Easy Vegan Meatballs

This vegan meatballs recipe is easy to put together, full of protein, and packed with flavor! A perfect go-to plant…

A Couple Cooks – Recipes worth repeating.

This vegan meatballs recipe is easy to put together, full of protein, and packed with flavor! A perfect go-to plant based dinner.

Vegan Meatballs

Here’s a go-to when you need a plant based dinner that’s protein-packed: this Vegan Meatballs recipe! Now, there are two problems with most vegan meatballs recipes. Vegan meatballs take a long time to make, and many recipes don’t have much protein (so you’re hungry an hour later). This vegan meatballs recipe solves both problems. This recipe takes under 30 minutes to make, and it’s packed with protein! Even better: the flavor is outstanding.

The secret to the best vegan meatballs

Ok, you might need to use a new-to-you ingredient for this one. But we promise: this will revolutionize your vegan meatballs game! The key? Tempeh. Here are the particulars on this powerhouse ingredient:

  • Tempeh is a compressed cake of whole soybeans. It can include seeds like millet or grains like rice, wheat, or barley (most brands are gluten-free). It has a nuttier flavor and firmer texture than tofu. Read more about Tempeh vs Tofu here!
  • Tempeh is protein packed. One serving has a whopping 20 grams protein! That’s double the protein in one serving tofu.
  • Wait, are soy products healthy? Soy products in moderation are part of a healthy diet! Per to the Harvard School of Nutrition, soy is a nutrient-dense source of protein that can safely be consumed several times a week.
Vegan meatballs

Consider a double recipe!

Before you start, think about whether you’d like to make a single or double recipe for these vegan meatballs. Here’s what to know:

  • This recipe makes 14 meatballs, about 2 to 3 servings. They’re easy to cook in one skillet and feed a family like ours (2 adults and 1 preschooler).
  • Consider doubling the recipe, because they save well! They hold up very well refrigerated or frozen (without sauce). Instant lunch or dinner!
  • You’ll need a very large skillet for a double recipe. Use the biggest you have to cook them!
  • Use the 2x button in the recipe below. You likely won’t need the full quantity of olive oil: you can likely cook the meatballs in less than 6 tablespoons (start with ¼ cup).

Important: steam the tempeh first

The cardinal rule when using tempeh in recipes: it tastes bitter raw. While it’s completely safe to eat raw, you’ll want to cook it to remove that flavor.

  • Steam the tempeh for just 10 minutes. It gets just the right moistness to the tempeh and removes the bitter flavor.
  • Steaming doesn’t make the recipe take any longer, because you can prep everything while the tempeh steams.
  • You’ll need a steamer basket for this recipe. Don’t have one? Here are a few ways to steam without a steamer.
Vegan meatballs recipe

Tips for cooking vegan meatballs

Once you’ve got your tempeh steamed, you’ll simply mix the dough together with breadcrumbs and spices. When you cook them, here’s the main thing to note: use chopsticks to turn them! It’s hard to use a spatula to flip the balls so they get golden on each side. Chopsticks make it much easier! Of course, you can use whatever method you like. Just try to get each side lightly browned!

Italian breadcrumbs, and how to make them gluten free

Italian breadcrumbs are an important component to these vegan meatballs. It gives them just the right texture so they don’t fall apart. If you eat gluten-free, we’ve got some ideas. Here’s what to know:

  • Italian breadcrumbs are breadcrumbs mixed with herbs and salt.
  • Can’t find Italian style? Mix ½ cup plain breadcrumbs with ⅛ teaspoon kosher salt and ½ tablespoon Italian seasoning (or 1 teaspoon dried oregano and ¼ teaspoon each dried basil and thyme).
  • Try gluten-free panko or homemade. For gluten-free, it’s easy to find gluten-free breadcrumbs these days online or at your grocery. Or use gluten-free bread or crackers to make homemade breadcrumbs, then add the seasonings above.
Vegan meatballs

Make ahead and storage info

This vegan meatballs recipe is genius not only because it tastes great and has lots of protein. These also hold up very well! Here’s what to note about texture:

  • Store leftovers refrigerated for up to 5 days. Don’t store them with sauce, or they will get mushy.
  • Freeze leftovers after you allow them to cool. They’ll hold up in a freezer-safe container for up to 3 months. 

