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Instant Mug o' Mac & Cheese in the Microwave

By Kelsey Banfield |

mac & cheese in the microwave

My daughter likes her organic boxed mac and cheese just as well much as the homemade stuff I make in the oven. The other day I went to make her our quick box version for lunch and we were out! I knew it was finally time to try something I’d always thought of but never attempted: making mac and cheese in the microwave. Since she only needed a small portion I knew a mug o’ mac and cheese would be just the right amount for her. I was thrilled when it worked out with my regular microwave — it was so easy! I made the recipe a few times to make sure it worked out for you. I have to say, now that we’ve gotten used to this I might consider skipping buying the boxes altogether. So, next time you need mac and cheese in a snap, simply pull out your mug and go for it!

Instant Mug of Mac & Cheese

Instant Mug o’ Mac & Cheese in the Microwave

1/3 cup pasta

1/2 cup water

1/4 cup 1% milk

1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Combine the pasta and water in a large mug or bowl. Microwave on high for two minutes, then stir. A lot of times the water will overflow while it heats up. It is OK if this happens. If you don’t want it to overflow just make this in a very large microwaveable bowl. Repeat this for at least 2 to 4 more minutes, stirring at each 2-minute interval. The water should absorb completely and the pasta will be cooked through. If the pasta needs another minute it is okay to add one more teaspoon of water and microwave for another minute. My pasta cooked through in 4 minutes every time, but my microwaves tends to be very powerful.

Remove it from the microwave and stir in the milk and cheese. Microwave for another minute. Stir the cheese thoroughly into the pasta and eat up!

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About Kelsey Banfield

thenaptimechef

Kelsey Banfield

Kelsey Banfield is the food writer and the founder of The Naptime Chef. She writes a daily food column for Babble Food and her food writing has also appeared in the places like Parents magazine, and Martha Stewart Living. Kelsey lives in southern Connecticut with her husband and daughter. Read bio and latest posts → Read Kelsey's latest posts →

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59 thoughts on “Instant Mug o' Mac & Cheese in the Microwave

  1. Amy says:

    This looks great! We’re redoing our kitchen & having to rely on the microwave & toaster oven. Will definitely be trying this one – renovation stress = a NEED for comfort foods, like mac & cheese!

  2. Janet says:

    This is great! I’m going to try this tonight!

  3. anonymous says:

    i just tried this and i can say i don’t intend on using this method any time soon.

    it was messy from the constant overboiling, which can be remedied by using a bowl or something larger but defeats the point of the mug.

    it took at least 8 to 12 minutes and multiple additions of more water to get the pasta soft.

    i would rather use a small pan and the cold water boil method.

  4. Chad says:

    I tried this and it wasn’t good! I mean I only had penne pasta, skim milk and mozzarella cheese, but I figured it would be ok. Turns out making this after a few drinks is tough! I made it and the pasta was barely cooked after 6 minutes and then I added the cheese and milk and it didn’t really mix in, plus it smelled terrible and my roommate got mad at me for the smell. It didn’t taste very good. I wish I had just made the boxed Mac and Cheese I had, but I thought this sounded interesting. Anyway, stay away from this recipe! It is not perfected!

  5. c says:

    good idea, bad execution. Proportions are wrong. The result was nasty.

  6. Ally Gator says:

    I tried this with high hopes because yours looks good. I used a bowl to avoid the overflow problem. But after just three minutes, stopping each minute to stir, the pasta was glued together and not tender. It took a lot of vigorous stirring and the addition of more water, to get the pasta to finally separate a little for that fourth minute of microwaving. In the end, the milk and cheese weren’t creamy or combined, and they weren’t adhering to the pasta very well, although the pasta was cooked through. Way too much work for a disappointing result.

  7. Charlotte says:

    Lol tried it for lunch and I microbes the milk and cheese! Tried it again and it was sooooo yummy!!!!!

  8. Arc says:

    Tried it. My noodles cooked just fine in a mug, but my milk and cheese didn’t mix together very well, leaving me with globs of cheese in hot milk mixed with noodles.

    Possible factors for non-optimum results: used small shell pasta and skim milk. Also, a crazy old microwave from the 80s.

