Bacon/ Cheese/ Hearty Dinners/ Pasta/ Spice

Spicy Jalapeño Mac and Cheese

September 20, 2018 (Last Updated: April 19, 2020) by Chris Collins

This Spicy Mac and Cheese is loaded with Fresh Jalapeños, 3 different types of Cheese and plenty of Crispy Bacon!

scooping out spicy mac and cheese from baking dish with cheese pull

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
  • Mustard
  • Hot Sauce
  • Cayenne Pepper

None of the above 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!

overhead shot of spicy mac and cheese in baking dish with props scattered around

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 baked. 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 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).

How to make Spicy Jalapeño Mac and Cheese (quick summary)

  1. Fry bacon until crisp, then add jalapeños and fry until soft.
  2. Melt in butter, then stir in flour until a paste forms.
  3. Slowly whisk in milk, then add your spices.
  4. Turn off heat and add your cheese.
  5. Add your pasta.
  6. Combine until fully coated.

How to make spicy mac and cheese with bacon - 6 step by step photos

Top Tip #1 – Ensure your milk is at room temp to ensure the sauce doesn’t clump up.
Top Tip #2 – Make sure you only boil your pasta until al dente. You want it still a bit hard or it’ll go mushy in the oven.

Baked 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 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 – Jalapeno
  • Layer 4 – Oil Spray

Then simply pop it in the oven until golden and bubbly.

If you’ve sliced your jalapeño really thin then you might want to chuck them on half way through, just to prevent them from burning to a crisp.

baked spicy bacon mac and cheese topping - 4 step by step photos

From there the smell in your kitchen is going to be an absolute blessing! 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

Alrighty, let’s tuck into the full recipe shall we?!

Spicy mac and cheese with bacon in a bowl with cheese pull

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

baked mac and cheese fresh out the oven

Spicy Jalapeño Mac and Cheese

This Spicy Mac and Cheese is loaded with Fresh Jalapeños, 3 different types of Cheese and plenty of Crispy Bacon!
4.84 from 6 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Dinner / Main Course
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes
Servings (click & slide): 6
Calories: 759kcal
Cost per serving: £3 / $4

Equipment:

  • Suitably Sized Baking Dish (9"x13" works great)
  • Large Deep Pan (for combining mac and cheese)
  • Large Pot (for boiling pasta) & Colander
  • Jug (for milk)
  • Whisk
  • Wooden Spoon
  • Cheese Grater
  • Sharp Knife & Chopping Board

Ingredients (check list):

  • 14oz / 400g Elbow Pasta (or other short cut pasta)
  • 9oz / 250g Streaky Bacon, diced
  • 4 Fresh Jalapeños, deseeded (3 finely diced & 1 sliced into rounds)
  • 4 cups / 1 litre Milk, at room temp
  • 2 cups / 200g Cheddar, grated
  • 2 cups / 200g Mozzarella, shredded
  • 1 cup / 80g Parmesan, grated (save half for top)
  • 1/2 cup / 30g Panko Breadcrumbs
  • 3 heaped tbsp Flour
  • 3 tbsp Unsalted Butter
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp Garlic Powder
  • 1 tsp Hot Sauce, or to preference
  • 1/2 tsp Onion Powder
  • 1/4 tsp Cayenne Pepper, or to preference
  • Salt & Black Pepper, to taste
  • Oil Spray, as needed

Instructions:

  • Fry 9oz/250g bacon in a large deep pan over medium heat until your desired texture. Add 3 diced and deseeded jalapeños and fry for a couple of minutes until soft. Drain away excess fat if necessary, then melt in 3 tbsp butter.
  • Stir in 3 heaped tbsp flour until a paste forms, then very gradually stir in 4cups/1litre milk until lump free. Add 1 tbsp mustard, 1/2 tsp onion powder, 1 tsp garlic powder, 1/4 tsp cayenne and 1 tsp hot sauce, then allow to bubble until thickened, stirring occasionally. Adjust spice as necessary (more hot sauce and/or cayenne pepper). Important to thicken sauce before adding cheese (step 4), don't add cheese to thicken sauce, will loose flavour and will produce a grainy texture.
  • Meanwhile, preheat oven to 200C/390F and cook 14oz/400g pasta in salted boiling water until al dente (take a few mins off the packet instruction, you want it still quite hard).
  • Once thickened, turn off heat and stir in 2cups/200g cheddar & mozzarella and 1/2cup/40g parmesan (save other half to top). Taste for seasoning. Stir in your pasta and transfer to a baking dish. It might seem overly stringy/saucy but will smooth out in the oven.
  • Top with the rest of your parmesan, 1/2cup/30g breadcrumbs, then the rest of your jalapeño. Finish with by spraying with oil then pop in the oven for 20-25mins or until golden a bubbly.

