Cheese/ Hearty Dinners/ Spice

Smoky Chipotle Mac and Cheese

April 19, 2020 by Chris Collins

This Chipotle Mac and Cheese is loaded with smoked bacon and smoked paprika to add a gorgeous smoky flavour. It’s ultra cheesy, spicy and bursting with flavour!

overhead shot of serving spoon digging into mac and cheese

Chipotle Mac and Cheese

Another day, another absolute cheesefest of goodness. That’s right folks, it’s that time again where I take a perfectly acceptable meal (mac and cheese) and turn it into something completely uncalled for, but quite frankly something you’ll never live without again. This week’s star ingredient – the humble chipotle chilli.

A chipotle chilli is essentially a smoked jalapeño pepper.

Cheese and spice go together like a match made in heaven. Chipotle not only offers the spice component, but also adds a huge amount of gorgeous smoky flavour too. For this recipe we’ll be using chipotle paste, which you’ll find in most mainstream supermarkets/grocery stores.

Can I use chipotle powder instead?

Sure! I find the paste tends to give you a deeper, richer flavour, but powder will sub just fine.

closeup shot of centre of mac and cheese fresh out the oven

Smoky Mac and Cheese

This mac and cheese is spicy, but like I mentioned ealier it has a gorgeous smoky twang too. Here’s where the smokiness comes from:

  • Chipotle Paste
  • Smoked Paprika
  • Smoked Bacon

You could also use smoked cheese too, but I find the smokiness from the above 3 ingredients to be sufficient. There’s a fine line between ‘smoky’ and ‘this tastes like a cigar’… But hey, some people like cigars! 🤣

Anywho, let’s talk bacon i.e the back bone of this blog and everything involved with it.

You’ll want to start off by frying the bacon (photo 1) and rendering out as much fat as possible. The fat will not only add flavour, but help start the roux when the flour is mixed in. Also draining away bacon fat is a chargeable offence in most circumstances. I don’t make the rules.

Once you’ve rendered the fat (photo 2), melt in butter (step 3) and stir in flour (photo 4) until a paste forms (photo 5) then gradually pour in milk (photo 6).

How to make chipotle mac and cheese - 6 step by step photos

Alongside the smoked paprika and chipotle paste, I like to add onion and garlic powder to this mac and cheese, as I do in nearly all my mac and cheese recipes. You know, just for that little something something.

In terms of what cheese to use I’ve kept it fairly simple here with a combo of cheddar and mozzarella. I did test this recipe with a few different cheese varieties, but it all gets a bit much with the chipotle trying to shine through past the intense cheesy flavour. Keep it simple.

Once you’ve stirred in the seasoning (photos 7 & 8), turn off the heat and stir in your cheese (photo 9) then add in your macaroni (photo 10).

Ensure you don’t boil your pasta completely through, you want it still a bit hard when you add it to the sauce, otherwise it’ll overcook when baked and come out broken and sloppy.

Baked Mac and Cheese

From there it’s just a case of plonking it all in a baking dish, topping with breadcrumbs and throwing in the oven like a rugby ball (jokes please don’t do that). I recommend using Panko breadcrumbs (Japanese breadcrumbs) as they are larger and lighter compared to regular breadcrumbs (i.e EXTRA cripsy.)

Because really, a mac and cheese ain’t a mac and cheese unless it’s baked. Again, I don’t make the rules.

How to bake chipotle mac and cheese - 5 step by step photos

One that golden bubbly goodness is out the oven, waste no time in tucking in! This mac and cheese is hearty enough to hold it’s own as a main dish by itself, but if I’m serving it as a side I usually add a portion of crispy baked chicken tenders (or deep fried spicy chicken tenders 😈)

If you’re looking for similar recipes to this then check out full collection of mac and cheese recipes!

Mac and Cheese Variations

Alrighty, let’s tuck into the full recipe for this chipotle mac and cheese shall we?!

serving spoon with mac and cheese in it dripping down into dish

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How to make Chipotle Mac and Cheese (Full Recipe & Video)

serving spoon with mac and cheese in it dripping down into dish

Chipotle Mac and Cheese

This Chipotle Mac and Cheese is loaded with smoked bacon and smoked paprika to add a gorgeous smoky flavour. It's ultra cheesy, spicy and bursting with flavour!
5 from 5 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Dinner / Main Course
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Servings (click & slide): 6
Calories: 897kcal
Cost per serving: £2 / $2.50

Equipment:

  • Deep 12" Skillet & Wooden Spoon
  • Sharp Knife & Chopping Board
  • Large Pot & Colander
  • Jug (for milk)
  • Grater
  • 8" x 12" Baking Dish (or similar size)
  • Serving Spoon
  • Whisk

