This Spicy Mac and Cheese is loaded with Fresh Jalapeños, 3 different types of Cheese and plenty of Crispy Bacon!
Spicy Mac and Cheese
I don’t know about you, but I douse pretty much anything edible in hot sauce, mac and cheese FULLY included. So creating a spicy mac and cheese makes complete sense to me. Having said, that I was conscious not to just chuck in some hot sauce or chilli flakes and be done with it. In such case, I’ve added a range of spicy ingredients which together actually add a delicious flavour to the dish.
What makes this Spicy Mac and Cheese ‘Spicy’?
- Fresh Jalapeño – Most are deseeded and placed INSIDE the mac and cheese, then we’ll slice one and place it ON TOP of the mac and cheese.
- Mustard – I recommend using Dijon.
- Hot Sauce – My favourite is Cholula!
None of the above is used just for the sake of it, but actually to create a really deep and complex spicy flavour. All measurements are adjustable, so fear not if you only like a mild spice. With the same token it’s an easy recipe to ramp up the spice too, so feel free to do so!
Jalapeño Mac and Cheese
The jalapeños are a key ingredient in this spicy mac and cheese, not only for their obvious spice but also for their gorgeous flavour. Jalapeños are notorious for working well with cheese and this recipe is no exception.
Fresh versus Jarred Jalapeño
My vote is for fresh if you can! I find you sometimes get a mild taste of the brine from the jarred jalapeños. They are also quite soft in the jar already and can go mushy after baking. Having said that, if you find ‘firmer’ pickled jalapeños and pat off as much brine as possible you’ll be fine!
Can I use other Chillis?
I tend to stick with jalapeños for the flavour and the fact they’re not too spicy. However, if you’re good with your chillis, and know and love a particular variety, you can sub if you want.
In terms of the other ingredients for jalapeño mac and cheese, you’ll need a 3 cheese combo of cheddar, mozzarella and parmesan. Some bacon, because is a mac and cheese a mac and cheese without bacon?! And alongside the spices we discussed, some onion/garlic powder for extra flavour and your mac and cheese staples (milk, flour, pasta, etc).
Skillet vs Baking Dish
I originally made this by combining everything in a regular pan, and then transferring it to a baking dish to bake. More recently I’ve moved to use a cast-iron skillet, where everything can be made and baked in the same pan. No difference in result – just whatever’s easiest for you!
Process shots: fry bacon and jalapeño (photo 1), melt butter then add flour (photo 2), stir (photo 3), stir in milk then add mustard, hot sauce and seasoning (photo 4), stir in cheese (photo 5), add pasta (photo 6).
Baked Jalapeño Mac and Cheese
For me, a mac and cheese ain’t a mac and cheese unless it’s baked. I don’t know why but it always makes me a little sad when I see mac and cheese in a pan and then served up straight away. Baking it in the oven enhances those cheesy flavours so much. PLUS, you get a gorgeous crispy top.
Baked Mac and Cheese Topping
- Layer 1 – Parmesan
- Layer 2 – Breadcrumbs
- Layer 3 – Oil Spray
- Layer 4 – Jalapeno
Process shots: stir in pasta (photo 1), top with parmesan, breadcrumbs and oil spray (photo 2), bake then add jalapeños (photo 3), bake again (photo 4).
Serving Spicy Mac and Cheese
From there the smell in your kitchen is going to be an absolute blessing! I recommend tucking in right away; the longer it sits the drier it gets. Trust me, you’re going to fall in love with this recipe 😋
If you’re looking for more recipes using fresh jalapeños then definitely check out my Crispy Baked Jalapeño Poppers and Jalapeño Popper Loaded Potatoes! If you’re looking for more mac and cheese goodness then give these recipes a ganders:
Best Mac and Cheese Variations
- Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese
- Brie Mac and Cheese
- Gnocchi Mac and Cheese
- Roasted Garlic Mac and Cheese
- Chipotle Mac and Cheese
Alrighty, let’s tuck into the full recipe shall we?!
How to make Spicy Jalapeño Mac and Cheese (Full Recipe & Video)
Spicy Jalapeño Mac and Cheese
- 12" Oven-Safe Skillet, or Large Regular Skillet + Baking Tray
- Large Pot & Colander (for boiling pasta)
- Jug (for milk)
- Wooden Spoon
- Cheese Grater
- Sharp Knife & Chopping Board
Ingredients (check list):
- 14oz / 400g Elbow/Spiral Pasta (or of course macaroni)
- 9oz / 250g Streaky Bacon, diced
- 4 Fresh Jalapeños, (3 deseeded finely diced & 1 sliced into rounds)
- 4 cups / 1 litre Milk, at room temp
- 2.5 cups / 250g freshly grated Cheddar
- 1.5 cups / 150g freshly shredded Mozzarella
- 1 cup / 80g freshly grated Parmesan (save half for top)
- 3/4 cup / 45g Panko Breadcrumbs, or enough to lightly cover everything
- 3 heaped tbsp Flour (2oz/60g)
- 3 tbsp Butter
- 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
- 1 tbsp Hot Sauce, or to spice preference
- 1 tsp Garlic Powder
- 1/2 tsp Onion Powder
- Salt & Pepper, to taste
- Oil Spray, as needed
- Fry bacon in a large oven-safe skillet over medium heat until crispy with the fat rendered (or regular pan then transfer to baking dish later). Add 3 diced and deseeded jalapeños and fry for a couple of minutes until soft.
- Melt in the butter then stir in the flour to form a roux. Very gradually add in the milk, stirring as you go to avoid lumps (can use a whisk if required). Add mustard, hot sauce, onion & garlic powder and a good pinch of salt & black pepper. Allow to gently simmer for around 5 mins until the sauce thickens and begins bubbling.
- Meanwhile, preheat oven to 200C/390F and cook pasta in salted boiling water until al dente (take a few mins off the packet instruction, you want it still a little hard).
- Turn off the heat for the sauce and stir in all of the cheddar & mozzarella and half of the parmesan. It will be quite stringy at this point, but it smooths out once the pasta is tossed through and everything has baked. Taste for seasoning/spice and adjust if needed.
- Drain pasta and stir through the sauce. If you're using a baking dish transfer everything now. Top with parmesan, followed by breadcrumbs and a very liberal spray of oil. Place in the oven for 10mins, then swiftly remove and sprinkle over the sliced jalapeños. Place back in the oven for another 10-15mins, or until golden, bubbly and visibly crisp on top. Serve with more hot sauce if desired!
Quick 1 min demo!
Your Private Notes:
Got leftovers? Check out my Mini Leftover Mac and Cheese Quesadillas!
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