Jalapeño Bacon Mac and Cheese has all the flavors of your favorite jalapeño poppers but in a creamy, cheesy pasta. Spicy jalapeños, smoky bacon, and crunchy breadcrumbs take regular macaroni and cheese to the next level!
This jalapeño bacon mac and cheese, or jalapeño popper mac and cheese as I like to call it, starts with a creamy cheese sauce.
Then toss in some diced jalapeños, crumbled bacon, and you've got an amazing side dish full of flavor.
How to make jalapeño bacon mac and cheese:
Scroll to the recipe card below for full instructions and ingredient amounts!
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, and cook the noodles. We chose cavatappi noodles, but any thick, tube-shaped noodles will work.
- While the noodles cook, toast the breadcrumbs. The breadcrumb topping is optional, but it adds a nice crunch to the mac and cheese.
- Melt the butter in a small pan over low heat, then add the Panko breadcrumbs. Stir continuously to ensure the breadcrumbs don't burn.
- After the breadcrumbs toast, pour them into a bowl, and add the grated Parmesan cheese, and smoked paprika. Stir to combine, and set the breadcrumbs aside.
- In a medium skillet with tall sides, melt the butter for cheese sauce over low to medium heat. Add the flour, and whisk to combine.
- Continue to whisk, until the flour is completely incorporated with the butter and the mixture (roux) turns light and golden in color. While continuing to whisk, slowly pour in the heavy cream, milk, salt and pepper.
- Continue whisking until the mixture begins to thicken slightly and steep. You'll be able to see wisps of steam rise from the liquid.
- Drop small amounts of the shredded cheese into the hot liquid, and whisk until the cheese is completely melted. Add a little more cheese, and whisk again.
- Continue this process until all the cheese has been added. It's important not to add all the cheese at once, because it will lower the temperature of the milk and heavy cream causing the cheese not to melt properly.
- Once all the cheese is added, whisk in the jalapeños and crumbled (cooked) bacon. Remove the cheese sauce from heat.
- If you haven't already, drain the pasta noodles. Pour the cheese sauce over the noodles, and stir to combine.
- Divide into individual serving bowls, and top with toasted breadcrumbs. Another option is to pour into a large serving dish and spread all the breadcrumbs, extra crumbled bacon, and sliced jalapeños over the top.
- Enjoy hot, and store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Is jalapeño bacon mac and cheese baked?
Our recipe is not baked, but you can bake it with a couple minor changes.
1. Cook the pasta to al dente.
2. Don’t toast the breadcrumbs ahead of time. Mix the breadcrumbs with the melted butter, Parmesan cheese, and paprika, but don’t toast them.
3. Save about ¼ cup of pasta water to mix with the pasta and cheese sauce to keep it from drying out in the oven.
4. Bake in a 9 x 13-inch baking dish on 350°F for about 20-30 minutes.
5. Here is a similar Jalapeño Popper Mac and Cheese recipe that is baked. It has different ingredients, and looks amazing!
Can you use a different type of cheese than the ones listed?
Yes, absolutely! Use your favorite variety of cheese. We like the flavor of cheddar, Monterrey jack, and pepper jack, but switch things up if you’d like.
White cheddar, gouda, or smoked cheddar would taste great with this mac and cheese.
What’s the best way to reheat jalapeño bacon mac and cheese?
We recommend heating it on the stove over low heat. If the mac and cheese appears dry, add a tablespoon or two of milk or heavy cream.
It can also be reheated in the microwave on half power and stirred every 30 seconds.
Recipe Card with Ingredient Amounts and Instructions
Optional Breadcrumb Topping:
- 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- ¼ cup parmesan cheese, grated
- ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
Macaroni and Cheese:
- 16 ounces cavatappi noodles, or other thick, tube-shaped noodles
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded off the block
- 4 ounces Monterey jack cheese, shredded off the block
- 4 ounces pepper jack cheese, shredded off the block
- 1 large jalapeño, seeded, membranes removed, and diced
- 6 ounces bacon, cooked and crumbled
To Make the Breadcrumb Topping:
- Place the butter and breadcrumbs in a small skillet over low heat. Cook until the breadcrumbs become lightly browned and crunchy.1 cup panko breadcrumbs2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- Remove to a waiting bowl, and stir in the cheese and smoked paprika. Set aside.¼ cup parmesan cheese¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
To Make the Macaroni and Cheese:
- Cook the noodles according to the package directions, drain, rinse in cool water, and set aside.16 ounces cavatappi noodles
- While the noodles cook, make the cheese sauce. Heat a large pan over low-medium heat. Once the pan is hot, add the butter and allow it to melt completely. Next, add whisk in the flour, salt, and pepper. Continue to whisk continuously for 2-3 minutes.4 tablespoons unsalted butter4 tablespoons all-purpose flour½ teaspoon kosher salt½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- Slowly add the milk and heavy cream while whisking to combine. Allow the mixture to thicken, and continue to whisk until the liquid begins to steep and steam. Don’t let the liquid begin to boil.2 cups whole milk1 cup heavy cream
- Add the cheese a little at a time while whisking. Don’t add additional cheese to the pan until the last cheese has completely melted. After all the cheese has been added, whisk in the diced jalapenos and crumbled bacon. Turn off the heat and add the cooked noodles.4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese4 ounces Monterey jack cheese4 ounces pepper jack cheese1 large jalapeño6 ounces bacon
- Top with panko breadcrumbs, extra cooked bacon, and more sliced jalapenos.
- Serve hot, and store any leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.