Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Spicy Mac and Cheese

Spicy Mac and Cheese is made with a few simple ingredients and is bursting with flavor. Have it on the table in 20 minutes! Tender bites of pasta smothered in an incredibly creamy sauce will always be the ultimate comfort food any day of the week.

spicy mac and cheese in a bowl

Homemade cheese sauce is so much easier to prepare than you might think, and it blows away anything you’ll find in a box.

Even better, you can adjust the amounts or add extra spices and ingredients to make a one-of-a-kind meal for your family!

Spicy Mac and Cheese

It’s hard to pick my best mac and cheese recipe when I have so many to choose from, but this one is definitely in the top 5!

Don’t worry — there are plenty of other options if you’re sensitive to heat.

If you love the spiciness of this Pepper Jack mac and cheese, try my sausage and potato casserole too.

You could also make a pot of just the sauce (with the help of Velveeta) to drizzle over veggies, nachos, breakfast, and more!

spicy mac and cheese ingredients

Spices To Add To Mac and Cheese

While most of the flavor in this spicy mac and cheese comes from the sharp cheddar and Pepper Jack cheeses, there are plenty more ways to doctor up the dish!

Add in one or several of the following spices to the sauce after whisking in the milk:
  • Garlic powder - Honestly, you can add this to just about any dish for extra flavor!
  • Onion powder - Another staple seasoning that enhances recipes without making you cry.
  • Cayenne powder- For an earthy heat and a little extra color.
  • Paprika - This mild spice adds color and flavor. Use smoked paprika for a bolder taste.
  • Dry mustard - Adds a bit of tang to cut through the richness of the sauce.
  • Red pepper flakes - Kick things up a notch with a sprinkle or two in your spicy mac n cheese!
  • Italian herbs - Choose from oregano, basil, and marjoram or use a combination of all three.
pepper jack mac and cheese roux

Kitchen Tools You Will Need
  • Large Pot and Strainer for the pasta
  • Wide, Deep Skillet - You’ll need plenty of room to toss the pasta with the sauce.
  • Box Grater - As much as I love buying bagged shreds because it’s easier, freshly grated cheese melts down so much smoother and tastes better too.
spicy mac and cheese sauce

Spicy Mac and Cheese FAQ

How do you make baked Pepper jack mac and cheese?

Prepare the recipe as directed, then transfer to a large, greased baking dish. Toss about 1 cup of breadcrumbs (plain or Panko) with some melted butter and sprinkle them evenly over the top.

Bake at 350°F until the top is bubbly and starts to brown, about 15 minutes.

Can I use a different type of noodle?

The twists and ridges of each cellentani noodle help to grab onto the creamy sauce so each bite is packed with flavor!

If you can’t find any at your local store, feel free to use rotini, penne, or regular elbow pasta instead.

What goes with spicy macaroni and cheese?

I love to add andouille or smoked sausage for a protein-packed meal! Slice the links and brown them in a skillet on the stove before stirring them in with the pasta.

You could even chop up some cooked bacon or leftover shredded chicken and mix either in as well.

pepper jack mac and cheese sauce over pasta


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spicy mac and cheese wide photo

Yield: 6
Author: Donna Elick
Spicy Mac and Cheese

Spicy Mac and Cheese

This spicy mac and cheese is made with a few simple ingredients but certainly isn’t lacking in flavor. Have it on the table in 20 minutes!
Prep time: 5 MinCook time: 15 MinTotal time: 20 Min


  • 1 pound cellentani pasta
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) shredded pepper jack cheese


  1. Fill a large stockpot with water. Add 1 tablespoon sea salt to the water and bring to a boil over high heat. Add cellentani pasta to the water once it boils and cook until al dente.
  2. In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat.
  3. Sprinkle the flour over the melted butter, and add a sprinkle of salt and pepper.
  4. Cook the flour until it is bubble and begins to turn brown - this gives the base a nice flavor.
  5. While whisking constantly, slowly pour the milk into the flour mixture. Whisk until smooth and the sauce begins to thicken.
  6. Add the cheeses, one handful at a time, and whisk until melted and smooth.
  7. Pour the sauce over the drained, cooked cellentani and toss to coat.
  8. Serve immediately.
  1. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
  2. Adjust the salt and pepper to taste - we used about 1/2 teaspoon of each in the cheese sauce. Be sure to salt your pasta water so that the pasta is infused.
  3. Tillamook cheese is always delicious. Grate the cheese yourself as packaged cheeses are coated with non-sticking agents and can prevent your sauce from melting into smooth deliciousness.
  4. You could also pour the finished mixture into a baking dish, sprinkle with additional cheese over the top (even add some breadcrumbs) and bake at 350° until the top is bubbly and browning for a delicious baked mac and cheese.
  5. Saute 1-2 cloves of minced garlic in the butter before adding the flour to infuse the mac and cheese with a bit of garlic flavor.

spicy mac and cheese closeup

Originally published April 2015, updated and republished April 2022

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  1. This sounds delicious! You say to add seasoning packet but I don't see it in the ingredients list. Pinning to try!

    1. Hi Kim !! The packets she is referring to are the cheese sauce packets that are in the boxes of the mac and cheese. :) I'm going to try this soon too !!! :D


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