Spicy Mac and Cheese Recipe (In Just 20 Minutes)

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Spicy Mac and Cheese is made with a few simple ingredients, but certainly isn’t lacking in flavor. With our recipe, you can have Pepper Jack mac and cheese 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! If you’re a fan of spicy food, don’t miss this! 

titled image for spicy mac and cheese


Are you ready to take your regular mac to the next level? Forget about a traditional recipe, and make this one of your new family favorites.

The spicy cheese sauce paired with the cooked pasta creates the perfect side dish for any time of year. 

The good news is that you can put a spin on classic mac by following the simple tips on the recipe card below.

And I love that this easy recipe has just the right amount of spice. It just has a little bit of a kick, but it just pairs so perfectly with the rest of the cheese. 

This full recipe will take your love of mac and cheese to a whole new level – and all you’ll think about is this cheesy pasta dish!

It’s a comfort food favorite that everyone in my family loves. And it’s the last thing that you’ll want to miss out on! 

The combination of cheeses is what makes the cheese tastes so strong – and you can even add some chili flakes on top for even more spice! 

ingredients for homemade mac and cheese

Spicy Mac and Cheese

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!

It’s hard to pick my best mac n cheese recipe when I have so many to choose from, but this one is definitely one of our favorites! 

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 this spicy sausage and potato casserole next. 

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

making roux for mac and cheese sauce

Spicy Mac and Cheese Recipe Notes

  • Skip bagged shreds. Yes, they are convenient, but you’ll get much better results if you shred fresh blocks of cheese by hand. 

    Not only with the shreds melt down smoother and faster, but the flavor of your spicy macaroni and cheese will be more intense. 
  • Amp up the heat. Mix some of your favorite hot sauce into Pepper Jack mac and cheese or toss in some diced jalapenos! 

    You could even use canned diced green chiles, but be sure to drain off the excess liquid first.
  • Warm the milk. This extra step will guarantee that your spicy mac and cheese sauce is lump free! 

    At the very least, measure it out and let it sit on the counter while you get everything prepped.
whisking cheese sauce in skillet

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 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.

Spicy Macaroni and Cheese FAQ

Can I bake spicy macaroni and cheese? 

Sure! Prepare the spicy mac and cheese recipe as directed, then transfer it to a large, greased baking dish. Sprinkle the top with about 1 cup of breadcrumbs (plain or Panko) combined with some melted butter.

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 Cellentani noodles help to grab onto the creamy sauce so each bite of spicy mac n cheese 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 mac and cheese? 

I love to add andouille or smoked sausage to this spicy mac and cheese recipe 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 bake bacon and chop it up, or use leftover shredded chicken and mix either into spicy mac n cheese as well.

pouring cheese sauce over macaroni for pepper jack mac and cheese

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spicy macaroni and cheese, close up

Other Spicy Meals

spicy mac and cheese on a fork

Spicy Mac and Cheese Recipe (In Just 20 Minutes)

Donna Elick
Spicy Mac and Cheese is the best comfort food meal! With our recipe, you can have Pepper Jack mac and cheese on the table in 20 minutes!
5 stars from 2 reviews
Tried this recipe?Please comment and review!
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American
Method Stovetop
Servings 6


  • 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 shredded sharp cheddar cheese, 4 ounces
  • 2 cups shredded pepper jack cheese, 8 ounces


  • 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.
  • In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat.
  • Sprinkle the flour over the melted butter, and add a sprinkle of salt and pepper.
  • Cook the flour until it is bubble and begins to turn brown – this gives the base a nice flavor.
  • While whisking constantly, slowly pour the milk into the flour mixture. Whisk until smooth and the sauce begins to thicken.
  • Add the cheeses, one handful at a time, and whisk until melted and smooth.
  • Pour the sauce over the drained, cooked cellentani and toss to coat.
  • Serve immediately.

Donna’s Notes

Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
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.
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.
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.
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.


Serving: 1 | Calories: 632cal | Carbohydrates: 65g | Protein: 27g | Fat: 29g | Saturated Fat: 17g | Cholesterol: 82mg | Sodium: 386mg | Sugar: 6g | Fiber: 3g | Calcium: 533mg | Iron: 2mg

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.

Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
titled collage for best macaroni and cheese recipe

Originally published April 2015, updated and republished May 2024

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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 !!! 😀

  2. 5 stars
    OMG! I am a huge mac and cheese fan, and this recipe just blew me away. It is so gooey, flavorful, and delicious with just the right amount of kick! I will be making this again for sure!

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