Baked Jalapeño Popper Mac and Cheese

This tasty baked Mac and cheese recipe is bursting with bold jalapeño popper flavors!

Everything you love about spicy jalapeño poppers, plus comforting and rich Mac and cheese.  It’s a culinary match made in heaven!

This Jalapeño Popper Mac and Cheese has all the amazing flavors of the wildly popular appetizer, made into an ultra creamy and comforting baked Mac and cheese dish! | #macandcheese #jalapenopopper #comfortfood #macaroniandcheese #recipe

Y’all, this is the most epic Mac and cheese.  If you’re a fan of jalapeño poppers, and love the comfort of Mac and cheese… then this is it.  The one Mac and cheese recipe you need to try… immediately!

Ever since I posted this family favorite recipe back in 2016, I’ve been meaning to add more recipe like it… but time got away from me!  Honestly, I just have SO many recipes that I’m dying to share, and things get pushed to the back burner.

This Jalapeño Popper Mac and Cheese has all the amazing flavors of the wildly popular appetizer, made into an ultra creamy and comforting baked Mac and cheese dish! | #macandcheese #jalapenopopper #comfortfood #macaroniandcheese #recipe

I love that this jalapeño popper Mac and cheese is really versatile.  Like things extra spicy?  Maybe a little more mild.  Want a vegetarian Mac and cheese?  Or how about some extra protein?  I’ve got you covered!


  • Pasta can be cooked ahead of time.  Just toss it with a bit of olive oil, stir if occasionally as it cools, and store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
  • Panko can also be made ahead of time and stored on the counter in an airtight container.
  • For a spicier Mac and cheese, leave the seeds in the jalapeño, and/or add more jalapeño.  Alternately, you can buck tradition and add a Serrano or two.  Swap out some of the cheese (either mozzarella or American) for pepper jack.
  • For a more mild Mac and cheese, use less jalapeños, or use pickled (jarred) jalapeños (the mild variety).
  • For a vegetarian version, omit the bacon completely.
  • For a meatier version, add some extra bacon.  Also, 1 1/2 cups of shredded chicken makes a great addition to the bacon as well!

Baked Mac and cheese recipe



  • Make as directed, minus the panko topping (but do not bake), transfer to baking dish and cool completely.  Cover tightly with foil and refrigerate 1-2 days ahead.  
  • Before baking, let dish sit on counter for 30 minutes.  
  • Top with panko and bake at recipe temperature for 25-35 minutes, or until hot and bubbly.

Bowl full of homemade Mac and cheese

The panko topping on this Mac and cheese is optional, but I really like it since it really brings home that “jalapeño popper” flavor and texture!

I hope you give this comfort food classic with a twist a try soon!


  • Deep saucepan – perfect for sauces of any kind!
  • 9×13 baking dish – in case you’re looking for a new one, this one is inexpensive and I love the lid!




This Jalapeño Popper Mac and Cheese has all the amazing flavors of the wildly popular appetizer, made into an ultra creamy and comforting baked Mac and cheese dish! | #macandcheese #jalapenopopper #comfortfood #macaroniandcheese #recipe

Baked Jalapeño Popper Mac and Cheese

This tasty baked Mac and cheese recipe is bursting with bold jalapeño popper flavors!
4.8 from 25 votes
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Total Time 30 mins
Servings 8 servings
Calories 795


  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 box (16 oz) dried short cut pasta (cavatappi, elbow, rotini, penne, etc)
  • 4 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2-3 fresh jalapeños, seeds and ribs removed, diced
  • 1/3 cup diced yellow onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups heavy cream (or half and half)
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 4 oz cream cheese, softened to room temperature - (and cubed)
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, - divided
  • 2 cups shredded or diced white American cheese, - divided (white cheddar can also be used)
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 8 slices cooked and crumbled bacon, divided


  • In a small saucepan, heat 1 tsp olive oil over MED heat.  Add panko and stir around until coated and panko is starting to brown.  Set aside.
  • Preheat oven to 350 F degrees.  Lightly grease a 3 qt baking dish (like a 9x13 pan), and set aside.  Boil a large stockpot of water and cook pasta until 1 minute shy of al dente.  Drain and toss pasta in a drizzle of olive oil to prevent sticking.
  • Add butter to a large saucepan and heat over MED heat.  Add jalapeños and onion, and cook 2 minutes.  Add garlic and cook 1 minute, stirring often.
  • Add flour and stir to combine.  Cook 1-2 minutes to get rid of the raw flour taste.  Pour in heavy cream and milk, whisking to combine so lumps from the flour mixture are gone.  Cook several minutes until thickened, stirring very often.
  • Add in cream cheese and stir until it's melted into the sauce.  Add in most of the mozzarella and white American cheese, stirring until it's all melted.  Add spices (salt, pepper, cumin) and stir.  If you notice the sauce getting TOO thick, add in a splash of milk and stir.
  • In a large mixing bowl, add cooked pasta, cheese sauce, and most of the bacon.  Stir it all together and pour into prepared baking dish.  Top with remaining mozzarella and white American cheeses and remaining bacon.  Sprinkle with the toasted panko and bake, uncovered, for 15 minutes.
  • Serve hot, garnished with additional sliced jalapeños, and parsley or cilantro if desired.


For an ultra creamy version, 1.5x the sauce ingredients (butter through cumin), and bake as directed.
Tried this recipe?Mention @the_chunky_chef or tag #thechunkychef!

