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, but a reformed sissy’s still gotta be prepared.
Especially when said sissy can’t help but stuff a ginormous bite of Jalapeno Mac & Cheese into her gullet.
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.
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.
My gosh, I love mac and cheese.
I added 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?)
So here’s the thing about Jalapeno Mac & Cheese. 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!)
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.
Jalapeno Mac & Cheese
- 8 oz. 1/2 pound or roughly 1¾ cups, depending on your pasta medium-size elbow macaroni or other medium tubular pasta like penne
- 3 tablespoons butter
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon dry mustard
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 2½ cups milk (whole or 2% works)
- 1 cup plus 1/2 cup grated smoked cheddar cheese (divided)
- 1 cup plus 1/2 cup medium cheddar cheese (divided)
- 2 medium jalapeno peppers (stems removed and finely diced (include seeds for spicier chili; leave them out for a milder version))
- 1 teaspoon jalapeno Tabasco sauce (or more to taste)
- Boil the pasta until al dente, according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cool water to stop the cooking, drain. Return to the pan you boiled it in and set aside. (Toss in a little butter or olive oil to help keep the noodles from sticking together if it’s going to be awhile before you make the sauce)
- In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter.
- Add the flour, dry mustard, salt, and black pepper. Whisk constantly over medium heat for about three minutes.
- Continue stirring with the whisk and slowly pour 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.
- Pour the cheese sauce over the pasta and toss gently until coated.
- Add half the noodles to a two quart casserole dish and sprinkle on half of the remaining cheeses.
- Add the remaining pastas and sprinkle on the remaining cheese.
- Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit.for about 25-30 minutes or until bubbly and golden brown.
This looks amazing! I agree with past-you that food shouldn’t hurt! But I can definitely go for that slight tingle that you get when something is perfectly spicy 😀
Seriously though – if your food is making you sweat or cry or giving you a bloody nose, where’s the pleasure in that?! 😉
I don’t mind the sweating or crying…the bloody nose just adds extra protein…it’s just the next day.. or two…
It took me a while to come around to spicy food, but now I love a little heat in my food. This mac & cheese is calling my name!
I don’t know if our taste buds change or if we just become less wimpy over time, but I’m happy to be a convert! 🙂
I have a similar recipe to this but without the jalapenos. I’m definitely going to try this!
This reminds me, I have not made mac n’ cheese in ages. I might have to spice things up a bit next time!
Yes, you must remedy that with a batch of mac and cheese pronto! 🙂
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My first comment, and I just wanted to thank you for your fabulous, endlessly versatile mac and cheese recipes. Have used them with tomato/jalapeno, smoked gouda, ricotta, tempeh bacon, etc. The roux really makes it!
Hi Ann, thank you so much for the nice comment! It sounds like you’ve come up with some incredibly creative variations. Come I come over for dinner? 😉
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I made this for dinner this past Friday. What a delicious recipe! The sauce turned out perfectly. I added some broccoli florets (chopped small) and some freshly grated pecorino on top. This will be my go-to mac and cheese recipe from now on. Thank you!
I’m so glad you liked it! What an awesome idea to add broccoli. Love it!
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My go to for mac & cheese now! Made this for the first time last night for guests…..it was a hit! Not a single noodle left over! Thanks for publishing this recipe!! Can’t wait to try your other ones!
Soo delicious! However when I made this I couldn’t find any smoked cheddar so I used some Parmesan, and it was so tasty!!!! I added some onions to the mix too. My favorite Mac n cheese! Thank you!!
I like the recipe, looking forward to trying this, however, when using peppers, the spice does not come from the seeds, rather the viens of the pepper, so de-seeding doesnt make a difference.
Hi! Thank you so much for this recipe. I just made it for my family and they gave it two thumbs up 🙂
Woo hoo! Thanks Rose! 🙂
I’ve been using this recipe for years and impressing everyone from my friends to my in-laws. It’s perfect. Thank you!
Yay! Thanks Erica. 🙂
Hi – would it be okay to make the cheese sauce in the morning and then add it to pasta in the evening? Would this cause the sauce to split or get a skin on it? I’m making it on Thursday but will be late back from work and don’t want to have to do it all at once. Thanks!
Hi Tom, I’ve not made it ahead of time in that way so I’m not sure. It might work if you gently warm it back up? If you try it let us know how it goes; next time I need to make some mac & cheese ahead of time I’ll try it too.