Ways to serve vegan meatballs

Once you’ve made your beautiful vegan meatballs…how to serve ’em? We’ve got ideas.

More vegan dinner recipes

There are lots of more vegan dinner recipes like this one! Here are a few more favorites to try:

This vegan meatballs recipe is…

Vegetarian, vegan, plant-based, dairy-free. For gluten-free, use gluten-free breadcrumbs or see the section above.

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Vegan Meatballs

Easy Vegan Meatballs


  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 14 meatballs (2 large or 3 modest)
  • Diet: Vegan

Description

This vegan meatballs recipe is easy to put together, full of protein, and packed with flavor! A perfect go-to plant based dinner.


Ingredients

  • 8 ounces tempeh*, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup minced white onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ cup Italian breadcrumbs
  • ½ teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 ½ tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
  • ¼ cup olive oil, divided*
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 to 3 cups favorite marinara sauce

Instructions

  1. Steam the tempeh: Place 1 ½ cups water into a saucepan with a steamer basket: the water surface should be right under the basket. Bring the water to a boil. Chop the tempeh into small pieces. Once boiling, add it to the steamer basket and steam it for 10 minutes while you prep the remaining ingredients.
  2. Mix the meatballs: Mince the white onion. Mince the garlic. Add them to a medium bowl with the breadcrumbs, fennel seeds and dried oregano. Once the tempeh is cooked, remove it from the steamer and add it to the bowl with the breadcrumbs. Stir in the soy sauce or tamari and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and mix. Once the tempeh cools slightly, use your fingers to mash it together into a uniform dough.
  3. Form the meatballs: Use your fingers to form the dough into golf-ball sized balls, about 13 to 14 total, placing them on a plate. 
  4. Cook the meatballs: Heat the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil in a non-stick large skillet over medium high heat. Add the meatballs and cook, turning them occasionally with chopsticks, until lightly browned on all sides, about 5 to 6 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium if it starts to smoke.
  5. Serve: Once cooked, you can remove the meatballs from a pan and refrigerate up to 5 days until serving if you’d like. Or serve immediately: turn off the heat and add the marinara sauce to the pan (beware of spitting). Simmer for about 1 minute until warm, then top with chopped basil or parsley and serve. Store leftovers refrigerated without sauce for 5 days, or allow to cool then freeze in a freezer-safe container for up to 3 months.

Notes

*The meatballs save well, so we recommend making a double recipe and refrigerating or freezing leftovers! Click the 2x button for quick doubled quantities.

  • Category: Main Dish
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Vegan

Keywords: Vegan meatballs, vegan meatballs recipe

A Couple Cooks - Recipes worth repeating.

16 Recipes for a Backyard Baby Shower

As the vaccine rollout continues across the country, there’s a glimmer of hope for social gatherings (birthday dinners! baby showers!) this summer. And while we’re nowhere near going back to punch bowls and communal platters of crudités and dip (hello,…

As the vaccine rollout continues across the country, there’s a glimmer of hope for social gatherings (birthday dinners! baby showers!) this summer. And while we’re nowhere near going back to punch bowls and communal platters of crudités and dip (hello, double-dipping!), we can begin to approach socializing from a COVID-conscious perspective. After more than a year of isolation, it feels like a privilege and a blessing to be able to celebrate again, especially the emergence of new life. If you or someone you know got particularly busy during the quarantine, and are now expecting a little one, here are some ideas for baby showers to welcome in the new baby while keeping everyone safe!

And before you send out those invites, take a peek at our recommendations for how to safely gather a group these days. Because even if you’re vaccinated, there are still plenty of precautions to keep in mind.

Read More >>

How Samin Nosrat Is Helping Kids Try Every Kind of Food

Netflix’s newest food show, Waffles + Mochi, follows the adventures of a puppet with waffles for ears (hence the name) and her friend, a small ball of mochi (hence the name), as they taste their way around the world. The show premieres on the streaming…

Netflix’s newest food show, Waffles + Mochi, follows the adventures of a puppet with waffles for ears (hence the name) and her friend, a small ball of mochi (hence the name), as they taste their way around the world. The show premieres on the streaming platform today.

