This jalapeno popper mac and cheese is a creamy and spicy blend with four cheeses, bacon, jalapenos and a crispy topping. The ultimate macaroni and cheese recipe!

If you love jalapeno poppers, you’ll adore this unique take on macaroni and cheese. It’s got all the flavors of the classic appetizer mixed with creamy, cheesy pasta.

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A skillet of jalapeno popper mac and cheese topped with crispy breadcrumbs, cilantro and bacon.

Mac and cheese is one of those classic comfort foods that people always adore. I love mixing up the traditional dish from time to time by adding bold flavors like in this jalapeno popper mac and cheese. I’ve simply added in some spice and a crispy topping to take things up a notch, while still maintaining all the creamy and cheesy goodness.

HOW DO YOU MAKE JALAPENO POPPER MAC AND CHEESE?

This spicy mac and cheese is made with a creamy blend of of four cheeses, bacon, jalapenos, and a perfectly crispy topping. The pasta is simmered in milk before the cheeses are stirred in to make the base of this dish. A generous amount of bacon and diced jalapeno get stirred in, and the finishing touch is the buttery panko breadcrumbs and a sprinkling of fresh cilantro.

Pasta in milk with seasonings in a pan.

When it comes to making this jalapeno mac and cheese, any combination of cheeses can be used. I typically use a combination of cream cheese, white cheddar, and white American for an ultra creamy macaroni. You can also use Monterey jack cheese, or if you like your mac extra spicy, try pepper jack cheese!

Macaroni and cheese in a skillet topped with bacon and diced jalapenos.

White american cheese can be found at the deli counter in most grocery stores. You can use fresh jalapenos or jarred pickled jalapenos for this spicy mac and cheese. If you prefer a mild dish, remove the ribs and seeds from the peppers before dicing them up. Add your breadcrumb and parmesan topping, then bake until golden brown.

Macaroni and cheese topped with panko breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese.

WHAT IS THE MOST POPULAR CHEESE TO USE WITH MAC AND CHEESE?

Everyone has a different preference when it comes to the cheese they like to use in their mac and cheese dishes. However, there are a few cheeses that are more common than others with this comfort food dish. The top five cheeses used in mac and cheese are parmesan, sharp cheddar, white cheddar, smoked gouda, and fontina.

WHAT IS THE BEST PASTA TO USE IN MAC AND CHEESE?

Just about any type of short pasta will do when it comes to the classic mac and cheese dish. However, elbow macaroni has long been one of the most popular pasta choices. Shells and cavatappi pasta are also both popular choices. I’ve used cavatappi pasta here because I love how the sauce clings to those long spirals.

A bowl of jalapeno popper mac and cheese topped with crispy breadcrumbs, bacon and jalapeno peppers.

This jalapeno popper mac and cheese was one of the easiest dishes I’ve made and it actually ended up being dinner and not just a side dish. Although it works great as a side dish, it’s hearty enough that it could definitely be the main meal. We’ve already added this cheesy dish to our menu for next week’s dinner choices.

MORE PASTA RECIPES YOU’LL LOVE

4.94 from 16 votes

Jalapeno Popper Mac and Cheese

AuthorSara Welch
A skillet of jalapeno popper mac and cheese topped with crispy breadcrumbs, cilantro and bacon.
This jalapeno popper mac and cheese is a creamy and spicy blend with four cheeses, bacon, jalapenos and a crispy topping. The ultimate macaroni and cheese recipe!
Time
Prep Time20 minutes
Cook Time20 minutes
Total Time40 minutes
Course Main
Cuisine American
Serves 8

Ingredients 

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups water
  • 3 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 pound short pasta such as cavatappi or elbow macaroni
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 cups shredded white cheddar cheese can also use Monterey Jack or regular orange cheddar
  • 1 cup white American cheese shredded or diced
  • 2 ounces cream cheese
  • 8 slices bacon cooked and crumbled
  • 1/2 cup minced jalapenos fresh or pickled, remove seeds and veins to keep the heat level down
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • additional bacon and jalapenos for garnish optional

Instructions 

  • Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the flour, then whisk until combined, about 30 seconds.
  • Pour in the water and whisk until smooth and just thickened. 
  • Add the milk and whisk until combined. 
  • Stir in the macaroni, salt, garlic powder, onion powder and pepper, then bring the mixture to a simmer.
  • Cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until pasta is done.
  • Turn the heat to low, then stir in the cheddar, American and cream cheeses. Keep stirring until the sauce is smooth.  Stir in the jalapenos and bacon.
  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  • In a medium bowl, mix together the panko breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese and butter. Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the macaroni.
  • Bake for 10 minutes or until topping is light brown. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve, garnished with additional bacon and jalapenos if desired.

Nutrition

Calories: 588kcal | Carbohydrates: 55g | Protein: 27g | Fat: 29g | Saturated Fat: 21g | Cholesterol: 103mg | Sodium: 780mg | Potassium: 376mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 995IU | Calcium: 497mg | Iron: 1.7mg

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4.94 from 16 votes (1 rating without comment)

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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I was taken back when I read the recipe and it called to cook the macaroni in the sauce. I followed the recipe and it is seriously the best recipe out there! I have spent the last year testing other recipes and none hold up to this recipe! Thank you for the share!

  2. I am interested in making your recipe, however I need to serve 15 people. Would you recommend doubling up the recipe amounts and using a 9×13 5qt casserole dish?

  3. I would really like to make this dish for the adults at xmas but I only need 4 servings when I change the serving amount it gives me weird numbers for tsp tbsp and cups isn’t there a way to make it a little easier to find out the amounts I must add for each ingredients?

    1. I’d just count the .13 as 1/8th of a teaspoon or cup, and use just under 1/2 teaspoon of salt. All the other measurements are round numbers.

  4. Hi! Just a quick question – you’re pictures show you use a cast-iron skillet. What size skillet do you use and do you use it the entire time – on the stove and in the oven or do you use a saucepan on the stove and transfer to the skillet for the oven? Thanks for your help! πŸ™‚

    1. This is a 10 inch skillet, you can really use any pan you like so long as it’s big enough to hold all the pasta and liquid!

  5. 5 stars
    Incredible. My wife loves Mac and cheese but I’ve never been a big fan. This is a fantastic recipe and I will continue to make it.

  6. 5 stars
    Just a tad too cheesy for my liking but my girlfriend LOVED it. For my plate I added more jalapeΓ±os to distribute the flavor and this meal turned out amazing!!! πŸ‘πŸ»πŸ‘πŸ»πŸ‘πŸ»πŸ‘πŸ»πŸ‘πŸ»πŸ‘πŸ»πŸ‘πŸ»πŸ‘πŸ» Recommend!!!

  7. 5 stars
    This was amazing and the technique is awesome. Less pots and pans!!! I will use this method (and recipe)again. Thanks!!