5 Minute Mac and Cheese For One

This 5 Minute Mac and Cheese for One is the perfect quick, easy, and tasty dinner or snack. Made either in the microwave or the stove top, and with a bit of pumpkin puree to lighten it up and give it a healthy spin, it’s a simple back pocket recipe you’ll come back to again and again. 

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Mac and cheese for one in a ceramic bowl with a glass of wine in the background

Growing up in the 80’s, microwave cookery was a big part of my culinary experience.

My parents had this hulking beast of a microwave – the kind of microwave that you’d be afraid to stand in front of while it was running – that was physically attached to the stove. Certainly not all of our meals were microwaved, but a good number of things came out that way.

These days my microwave is more or less reserved for heating things, like my morning mug of tea that I invariably forget somewhere and have to nuke for 30 seconds to get back to an acceptable temp, or melting things, like butter for popcorn or chocolate for brownies. And I’m a recent convert to the mug cake game (seriously, what took me so long?!).

But today I’m going to ask you to be brave. To silence your inner hippy, wake your inner 80’s child, and embrace a little microwave cookery, as it were. Because this, this is going to be worth it.

Friends, I have on offer something truly spectacular today. An easy mac and cheese for one that can go from start to shovelling hot cheesy goodness into your face in just five minutes.

That’s right, you heard me. Mac and cheese. For one. Just. Five. Minutes.

macaroni, cheese, pumpkin puree, milk, and cornstarch on a grey background

What do I need to make mac and cheese for one?

The ingredients list is short and simple. I’m willing to bet you’ve probably got most of this on hand already. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Macaroni noodles –> It really does have to be macaroni noodles for this recipe due to their quick-cooking nature. 
  • Cheese –> I use my favourite sharp cheddar in this recipe.
  • Pumpkin purée –> Just a little bit. This lightens it up a bit and provides that signature orange colour. Try making homemade pumpkin purée sometime!
  • Milk –> I used whole milk, but whatever you have on hand is just fine. 
  • Cornstarch–> This is your thickener. You can omit this if you’re using pre-shredded cheese.

Do you need any special equipment to make this recipe? 

You need a microwave-proof bowl or cup that’s big enough to allow for the water to boil up as the pasta cooks. I use this 2-cup Pyrex measuring cup, and it works perfectly. 

And you need a microwave. But if you don’t have one / are freaked out by microwaves, I’ve also got stovetop instructions below. I got you. 

photo collage of making macaroni in a pyrex measuring cup

How do you make mac and cheese for one?

Step 1: Put the macaroni noodles and water in your microwave-proof vessel of choice. Microwave on high for two minutes.

Step 2: Give the noodles a stir. 

Step 3: Microwave on high for one minute.

I find from this point you kind of need to do that thing were you stand to the side of the microwave and watch the water as it bubbles up so you can catch it right before it boils over. 

Step 4: Microwave on high for one minute. See note above about watching to make sure the water doesn’t boil over. 

At this point check to ensure your macaroni noodles are fully cooked. If not, add a bit of extra water and microwave again.

photo collage of pumpkin mac and cheese for one being made in a pyrex measuring cup

Step 5: Add the milk, cheese, pumpkin purée, and cornstarch. Stir to combine well. 

Step 6: Microwave on high for a final minute. 

Stir well, let your amazing 5-minute mac and cheese for one rest for about 30-60 seconds. Then, dig in!

Real talk: I transferred my microwave mac and cheese to a nice bowl for these photos, but usually I just eat it straight from the pyrex measuring cup. There’s no shame in that game. 

What if I don’t have a microwave?

If you don’t have a microwave or are freaked out by microwave cookery, you can totally also make this mac and cheese for one recipe on the stovetop. I tested this out because I knew it would probably come up, and you know what? It took approximately the same amount of time. 

All you need to do is cook the pasta until the water has evaporated (you may need to add a touch more to ensure the pasta is fully cooked) and then stir in the cheese, milk, pumpkin, and cornstarch.

Same same. 

What if I don’t have pumpkin purée?

This recipe calls for just one tablespoon of pumpkin purée. This means that it’s an excellent recipe to make if you’ve already got a can of pumpkin going to make some Pumpkin Snickerdoodles or a Pumpkin Chai Latte

Or, perhaps you’ve roasted a pumpkin and made homemade pumpkin purée, and you’ve got a bit left over. Great. Use it up in this recipe.

If you don’t have pumpkin purée handy and don’t feel like cracking a can for just one tablespoon, you can omit the pumpkin and increase the shredded cheese to 1/2 cup. Easy peasy.

overhead photo of mac and cheese for one in a ceramic bowl

Can I make more than a single serving of this recipe?

You sure can! You can double or triple or quadruple the recipe… Just toggle to the desired number of servings in the recipe card below and it’ll adjust the quantities for you. You’ll also want to use a bigger cooking vessel, like this 8-cup Pyrex measuring cup.

Alternatively, you could just make this mega delicious Pumpkin Mac and Cheese recipe, which serves 6 and is topped with crispy panko bread crumbs.

Can I make this recipe with a different pasta shape?

The quick cooking time totally depends on quick cooking elbow macaroni, so I recommend you stick with that.

If you’ve got another pasta shape on hand that you want to use up, I recommend that you at least par cook the noodles first. 

Can I make this recipe gluten free?

I have not tested this recipe with gluten-free macaroni so I can’t say for sure how it would turn out, but I see no reason why you couldn’t use a gluten-free noodle. You could also try making it with legume-based pasta like this chickpea macaroni

If you *do* try this recipe with a different type of pasta, please let us know in the comments!

Hey Nutrition Lady, is microwave mac and cheese healthy?