The show is anchored by Michelle Obama, who plays the owner of a supermarket where Waffles and Mochi work. Each episode centers around a single ingredient, or cooking technique, and sees the duo meeting with an array of chefs, celebrities, and celebrity chefs. Samin Nosrat is one such chef who visits the pair and dives right in to the joys of cooking, eating, and gardening. I spoke with her in advance of the show’s premiere to learn about her involvement and what makes Waffles + Mochi the must-see program of the moment for everyone (not just kids).

Read More >>

Peanut Butter Energy Balls

This peanut butter energy balls recipe is the best easy snack! Healthy oatmeal balls pack protein and fiber into tasty bites. Here’s a healthy snack that’s so delicious, you might find yourself sneaking one for dessert. Try this peanut butter Energy Balls recipe! Yes, we can’t stop riffing on combinations of peanut butter and oatmeal, though any nut butter works here. Just mix a handful of simple ingredients together and bam! You’ve got an instant homemade snack that’s infinitely more delicious than store-bought granola bars or energy bites. Even better, they’ve got a good amount of protein and fiber for a tiny ball. We think they’re pretty darn perfect. Ingredients in the best energy balls recipe These energy balls are quick and easy to make, and full of very simple ingredients you might already have on hand. That’s very intentional, in fact. Years ago, we used to make energy ball recipes with trendy Medjool dates, a large variety of date with a sticky sweet, caramel flavor. We love them, but they can be hard at the grocery and very expensive. Also, I burned Alex out on Medjool date energy bites (oops!). Now we now want our energy balls recipes super […]

A Couple Cooks – Healthy, Whole Food, & Vegetarian Recipes

This peanut butter energy balls recipe is the best easy snack! Healthy oatmeal balls pack protein and fiber into tasty bites.

Energy balls

Here’s a healthy snack that’s so delicious, you might find yourself sneaking one for dessert. Try this peanut butter Energy Balls recipe! Yes, we can’t stop riffing on combinations of peanut butter and oatmeal, though any nut butter works here. Just mix a handful of simple ingredients together and bam! You’ve got an instant homemade snack that’s infinitely more delicious than store-bought granola bars or energy bites. Even better, they’ve got a good amount of protein and fiber for a tiny ball. We think they’re pretty darn perfect.

Ingredients in the best energy balls recipe

These energy balls are quick and easy to make, and full of very simple ingredients you might already have on hand. That’s very intentional, in fact. Years ago, we used to make energy ball recipes with trendy Medjool dates, a large variety of date with a sticky sweet, caramel flavor. We love them, but they can be hard at the grocery and very expensive. Also, I burned Alex out on Medjool date energy bites (oops!).

Now we now want our energy balls recipes super simple. Oatmeal, peanut butter, and honey are things we always have on hand…so why not use them? They’re beyond easy to make: and kids love them too! Here’s what you’ll need for these peanut butter oatmeal balls:

  • Old Fashioned rolled oats
  • Creamy peanut butter: no sugar added! Use sunflower butter for nut free
  • Honey: substitute agave syrup for vegan
  • Kosher salt
  • Cinnamon
  • Vanilla or chocolate protein powder: see notes below
  • Mini chocolate chips: make sure to get mini-chips! They’re best for keeping the balls tightly packed
Peanut butter energy balls

How to roll peanut butter energy balls

This energy balls recipe could not be easier: all you have to do is mix together the ingredients and roll them up! It’s that simple. Want them to look as beautifully uniform as the energy balls in the photo? Here are a few tips on rolling these energy bites:

  • Freeze the dough 5 minutes before you roll. Just a few minutes in the freezer firms up the texture so it’s easy to roll.
  • Use a cookie scoop (1 1/2-inch or #40). This is the magic behind making them look so uniform! A cookie scoop is perfect for proportioning out the dough. Don’t have one? No problem, just approximate.
  • Use mini chocolate chips. Using mini chocolate chips helps the entire texture to stick together well: large chips can cause fractures.
Peanut butter oatmeal balls