Ingredients (check list):

  • 14oz / 400g Macaroni
  • 4 cups / 1litre Milk, at room temp
  • 9oz / 250g Bacon, diced
  • 3 cups / 300g Cheddar, grated
  • 1.5 cups / 150g Mozzarella, grated/shredded
  • 3 heaped tbsp Flour
  • 3 tbsp Unsalted Butter
  • 1-2 tbsp Chipotle Paste
  • 1 tsp EACH Smoked Paprika, Garlic Powder
  • 1/2 tsp Onion Powder
  • 1/2 cup / 30g Panko Breadcrumbs, or as needed (see notes)
  • Salt & Pepper, to taste
  • Oil Spray, as needed

Instructions:

  • In a pan over medium heat add your bacon and fry until nice and crispy with the fat full rendered. Keep bacon fat in the pan and melt in 3 tbsp butter, then stir in 3 heaped tbsp flour until a paste forms.
  • Gradually pour in 4cups/1litre milk, making sure you frequently whisk to ensure no lumps form. Ensure it has thickened before adding cheese (step 4), if it's still a very watery consistency the cheese will turn grainy and lose it's flavour. If the sauce is still watery once all the milk is poured in just simmer and stir until it begins to thicken.
  • Meanwhile, cook 14oz/400g pasta in salted boiling water until only JUST cooked. You want it still a bit hard. Pre heat oven to 200C/390F.
  • Add into the sauce: 1-2 tbsp chipotle paste, 1 tsp smoked paprika and garlic powder, 1/2 tsp onion powder and salt & black pepper (to taste). Give it a good stir then turn off the heat. Stir in cheddar and mozzarella until fully melted. It may seem overly stringy at this point but it will smooth out once the pasta is added/when it's baked.
  • Stir in your al dente pasta until completely combined, then pour into a baking dish. Sprinkle over enough breadcrumbs to cover the top then liberally spray with oil.
  • Pop in the oven for 20-25mins for until golden and bubbly.

Quick 1 min demo!

Notes:

a) Panko - Panko breadcrumbs are great because they are very light and fairly big in comparison to regular breadcrumbs. You'll find them in most supermarkets/grocery stores in the Asian section. If you only have regular breadcrumbs that's fine. Alternatively you can pulse up some slightly stale bread and make your own breadcrumbs.
b) Chipotle Paste - Spice levels tend to vary from brand to brand, but I usually add 2 tbsp. It will mellow out slightly once baked. You'll find chipotle paste in most supermarkets/grocery stores, but if you can't get your hands on any just sub chipotle powder and work to preference.
c) Al dente pasta - Just another reminder to ensure you don't boil your pasta all the way, you want it still a bit hard because it will continue to bloat when it bakes.
d) Calories - based on using whole milk, 30g panko and sharing between 6:

Nutrition:

Nutrition Facts
Chipotle Mac and Cheese
Amount Per Serving
Calories 897 Calories from Fat 472
% Daily Value*
Fat 52.47g81%
Saturated Fat 20.294g101%
Trans Fat 0.933g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1.984g
Monounsaturated Fat 9.191g
Cholesterol 103mg34%
Sodium 879mg37%
Potassium 668mg19%
Carbohydrates 65.07g22%
Fiber 2.7g11%
Sugar 11.46g13%
Protein 40.02g80%
Vitamin A 1355IU27%
Vitamin C 0.1mg0%
Calcium 735mg74%
Iron 1.83mg10%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Nutrition is based on the absence of salt unless stated as a measurement in the ingredients. Cost is worked out based on ingredients bought from UK supermarkets, then divided by the number of servings. In both instances these values are just for guidance. Please check out my FAQ Page for more info.
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10 Comments

  • Reply
    Sisley White
    April 28, 2020 at 11:44 am

    5 stars
    This is my partners favourite meal now. Already a mac and cheese fan this is the next level.

  • Reply
    Veena Azmanov
    April 28, 2020 at 11:19 am

    5 stars
    Need to grab all my ingredients for my next super recipe. This is so yum, creamy, flavorful and delicious.

  • Reply
    Nart at Cooking with Nart
    April 28, 2020 at 11:08 am

    5 stars
    This looks so delicious. I bet it’s satisfying – can’t wait to try it!

  • Reply
    Alice | SkinnySpatula
    April 28, 2020 at 10:31 am

    5 stars
    This sounds like an amazing mac and cheese makeover. I need to get my hands on some chipotle paste and try it these days.

  • Reply
    Jack
    April 28, 2020 at 10:21 am

    5 stars
    Killer recipe Chris! I love the flavour combination with the chipotle paste. Mega comfort food!

  • Leave a Reply

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