If changing the recipe serving quantity, the recipe plugin will change the ingredient values for you, but it does NOT change the written instructions, those are manually added and not subject to a slider/button. You will have to extrapolate that multiplication to any amounts listed in the instructions.

For example: if an ingredient calls for 4 cups, and you doubled the recipe, it will automatically change to 8 cups. In the instructions, if I say “use 4 cups of cheese”, you will have to realize that since you doubled it, you use 8 cups, not 4



This Jalapeño Popper Mac and Cheese has all the amazing flavors of the wildly popular appetizer, made into an ultra creamy and comforting baked Mac and cheese dish! | #macandcheese #jalapenopopper #comfortfood #macaroniandcheese #recipe

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Recipe Rating

32 comments on “Baked Jalapeño Popper Mac and Cheese”

  1. The recipe sounds great. I’m going to use it later this week. American cheese doesn’t exist in Canada, so I will use medium cheddar. I was wondering what percentage cream to use? 10%, 18% or 35%? 35% is whipping cream. Do you use the ripe mozzarella balls or the pre-shredded in a bag or do you shred from a mozzarella brick of cheese? These all have different textures, flavours and moisture contents.

  2. My husband and I have made this twice now, for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. This is an amazing recipe! Very thick, creamy, and cheesy. We kept the jalapeno seeds in, which was just the right amount of heat, and we used white cheddar cheese instead of American. So good! The leftovers taste great too.

  3. I used some white and yellow sharp cheddar instead of the American and used 3 large jalapenos. This was amazing! Had the right amount of heat and was super creamy and flavorful. Thank you so much for sharing this recipe, will definitely be making again!

  4. Hi there! I swear by your creamy mac and cheese recipe. Everyone who I have made it for, even those who don’t really like mac n cheese (I don’t understand how not!!) , have absolutely loved it!

    If I wanted to make it in advance I read below you suggested making extra sauce so the pasta doesn’t soak it all up over night. However, would you recommend making the pasta and sauce separately the night before and then mixing together the next day before baking?

    Thank you!

    • I’m so happy to hear that you love that mac and cheese as much as we do! I’ve not tested keeping the sauce and pasta separate, but I think that would work well 🙂 The sauce may need an extra splash of milk when reheating prior to mixing it all together.

  5. One of the best baked Mac and cheese recipes I’ve tried. It wasn’t dry and grainy which happens sometimes nor was it soupy. It held together but still stayed creamy. If you don’t like creamy dishes you may not like this. I personally really like meals like that, 5 stars.

  6. AMAZING! I have tried to make mac and cheese from scratch sooooo many times and have failed until I made this as a side last night. Sooooo good! I split the recipe in half (family of 3) and substituted pepper jack for the majority of the motz cheese (I used what I had on hand). This mac and cheese is even good as a left over, just add a little water and milk. I plan on adding this to our dinner rotation. Served with sauteed pork and green beans.

  7. This Mac and cheese my boyfriend and I love! Super creamy and had lots of flavor! 

    • Turned out great 2 times. The first time i used ditalini and really liked it that way.
      The second time I used sharp white cheddar and added a bit of liquid smoke to the sauce before mixing with the noodles (I I don’t eat bacon but wanted a little something extra) and it was fantastic.

  8. I haven’t made this yet. But I want to make it a day before Thanksgiving and bring it to a potluck. What would be your advice if you’re making it a day ahead?

    • I’ve only tested the recipe as written, and haven’t made it ahead of time, but my advice would be to make a little bit extra of the sauce so it doesn’t all get soaked up by the pasta.

  9. This is an awesome recipe. The only modification I made was to omit the cumin, because I don’t care for it. I would suggest upping the panko to a cup….and wearing loose clothing.

  10. This is by far the best mac and cheese recipe. I think mac and cheese is pretty bland usually. I made this for my husbands birthday and everyone commented on how good it was. I kept going back for more. The jalapenos give it the perfect spice. Thank you thank you!

  11. Best Mac and cheese recipe, hands down! I make a frozen batch for every new mom 😊 It’s a first meal after giving birth tradition in my family!

  12. Excellent recipe. Thanks for sharing!

  13. SO excited to make this! I hadn’t a question about the bacon, do I cook it first or put it in raw? 

  14. This was AMAZING – crazy good!!!   Made the recipe exact (used the Monterey Jack).  Huge hit and served with a spring mix salad.  Loved how the pasta was cooked in the water/milk in ONE pot!!!  

  15. I just wanted to say that I did a Mac and Cheese cook off and used this recipe and I won. Everyone was talking about how delicious it was and it WAS! Thank you. So good!!!! 

  16. Absolutely delicious! I did Monterey jack cheese instead of white cheddar and paired with mozzarella, eliminated the bacon, and did two large jalapenos and left some seeds from one of them. I think that cooking the panko breadcrumbs in the beginning is a must (it did so much for the flavor!). I also made some adjustments to make mine gluten free, and it worked great.

  17. Can’t wait to try it. 

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  19. This Mac and cheese looks amazing!! Two of my fave things in one dish…mmm!

  20. This is probably my ideal mac and cheese — love these flavors together!

  21. woah!ill take note of this recipe and will surely try this.will surely put this one n my book.

  22. Wow! Absolutely gorgeous! Dangerously good!

  23. What a fun mash up of two classics! Great job!

  24. I LOVE this version!! It sounds incredible!!

  25. You have combined two of my favorite comfort foods! I can’t wait to try the heat of the jalapenos with all of that cheesy goodness!

  26. This is like mac & cheese to the next level! this sounds incredibly good! two of my favorite foods combined into one!!! this is amazing, great recipe 🙂

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