Use any nut butter you like: and some troubleshooting tips

These don’t have to be peanut butter energy balls, of course. You can use any nut butter you like: almond butter, cashew butter, pecan butter, or sunflower butter for nut-free! Here are a few notes if you use a different nut butter:

  • Make sure to use a creamy nut butter. You’ll want a nut butter with a nice creamy texture that will make the energy balls stick together.
  • You can use homemade, but be aware of texture. You can use homemade nut butter, but be aware: some homemade versions can be very dry.
  • If it’s too dry, add a little more honey or a few tablespoons milk. If you can’t get the balls to stick together, it’s ok: all nut butters have a different consistency. Just add a little more honey or your milk of choice (dairy or non dairy) until the dough is able to stick together.

Are these healthy energy balls?

These peanut butter energy balls come out 1,000 times more delicious than a store-bought granola bar. And guess what? They’re fairly healthy too. You can get a decent amount of protein in a few balls (which would equal 1 store-bought energy bar). Here are the particulars:

  • Protein: Each energy bite has 3 grams of protein of 6% of your daily need.
  • Fiber: Each energy ball has 1 gram of fiber or 5% of your daily need.
  • Fat: Each energy bite has 4 grams of fat or 5% of your daily allotment.
  • Calories: Each ball has 100 calories.

Of course when it comes to healthy snacks, carrot sticks or a handful of almonds are the healthiest. But if you’re looking for something irresistibly tasty and

Energy balls recipe

What protein powder to buy (or omit it!)

Here at A Couple Cooks we don’t usually include protein powder in our recipes. But for these peanut butter oatmeal balls we wanted to maximize the overall protein content! If you prefer, you can definitely omit the

Alex did a little research into how to find healthy protein powder; here’s what we found:

Energy ball flavor variations!

There are so many ways to mix up this energy balls recipe! As we’ve mentioned above, no need to make them peanut butter oatmeal balls, though that’s our favorite way. Here are a few ideas on how to vary the flavors:

  • Almond joy: Use almond butter instead of peanut butter, and add 1/4 cup shredded coconut (so delicious!). Remember if your almond butter has a dry texture, add a little more honey or a few tablespoons milk until the dough comes together.
  • Birthday cake: Add 1/4 teaspoon almond extract and 3 tablespoons all natural sprinkles.
  • Cherry vanilla: Substitute dried cherries for the chocolate chips (roughly chopped) and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract.
  • Blueberry lemon: Substitute dried blueberries for the chocolate chips and add 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest.

There are so many more options…how would you customize these energy bites? Let us know in the comments below.

Peanut Butter Energy Balls

These peanut butter oatmeal balls are very similar to our oatmeal bars recipes! Because oatmeal, peanut butter and honey are the best classic combination, right? Try these fan favorite oatmeal bars:

This energy balls recipe is…

Vegetarian and gluten-free. For plant-based, dairy-free, and gluten-free, use agave syrup.

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Energy balls

Easy Energy Balls


1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (5 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: 20
  • Diet: Vegetarian

Description

This peanut butter energy balls recipe is the best easy snack! Healthy oatmeal balls pack protein and fiber into tasty bites. 


Ingredients

  • 2 cups Old Fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter (no sugar added, or any nut butter or sunflower butter for nut free)
  • 1/3 cup honey (or agave syrup for vegan)
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup vanilla or chocolate protein powder (we use this one)*
  • 3 tablespoons mini chocolate chips

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Freeze the bowl for 5 minutes. 
  2. Roll the dough into 20 small balls, pressing the dough together with your hands. We used a 1 1/2-inch cookie scoop (#40) to make uniform balls. You can also make smaller balls if desired. (If the texture of your nut butter makes the dough very dry, add a little more honey or a few tablespoons milk of choice until you can press it together into a ball shape.) Refrigerate for up to 2 weeks. Enjoy!

Notes

*If you prefer, you can omit the protein powder from this recipe and still have a delicious snack. You can also add natural foods like chia seeds or flax seeds (2 tablespoons of each has 4 grams protein).