I can’t speak for all microwave mac and cheese, but certainly this microwave mac and cheese if a heck of a lot healthier than that neon orange powder box mix stuff (which, let it be said, is delicious in its own way and has a special place in my heart).

Pasta gets a bad rap, but when cooked al dente it’s lower on the glycemic index than white bread. Keep in mind too, that pasta is as healthy as what you mix it with. This is a pretty mellow cheese sauce with pumpkin added in. Throw in a handful of broccoli florets and you’ve got yourself a tasty and nourishing meal. 

a bowl of pumpkin mac and cheese for one on a blue napkin with a glass of wine in the background

Other quick and easy recipes you might enjoy:

Creamy One-Pot Pasta with Peas
Naan Pizza Margherita
Vegetarian Ravioli Bake
Vegetarian Quesadillas with Pumpkin and Black Beans

a ceramic bowl with 5 minute mac and cheese for one
Print Pin
5 from 9 votes

5 Minute Mac and Cheese for One

This 5 Minute Mac and Cheese for One is the perfect quick, easy, and tasty dinner or snack. Made either in the microwave or the stove top, and with a bit of pumpkin puree to lighten it up and give it a healthy spin, it's a simple back pocket recipe you'll come back to again and again.
Course Main Course, pasta
Cuisine American
Keyword 5 minute meal, Mac and cheese
Prep Time 1 minute
Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 6 minutes
Servings 1
Calories 429kcal
Author Katie Trant


  • 1/3 cup elbow macaroni noodles uncooked
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup milk I used whole milk
  • 1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese*
  • 1/8 tsp cornstarch*
  • 1 Tbsp pumpkin purée
  • pinch sea salt


Microwave Instructions

  • Place the macaroni noodles and the water into a microwave-proof bowl (I used a 2-cup pyrex measuring cup).
  • Microwave on full power for 2 minutes. Stir.
  • Microwave for another minute. You'll need to watch it closely to ensure it doesn't boil over (don't worry if it does, just wipe it up and move on). Give the noodles a good stir.
  • Microwave for another minute, and then check to see that all the water has been absorbed.
  • Stir in the milk, cornstarch, shredded cheese, and pumpkin purée. Microwave for a final minute.
  • Stir well, and let stand for about 30 seconds to a minute. Stir again. Enjoy.

Stovetop Instructions

  • Combine the macaroni noodles and water in a small heavy-bottomed pot.
  • Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, and boil until the water is nearly all absorbed and the pasta is cooked. This will take about 5 minutes. Note - you may have to add a bit of extra water.
  • Stir in the cheese, milk, pumpkin purée, and cornstarch.
  • Let stand for one minute before serving.


  • Nutrition values are an estimate only.
  • Use a mug or bowl with at least a 2 cup capacity.
  • Use elbow macaroni - anything bigger won't cook quickly enough. If you're using really tiny macaroni it may be cooked after 3 minutes - just check after every time when you stop and stir.
  • If using pre-packaged shredded cheese you can leave out the cornstarch
  • Also, I'm totally aware that a Tbsp of pumpkin purée is a totally obnoxious amount to ask for. If you don't have a can of pumpkin on the go, you can leave it out and double the cheese instead.


Calories: 429kcal | Carbohydrates: 62g | Protein: 16g | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Cholesterol: 36mg | Sodium: 252mg | Potassium: 81mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 2716IU | Calcium: 273mg | Iron: 1mg


This recipe was originally published October 22, 2015. It was retested, re-photographed, and most recently updated on November 7, 2019.


  1. Anna says

    It must be delicious! I absolutely love mac and cheese, but never tried to do it in a microwave oven. This recipe is really easy, quick if healthy. Thank you for sharing it, Katie!

  2. Jena says

    Awesome, quick recipe! My (annoyingly fussy eater) toddler devoured this for lunch… & after having a bite of his I had to make my own mug of mac!

    • Jena says

      Oh, & P.S. I just discovered your fab blog & love it! I’m also a vegetarian who enjoys cooking (& reading all the really great food blogs)! Congrats on your sweet new baby- busy days ahead, mamma! 🙂

  3. Sarah says

    I made a larger batch this morning for school lunches and so I cooked the noodles on the stove top first. It was a quick and easy way of whipping up a nutritious hot lunch on a rainy Fall day and everyone LOVED it! I have all the ingredients in the fridge for Round 2 tomorrow and am hoping it will off set the inevitable candy surge… I may have to high five the microwave again.

  4. Cammy says

    This is amazing for a lady with two kids who will always eat mac n cheese. I wonder, if I were to throw in some broccolli when the best time to do it would be. Thoughts?

    • Katie Trant says

      If I were you, I’d steam some broccoli up on the side and stir it in at the end the first couple of times you make it, because there is a bit of a learning curve. Then maybe try adding it in after the first 2 minutes of cooking, depending on how cooked you want the broccoli to be.

  5. Heather says

    Now just for the record , and to be fair ( my friends read this blog) other than the things you listed as being microwaved when you were growing up ,that giant microwave was used over and over , but primarily for heating up cold food that was homemade. We wouldn’t want to leave your readers with the idea that your mother fed you prepackaged microwave meals . No, no, no! It was broccoli till it came out of your ears and all sorts of other nutritious deliciousness . Right?!! I will try the pumpkin mac with the frozen blobs of pumpkin I processed this fall. Might also be good with betternut squash or the very sweet but yummy Delicata variety? See you in London tomorrow.

    • Katie Trant says

      I said microwave *cookery* not frozen dinners! No frozen microwaved dinners were allowed. Or store bought cookies, sugar cereal, or other fun things. It’s no wonder I grew up and became a nutritionist!

      • Heather says

        OK. I feel much better now that the truth has been clarified.!! And I’ll be able to face my friends without fear of judgment of my long ago parenting skills. Defrosting was and is another microwave use in a pinch.

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