Creamy, cheesy, with a kick of spicy peppers, Jalapeño Mac & Cheese is perfect for macaroni and cheese lovers who love the heat!

A stainless steel fork, full of jalapeño mac & cheese

Macaroni and cheese is the perfect vehicle for jalapeno pepper goodness. All that dairy helps to neutralize the heat so that by the time it hits your tongue, there’s a nice spicy wallop followed immediately by mouth-mellowing cheese.

Table of Contents

The Story Behind the Recipe

I used to despise super-spicy foods. I would say that food shouldn’t hurt. I was a sissy.

Now, I say: Bring it on! I mean, within reason, and with a glass of milk nearby to tame the fire if it gets too out of control. I may not be totally wimpy about heat any longer, I still have to be prepared.

This jalapeño mac and cheese is perfect for reformed spice sissies like me. The heat from the jalapeños is immediately tamed by the cooling effect of the dairy. It keeps me coming back for more, burn and all!

A round casserole dish full of baked jalapeño macaroni and cheese on a green and white towel with a wooden spoon ready to serve.

Why You’ll Love This Smoked Jalapeño Mac & Cheese Recipe

Readers say …
“I’ve been using this recipe for years and impressing everyone from my friends to my in-laws. It’s perfect. Thank you!”

– Erica

This super creamy mac and cheese is a take on the best macaroni and cheese ever. We’ve got a similar roux-based, rich, uber-cheesy sauce – and lots of it, so that the end result is nice and creamy. Baked mac and cheese that comes out dry just makes everyone sad.

This one stays ooey, creamy, and gooey. And cheesy. And spicy!

A white casserole dish full of jalapeño mac and cheese is ready to serve.

Jalapeño Mac & Cheese Ingredients

To make it special and smoky, I add some smoked cheddar to the mix, along with two whole jalapeno peppers, seeds and all. A couple of dashes of Tabasco sauce, and it’s the bee’s knees. (Can you name that movie?)

Here’s the full list of ingredients along with suggestions and substitution ideas.

  • Pasta – I like penne pasta or elbows for this jalapeno mac & cheese, but shells or another medium tubular pasta are also great.
  • Butter & flour – These form a thick and rich roux base for the sauce.
  • Salt, dry mustard powder, and black pepper – To highlight all of those delicious cheesy flavors. Throw in a generous pinch of smoked paprika if you’d like an extra dose of smoky flavor.
  • Milk – whole or 2% works, or unsweetened oat milk is great too (obviously jalapeno mac & cheese is not without dairy, but sometimes that’s all I have in my fridge)
  • Smoked cheddar & medium cheddar cheeses – I love adding two types of cheddar to my spicy mac and cheese for sort of a smoked jalapeno mac & cheese situation. Feel free to mix up the cheeses if you like. Gruyere is fab, pepper jack would be great, Monterey Jack is good, and smoked gouda would be wonderful!
  • Jalapeno peppers: The amount of heat in the end result depends on two things: 1) The amount of seeds you include and 2) The heat in your jalapeno peppers, which can vary widely (but see this post by Simply Recipes for tips that should help!) More tips in the next section.
  • Jalapeño Tabasco sauce: Adds an irresistible little kick!
A stainless steel fork full of jalapeño mac and cheese.

Tips About Jalapeño Peppers & Heat Level

I recommend taking a quick taste of your jalapenos to see just how spicy they really are. If they seem pretty mild, maybe go ahead and use the whole thing, seeds and all (well, cut off the stem first). And even then, again depending on your peppers, your mac may not have a super-insane kick.

On the flip side, if your jalapenos are super hot, you may want to add just a few of the seeds from one of the peppers. And the end result may still may be too hot for you.

So while it’s kind of frustrating that you can’t guarantee the exact same outcome every time you make this, I opt to embrace that fact. It’s like Christmas morning. What are we going to get?!!

Note: No matter the heat level, this is still an insanely delicious, cheesy, over-the-top creamy mac and cheese. Sissy swear.

How to Make Baked Jalapeño Mac & Cheese

Jalapeno mac and cheese is made in the classic way, starting with a roux-based sauce. Once the sauce has thickened, stir in your cheeses until they melt, then add the diced jalapeños. Fold in the pasta, pour into a casserole dish, top with more shredded cheese, and bake until bubbly and golden on top.

More Mac & Cheese Recipes

Two white plates stacked with a serving of jalapeño mac and cheese on the top and a casserole dish full of the mac and cheese in the background.

4.60 from 5 votes

Jalapeno Mac & Cheese

Prep: 25 minutes
Cook: 25 minutes
Total: 50 minutes
Author: Kare
Yield: 6
Generously flecked with jalapeno peppers, this ooey gooey baked mac and cheese packs a good dose of nice, smoky heat.


  • 8 oz. elbow pasta* (roughly 1¾ cups, depending on your pasta)
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon dry mustard
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • cups milk (whole or 2% works)
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded smoked cheddar cheese (6 ounces, divided)
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded medium cheddar cheese (6 ounces, divided)
  • 2 medium jalapeno peppers (stems removed and finely diced; include seeds for spicier chili or leave them out for a milder version)
  • 1 teaspoon green jalapeño Tabasco sauce (plus more to taste)


  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit (190 degrees Celsius).
  • Boil the pasta until al dente, according to package directions. Drain. If, it’s going to be awhile before you make the sauce, toss in a little butter or olive oil to help keep the pasta from sticking together.
  • In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the flour, dry mustard, salt, and black pepper. Stir constantly over medium heat for about three minutes.
  • Switch to a whisk and continue stirring while slowly pouring in the milk. Whisk frequently for about 5 minutes, and then constantly for another 5 minutes or so, until the sauce heats and thickens.
  • Remove from heat and stir in 1 cup of the smoked cheddar, 1 cup of the medium cheddar, jalapeno peppers, and Tabasco sauce, stirring until the cheese has melted.
  • Add the pasta and toss until completely coated with the jalapeño cheese sauce.
  • Add half the pasta to a two quart casserole dish and sprinkle on half of the remaining cheeses.
  • Add the remaining pastas and sprinkle on the remaining cheese.
  • Place in the oven and bake uncovered for 25-30 minutes, until bubbly and golden brown.


Pasta notes: I recommend a medium-size elbow macaroni or another medium tubular pasta like penne. Shells are also wonderful!

Nutrition Facts

Calories: 503kcal, Carbohydrates: 39g, Protein: 22g, Fat: 29g, Saturated Fat: 16g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 6g, Trans Fat: 0.2g, Cholesterol: 84mg, Sodium: 667mg, Potassium: 302mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 6g, Vitamin A: 958IU, Vitamin C: 6mg, Calcium: 536mg, Iron: 1mg

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