Baked Jalapeño Mac & Cheese


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Jalapeño Mac and Cheese is jam-packed with goodness! A rich creamy cheese sauce with a hint of heat is mixed with tender elbow noodles and topped with a delicious crumb topping (and bacon of course).  

This easy recipe has all the right stuff in it for making the ultimate comfort food, with the zing of jalapenos added in!

jalapeno mac and cheese on a white plate and casserole dish behind

Classic Comfort Food

Rich, dreamy and oh so creamy, baked macaroni and cheese is one recipe that has all of the comforts of home.

Although we all adore it, once in a while even mac and cheese needs a swap-up and jalapeno popper mac and cheese is the answer!

Ingredients & Variations

PASTA
Elbow macaroni is the usual choice, but any short or medium pasta will work! Try radiatori, rotini, or penne (or even sneak in whole grain pasta if desired)!

SEASONINGS
Garlic powder is a must! Add in your favorite seasonings like Italian seasoning or even a bit of taco seasoning.

jalapeno mac and cheese ingredients in bowls

 

CHEESE
Cream cheese is the secret ingredient for this creamy sauce. Not only is it creamy but just like in jalapeno poppers, it balances the spice a bit. Sharp cheddar is best for ultimate flavor, but can be mixed with others like jalapeno jack or tex-mex!

JALAPENOS
I prefer to use jarred, canned or pickled jalapenos in this recipe as they already have a soft texture. If you’d like to use fresh jalapenos, they should be roasted and seeded first.

jalapeno mac and cheese steps for sauce

How to Make Jalapeño Mac and Cheese

Here’s a quick overview of how to make this tasty dish!

  1. Cook pasta al dente, and drain. Combine topping ingredients.
  2. Make sauce according to directions below. Once creamy, remove from heat and add cheddar and jalapenos.
  3. Toss sauce and pasta and top with breadcrumbs.

Bake until bubbly and the topping is golden brown. Perfection.

Cheesy Tips

When making a cheese sauce, remove the sauce from the heat before adding the cheese. If heated at a high temperature, the cheese can separate causing an oily sauce. If there isn’t enough heat to melt the cheese, ensure the mixture is heated at a low temperature while stirring.

When melting cheese in a sauce, it’s best to shred your own cheese. While pre-shredded cheeses are handy, they are tossed with anti-caking agents that don’t always melt smoothly.

A sharp cheddar will add the best cheesy flavor to this dish.

jalapeno mac and cheese with cheese sauce on top

Favorite Mac and Cheese Dishes

Did you love this Jalapeno Mac and Cheese? Be sure to leave a rating and a comment below!

jalapeno mac and cheese on a white plate and casserole dish behind
5 from 2 votes
Review Recipe

Jalapeño Mac and Cheese

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Servings 6 servings
Author Holly Nilsson
Course Dinner, Pasta
Cuisine American
Elbow macaroni in a creamy jalapeno cheese sauce topped with a buttery bread crumb topping.

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces elbow macaroni
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups milk warmed
  • 4 ounces jalapenos diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 3 ounces cream cheese cubed
  • 1 1/2 cups sharp shredded cheddar cheese divided
Topping
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon real bacon bits

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Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 400°F.
  • Cook macaroni according to package directions, drain well.
  • Meanwhile melt butter in a saucepan. Stir in flour and cook 1 minute.
  • Slowly add milk a bit at a time whisking after each addition until smooth. Once all of the milk is whisked in, add cream cheese and garlic powder and whisk until smooth. Bring mixture to a boil over medium heat until thick and bubbly.
  • Remove from heat and stir in 1 1/4 cups cheese, macaroni, and jalapenos.
  • Pour into a 2 QT baking dish. Top with remaining cheese. Mix butter and breadcrumbs and sprinkle overtop.
  • Bake 15-20 minutes or just until crumbs are golden.

Recipe Notes

  • Slowly add milk, a little at a time. It will seem pasty at first, add more milk and then whisk.  Continue adding milk and whisking until smooth after each addition.
  • Remove sauce from the heat before adding the cheddar cheese.
  • I prefer to use jarred, canned or pickled jalapenos in this recipe. If using fresh jalapenos, roasted and seed them first.
  • Shred your own cheese for best results. Pre-shredded cheeses have anti-caking agents to keep them from clumping and they don't always melt smoothly.

Nutrition Information

Calories: 533, Carbohydrates: 55g, Protein: 20g, Fat: 26g, Saturated Fat: 16g, Cholesterol: 76mg, Sodium: 597mg, Potassium: 345mg, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 7g, Vitamin A: 1126IU, Vitamin C: 22mg, Calcium: 338mg, Iron: 1mg
Keyword Bacon Jalapeño Popper Mac & Cheese, baked mac and cheese, how to make jalapeno mac and cheese, jalapeno mac and cheese
jalapeno mac and cheese on a plate with title
jalapeno mac and cheese in a casserole dish with title
jalapeno mac and cheese on a white plate with writing
jalapeno mac and cheese on a plate and in a casserole dish with writing

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Holly

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Holly is a wine and cheese lover, recipe creator, shopping enthusiast and self appointed foodie. Her greatest passion is creating in the kitchen and making deliciously comforting recipes for the everyday home cook!

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