    Was worth a try.

  9. Greg says:

    For those of you having boiling-over problems, try adding a little salt to the water (or, in my case, salt substitute). If my chemistry classes were right, this will increase the temperature which the solution will start boiling.

  10. Beth says:

    We just tried this with tiny star-shaped pasta and boiled it in a 4cup Pyrex- no boil over. The water did go nearly to the top at one point. Had to add a bit of water at the end to finish. Total time, about 6 minutes. Finely shredded a scant 1/4 cup 2%milk Kraft Sharp Cheddar, mixed it in, and then added about a tablespoon of 2% milk to make it creamier. My daughter says a bit of Velveeta would be a good addition, to make it taste like “real” mac & cheese, but that’s not a product often found in our house, even in slices. Not a bad idea and it was fun to try. I think it would be good if you just needed one serving. If you need more than one, get the pot out and make it on the stove top. Thanks for sharing!

  11. shorty88 says:

    ok i just made this recipe in my microwave and it was crazy easy and delicious! i did use a pyrex bowl instead of a mug because i didn’t feel like cleaning up an over-boiling mess. there’s not much difference in a bowl for me to carry around, so having it in a mug wasn’t that big of a deal. for those of you who said your pasta wasn’t cooked after an extended time in the microwave, i don’t know what’s wrong with your microwave. i put mine in for 2 minutes, stopped and stirred, and then another two minutes – added cheese and milk, and popped it back in for another minute, and voila! delicious. i DID use slices of american cheese rather than cheddar because i like american cheese more in mac & cheese. the end result, i believe, had a little too much milk, or i didn’t add enough slices of cheese because there was a little too much liquid left over, but other than that- yum! so easy.

  12. Kashia says:

    I had to cook mine 6 minutes. I added extra cheese and just a splash of milk and stirred and it was perfect. I didn’t do the last minute since everything blended well. I loved it!

  13. Stephanie says:

    I made this for my daughter! I used reg elbows and cheese whiz cause that’s what i had. Worked great! Going to try it with the 3 min noodles! Great for a 2yr old!

  14. Peter says:

    I love Mac & Cheese. +1 on the Laguiole Spoon

  15. Cindy says:

    I have a gluten free dairy free 2 year old. I made this gluten and dairy free and it turned out great! Thanks for the idea. Its just the right amount for him!

  16. Kari says:

    This worked great by following the stir instructions, even stirring the milk and cheese prior to heating. My noodles took a minute longer I assume due to being whole grain. I used cheddar/jack and it was “okay”. The kids/husband request something more flavorful with better melt factor. I was hoping to avoid american cheese product but looks like I’m headed that direction for optimum results. Hopefully it’s still healthier than the box/powder stuff.

  17. Jennifer says:

    I wish this worked for me…but it didn’t. I made 3 batches today wishing it would work out each time! I tried both white and whole wheat noodles. Sad…this would have been a go-to lunch for my 3 year old!!!

  18. CJ says:

    My pasta was all stuck together in one big glob at the bottom. Added more water and kept an eye on it. Pasta still not cooked after 8 minutes! Bummer!

  19. Laura says:

    As a college kid who thrives off cheap food (especially Easy Mac and other pasta) I had such high hopes that ended in a glob of cheese in hot milk and cooked noodles. Mine did not mix AT ALL and it was quite the disappointment.

  20. Cassandra says:

    Great idea but did not work at all. The water was all over my microwave so I had to add more water every time, took 6 minutes and an extra 1/2 tablespoon of water both times. Then the milk and cheese did not mix well at all. I pretty much had cheese flavored water and a melted hunk of cheese. And microwaving it longer didn’t make a difference. Will NOT be making this ever again

  21. Laura says:

    Me being a Mac and cheese fiend I had high hopes for this. So happy it worked out! Eating it right now actually. My only issue was watching the bowl like a hawk every time the water boiled up. It took about 5 mins for my water to be absorbed and the pasta had the perfect bite for me. Mixed in the milk and cheese and I also stirred it halfway through the extra minute. It came together perfectly. Consistency was just like the scratch cheese sauce I make. Added some salt and pepper–delicious!