  • Category: Snack
  • Method: Raw
  • Cuisine: Snack

Keywords: Energy balls, Energy balls recipe, Peanut butter energy balls, Peanut butter oatmeal balls

A Couple Cooks - Healthy, Whole Food, & Vegetarian Recipes

Chocolate Covered Bananas

Frozen chocolate covered bananas are the perfect easy and healthy dessert! Store them in the freezer for whenever you crave a sweet bite. Here’s our new favorite treat that’s simple, healthy, and ultra delicious: Chocolate Covered Bananas! We know, this concept it not new or revolutionary. But man, is it perfect for a sweet treat craving! The crunch of a crisp dark chocolate coating around an icy banana makes magic. Here’s the new thing for us: making small chocolate covered banana bites! It gives you a healthy treat in the freezer anytime a chocolate craving hits. Surprisingly, this tiny bite satisfies like a legit chocolate dessert. How to make chocolate covered bananas Recently, my sister told us she’d been loading up on frozen chocolate covered banana bites from the store. Try them, then make your own recipe for it! she urged us. We grabbed a box and agreed: these are perfection! Dark chocolate plus icy banana is the ultimate treat, and a perfect healthy snack for kids too. The bite format of these is much more satisfying than a large frozen banana on a stick. Here are the basic steps for making homemade chocolate covered bananas: Slice the bananas into […]

A Couple Cooks – Healthy, Whole Food, & Vegetarian Recipes

Frozen chocolate covered bananas are the perfect easy and healthy dessert! Store them in the freezer for whenever you crave a sweet bite.

Chocolate Covered Bananas

Here’s our new favorite treat that’s simple, healthy, and ultra delicious: Chocolate Covered Bananas! We know, this concept it not new or revolutionary. But man, is it perfect for a sweet treat craving! The crunch of a crisp dark chocolate coating around an icy banana makes magic. Here’s the new thing for us: making small chocolate covered banana bites! It gives you a healthy treat in the freezer anytime a chocolate craving hits. Surprisingly, this tiny bite satisfies like a legit chocolate dessert.

How to make chocolate covered bananas

Recently, my sister told us she’d been loading up on frozen chocolate covered banana bites from the store. Try them, then make your own recipe for it! she urged us. We grabbed a box and agreed: these are perfection! Dark chocolate plus icy banana is the ultimate treat, and a perfect healthy snack for kids too. The bite format of these is much more satisfying than a large frozen banana on a stick. Here are the basic steps for making homemade chocolate covered bananas:

  • Slice the bananas into 1/4-inch rounds and freeze. Freezing for 45 minutes turns them into a sort of banana ice cream.
  • Melt chocolate. We like using a double-boiler method (more on that below), or you can use your microwave.
  • Dip and top. Use a jar or measuring cup for easiest dipping. It helps to have 2 people for this part: one to dip and one to top, since the chocolate hardens right away.
  • Freeze again! 30 more minutes in the freezer has them perfectly frozen! Then you can store them in container up to 1 month.
Frozen Chocolate Covered Bananas

Tips on melting the chocolate

Melting chocolate for frozen chocolate covered bananas might sound easy. But working with chocolate is easy to mess up! The chocolate can seize up if it gets any liquid in it, or if you overheat it. Here are a few things to know about melted chocolate:

  • Use the “double boiler” method. Our preferred method is simmering water, then placing a heat proof bowl or jar into the simmering water and stirring. Just make sure to use hot pads and don’t splash any of the water! Using this method, you can leave the bowl of chocolate in the warm water so it stays warm during the entire dipping process.
  • Or, use the microwave. This also works! Sometimes we accidentally overheat the chocolate this way, so we tend to avoid it. Melt it in a liquid measuring cup, heating for about 30 second intervals and then stirring several times until the chocolate melts.
  • For dipping, use a tall jar or measuring cup. It’s easiest to have a tall bath of chocolate to dip the bites into. So a tall jar is better than a shallow bowl.
Chocolate covered banana bites

Frozen chocolate covered banana toppings

Melting the chocolate is the only tricky part of chocolate covered bananas. Otherwise, it’s pretty simple: dip the banana on a fork, shake off extra chocolate, and slide it back on the parchment. Then add toppings right away, since the chocolate hardens quickly! Toppings are optional, of course. But they add an extra festive layer! Here’s what we used, and a few more ideas:

  • Crushed peanuts: crush them very finely so they’re the texture of confetti
  • Crushed pistachios: we love the festive green color
  • Other crushed nuts or seeds: like pecans, hazelnuts, or pepitas
  • All natural sprinkles: if you can, find a brand that’s colored naturally like these sprinkles: they’re dyed with vegetable dyes like beet and spirulina
  • Shredded coconut
  • Chocolate shavings or chunks
  • Freeze dried strawberries or raspberries
How to make chocolate covered bananas

Storage info

Once your chocolate covered bananas are fully frozen, you can place them in a freezer safe container. Here’s the best part: simply store them in the freezer for anytime a chocolate craving strikes! Homemade chocolate banana bites should be stable frozen for about 1 month. Of course, they’ll probably never last that long!

Let us know what you think about this treat! It’s a great healthy dessert for kids, and they can help with the topping process too. Our 3 year old son loved it! And we rarely feel bad letting him have another banana bite.

Chocolate covered bananas

More chocolate recipes

Are you a chocoholic? (Guilty, as charged). Here are a few more healthy and decadent ways to get your chocolate fix:

This frozen chocolate covered bananas recipe is…

Vegetarian, gluten-free, vegan, plant-based, and dairy-free (with dairy free dark chocolate chips).

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Chocolate Covered Bananas

Chocolate Covered Bananas (Frozen Bites!)


1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (5 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Yield: About 30 to 35 bites
  • Diet: Vegan

Description

Frozen chocolate covered bananas are the perfect easy and healthy dessert! Store them in the freezer for whenever you crave a sweet bite.


Ingredients

  • 2 ripe medium bananas
  • 1 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips* (5 ounces)
  • 1 tablespoon refined coconut oil
  • 1 pinch salt
  • Toppings (optional): 2 tablespoons each crushed peanuts, crushed pistachios, and all natural sprinkles

Instructions

  1. Freeze the bananas (45 minutes): Slice bananas into 1/4-inch rounds. Place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and freeze for 45 minutes. 
  2. Melt the chocolate: Start a pot of simmering water. Place the chocolate in a glass measuring cup or large wide mouth jar, and place it into the simmering water. Very carefully, stir the chocolate until it melts, using a hot pad or gloves to hold the glass. Do not let any of the water splash, or it will split the chocolate. (You can also melt the chocolate in the microwave in a liquid measuring cup, heating for about 30 second intervals and then stirring several times until the chocolate melts.)
  3. Dip and top the bananas: Make sure your toppings are ready, if using. Leave the jar in the double boiler to keep the chocolate warm. Use a fork to dip each banana slice into the jar, then shake off excess chocolate.  Transfer the slice to the parchment lined baking sheet, using your finger to gently slide off the banana. Add toppings immediately (the chocolate freezes quickly) — this process is easiest with 2 people, 1 person to dip and 1 person to top. This recipe uses only 1 cup of chocolate for the bananas, but it’s nice to have extra chocolate to make the dipping process easier. You can dip pretzels or cereal into the remaining chocolate, or discard it. 
  4. Freeze: Return the bananas to the freezer and freeze for 30 minutes. Then transfer the banana bites to a freezer safe container.  Store up to 1 month.

Notes

*Only about 1 cup is used in the recipe, but you’ll need the extra to make the dipping process easier. Find extra items to dip into the remaining chocolate if you like (like pretzels, cereal, etc). 

  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Frozen
  • Cuisine: Dessert

Keywords: Chocolate covered bananas, Frozen chocolate covered bananas, How to make chocolate covered bananas, Chocolate covered banana bites

A Couple Cooks - Healthy, Whole Food, & Vegetarian Recipes

Instant Pot Mac and Cheese

This Instant Pot mac and cheese recipe is cozy and cheesy: the ultimate comfort food! It’s fast and easy to whip up in a pressure cooker. There’s nothing more comforting than a good bowl of mac and cheese. Ever tried it in your pressure cooker? Turns out, Instant Pot mac and cheese is layer upon layer of cozy. The way the Instant Pot cooks pasta makes it soft and supple, which has a down-home sort of vibe to it. It’s not al dente, but it almost feels like an elevated version of box mac and cheese. The big selling point here? The method is very hands off: throw the ingredients in the pot and press Go! Nothing better than that. Here are all the cozy secrets to this method. Ingredients for this Instant Pot mac and cheese recipe This Instant Pot mac and cheese recipe might even better easier than cooking from a box. (Maybe?) You need only a few ingredients, and assuming you stock cheese and pasta: they might already be in your pantry. Here’s what you need: Short pasta: Sure, you can use macaroni. But our favorite pasta shapes for mac and cheese are any other short type […]

