re a fricken genius

  • Reply
    July 18, 2016 at 12:40 am

    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!

  • Reply
    July 17, 2016 at 7:02 pm

    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!

    • Reply
      July 17, 2016 at 7:59 pm

      That’s great to know, Tracie, thanks!

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