Jalapeno Popper Mac and Cheese is a loaded cheesy Super Bowl side dish with chunks of cream cheese, crispy bacon and spicy jalapenos in every bite!
No Super Bowl Party would be complete without a creamy, indulgent side dish like Baked Mac and Cheese. Score big with your guests with this next level version and serve alongside with the other winning Appetizer Recipes!
JALAPENO POPPER MAC AND CHEESE
If you had a bot study the best Game Day side dishes for a full football season then had it create a mega dish that summed up all of them, it would be this recipe. This baked Mac and Cheese has it all – cream cheese, bacon, more cheese (like 3 more kinds of cheese), and spicy jalapeño peppers.
We love the fall and winter because of all the parties, and more importantly party food! Wings, potato skins, finger foods galore. Then there’s main dishes so the party can last all night (or day) like pulled meat and briskets plus endless sides to tie everything together.
Just when you think the festivities are over, we get one last hurrah, a final celebration to splurge on all your favorite party foods (until BBQ season hits): The Super Bowl. And this Jalapeño Popper Mac is the dish you’ve been waiting for all year. It’s bacon wrapped jalapeño poppers that you can eat as a side dish or even as dinner with little guilt. After all, there is pasta so it totally counts as a meal, right?
Make this ahead of time so you can spend more time partying with your guests and you don’t miss a single commercial or game play. Follow the instructions below and pop in the oven right before you guests arrive.
Make Jalapeno Popper Mac and Cheese Ahead:
Follow the recipe up until it’s time to bake in the oven. Cover with plastic wrap and then foil before storing (this will seal it tighter). Your mac and cheese will stay good for 4 days in the refrigerator and 3 months in the freezer. If you freeze, thaw in the refrigerator overnight. You will need to add 5-10 minutes to the baking time.
MORE AWESOME MAC AND CHEESE RECIPES:
HOW TO MAKE JALAPEÑO POPPER MAC AND CHEESE
- Cook your pasta: To prevent the pasta from soaking up too much cheese sauce, let it sit in the pasta water for an additional 10 minutes after it’s done cooking.
- Prep work: Shred the cheese, cube the cream cheese, dice jalapeños, and cook and crumble the bacon.
- Make your sauce: Using some bacon fat, make a roux with the flour, mustard, cayenne and paprika. Add to dry ingredients to pan and whisk together then slowly add in the milk.
- Adding eggs: Your eggs will cook if you add them directly to the hot sauce. Instead, chill 1 cup of the sauce in the fridge for 10 minutes. Whisk eggs into the cooled sauce before slowly stirring it into the warm sauce.
- Combine everything: Mix the pasta, sauce, shredded cheese, cream cheese with half of the bacon and diced jalapeños. Pour into the baking dish.
- Bake: Bake for 30 minutes, uncovered and in the last 10 minutes top it with the remaining bacon and jalapeños.
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VARIATIONS ON JALAPEÑO POPPER MAC AND CHEESE
- Smoked Jalapeños: Give this dish a smoky flavor, as well as tame the spiciness of the peppers, by roasting or smoking your jalapeños. Broil your peppers until charred, or if you have a gas stovetop, hold over flames until blackened. Dice and deseed as usual.
- Chicken: Top this dish with some Crispy Chicken Tenders or Grilled Chicken, sliced up into bite sized pieces, to make it into a hearty meal.
- Mac and Cheese Bites: Instead of baking in a casserole dish, divide your mac and cheese mixture into 2 mini 24 cup muffin tins. Reduce baking time to 22-24 minutes. For a fried version (hello super jalapeño popper vibes!), follow our instructions below.
FRIED JALAPEÑO POPPER MAC AND CHEESE BITES:
This is a great way to use leftovers or prep ahead as party appetizers.
- Make recipe as usual, including baking. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours, or freeze for at least 1 hour. You want the noodle mix to be solid enough to hold as you are shaping it.
- Shape chilled mac and cheese into 2 inch balls and roll in Italian or Panko breadcrumbs.
- In separate bowl, whisk 1 egg and 1 cup milk. Dip Mac and Cheese Ball into egg mixture and then back into breadcrumbs, giving a thick coating.
- Fry balls in a deep fryer until golden brown.
- Air Fryer Instructions: Place in the freezer and freeze for 30 minutes before frying. Preheat air fryer to 360 degrees. Place Mac Balls in a single layer in air fryer basket, not touching. Air fry for 8-10 minutes, until golden on the outside.
MORE GAME DAY RECIPES
HOW TO STORE JALAPEÑO POPPER MAC AND CHEESE
- Serve: This dish can be kept for up to 2 hours at room temperature.
- Store: Place your Mac and Cheese in an airtight container and keep in the fridge for up to 4 days.
- Freeze: Baked or unbaked Mac and Cheese can be frozen for up to 3 months in a sealed container.
- 8 ounces bacon , cooked and crumbled
- 1 pound elbow macaroni
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup flour
- 2 teaspoons mustard powder
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 6 cups whole milk
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
- 1 large egg
- 4 ounces Monterey jack cheese
- 4 ounces mozzarella
- 12 ounces sharp cheddar , divided
- 1 package cream cheese , 8 ounces
- 2 jalapenos , diced
- Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Shred the cheeses, keeping 2 cups of the cheddar off to the side for the topping.
- Cut cream cheese in to small cubes. Dice jalapenos, discard seeds.
- Cook the pasta then let it sit in the water an extra 10 minutes (this will help it avoid soaking up the cheese sauce) before draining and rinsing gently.
- Place the bacon in a large pan over medium heat. Cook until crispy, about 4-5 minutes.
- Remove the bacon from the pan and drain on paper towels.
- Leave 2 tablespoons of bacon fat in the pan; discard the rest of the fat.
- Add the butter, flour, mustard, cayenne and paprika and whisk together until fully combined, cook for an additional 15 seconds.
- Add the milk slowly while whisking to keep the mixture well combined.
- Add in the salt and pepper and cook for an additional 5 minutes.
- Turn off the heat.
- Remove 1 cup of the milk mixture and let cool for a 3-5 minutes in the refrigerator in a larger glass measuring cup or bowl.
- Add the egg to the cooled milk and whisk it well until fully combined.
- Turn the heat on the pot back on to medium-low.
- Slowly pour the egg and milk mixture into the rest of the milk while whisking very well.
- Add in the Monterey jack, mozzarella and 1 cup of the sharp cheddar and whisk until combined.
- Add the rinsed macaroni and half of the bacon pieces back into the pot and toss with the cheese sauce. Stir in cream cheese chunks and half of the diced jalapenos.
- Pour into a 9x13 baking dish and top with the remaining 2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese, bacon, and jalapenos.
- Bake for 30 minutes, uncovered.