  22. Beth says:

    A bechamel sauce is really the only way to make mac-n-cheese without the powdered stuff and it’s pretty quick. Basic recipe: Boil the water and cook 1 lb macaroni until al dente. Drain. In same pot on medium heat, whisk 4 tbs of butter and 4 tbs of flour for a few minutes so that flour can cook. Add 6 cups of 1% milk. Mix and cook for 5 minutes or so until a little thicker. Add 2 cups of cheese shredded chedder and mix thoroughly until melted. Add back macaroni. If you want add some tabasco and pepper. Can be baked in the oven with panko crumbs and more cheese for 5 minutes as well.

  23. Erin@TexanerinBaking says:

    Hi! I saw this on Kirbie’s Cravings and just made it! Love how simple it is. :) I used whole grain spaghetti broken into pieces. I’ll definitely make it again!

  24. Belva says:

    I agree with Beth and while you make the bechamel, the pasta is cooking. You can make from scratch mac-n-cheese in 10 minutes. 15 minutes if you want to brown the top with cheese and crumbs. It’s SOOoo much better than boxed. I’ve even used powdered milk mixed with cornstarch and then reconstituted. Cook till it thickens and add the shredded cheese. This very fast and inexpensive too.

  25. Lisa says:

    This was NOT GOOD.

  26. Gayle says:

    I’m eating this as I type. Definitely too much milk but I don’t mind soupy mac n cheese. I had some trouble with boiling over but then I added some olive oil to the water and that helped a lot. Used about 3/4 cup finely shredded cheddar cheese, added 1/2 cup at first, microwaved for 30 sec, then decided to add more. The cheese melted and mixed in really nicely. I seasoned with pepper and garlic salt, as I’m not a big fan of cheddar actually.

    It’s yummy! perfect portion size. It took 5:30 minutes to get the macaroni al dente.

    If you’re having trouble with clumpy cheese, try adding the milk first, then the cheese, and make sure the cheese is really finely shredded.

  27. Emily says:

    Mine turned out soupy. There needs to be more pasta

  28. JoAnna says:

    I have made this twice.

    The first time, it came out really soupy and the cheese and noodles didn’t mix well together. This was when I was stirring every two minutes.

    The second time, I stopped the microwave and stirred every minute, and after six minutes the water had completely soaked into the noodles. I added the milk and cheese, stirred, and popped it back in the microwave for a minute. This time, it wasn’t at ALL soupy, but the cheese and noodles still didn’t mix too well together, even with continuously stirring and eating. Globs of cheese at the bottom and somewhat bland noodles near the middle.

    It’s good, but needs a bit of work.

  29. Kelsey says:

    Great if you have any leftover pasta!! Made it using leftovers, skipping the first steps of course, and it’s delicious, quick Mac and cheese.

  30. Kaitlyn says:

    This turned out okay. My first impression was that it tasted like wet rubber (as if I know what that tastes like) but it’s not nasty. I doubled the recipe and probably didn’t cook the noodles long enough but if I try this again I’ll do something different.

  31. Angie says:

    Sorry, but this was not very good. Cheese was clumpy. Too much of a guessing game and took too long. Easy Mac cups are hard to beat. Cooks in 3 min, no mess.

  32. Linda says:

    Isn’t it sticky from not using lots of water to cook the pasta? I can’t imagine eating all that starch.

  33. Stephanie says:

    Delicious! Takes a little tweaking on the microwave times and amount of water but great result with a yummy cheese sauce.

  34. Jesse Olson says:

    So I just tried this and thought it would be fine to double. I was so wrong! My noodles cooked great but when I added the cheese and milk I cooked it for close to 5 more minutes and the cheese NEVER mixed in :( So don’t double the recipe and hopefully you’ll have better luck than I did!

  35. Beth says:

    I made this the other day for my 3 older kids. I tripled the recipe and cooked it in a glass bowl. (My stove was being used to can tomatoes.) I stirred every 2 minutes and added a little shredded cheese and velveeta cheese. It came out perfect.
    Today I tried it with some of my gluten free noodles. I am thrilled to say it worked perfectly. A box of gluten free mac and cheese usually cost about $3 so I never buy it. Welcome back Mac and Cheese. I have missed you!!!