Quick 1 min demo!

Notes:

a) How spicy is this Mac and Cheese? - Really difficult to say as everyone has different spice thresholds. As it is, with the measurements given, I'd put it at a 'medium'. But it's all down to preference and completely in your control. If you find it spicy enough already with just the jalapeños then you can omit the hot sauce and cayenne pepper. With the same token feel free to increase the amount of hot sauce/cayenne pepper. Personally I tent to use around a tbsp of hot sauce and drizzle over more when serving.
b) Can I use pickled/jarred Jalapeños? - I actually tend not to for two reasons: first if they're already quite soft and tend to go a little mushy when baked. Second is sometimes some of the vinegary taste lingers around in the sauce. It's not a total deal breaker if you've only got jarred jalapeños but do try and find fresh if you can! 
c) Can I use other chillis? - Flavour wise jalapeños are definitely best to take on cheesy flavours. Also difficult to know how spicy certain chillis are going to be. But if you're confident with you chilli picking then go for it!
d) Baking Jalapeños - If you've sliced them particularly thin to go on top then consider popping them on half way through, just to prevent them from burning to a crisp.
e) Consistency - I like my mac and cheese quite saucy, especially because it thins out whilst baking. However if you like a 'thicker' mac and cheese consider using 3 cups of milk, but do take into consideration it gets soaked up quite significantly in the oven. 
f) Calories - based on the above measurements divided by 6 people.

Nutrition:

Nutrition Facts
Spicy Jalapeño Mac and Cheese
Amount Per Serving
Calories 759 Calories from Fat 421
% Daily Value*
Fat 46.83g72%
Saturated Fat 22.05g110%
Trans Fat 1.039g
Polyunsaturated Fat 3.783g
Monounsaturated Fat 15.344g
Cholesterol 158mg53%
Sodium 1871mg78%
Potassium 649mg19%
Carbohydrates 35.58g12%
Fiber 2.8g11%
Sugar 10.25g11%
Protein 48.59g97%
Vitamin A 3100IU62%
Vitamin C 57.8mg70%
Calcium 900mg90%
Iron 2.3mg13%
* 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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12 Comments

  • Reply
    Linda
    March 11, 2020 at 2:32 pm

    5 stars
    Was very good… enjoyed that it have flavour, not bland like most macaroni and cheese recipes

    • Reply
      Chris Collins
      March 11, 2020 at 3:17 pm

      That’s awesome to hear! Glad it went down well 🙂

  • Reply
    Susan
    February 6, 2019 at 3:55 pm

    4 stars
    I think I will opt to replace the mozzarella with more cheddar. The mozzarella just makes it way too stringy to spoon out and difficult to eat. Otherwise, I love the complex flavors!

    • Reply
      Chris
      February 6, 2019 at 5:18 pm

      Glad you love the flavours, Susan! You’re right, I love it super stringy but understand why you’d want more cheddar! Thanks coming back and sharing your feedback 🙂

  • Reply
    Meredith
    September 21, 2018 at 3:29 am

    5 stars
    I absolutely love homemade mac and cheese! Your spicy version with bacon sounds delicious, I can’t wait to try it!

    • Reply
      Chris
      September 22, 2018 at 2:44 pm

      Enjoy!! 🙂

  • Reply
    Sharon
    September 21, 2018 at 3:02 am

    5 stars
    I too am a sucker for mac and cheese! The addition of lots of spicy goodness in this classic dish make it even better.

    • Reply
      Chris
      September 22, 2018 at 2:43 pm

      Cheese and spice is such an awesome combo!

  • Reply
    Annissa
    September 21, 2018 at 2:29 am

    5 stars
    First of all, I love the name of your blog because I love everything a little more with a healthy addition of bacon. Secondly, you’re so right about baking the cheese topping! So much better!

    • Reply
      Chris
      September 22, 2018 at 2:42 pm

      Haha, life is so much better with bacon right!?

  • Reply
    Tisha
    September 21, 2018 at 12:56 am

    5 stars
    I love homemade mac n cheese!! Especially with the added spice and crunch on top!!!

    • Reply
      Chris
      September 22, 2018 at 2:42 pm

      Allllll about the crunch!!

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