A Couple Cooks – Healthy, Whole Food, & Vegetarian Recipes

This Instant Pot mac and cheese recipe is cozy and cheesy: the ultimate comfort food! It’s fast and easy to whip up in a pressure cooker.

Instant Pot Mac and Cheese

There’s nothing more comforting than a good bowl of mac and cheese. Ever tried it in your pressure cooker? Turns out, Instant Pot mac and cheese is layer upon layer of cozy. The way the Instant Pot cooks pasta makes it soft and supple, which has a down-home sort of vibe to it. It’s not al dente, but it almost feels like an elevated version of box mac and cheese. The big selling point here? The method is very hands off: throw the ingredients in the pot and press Go! Nothing better than that. Here are all the cozy secrets to this method.

Ingredients for this Instant Pot mac and cheese recipe

This Instant Pot mac and cheese recipe might even better easier than cooking from a box. (Maybe?) You need only a few ingredients, and assuming you stock cheese and pasta: they might already be in your pantry. Here’s what you need:

  • Short pasta: Sure, you can use macaroni. But our favorite pasta shapes for mac and cheese are any other short type of pasta: shells, penne, fusilli, bowties, orecchiette and more. See below!
  • Sharp cheddar cheese: make sure it’s not aged
  • Monterey Jack cheese
  • Milk
  • Onion powder
  • Garlic powder
  • Seasoned Italian breadcrumbs (optional)
Mac and cheese Instant Pot

Pasta cooks to soft, not al dente in an Instant Pot

Over here, we’re sticklers for getting the perfect al dente when we cook our pasta. But here’s what to know about mac and cheese in the Instant Pot:

  • Cooking pasta in the Instant Pot comes out with a soft texture, not al dente. But here’s the thing: it’s still delicious! Cooking the pasta to a softer texture helps it to soak in sauces and it has more of a “down-home” cozy comforting vibe. Think of it as a totally different way to make a pot of pasta!
  • Leftovers of this Instant Pot mac and cheese work too. Even though the pasta comes out soft, leftovers work too! Add a splash of milk and reheat it in a skillet, and this tastes almost as good as new.

How to make Instant Pot mac and cheese: basic steps

There’s barely 5 minutes of hands on time here! It takes about 25 minutes to complete, but most of this Instant Pot mac and cheese recipe is hands off. That’s what makes it great as a quick weeknight meal, or to whip up for kids or as a side dish for a stunning main. Here are the basic steps to this recipe:

  • Pressure cook the pasta for 4 minutes. Remember that there’s a “preheat time” of about 10 minute before the Instant Pot gets up to pressure. This part takes about 15 minutes total.
  • Quick release! If you’re an Instant Pot pro, you’ll know: quick release recipes are the best! This means you don’t have to continue to wait for a natural release.
  • Switch to slow cooker mode and stir in the milk and cheese. Stir until they form a creamy sauce, just a minute or two.
Instant pot mac and cheese recipe

Bread crumbs optional!

If you’re a mac and cheese purist, there’s something so satisfying about topping this gooey, cheesy mess with crunchy breadcrumbs. The contrasting texture is extremely satisfying. But of course it’s not necessary! We like using seasoned Italian breadcrumbs because it adds a little nuance of herbs. They’re easy to find at the store, or you can make your own breadcrumbs and add Italian seasoning.

