Jalapeno Popper Mac and Cheese

jalapeno popper mac and cheese on blue plate

This jalapeno popper macaroni and cheese is probably the best thing that’s ever come out of my kitchen.

There’s not much more to say about it than that. I mean, I could go on about how how rich and creamy and cheesy it is. How the thick sauce that clings to each piece of pasta tastes like someone just squeezed the guts out of your favorite bar poppers and called it “sauce.” How I kept running back to the kitchen as I waited for the pasta to finish cooking because I couldn’t stop sneaking tastes.

Or I could tell you how even though I lightened it up by using vegetable stock instead of cream and reduced fat cheese* instead of full fat cheese, it’s still some of the richest macaroni and cheese I’ve ever tasted. While I certainly wouldn’t call it health food, it’s healthier than most homemade macaroni and cheese. And definitely healthier than eating a plate full of fried jalapeno poppers for dinner.

Seriously, I might as well just stop cooking, because I don’t know if I’ll ever top this one. So I’ll just say this: make this ASAP. You can thank me later.

*Repeat after me: fat free cheese is evil. If you try to use that instead of reduced fat, I take no responsibility in your results. If you want to use full-fat cheese be my guest, but Cabot makes a very nice 50% reduced fat cheddar and pepper jack that melts beautifully and tastes like the real deal.

Jalapeno Popper Mac and Cheese
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
This rich macaroni and cheese captures all the flavor of the jalapeno poppers at your favorite bar or pizzeria — right down to the crispy topping — but without the guilt. This dish has a kick; to prevent it from being too spicy, be sure to remove all of the seeds as well as the white veins from the inside of your jalapenos. I like to use a blend of cheddar and pepper jack, but you can use all cheddar if you prefer.
Serves: 4
  • 4 ounces dry Radiatore or other small, ridged pasta (elbow or shell shapes also work well)
  • 1 slice Bacon, diced (optional)
  • ¼ cup diced Red Onion
  • 1 clove Garlic, minced
  • 8 Jalapeno Peppers, seeded and sliced
  • 2 Tablespoons Flour
  • 1 cup Vegetable Stock
  • 4 ounces Reduced Fat Sharp Cheddar Cheese, shredded
  • 4 ounces Reduced Fat Pepper Jack Cheese, shredded
  • 4 ounces ⅓ Less Fat Cream Cheese, cut into cubes
  • ¼ cup Bread Crumbs
  1. Preheat broiler. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta according to directions on the package. Drain and set aside.
  2. While the pasta cooks, prepare the sauce. Add the bacon, if using, to a wide bottomed pot over medium heat. Cook until crisp — about 7 minutes. Remove the bacon, leaving behind any drippings, and drain on a paper towel.
  3. Add the onion and garlic to the bacon grease and cook until softened — about 3 minutes. (If not using bacon, cook the onions and garlic in 1 Tablespoon of olive oil instead.) Add the jalapenos and cook for another 3 minutes. Stir in the flour. Cook for 1 minute, then add the vegetable stock. Simmer for 5 minutes.
  4. Slowly stir in the Cheddar and Pepper Jack cheeses, adding a little at a time and letting it melt completely before adding more. Stir in the cream cheese. Mix in the crumbled bacon, if using.
  5. Combine the cooked pasta and cheese in a shallow baking dish. Sprinkle a thin layer of bread crumbs over the top. Broil 3-5 minutes, or until bread crumb topping is crispy and golden brown.




  1. I’m loving this zesty pasta. It must be really flavorful and a nice change from the regular tomato sauce.

    • This recipe I have to try coz we love the normal Mac and Cheese this one sounds like it brings a whole new look and flavour to the dinner table,thank you for sharing!

  2. mmm, I love how jalapeno poppers and have been thinking about ways to incorporate the flavors into a dinner dish. I was thinking burgers of some sort – but this mac and cheese sounds amazing, and I was so surprised to see it’s healthier too!

  3. I have made one like this and it is a big hit with my kids…actually even my neighbor like jalapeno mac and cheese… =)

  4. Sounds awesome! I love mac and cheese and jalepeno chilis are my favorite. I have never though about combining these 2 together though. Thanks for sharing.

  5. This is a twist on macatoni and cheese I can sink my teeth into.

  6. Sounds decadent and delicious. I agree with the fat free cheese suggestion. Awful stuff.

  7. Wow! That looks amazing! I need that right now!! Bookmarked!

  8. lol, this is not helping my mac & cheese craving! Maybe I’ll try it out this weekend.

  9. Lauren this is DEFINITELY a winner! My coworker just had a baby and I think taking a covered dish like this will def make her day!
    but i dont think i could have this around for myself– i would literally drink the sauce! (you know i would LOL)
    and i agree about the cabot! Great cheese!

    • I kept running to the kitchen to take “tastes” (aka spoonfulls) of the sauce. It was incredible! I think it could easily be scaled down to make one portion though too. And I bet your coworker will love it!

