5 from 13 votes
Home » Recipes » Main Dishes » Baked Jalapeno Popper Mac And Cheese With Smoky Bacon

Baked Jalapeno Popper Mac And Cheese With Smoky Bacon

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Dive in spoon first to this jalapeño popper mac and cheese! A cheesy pasta that is filled with diced jalapenos, and chopped bacon, and topped with a bread crumb that becomes crunchy when baked. All the flavors of a jalapeno popper in macaroni and cheese form.

A bowl of Mac and Cheese with three slices of jalapeno.

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If you love pasta, this homemade jalapeno mac and cheese needs to be added to your list. A simple and easy side dish for dinner or to take to your next holiday or potluck event.

Want more delicious jalapeno recipes to try out?  Still, have some jalapenos left after making these poppers? Why not try something a little different and make a Jalapeno Peach Salsa? Or even try using some in a refreshing drink such as a Jalapeno Cucumber Lemonade?

Still in the mood for more mac and cheese variations? You could make this delicious copycat Cracker Barrel Mac and Cheese in your Instant Pot.

Why You’ll Love This Recipe…

  • It’s a crowd-pleaser: Perfect for any gathering, this great recipe combines the ultimate comfort food of mac and cheese with the adventurous kick of jalapeno poppers, satisfying a variety of tastes.
  • Elevated with bacon: The smoky flavor of bacon adds a new dimension to this dish, making it irresistible to both kids and adults alike.
  • Simple to prepare: Despite its gourmet appeal, this dish is straightforward and can be made with ingredients easily found in your pantry or local grocery store.
  • Customizable heat level: You can adjust the amount of spicy jalapenos to suit your preferred level of spiciness, making it a hit for everyone’s palate.

What Are Jalapeno Poppers?

Jalapeno poppers are a popular appetizer or snack, known for their spicy kick and irresistible blend of textures and flavors. 

They are made by hollowing out jalapeno peppers and stuffing them with a mixture, typically consisting of cheese and spices, although ingredients can vary widely. The stuffed peppers are then breaded and fried or baked until they reach a perfect combination of crispy on the outside and gooey on the inside. Some variations include adding meat, such as bacon, for an added layer of flavor. 

This dish is inspired by the poppers and combined it with everyone’s favorite – mac and cheese.

What’s in This Jalapeno Popper Mac And Cheese Recipe?

Ingredients for jalapeno mac and cheese sitting on a wooden cutting board and on a white countertop.
  • Pasta: The backbone of any mac and cheese dish, we chose the classic elbow macaroni for its ability to hold onto the creamy sauce but feel free to experiment with shells or any other small pasta for a twist.
  • Flour: A crucial element in creating the roux, flour helps thicken the sauce, ensuring a smooth, velvety texture that clings to every noodle.
  • Seasonings: The blend of spices brings depth and complexity to the dish, elevating it beyond your standard mac and cheese. Adjust according to taste for a personalized flavor profile.
  • Breadcrumbs: Panko breadcrumbs are our choice for a lighter, crunchier topping that perfectly contrasts with the creamy pasta beneath, but standard breadcrumbs can also be used for a more traditional crust.
  • Canned Jalapenos: Available in mild or spicy varieties, canned jalapenos offer convenience without sacrificing the signature kick that defines this dish. Choose according to your heat preference.
  • Milk and Heavy Cream: The combination of milk and heavy cream enriches the sauce, lending it a luxurious texture and indulgent taste that makes this mac and cheese irresistibly decadent.
  • Cheese: Essential for any mac and cheese, our recipe uses a carefully selected blend of cheeses to achieve the perfect balance of flavor and meltiness.
  • Butter: Adds richness and helps smooth out the sauce, ensuring a glossy, coherent blend that beautifully coats the pasta.
  • Bacon: Cooked until crispy and then diced, bacon introduces a smoky depth and crunchy texture, making each bite a delightfully complex experience.

The complete list of ingredients, quantities, and instructions can be found in the printable recipe card below.

