Jalapeno Popper Mac and Cheese

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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.

Jalapeno Popper Mac and Cheese 1

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 2

Jalapeno Popper Mac and Cheese 3

Jalapeno Popper Mac and Cheese

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.
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Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 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 1/3 Less Fat Cream Cheese cut into cubes
  • ¼ cup Bread Crumbs


  • Preheat broiler. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta according to directions on the package. Drain and set aside.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
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Hi, I'm Lauren!

I'm a certified plant-based cook and enthusiastic omnivore who loves looking for creative ways to make weeknight meals more nutritious. I'm the author of Heathy Eating One Pot Cookbook and Healthy Meal Prep Slow Cooker Cookbook. I also blog at The Busy Foodie. Read more...


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37 thoughts on “Jalapeno Popper Mac and Cheese”

  1. 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.

    • 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.

5 from 1 vote (1 rating without comment)

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