Best noodles for mac and cheese in the Instant Pot

You can use macaroni for Instant Pot mac and cheese…but what’s the fun in that? In fact, our favorite pasta for this comfort food is anything but macaroni. We love using a unique pasta shape to keep things interesting. Shells are a favorite around here: and while they aren’t unexpected, there’s something that’s even more homey about them than the typical mac. Here are our favorite types of short pasta for mac and cheese, in order of preference:

  1. Conchiglie (shells): what we used here
  2. Cavatappicork-screw shapes
  3. Orecchiette: ear shapes
  4. Gigli (Campanelle)lily shapes
  5. Penne: long thin tubes with diagonal ends
  6. Gemelli: twisted tube shapes
  7. Rigatoni: long thicker tubes
Instant Pot mac and cheese

Sides to serve with Instant Pot mac and cheese

If the idea of using your Instant Pot for mac and cheese is to not do any cooking: let’s stick with the theme! There are lots of ideas for adding nutrients and fiber to round out this pasta into a meal. Here are a few no-cook side dishes to serve alongside:

  1. Spinach salad: This Spinach Apple Salad is full of good-for-you ingredients and topped with a tangy dressing.
  2. Veggies & ranch: Go simple with this Greek Yogurt Ranch Dip and carrot sticks. Perfect for kids (and adults, really).
  3. Coleslaw: Try this Best Coleslaw with a tangy, creamy dressing.
  4. Celery salad: This Celery Salad with Apples is unexpectedly refreshing and a great counterpoint to pasta.
  5. Citrus salad: This Simple Citrus Salad is gorgeous, with beautiful colors and a citrus zing.

More Instant Pot pasta recipes

Want to keep cooking up pasta in your pressure cooker? Here are a few other ideas to try outside of this Instant Pot mac and cheese recipe:

Instant pot mac and cheese

A note on pressure cookers

All pressure cooker brands vary! Here’s the brand we use: the Instant Pot 6 Qt Programmable Pressure Cooker. We also have 2 Instant Pot sealing rings and use one for savory recipes and one for sweet recipes. This recipe is customized for a 6 quart pressure cooker. We also can’t speak to using other brands and types of pressure cookers for this recipe. Use them at your own risk!

This Instant Pot mac and cheese recipe is…

Vegetarian.

Print
Instant Pot Mac and Cheese

Instant Pot Mac and Cheese


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  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: 6 to 8 as a main, 10 to 12 as a side
  • Diet: Vegetarian

Description

This Instant Pot mac and cheese recipe is cozy and cheesy: the ultimate comfort food! It’s fast and easy to whip up in a pressure cooker. Stovetop variation below.*


Ingredients

  • 1 pound short pasta (shells, macaroni, penne, etc)*
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 8 ounces (2 cups) sharp cheddar cheese (not aged), grated
  • 8 ounces (2 cups) Monterey Jack cheese, grated
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups 2% milk
  • 1/2 cup seasoned Italian breadcrumbs (or plain breadcrumbs, optional)

Instructions

  1. Place the dry pasta in the Instant Pot and stir in 4 cups water and the kosher salt, onion powder and garlic powder. Lock the lid of the Instant Pot. Place the pressure release handle (vent) in the “Sealing” position.
  2. Cook on High Pressure for 4 minutes: Press the Pressure Cook button, making sure the “High Pressure” setting is selected, and set the time. Note that it takes about 10 minutes for the pot to “preheat” and come up to pressure before it starts cooking. (During cooking, avoid touching the metal part of the lid.)
  3. Quick release: Vent the remaining steam from the Instant Pot by moving the pressure release handle to “Venting”, covering your hand with a towel or hot pad. Never put your hands or face near the vent when releasing steam. Open the pressure cooker lid. There will be water remaining, which is what is intended. 
  4. Slow cook and make the sauce: Switch to the “slow cook” setting on the Instant Pot. Stir the pasta, then stir in the grated cheese. Add the milk and continue to stir for a minute or two until the cheese melts to form a creamy sauce, adding more milk if necessary. Serve warm, topped with breadcrumbs.

Notes

*Stovetop variation: Cook the pasta to al dente in boiling water. Drain and return to the pot. Stir in the remaining ingredients and heat on low heat until the cheese melts and forms a creamy sauce.

  • Category: Main Dish
  • Method: Pressure Cooker
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: Instant Pot Mac and Cheese, Instant Pot mac and cheese recipe, mac and cheese Instant Pot

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