  36. Brittany says:

    I was feeling lazy at lunch so I decided to make this. Best. Desicion. Ever. SO SO good. I use 3 minute noodles, and they cooked in just 4. I had to dump a little extra water out though. I used 1/8 c heavy cream, 1/8 milk and a little over 1/2c cheese and added a little salt. This was so good that I’ll be making it over and over. I don’t know what happened to the other commenters but this was incredible.

  37. Jennifer says:

    Not good at all. Big clumps of cheese…hot milk but the noodles were cooked. Maybe velveeta will work better.

  38. Toshiko says:

    Just tried this and with a little tweaking it came out very tasty! Because of my microwave, I had to add a bit extra water for al dente (eight minutes for me). Afterwards I added a half pat of butter, the milk, sharp cheddar, and a little black pepper. Popped it back in the microwave for a minute forty five then let it sit for a minute after stirring. Shared the mug with my mom, she thought it was a good idea especially since its just us two. Satisfied and sharing the page with my brother’s family. Thank you! Hope this comment helps other microwave chefs out there :)

  39. ssbates says:

    Ok so I got desperate for something quick and easy to make for me and my boys while my husband is out of town. I of course went to Pinterest where I had previously pinned this recipe. I quadrupled your recipe and put it in a 4 cup Pyrex measuring container. It took 6-7 minutes to cook through and I had to empty a bit of water out when it was done. I used finely shreded Colby jack cheese bc that’s what I had on hand and added just a bit of butter and salt and pepper. My boys reactions were the best. My 2 year old said yum with every bite and my 5 year old declared it to be the best macaroni and cheese ever. Apparently the boxed stuff wasn’t cutting it for their tastebuds. Thanks for the recipe and a fun new thing to try. x

  40. Elaine T says:

    Try alittle cream cheese added to help make it creamier. We make it that way on the stove and it tastes great.

  41. Kendra says:

    I agree, NOT GOOD. Way too much milk, and cheese never did melt through. Clumps of cheese, unusable. What a waste! Definitely will do the bechamel next time. See Beth’s post above:

    A bechamel sauce is really the only way to make mac-n-cheese without the powdered stuff and it’s pretty quick. Basic recipe: Boil the water and cook 1 lb macaroni until al dente. Drain. In same pot on medium heat, whisk 4 tbs of butter and 4 tbs of flour for a few minutes so that flour can cook. Add 6 cups of 1% milk. Mix and cook for 5 minutes or so until a little thicker. Add 2 cups of cheese shredded chedder and mix thoroughly until melted. Add back macaroni. If you want add some tabasco and pepper. Can be baked in the oven with panko crumbs and more cheese for 5 minutes as well.

  42. A says:

    Tried this just now – it was AWFUL.

  43. Melissa says:

    So glad I didn’t read these comments before trying this!! Pasta cooked in four minutes (added butter to water), and another minute after adding milk and cheese. Thanks for posting!!

  44. Denise C says:

    I started reading a couple of the comments while cooking. To combat the boiling over issue I placed a wooden chopstick across my large mug and it worked pretty well. Saw that tip somewhere on Pinterest. I added a small slice of butter first and mixed till it melted, then my sharp cheddar cheese. Mixed till it melted. When almost there added a splash of 1% milk. I also added a pinch of salt. I think the two ingredients that were missing were salt and butter. I also made a more grown up version with left over garlic butter, and Parmesan cheese mixed with cheddar. Also added white ground pepper for some spice. Mine also took 6 minutes. I mixed every two mins. I’m just happy not to use the weird powder substance. Thanks!

  45. kandice says:

    I just tried this out and it was amazing!!!! I had a few changes which was I used medium sized shells and a small size tupperware bowl. It did overflow with water once but paper towels soaked it right up. It ended up taking 6 minutes for me. I added a tablespoon of butter and used sargentos sharp cheddar cheese. Thanks for this recipe i hate waiting for water to boil on the stove!