Substitutions and Variations

  • Gluten-Free Option: Swap out the standard pasta and flour for your favorite gluten-free alternatives to make this dish suitable for those with gluten sensitivities.
  • Vegetarian Variation: Skip the bacon or use a plant-based bacon substitute to keep this simple recipe vegetarian-friendly without sacrificing the smoky flavor.
  • Dairy-Free Cheese: With the wide variety of dairy-free cheeses available, you can easily modify this recipe to cater to a dairy-free diet. Look for a mix that melts well to maintain the creamy texture of traditional mac and cheese.
  • Adding Veggies: For a nutritional boost, incorporate vegetables such as spinach, tomatoes, or bell peppers into the cheese sauce. This not only adds color and nutrients but also introduces new flavors to the dish.
  • Spice it Up: If you’re a fan of extra heat, consider adding diced fresh jalapenos in addition to or in place of the canned jalapenos. Another option is to sprinkle in some chili flakes or powder to the cheese sauce for an added kick or to get just the right amount of heat.

How To Make Mac And Cheese Poppers (step-by-step directions)

Collage of creating jalapeno popper mac and cheese.
  1. Cook the pasta according to package directions. Do not rinse after draining.
  2. Melt butter in a medium pot over medium heat, then blend in flour to form a paste. (Photo 1)
  3. Gradually whisk in milk until creamy and well-combined with the flour paste. (Photo 2)
  4. Add heavy cream, cream cheese, and a portion of the cheese to the pot, stirring until the cheese has melted and the mixture is smooth. (Photo 3)
  5. Incorporate diced jalapenos into the sauce, setting aside some for garnishing. (Photo 4)
Collage of assembling and cooking jalapeno popper mac and cheese.
  1. Fold seasoning and cooked, diced crispy bacon into the sauce. (Photos 5 & 6)
  2. Transfer the mac and cheese mixture into a casserole dish.
  3. In a separate skillet, melt additional butter and brown the breadcrumbs. (Photo 7)
  4. Evenly spread the toasted breadcrumbs over the mac and cheese, then garnish with the reserved bacon and jalapenos.
  5. Bake according to the recipe’s specified time and temperature.
  6. Serve the jalapeno popper mac and cheese warm. (Photo 8)
Mac and Cheese topped with jalapeno, toast breadcrumbs, and diced bacon.

Recipe Tips

  • Grating cheese instead of pre-packaged shredded cheese is best. Shredded cheese can be oily and create a different texture to the pasta dish.
  • You can use mild or hot jalapenos. Or, if you want, use fresh instead of canned jalapenos.
  • You will bake the macaroni and cheese till the crumbs are nice and golden brown. Adding butter to the breadcrumbs adds tons of flavor as well.

Storing Tips 

Any leftover jalapeno popper macaroni and Cheese with Smoky Bacon can be stored in the fridge for 3-4 days. You will find the pasta dries out a bit once it is cooled down. If it is too dry add a splash of milk when reheating.

Due to all the dairy, you will find that it is important to not freeze or ingredients will separate and curdle a bit when you go to reheat them.

Serving Suggestions

To complement the rich flavors of Jalapeno Popper Mac and Cheese and to add an extra bit of pull-apart garlic bread or a crusty baguette serves as a perfect accompaniment, ideal for soaking up any leftover cheese sauce. 

If you’re aiming for a more robust meal, baked Parmesan chicken or Chili Lime Mexican ribs can add a smoky depth that pairs wonderfully with the spicy, cheesy goodness of the mac and cheese.

Recipe FAQs

What are the best cheeses for homemade mac and cheese?

Depending on the flavor you are looking for the options are open to changes. Sharp cheddar, Monterey Jack, Gruyere cheese, Gouda, Pepper Jack, and more are all very popular.

Can you do different flavors of cheese to mac and cheese?

Many macaroni and cheese recipes will use 1-3 different varieties of cheese. This recipe for the jalapeno popper uses two different types. It adds flavor and dimension to the pasta.

Do I have to add on the breadcrumbs?

No, you do not have to add on the breadcrumbs. I love the crispy topping it adds but it is not a have-to-have ingredient. So feel free to omit it if you will. If you do just add a layer of shredded cheese on top. This will help prevent the pasta from drying out.

