Jalapeno Popper Mac and Cheese with bacon is a flavorful and simple recipe ready in just 30 minutes. The gloriously rich and creamy cheese sauce is built on bacon drippings and sauteed jalapenos. Three different kinds of cheese are added to create the most delicious jalapeno mac and cheese ever to cross your lips. A full pound of bacon is mixed into the creamy sauce for the perfect bite. This recipe is one for the record books!!
Jalapeno Popper Mac and Cheese
With a picky-eating family, mac and cheese is a staple in my house.
But, I’ve been craving something different — I’ve been on a jalapeno popper flavor kick lately!
As I set out to make our old favorite skillet mac and cheese, something happened.
I opened the cheese drawer and found a pound of bacon.
I knew that we had jalapenos in the veggie drawer (a staple in every Southwest home), and my head started spinning with the possibilities.
The glorious cheese sauce for this jalapeno mac and cheese recipe is built on bacon drippings, sautéed jalapenos, and 3 different kinds of cheeses.
It’s ready in just 30 minutes and will totally knock your socks off!
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
- Cellentani Pasta – I love these little corkscrew noodles for jalapeno bacon mac and cheese!
That said you can use any type of pasta that you’d like — elbow macaroni or rotini work great too.
- Bacon – Opt for uncooked thick-cut bacon! You’ll want to cook it yourself on the stovetop, as the rendered fat does wonders for the creamy, cheesy sauce.
- Jalapeno Peppers – You’ll need 4-6 large peppers with the seeds and veins removed.
I give a range as I know some people will like their jalapeno popper mac and cheese a bit more fiery than others!
Play around with the quantities until you get the heat you’re after.
- Milk – To add some body to the dish! I don’t recommend using water instead — it will definitely affect the texture and consistency.
If you want it even creamier, consider using Half & Half.
- Cheese – I’m using all Wisconsin cheese! You’ll need cream cheese, mild cheddar, and Colby Jack.
You could also play around with the types of cheese that you use if you’d like.
Tips for Making Jalapeno Mac and Cheese
- Bacon jalapeno mac and cheese for two.
This recipe yields about 6-8 servings. If you don’t want to make it for a crowd, simply halve the ingredients.
You’ll have enough jalapeno mac and cheese for two people, plus some leftovers for lunch!
- Thin sauce? Never fear!
Your jalapeno bacon mac and cheese will naturally thicken as it cools, so don’t stress about a thin consistency just yet.
If you find that the sauce becomes too thick, add ½ cup of milk until you reach your desired consistency.
- Save some bacon for a garnish.
This jalapeno mac and cheese recipe is simply bursting with bacon — I don’t use an entire pound for nothin’!
And I can’t say enough good things about adding a sprinkle of bacon bits as a garnish. Save a bit to add to the top before serving!
Storing and Reheating Leftover Bacon Jalapeno Mac and Cheese
Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3-5 days.
You can reheat single servings in the microwave in 30-second increments until warmed through. Add a splash of milk or a bit of butter so that it doesn’t dry out!
Same goes for stovetop reheating. Add some milk and/or butter to the pan before adding your bacon jalapeno mac and cheese and heat over medium-low for about 10 minutes.
Kitchen Tools You Will Need
- 8 Quart Stock Pot – Large enough to cook the pasta.
- A large skillet with a lid – To help your jalapeno popper mac and cheese cook evenly, a wide skillet works best.
Jalapeno Bacon Mac and Cheese FAQ
There are so many to choose from! As mentioned, I’ve got a thing for Wisconsin cheese — it’s the best kind of cheese you can find in the US, in my opinion!
You can also use Parmesan, Gruyere, brie, smoked gouda, Monterey Jack, and/or Fontina!
I use a bit of salt and cayenne pepper in my jalapeno popper mac and cheese recipe. The pepper complements the jalapenos and bacon perfectly. You could also try white pepper, oregano, or basil.
NO! The only time you should ever rinse your pasta is if you’re making pasta salad or another chilled dish.
The starch in the pasta water helps the creamy cheese sauce to stick, and will generally give you a thicker consistency. Trust me!!
With love, from our simple kitchen to yours.
Other Mac and Cheese Recipes
Jalapeno Popper Mac and Cheese with Bacon
- 16 ounces dry cellentani, corkscrew pasta
- 16 ounces thick cut bacon, uncooked
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 4-6 large jalapeno peppers, seeds and veins removed (diced)
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt , + more for pasta water
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 3 cups milk
- 8 ounces Wisconsin cream cheese, cut into 8 pieces
- 4 ounces Wisconsin mild cheddar cheese, 1 cup, shredded
- 8 ounces Wisconsin Colby-Jack cheese, 2 cups, shredded
- Bring an 8 quart covered pot filled with water to a boil over high heat. Once it boils, add a handful of salt and pasta. Reduce heat to medium high and cook uncovered to al dente (has a bite to it). Drain and set aside.
- Meanwhile warm a large 12” skillet over medium-high heat. Using clean kitchen shears cut bacon into bite size pieces over the skillet and let them to fall into the pan. Stir occasionally as needed. Cook until crisp.
- While the bacon is cooking, shred cheeses and dice jalapenos.
- Once bacon is cooked through, remove bacon to a bowl with a slotted spoon. Reserve 2 tablespoons of bacon drippings and discard the rest. Wipe the side of the skillet to avoid flame ups.
- Pour reserved bacon drippings back into the skillet over medium heat and add butter. Once melted add jalapenos and sauté until softened, 3-5 minutes. Add flour to skillet and whisk to combine. Add salt and cayenne pepper. Whisk to combine. Add cream cheese and stir until softened. Allow to come to a bubble for 3 minutes, whisking occasionally to help pick up the bits on the bottom of the pan. Add milk. Whisk to combine. Bring back to a bubble and add cheeses. Stir until cheese is melted and smooth.
- Reserve 2 tablespoons bacon.
- Add pasta to sauce and stir to combine. Add remaining bacon. Cook pasta in sauce for 5 minutes over medium heat until sauce thickens and the pasta has a chance to absorb some of the sauce.
- Sprinkle with reserved bacon.
- Serve and enjoy!
All nutritional information is based on third party calculations and is only an estimate. Each recipe’s nutritional value will vary depending on the ingredients used, measuring methods, and portion sizes.
Originally published September 2014, updated and republished September 2023
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