Extra creamy, extra cheesy with spicy diced jalapenos and crispy, salty bacon. This creamy jalapeno bacon mac and cheese is a delicious bowl of comfort food that is perfect as a meal or side. This cheesy pasta dish is made on the stove-top with simple ingredients and ready in about 30 minutes.
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Macaroni and cheese is classic comfort food. This jalapeno mac and cheese has all the elements of the classic dish with the added goodness of spicy diced jalapenos and crispy, salty bacon.
If you love jalapeno poppers and cheesy pasta, you are going to love this dish.
This creamy mac and cheese is quick and easy. Made on the stovetop, it comes together in about 30 minutes.
It makes a large batch, and leftovers keep well in the refrigerator for several days, but it is easy to scale the recipe down if you want a smaller batch.
This spicy mac and cheese makes a great meal all on its own but works equally well as a side.
For a full list of ingredients and measurements, see the printable recipe card at the bottom of this post.
- Elbow Macaroni – You will need one pound of pasta. Elbow macaroni is the traditional pasta shape for this dish, but any short pasta will work. Shells, bow-tie, penne, or even fusilli can be used if you don’t have macaroni on hand.
- Jalapenos – You want to use fresh jalapenos for this recipe. You can use as few or as many as you like depending on how spicy you like it.
- Butter – Butter will help to saute the jalapenos and add creaminess to the mac and cheese.
- Cream cheese – This helps to make the sauce creamier and adds a slightly tangy flavour.
- Flour – To help thicken the sauce. If you are gluten-free, you can omit this.
- Seasonings – I use a combination of dried mustard, onion powder and granulated garlic.
- Milk – Whole milk will create the creamiest sauce, but any milk will work.
- Heavy cream – This makes the sauce extra rich and creamy. If you need to watch the fat content, this can be replaced with milk.
- Cheese – I like a combination of sharp cheddar and Monterey jack. The sharp cheddar is a classic mac and cheese flavour and the Monterey jack creates a smooth, creamy sauce. But you can use any combination of cheese you like.
- Bacon – The salty bacon is a perfect complement to the creamy, cheesy sauce.
Step by Step Instructions
Begin by boiling a large pot of water. Once the water is boiling, add the macaroni noodles and cook until they reach al dente stage. Drain and set aside. While the noodles are cooking, you can begin preparing the sauce.
Step 1 – In a large pot or dutch oven, melt the butter over medium heat and add the diced jalapenos. Cook for 3-5 minutes until the jalapenos begin to soften.
Step 2 – Add the flour, cream cheese, and seasonings and stir with the melted butter until it thickens.
Pro-Tip: You can control the spice level of this mac and cheese by either adding more or less diced jalapeno. Jalapenos can vary in spice depending on where they are grown, season, and size.
Step 3 – Add the milk and cream. Once the milk is warm, add the cheese ⅓ at a time, stirring until melted until all of the cheese is added.
Step 4 – Add the cooked noodles to the pot and stir to combine. Allow the pasta to heat until the cheese sauce has thickened. This should take 3-5 minutes.
Add the cooked, diced bacon to the pot, stir to combine, and serve.
Pro-Tip: Ensure you are using freshly shredded cheese, not pre-packaged. The packaged cheese contains anti-clumping agents that will create a grainy texture when melted.
Substitutions & Variations
There are a few ways you can customize this recipe or make substitutions if needed.
- Pasta – Elbow macaroni is the traditional pasta choice for this dish, but if you don’t have any, you can use any small pasta. Medium or small shells, penne, fusilli, and bow-tie all work well.
- Milk & Cream – While the whole milk and heavy cream in this recipe make it extra rich and creamy, you can use any milk or combination of milk you like. Lower fat milk will work fine, but the result may be a slightly thinner sauce.
- Cheese – You can use any cheese you like. Cheddar, gouda, swiss, pepper jack, and Monterey jack all work very well. No matter what combination of cheese you use, make sure you use freshly shredded.
- Seasoning – I love a simple seasoning of mustard powder, garlic and onion. However, you can add other seasonings such as chilli powder, or paprika, or you can use a seasoning such as ranch mix for added zesty flavour.
You can store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer.
It should keep for about three days in the fridge and a month in the freezer.
The cheese will thicken when cooled. To make it creamy again, add a bit of milk or cream when reheating.
How to Reaheat Mac & Cheese
You can reheat this mac and cheese in a microwave or on the stovetop.
To reheat it in the microwave, place a serving in a microwave-safe bowl or plate and heat for 1-2 minutes until heated through. If you want to make it creamier, stir in a tablespoon or two of milk before heating.
To reheat on the stove, add the desired amount to a saucepan. Stir in a tablespoon or two of milk or cream and heat over medium heat until heated through.
Top Tips & FAQS
- For best results, use freshly shredded cheese, not pre-packaged shredded cheese.
- Cook the noodles just to al dente, or slightly firmer. They will continue to cook and soften when they are added to the cheese sauce.
You can make this recipe gluten-free simply by replacing the pasta with your favourite gluten-free variety and omitting the flour.
If you want to make this jalapeno mac and cheese lower in fat you can replace the whole milk and cream with lower fat milk. The sauce will be a bit thinner than when using full-fat milk.
More 30 Minute Pasta Dishes
Creamy Jalapeno Bacon Mac & Cheese
- 1 pound elbow macaroni
- ¼ cup butter salted
- ½ cup cream cheese
- 3 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 6 oz cheddar cheese 3 cups shredded
- 6 oz Monterey jack cheese 3 cups shredded
- 2 ½ cups whole milk
- 1 ½ cups heavy cream
- 3-4 jalapenos finely diced
- ½ pound bacon cooked and diced
- 2 teaspoon ground mustard
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
- Begin by boiling a large pot of water. Once the water is boiling, add the macaroni noodles and cook until they reach al dente stage. Drain and set aside.
- While the noodles are cooking, prepare the sauce. In a large pot or dutch oven, melt the butter over medium heat and add the diced jalapenos. Cook for 3-5 minutes until the jalapenos begin to soften.
- Add the flour, cream cheese, and seasonings and stir with the melted butter until it thickens.
- Stir in the milk and cream. Once the milk is warm, add the cheese ⅓ at a time, stirring until melted until all of the cheese is added, the cheese is melted and the mixture is smooth. Do not allow the cheese sauce to boil.
- Add the cooked noodles to the pot and stir to combine. Allow the pasta to heat until the cheese sauce has thickened. This should take 3-5 minutes.
- Add the cooked, diced bacon to the pot, stir to combine, and serve.
Nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered estimates. Actual nutritional content will vary with brands used, measuring methods, portion sizes and more.