  46. Samantha says:

    Tried this twice, first time: Heated up just the noodles and water til the noodles were soft, then added the milk and cheese and heated for another minute. Was left with a gooey mess. Tried it the second time, but heated the milk and water together until the noodles were soft then mixed in the cheese and it was perfectly creamy! Don;t add the cheese to cold milk, it make it clump! GOOD LUCK! (and by the way, i is very messy, but totally worth it!)

  47. CindyC says:

    I like to precook macaroni and remove before fully cooked. I then freeze small amounts in baggies. Pull out, add cheese (I like colby-jack best) a touch of butter and microwave until melted. About a minute does the trick Easy peasy! Thanks for the reminder. I need to make some!

  48. Hailey says:

    im an 18 year old girl…who LOVES her carbs :) and quik and easy recipies to make before i go to work! i doubled the recipe and instead of 1/4 cup of milk i only put in a table spoon, with a cup of colby jack cheese (and i didnt put it back in the microwave to melt, it melted as soon as i put it in)! it was delicious! :) i also add garlic salt to taste…yummy – definitly making it again!

  49. Peach says:

    We put all the ingredients together in the beggining on accident and we microwaved it for 6 minutes and it worked perfectly!!

  50. Tif says:

    This did not work for me at all. Will not be trying it again.

  51. Amy Smith says:

    I tried making this. I must say it was an epic fail coz I didn’t take in consideration the type of microwave I had I mean its wattage or something. I ended up with half over baked and half raw macaroni bits.

  52. Jay Melo says:

    I made this today. All went well except it took a good 15 minutes to cook the pasta. I have a med size microwave but it just too a looong time. When the pasta was finally done I added a little margarine and the milk. Nuked for a minute to heat up again then added the cheese, covered the bowl to let cheese melt, then stir well. No grittiness, it was nice and creamy. I used some pcs sliced off a block of real cheddar. I think the gritty comes from the cheese separating from getting too hot. Much tastier than the box but I think I will cook the noodles on the stove next time with the same cheese & milk.

  53. Rachel says:

    Just made this and it did not turn out at all. I ended up with noodles in a milky cheese soup with gobs of melted cheese. Cheese and milk did not mix at the end. Pasta cooked fine but made a huge mess even though I used a bowl 3x the size necessary. What a waste! Wish I had read the reviews first, shouldn’t have bothered!

  54. Nikki says:

    Just tried this, and as amazing as it looked, was really excited. Unfortunately, it was short-lived. The recipe didn’t work for me at all. I have quite a high powered microwave, so figured it’d be best to follow the recipe exactly. I had to add more water many times in small amounts because it kept boiling over without actually finishing cooking, and when I finally did get it cooked and added the cheese and milk and put it back in the microwave, I ended up with a soup of pasta with a layer of cheese oil on top and a curdled milk/cheese concoction underneath. Even after adding a little flour to try to bind it, I still couldn’t get it to bind properly and was left with something I’m still not sure I dare try eating.

  55. Cindi says:

    I made it with what I had in hand– cream cheese & Parmesan instead of cheddar. Turned out great! I’m pretty sure whoever is getting sticky clumps of cheese can sub some of the cheddar for cream cheese to remedy that. SssSsOoOOoo delicious

  56. Joyce says:

    Yummy! While the sauce is not as smooth as regular cheese sauce it is because of the lack of flour in in it. I find this suits my purposes perfectly as I need a gluten free product. Just be sure to use a very large container as it does bubble up considerably due to the starch in the pasta, and cook for as long as needed to get the pasta as done as you would like (adding water if needed). Then add your cheese and milk and desired seasonings. The amount of cheese and milk listed are generous so you might want to use less although it is good as is. I had no problems with lumpiness, stickiness, or wateriness. Just yummy GF mac and cheese for so much less than a packaged mix!

  57. Amber S says:

    I read the reviews and saw the horrible comments about this recipe but decided to try it anyways. My pasta cooked in 5 minutes (made a double recipe) and had to drain off excess water. Then I mixed in my cheese until incorporated and then added in the milk. I didn’t use the amount called for in the recipe. I put it back in the microwave for the additional minute. My kids loved it.

  58. Marie says:

    I tried this recipe out but tbh cooking pasta and making sauce in a pan takes the same time and tastes 100% better.

  59. Austin says:

    Horrible :(

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