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Jalapeno Popper Mac and Cheese

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This Easy Jalapeno Popper Mac and Cheese recipe is the full of popper flavor! Rich, Creamy, and loaded with jalapenos. Everything delicious about jalapeno poppers with the ultimate comfort of macaroni and cheese.

Load this with bacon and serve as the main dish OR pair with Grilled Drumsticks, Pulled Pork Sandwiches, and Burgers for a full meal!

single serve of macaroni on a white plate with jalapenos on the side

RECIPE FEATURES

  • Make-Ahead: You can actually prep this 1-2 days in advance. Pop it in the oven when you are ready to enjoy andi t’s ready in minutes.
  • Fun Twist on a Classic: We love the addition of cream cheese and jalapenos. It’s such a fun twist on the classic macaroni and cheese.
  • Personal Favorite: I am in LOVE with this recipe.

I’m just going to say it. This baked jalapeon mac and cheese is freaken amazing. I made it to pair with Traeger smoked ribs and, even the the ribs were fall of the bone delicious, this mac stole the show. EVERYONE was raving and the dish was cleaned out by the end of the meal. I insist you try this immediately!

The addition of cream cheese to the sauce adds a richness that cannot be beat. Pair that with sauted jalapeno, onion, and garlic for a truly spectacular finish. Pepper Jack mixed with cheddar is key to that gooey texture and it’s even kid approved!

uncooked macaroni noodles in a white dish with a block of pepper jack cheese

WHAT IS IN THIS JALAPENO POPPER MAC AND CHEESE RECIPE?

This recipe is so easy to customize. If you like it extra spicy, add a pinch of cayenne or more hot sauce. More mild? Skip the hot sauce. You can even add bacon crumbles for an insanely good side dish.

  • Elbow Macaroni: While macaroni is the classic pasta used, you can always substitute this with any short pasta variety.
  • Butter: I prefer salted butter, but you can use unsalted. This is key in achieving the creamy sauce texture.
  • Jalapeno, Onion, and Garlic: These three vegetables are sautéed together to slightly soften and mixed right in with the sauce. It’s part of the bold flavor that really makes this dish stand out.
  • Flour: Just a touch to thicken the cheese sauce.
  • Milk AND Half and Half: Why both? The milk creates an amazing base to the sauce. The half and half adds richness and flavor. You can also substitute this with heavy cream.
  • Cheese: Cream cheese, pepper jack, and sharp cheddar. They blend perfectly giving you that perfect finishing touch.
  • Spices: I like to keep things simple with salt and pepper.
  • Hot sauce: Try a heft dash or two of Frank’s sauce in this and you will fall in love with how well it brings things together.
cheese sprinkled over the top of uncooked macaroni

HOW TO MAKE HOMEMADE MACARONI AND CHEESE

  • PREP: Measure out the ingredients, shred the cheese, and cook the pasta al dente. In fact, I like to cook mine one minute less than called for on the box.
  • SAUTE: Add the butter, onion, and jalapeno to the same pot you cooked the pasta into (less dishes). Cook for 2 minutes over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more.
  • WHISK: Whisk in the flour until a slight paste forms. Cook 2 minutes more. Slowly stir in the milk and cream, whisking constantly. Let simmer until the mixture slightly thickens. Remove from the heat and stir in the cream cheese along with 1/2 of the pepper jack and cheddar cheese.
  • SPRINKLE: Stir the pasta into the cheese sauce. Pour half into a 9 inch baking dish. Sprinkle with 1/2 of the remaining cheese. Add the remaining pasta and sprinkle the top with the remaining cheese. No need to stir.
  • BAKE: Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes, or until the top cheese is melted and the pasta is bubbly.

HELPFUL TOOLS

  • Dutch Oven: You can make this recipe all in one pot with an oven safe dutch oven (affiliate).
  • Whisk: Seems basic, but a good whisk (affiliate) can go a long way. I like the one linked here. It is lined with silicone which means it will not scratch your pans.
  • Knife: A quality knife (affiliate) is something I believe you should always have in the kitchen.
fork holding a bite of jalapeno popper mac and cheese

JALAPENO POPPER MAC AND CHEESE TIPS

What spice is best for mac and cheese?

For this recipe, regular salt and pepper is all that is needed. However, if you want a slight kick, you can add 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne. Dry mustard is also a quick and easy way to add flavor to a cheesy pasta dish.

Can this macaroni and cheese be made ahead of time?

Yes. You can make this recipe all the way through topping with shredded cheese. From there, cover tightly and keep stored in the refrigerator until ready to enjoy. Bake, covered, for 15 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 10 minutes or until heated through.

Can I use other cheeses?

Normally I would say yes. However, I have not tested this with any other cheese verities. I could not confidently say if other cheese types would taste as good.

How long do leftovers last?

Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container inside the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

close up of a single serve of mac and cheese with a bite on a fork

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Jalapeno Popper Macaroni and Cheese

Jalapeno Popper Macaroni and Cheese

Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Bake Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes

This Easy Jalapeno Popper Mac and Cheese recipe is the full of popper flavor! Rich, Creamy, and loaded with jalapenos. Everything delicious about jalapeno poppers with the ultimate comfort of macaroni and cheese.

Ingredients

  • 8 oz elbow macaroni
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 jalapenos, seeds removed and diced
  • 3 tablespoons diced onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 2 oz cream cheese
  • 1 cup cheddar, shredded
  • 1 cup pepper jack, shredded
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 dashes hot sauce

Instructions

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook 1 minute less than al dente instructions on the box. Drain and set aside.
  2. In a large pot, add the butter and melt over medium heat.
  3. Stir in the diced jalapeno and onion. Cook for 2 minutes or until just tender.
  4. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more.
  5. Whisk in the flour until a slight paste forms. Cook an additional 2 minutes.
  6. Slowly stir in the milk and half and half, being sure to whisk consistently.
  7. Simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, or until slightly thickened. Be sure to mix occasionally.
  8. Remove from the heat and stir in the cream cheese, half of the cheddar and pepper jack. Season with salt, pepper, and hot sauce.
  9. Mix until the cheese has melted and the sauce is creamy.
  10. Stir in the cooked noodles.
  11. Pour half of the noodles into a prepared 9 inch pan. Sprinkle with half of the remaining cheese. Add the remaining noodles and sprinkle the top with remaining cheese.
  12. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes, or until the top cheese has melted and the pasta is heated through.

Notes

Add crumbled bacon for more protein and flavor.

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