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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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.
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.
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.
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.
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 ½ cup. Easy peasy.
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.
Other quick and easy recipes you might enjoy:
5 Minute Mac and Cheese for One
- ⅓ cup elbow macaroni noodles uncooked
- ½ cup water
- ¼ cup milk I used whole milk
- ¼ cup shredded cheddar cheese*
- ⅛ teaspoon cornstarch*
- 1 tablespoon pumpkin purée
- pinch sea salt
- 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.
- 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 tablespoon 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.
This recipe was originally published October 22, 2015. It was retested, re-photographed, and most recently updated on November 7, 2019.