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Air Fryer Mac and Cheese Is My Favorite Weeknight Dinner Shortcut

Holding Bowl of Air Fryer Mac and Cheese

Like most recipes I see on social media, I like them, save them and then they promptly get lost in the internet food ether forever. And like most people with an air fryer, I see a cool recipe and convince myself that I’m definitely going to make it (like, this week!)…only to open up DoorDash after an exhausting day. The air fryer mac and cheese from @feelgoodfoodie was one of those recipes.

But after months of languishing in my saved folder, I decided it was time to give the recipe a shot—no more excuses. And boy am I glad I did. With only a handful of ingredients and 30 minutes, you'll have a comforting dinner on the table. The best part? You barely have to lift a finger to make it.

Related: True Fact: Ina Garten’s Mac and Cheese is the Greatest of All Time

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Ingredients for Air Fryer Mac and Cheese

For Feel Good Foodie's recipe, you'll need 1 (8-ounce) block Cabot Vermont Seriously Sharp Cheddar Cheese, 1 (8-ounce) block Cabot Vermont Sharp Cheddar Cheese (I couldn't find this one so I subbed in a Whole Foods store brand cheddar), 8 ounces of elbow macaroni, 1 1/2 cups water, 1 cup milk, 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper,  1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon paprika and 1/2 cup Italian breadcrumbs (I used panko).

Ingredients for Air Fryer Mac and Cheese<p>Courtesy of Jessica Wrubel</p>
Ingredients for Air Fryer Mac and Cheese

Courtesy of Jessica Wrubel

How to Make Air Fryer Mac and Cheese

Combine the two types of cheese, elbow macaroni, water, milk, mustard, salt, pepper, garlic powder and paprika in the air fryer basket. Set the air fryer at 370° (the recipe says to preheat, but mine doesn't preheat so I just turned it on). Cook on "air fry" for 20-25 minutes, stirring halfway through, until the liquid is mostly absorbed and the noodles are cooked. Stir again, sprinkle the breadcrumbs on top and air fry one more time for 5 minutes. Allow it to cool and serve.

Throw everything into the air fryer basket and forget about it<p>Courtesy of Jessica Wrubel</p>
Throw everything into the air fryer basket and forget about it

Courtesy of Jessica Wrubel

Related: Eric Kim's Copycat Stouffer's Mac and Cheese Recipe

What I Thought of the Air Fryer Mac and Cheese

This is one of those recipes that seems too good to be true. I'm skeptical of most of the viral recipes I try and time and time again, I'm proven wrong because they're delicious, easy, or, in this case, both. You truly dump everything in the air fryer basket, give it a quick stir and walk away. The air fryer does all the work for you. You're in luck if you’re like me and have a super easy one to clean (I have a Ninja Speedi).

Stirring together all the ingredients was the hardest part. I felt almost guilty at how easy of a dinner this was. I decided to use a fancier bronze cut pipe rigate from Whole Foods instead of a run-of-the-mill elbow macaroni because bronze-cut pasta grabs more sauce than regular pasta, and that's definitely what you want for mac and cheese.

Baked air fryer mac and cheese<p>Courtesy of Jessica Wrubel</p>
Baked air fryer mac and cheese

Courtesy of Jessica Wrubel

Taking my first bite, I decided that this was on par with my favorite baked mac and cheese—an old Organic Valley recipe that I actually printed out from their website about 10 years ago. This one was absolutely delicious with all the comforts of homemade mac and cheese that you'd expect. It was creamy from the two different cheddars, rich from the addition of whole milk, slightly tangy from the touch of dijon and, of course, classically orange (as a good mac and cheese should be).

Baking mac and cheese with a breadcrumb topping should be written into law because there is nothing better than cheesy noodles with a satisfying crunch in every spoonful. The only modifications I would make to this one would be to add a bit more salt and a tiny bit less mustard, but other than that, I can see making this one a staple in my dinner rotation.

Bowl of air fryer mac and cheese<p>Courtesy of Jessica Wrubel</p>
Bowl of air fryer mac and cheese

Courtesy of Jessica Wrubel

Tips for Making Air Fryer Mac and Cheese

  1. Make cleanup effortless. If you don't have an easy-to-clean air fryer, pick up a pack of disposable air fryer liners. You can even buy a reusable silicone one online for a more earth-friendly cleanup.

  2. Add in some veggies for some oomph. This makes about four servings but if you're like me and would prefer a veggie with your meals, add in some broccoli or spinach. It makes the whole bowl more filling and satisfying.

  3. Make sure your pasta is submerged. Maybe it's because I decided to get fancy and use a slightly larger shaped pasta, but my pipe rigate had a tougher time staying submerged and I noticed some of the pieces were starting to brown since they were peeking out of the liquid a bit. I added a tiny bit more milk and stirred more frequently and it was fine in the end. But be aware of this if you decide to go rogue with your version.

  4. Don't shy away from a variation. Because I can't leave well enough alone, I was dreaming of different ways to make this one after the fact. Some Monterey Jack with canned diced green chilies and frizzled onions; tomato and basil with mozzarella mixed in; or Gruyere with chunks of lobster and maybe a splash of white wine would all be delicious and just as easy.

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