We don’t know anyone that dislikes mac and cheese. In fact, we think it is truly the ultimate comfort food. This jalapeño popper mac and cheese takes everything you love about poppers and somehow makes it better.
This is one of our “go to” recipes, and we have made with with and without the peppers and bacon. You can even prepare some of the ingredients ahead of time so it’s easier to throw together.
This recipe tastes amazing with a bit of homemade hot sauce added to it. It also makes a good side dish alongside our slow-cooker barbacoa. You could even serve it alongside traditional jalapeño poppers (I wouldn’t complain).
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
- It’s a crowd pleaser. If you’re cooking for a crowd, you won’t receive any complaints with this one!
- It’s easy to make. Homemade mac and cheese is surprisingly easy to make. While it is tempting to use the boxed stuff, homemade is so much better.
- It’s versatile. If you want a spicier mac and cheese, you can very easily use serrano peppers in this recipe instead. We have also experimented with different spices. Looking for a festive fall option? Add 1/4 tsp of nutmeg. The possibilities are endless.
- It’s cheesy, creamy, and satisfying. Have you ever been disappointed by dry mac and cheese? We’ve been there. This jalapeño popper mac and cheese is perfectly creamy and cheesy. See our recipe tips to make the best batch possible.
- It’s kid-friendly. If your little one doesn’t love jalapeño peppers, leave out the peppers for a kid-friendly meal. You can mix the peppers into only half the batch if everyone in your family isn’t a fan.
- There is no baking required – Many recipes for popper mac and cheese require baking time. This recipe is made entirely on the stovetop.
About The Ingredients
- Pasta – For this mac and cheese we like using elbow pasta or spiral. It tends to hold the ingredients better and result in the best flavor.
- Butter & flour – Butter contributes to the flavor while the combination with flour forms a roux. This acts as a thickening agent for thick, creamy jalapeño popper mac and cheese.
- Evaporated milk – Evaporated milk has protein in it which helps with the structure and texture of this mac and cheese recipe.
- Whole milk – We suggest using whole milk for this recipe as it leads to the best flavor.
- Cheddar cheese – Cheddar cheese makes this recipe addicting and flavorful. You can use only cheddar alone, but we prefer the combination with another cheese. We highly suggest hand-shredding the cheese for the best texture.
- Gruyere or colby jack cheese – Choose a high quality cheese that melts well. Your mac and cheese will only be as good as the cheese you make it with!
- Cream cheese – This adds the “popper” flavor to this dish while also contributing to the creaminess.
- Smoked paprika – You can use regular paprika, but the smoked version really levels up the flavor. For more heat, try using chipotle powder.
- Yellow mustard – This is a secret ingredient that helps bring out the flavor and adds to the color of the mac and cheese.
- Bacon – We love using fresh-cooked bacon in this recipe. But, you can use bacon bits to make the process easier.
- Jalapeño peppers – Jalapeño peppers from the grocery store tend to be less flavorful and spicy. So, we suggest growing your own or finding them at a farmer’s market, if possible.
- Salt and pepper – The amount of salt and pepper you use to taste will vary. It all depends on the type of bacon and cheese you are using. Some bacons have more salt added. The same is true for cheese. Remember, it is is always easier to add salt than take it away!
Recipe Tips And FAQs
We’ve made enough mac and cheese to know a thing or two about making it stand out. Here are our best recipe tips for this jalapeño popper mac:
- Hand-shred the cheese – It’s worth the extra effort! Pre-shredded cheeses can have anticaking agents in them that will negatively affect the texture.
- Don’t leave the stove – Making the roux and whisking continuously is important for this recipe. It all comes together very quickly, so try not to leave the stove during the process to avoid burning.
- Use the best cheese you can – Your mac and cheese will only be as good as the cheese you choose. For this recipe, we recommend splurging a little and finding a good quality cheese to shred.
- Get creative – Don’t be afraid to get creative with the spices. Some great spice additions are nutmeg, cayenne pepper, and flaked red pepper.
How long will this dish last?
We suggest eating this dish within 4 days of making it. Though, it tastes best when served immediately.
How do I reheat this mac and cheese?
In our experience, mac and cheese never reheats perfectly. But, you can microwave this mac and cheese with a splash of milk, or reheat it on the stovetop. It still tastes great the next day!
Should I de-seed my peppers?
While we generally say it is okay to leave some seeds in when cooking with peppers, we suggest removing them completely for this recipe. The seeds can throw off the texture of this mac and cheese.
Can I make this dish ahead of time?
We suggest preparing the ingredients and making it the day you need it. You can cook the pasta ahead of time and mix a small amount of oil into it to prevent sticking. You can also pre-cook your bacon, and pre-shred your cheese. The cheese sauce takes very little time to prepare.
Can this dish be frozen?
Yes, you can freeze this mac and cheese after you make it. Store in an airtight container in your freezer for up to 3 months.
Jalapeño Popper Mac and Cheese
- 16 ounces pasta (elbow or spiral) 1 box
- 4 tbsp butter
- ¼ cup flour
- 1 can evaporated milk 12 oz
- 1 ¼ cup whole milk
- 2 cups cheddar cheese shredded
- 2 cups colby jack or gruyere cheese shredded
- 4 ounces cream cheese cubed
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1/2 tsp dried yellow mustard
- 6 slices bacon cooked and broken into small pieces
- 4-6 jalapeño peppers chopped and deseeded
- Cook pasta according to package instructions.
- Cook bacon till crispy. Drain excess grease. Set aside to cool on a plate lined with a paper towel. Break up into small bite-sized pieces when cool.
- Fry your chopped jalapeño pieces for about 2 minutes in the same pan you used to cook the bacon. They should be slightly soft with a small amount of crisp left to them. Set aside.
- Melt butter over medium heat in a Dutch oven or pot. When butter becomes liquid, whisk in your smoked paprika, dry mustard, and flour for 1 minute until it thickens.
- Add your evaporated milk, whole milk, and cream cheese, whisking constantly for about 3 minutes until cream cheese is melted and bubbles form.
- Add shredded cheese, 1 cup at a time. Continue to whisk during this process until a smooth cheese sauce forms.
Crystalyn loves spicy food and getting creative in the kitchen. When she isn’t finding new ways to use hot sauce, shes very busy watching cat videos on the internet.