Unbelievably delicious. Every time I take a bite, I make such an embarrassing moaning noise and can not stop myself from saying “it’s so good.” I doubled the recipe because I was honestly just too lazy to weigh or measure out half the box of pasta, but I usually double recipes anyway because I like having leftovers. And oh man…these leftovers. I will never eat another mac and cheese again that is not THIS mac and cheese. I’m big on spice so I added in a ton of jalapeno slices I diced up from the endless number of jars in my pantry and I also added a little of the liquid from the jar. That’s in addition to the liquid I mixed up with tabasco as I didn’t have or look to buy the jalapeno tabasco sauce listed. I also just used some sharp and mild cheddars because I couldn’t find smoked and wasn’t sure what to sub for it. The flavour was amazing regardless, but I’ll look harder for smoked next time because I am so making this again and SO ready to take it up a notch with smoked cheddar. And because I made the impulsive decision to double the recipe, the amount of pre-grated cheese I bought was only enough for the sauce and I was, again, too lazy to grate the brick of cheddar in the fridge so I omitted the cheese in-between and simply grated a small layer to sprinkle over the top. It was perfectly cheesy and I probably would leave the extra cheese in-between out from the future times I make this, as well, because it would be too decadent and maybe a little goopy for my taste. The consistency was spot-on for my liking. Also, I know I’ve mentioned I changed this and that already, but I did use rotini instead of elbows or penne. I love rotini and find it works well in so many pasta dishes including saucy or cheesy dishes. Perhaps laziness was a factor again, though, because I’ve never seen whole grain/wheat elbows at my local markets and wasn’t about to go hunting it down when rotini would make me just as happy or happier. SO sorry for the ridiculously lengthy post, but I really love this mac and cheese recipe and I am so glad I stumbled upon it. Thank you for sharing!
We love, love, love this recipe! I was never a big fan of mac and cheese – it just always seemed really bland to me – but I adore fresh jalapenos, so I thought maybe the addition of them would spice it up enough for me and so I tried this recipe. I didn’t want to totally exclude my son, so I split the recipe and only added the jalapenos and Tabasco to half and baked them separately. The result? It is delicious both ways and I am now a mac and cheese lover!! I have made this recipe multiple times now, with and without the jalapenos/Tabasco, and substituting different types of cheese, and what I have found is that the addition of some type of smoked cheese is what really does it for me. Smoked gouda is usually easier for me to find, so I usually pair it with extra sharp cheddar so that cheddar flavor still comes through. I have found that grating my own cheese, instead of buying pre-grated, makes the sauce much smoother, as well (I read somewhere that that pre-grated cheese has anti-caking agents that tend to make the cheese “grainy” when it’s melted and grating my own really seems to make a difference!). I have substituted cauliflower for the macaroni for a low carb option and it was still delicious (my family wanted to know why I was messing with their mac and cheese, though!). I have even made a jalapeno-free crock pot version for my son’s marching band camp by making the roux and putting it in the refrigerator (no Tom, it didn’t separate or develop a skin, it just thickened up), warming it up the next day, adding the macaroni, and throwing it in the crock pot, bypassing the oven completely. Personally, I didn’t feel like it was as rich without going though the baking process, but my son was disappointed because it was gone before he could get some! He said there were 2 other mac and cheese options there and mine was the only one that was completely gone, so I guess it was still really good! Thank you so much for posting this recipe!!
Hi Susan! I’m so glad you like the recipe. The smoked cheese is an amazing idea. I will need to try that. And a cheesy-jalapeno-cauliflower situation?! YUM! Thanks so much for all the great ideas!
I wanted to add to my super long previous post that after my son said “you know what this needs? Garlic!” I have started adding a few cloves of minced garlic to the butter when I’m making the roux and it totally adds a whole new dimension to the dish. I tried garlic powder instead, because I was afraid fresh garlic would alter the butter enough to mess up the roux, but it doesn’t seem to affect it at all and the powder is just not the same.
This is a great starting point. I doubled the tabasco & jalapeno, and added some chopped bacon as well as a panko crust. My husband loves it. Thank you.
I love this recipe and have been using it since 2014! I was wondering if anyone has tried freezing it? I’m heavily pregnant and the nesting instinct is real. I just want to cook and freeze everything.
This was excellent! I made it for a potluck dinner party and it was the star of the show. Everybody raved about it even by the following day. Really nice and creamy, super cheesy pasta wish just a hint of spice. I added onion and garlic powder to the dry mix as well as sprinkled parmesan cheese in their with cheddar for extra smokey depth to the flavour.
I’m so glad it was a hit!