Mac and Cheese in a white bowl and in a casserole topped with slices of jalapeno.

More Great Pasta Recipes You’ll Love

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White bowl of Mac and Cheese with Jalapenos on top.
5 from 13 votes

Baked Jalapeno Popper Mac and Cheese with Smoky Bacon


Author: Kim Schob
Course: Main Dishes
Cuisine: American, Mexican
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Yields 6 Servings
Baked Jalapeno Popper Mac and Cheese with Smoky Bacon is a homemade mac and cheese with jalapeno, cream cheese and bacon. The ultimate mac and cheese side dish recipe perfect to pair with any meal.

Ingredients 

  • 3 ½ cups (367 ½ g) Macaroni Noodles Uncooked
  • 8 Tablespoons (7 ⅞ Tablespoons) Butter
  • 6 Tablespoons Flour All-Purpose
  • 1 ½ cups (354 ⅞ ml) Milk
  • ½ cup (118 2/7 ml) Whipping Cream Heavy
  • 4 oz (113 ⅖ g) Cream Cheese cut into pieces
  • 2 cups (226 g) Sharp Cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese we used a Monterey Jack with Jalapenos
  • ½ teaspoon Garlic Powder
  • 4 oz (113 ⅖ g) Pickled Jalapenos jar drained
  • 6 slices Bacon cooked and crumbled
  • ¼ cup (27 g) Breadcrumbs Panko

Instructions

  • Cook the pasta according to package directions. Do not rinse after draining.
    3 ½ cups Macaroni Noodles
  • Melt butter in a medium pot over medium heat, then blend in flour to form a paste.
    8 Tablespoons Butter,6 Tablespoons Flour
  • Gradually whisk in milk until creamy and well-combined with the flour paste.
    1 ½ cups Milk
  • Add heavy cream, cream cheese, and a portion of the cheese to the pot, stirring until the cheese has melted and the mixture is smooth.
    ½ cup Whipping Cream,4 oz Cream Cheese,2 cups Sharp Cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese
  • Incorporate diced jalapenos into the sauce, setting aside some for garnishing.
    4 oz Pickled Jalapenos
  • Fold seasoning and cooked, diced crispy bacon into the sauce.
    ½ teaspoon Garlic Powder,6 slices Bacon
  • Transfer the mac and cheese mixture into a casserole dish.
  • In a separate skillet, melt additional butter and brown the breadcrumbs.
    ¼ cup Breadcrumbs
  • Evenly spread the toasted breadcrumbs over the mac and cheese, then garnish with the reserved bacon and jalapenos.
  • Bake according to the recipe’s specified time and temperature.
  • Serve the jalapeno popper mac and cheese warm.

Notes

  • Grating cheese instead of pre-packaged shredded cheese is best. Shredded cheese can be oily and create a different texture to the pasta dish.
  • You can use mild jalapenos or hot. Or if you want use fresh instead of canned jalapenos.
  • You will bake the macaroni and cheese till the crumbs are nice and golden brown. Adding butter to the breadcrumbs adds tons of flavor as well.

Nutrition Information

Calories: 765kcal (38%) Carbohydrates: 61g (20%) Protein: 24g (48%) Fat: 47g (72%) Saturated Fat: 29g (181%) Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g Monounsaturated Fat: 13g Trans Fat: 1g Cholesterol: 132mg (44%) Sodium: 828mg (36%) Potassium: 389mg (11%) Fiber: 3g (13%) Sugar: 7g (8%) Vitamin A: 1869IU (37%) Vitamin C: 2mg (2%) Vitamin D: 1µg (7%) Calcium: 439mg (44%) Iron: 2mg (11%)

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10 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Enjoyed this for dinner last night and it does not disappoint! Easy, creamy and delicious; my kind of comfort food, indeed!

  2. 5 stars
    This dish is a hit at our family get togethers! The guys especially all love the jalapenos! Thank you

  3. 5 stars
    Love this jalapeño popper mac and cheese recipe, we love mac and cheese and this recipe looks delicious!!! will make it for dinner soon. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  4. 5 stars
    I love this zesty take on mac and cheese! I love spicy food, and cheese is always great. I can’t wait to make this one!

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