      • It does look like it would be pretty easy to scale down to one portion (or a portion and a little extra ;)); my boyfriend doesn’t like poppers, so may not like this either, but it’s right up my alley!! Thank you so much for sending me the link, and so soon after I asked for it, too! I’m gonna love this, thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

  10. I never go fat free anymore…has weirdo preservatives in it. Low fat, though, is the way to go!

    Man does this sound amazing. I’ve really been craving mac and cheese lately, too…

  11. Mmmm this looks delicious Lauren! Definitely will have to try this some cold night :)

  12. This looks & sounds seriously delicious! I’m putting in on the menu schedule ASAP :)

  13. Oh la la! This sounds fabulous!

  14. This looks kind of amazing, and I don’t even like macaroni and cheese. Mainly because it’s boring, which this would not be.

  15. Best thing to come out of your kitchen?! Well then I shall make this! I’m looking forward to it, the combination of jalapeno, bacon, cheese and onions sounds fabulous!

  16. If you say it’s that good, I have to try it! Looks delicious, Lauren, and you can’t beat that combo of ingredients!

  17. Oh wow, say no more! This looks amazing…we love mac & cheese and I like your addition of some spice to jazz it up.

  18. Oh dear. This looks TOO good!! I have a compelling desire to go out and make this right NOW! Looks amazing.

  19. HOLY CRAP there is 14 points in a serving of this. That is ridiculous,and not healthy.

    • I respectfully disagree. I follow Weight Watchers off and on and get 29 points per day (the lowest amount) plus activity points and weekly points. While I wouldn’t advocate eating this every day, my dinners usually fall around 14 points (which leaves me 15 to split between breakfast and lunch – I’m not much of a breakfast person though so I usually have a yogurt and fruit for 4 points). Paired with a salad or some zero point soup for the nutritional value and extra veggie servings, I think this is a nice treat and can easily be worked into the plan. Plus it’s so rich that you might find a full serving is too much for you.

  20. I made a similar dish a few months ago Lauren…probably the first mac and cheese I’ve ever done that didn’t go into the over afterwards. Mine had poblano peppers…and I kept ‘testing’ it so much I should have just put a bunch in a bowl and called it dinner. So I know. Yes I do. Now have to add some jalapeno huh? Great dish.

  21. I was thinking of adding some cayenne pepper to the bread crumbs.

  22. Ana Fernández says:

    Hi everyone,

    For the first time in my live I´m living alone, and as I never cooked before I´m all the time searching in the internet, so I found your blog, it´s amazing, it really makes thing easier for me.
    I use Spanish cheese in my recipes, they are amazing,there are many diferent ones, suitable for all kind of recipes, just have a look at this website and let me know what do you think.
    kind regards


  23. I just made this, and wow! It is seriously good. I added some mozzarella mixed with the cheddar and cream cheeses, which gave it a bit of gooey, stretchy cheese action. Yum!

  24. I scaled down the recipe and made a single serving for myself today. I didn’t have veggie stock so I substituted with this white wine and herb chicken broth that I have on hand. I also used shallots instead of red onion and Neufchâtel cheese instead of cream cheese (it’s reduced fat and you can’t even tell the difference). All I have to say is… Holy macaroni! The hallelujah chorus and flights of angels spiraled down from the sky. Cherubs wept tears of joy. I have to be careful with this recipe. My boyfriend would have a sudden realization that he has no choice but to propose on the spot. He’ll think that any creature capable of producing such deliciousness needs to be secured right away. Okay. Maybe I’m exaggerating. But really. Great recipe. :D

  25. I made this for the secret recipe club reveal today. HUGE hit at my house! Thanks so much for the great recipe :)

  26. Noreen Marcos says:

    Dry breadcrumbs are made from dry bread which has been baked or toasted to remove most remaining moisture, and may even have a sandy or even powdery texture. Bread crumbs are most easily produced by pulverizing slices of bread in a food processor, using a steel blade to make coarse crumbs, or a grating blade to make fine crumbs. A grater or similar tool will also do.”

    Please do look out for our new web blog

  27. This recipe looks great, but I am curious to know if the 4 ounce of pasta was a typo…That is 1/4 of a normal package of pasta and is certainly nooooooo where near enough for 4 servings- 2 ounces is a normal serving size for pasta. Just wanted to make sure before I made it so I would know if I need to increase the amount of the sauce ingredients or just the amount of pasta. Looks great and I can’t wait to try it!

  28. Joline Boudreau Cosman says:

    LOVE a Popper, and can’t wait to try this !!! Looks awesome !!!

  29. If only people could appreciate how dangerous gas burning appliances
    can be. A yearly gas safety inspection could save

  30. This looks great. Do you happen to have nutritional information?


  1. […] (And you know how much i love putting jalapeño popper flavor where it doesn’t belong… jalapeño popper mac and cheese anyone?). I’ll spare you the close up photo of the inside, but these burgers are filled with […]

Leave a Comment


Rate this recipe: