Are you drooling? I mean, look at that crispy top, creamy cheese, and spicy jalapeno bits. Soooo good!
There is nothing quite like macaroni and cheese to make the whole family hurry up and get to the table. And this macaroni and cheese is a step up from the kind you have as a kid. Perfect for even the grown-ups.
Tip: Homemade croutons are the BEST and suitable for so many dishes. Keep a batch in an air-tight container!
Tips for perfect macaroni and cheese:
- salt the water for the pasta!
- go heavy on the cheese!
- pick your pasta carefully for the right shape to grab and hold all that cheesiness in the nooks and crannies.
- add a bit of heavy cream for even better texture and smoothness.
- for extra tasty leftovers: add a bit of milk, cover, and heat it super slowly!
- for a creamier, softer macaroni & cheese, choose a more narrow and deep baking dish. For crispier pasta bits, choose a wide and shallow dish.
- Bread. Essentially we are making homemade croutons, for this. While the bacon is baking, the croutons are made.
- Cream cheese. Cream cheese packs a tangy flavor with a wonderful creamy texture. Don’t skip this!
- Whipping cream. Whipping cream makes the richest mac & cheese but feel free to sub milk or almond milk.
- Jalapeño’s. I’m using jarred jalapeño’s for this. If you want to use fresh, go right ahead!
- Bacon. I mean. Can we really have a jalapeño popper mac & cheese without bacon? Nope. The best part of this recipe is that the bacon bakes up in the oven…easy peasy.
- Cheese. Colby and Monterey Jack have the great flavor and texture that makes macaroni & cheese rich and tasty.
- Pasta. I like to use elbow macaroni or rotini pasta to give the cheese lots of places to tuck in and stick.
- Preheat your oven and grease a 9 by 13 pan.
- Add your bacon to a cookie sheet topped with parchment paper.
- On a separate baking sheet toss the bread cubes in olive oil and add salt, garlic powder, and oregano.
- Bake bread cubes leaving the pan with the bacon in the oven a bit longer.
- Bake bacon until crispy and chop into large pieces.
- Prepare macaroni al denté.
- Add the cream cheese and butter with the cooked macaroni. Mix until butter and cream cheese are melted.
- Add the whipping cream and shredded cheese. Stir until cheese is melted.
- Fold in jalapeños and bacon and add the whole thing to the prepared baking dish
- Top with the croutons and bake for 35 minutes.
Tips & Tricks for making jalapeño popper baked macaroni and cheese:
- Make your pasta ahead to keep this easy.
- Jarred jalapeño’s have a more mild heat, use fresh jalapeño’s (with their seeds!) to pack more of a punch.
- Vegetarian? Simply leave out the bacon and you are good to go.
- Try adding additional meats like ham, chicken, or more bacon to “beef” up this dish.
- Pack in more nutrition with mushrooms, fresh spinach, or even grated carrots.
- Elevate this dish with gouda cheese.
- This dish works great as a make ahead option. Simply do all the steps EXCEPT adding the croutons and baking, cover the pasta tightly, and store in the fridge for up to 2 days. Store the croutons in a ziplock bag at room temperature. Let it sit out for an hour or two before adding the croutons and baking. You may have to add a bit of time to account for the cold dish.
- Try making the croutons up in advance (heck, make EXTRA because they are that tasty!).
- Leftovers? Simply wrap them up and pop them into the fridge to use within a couple of days.
- Do you want to try freezing this AFTER you’ve baked it? Honestly, don’t. The reason for baking is to melt all of those cheeses and flavors together. By baking it, freezing it, and then baking it again you accomplish nothing. Just freeze it and THEN bake it.
This macaroni and cheese has creamy, cheesy noodles topped with a crunchy crispy bread topping. You can skip that topping if you like. But honestly…that crispiness is soooo good!
Jalapeño Popper Mac ‘n Cheese
- 4 cups day old bread cut into cubes
- ¼ cup olive oil
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 1 lb elbow macaroni or rotini
- ½ stick butter
- 8 ounces cream cheese
- ½ cup heavy whipping cream
- ¼ cup jarred jalapeños, diced for more heat use sliced fresh jalapeño's
- 1 pound bacon
- 12 ounces Monterey Jack cheese shredded
- 6 ounces Colby jack cheese shredded
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a 9 by 13 inch or 8 by 8 inch baking pan.
- Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper and lay the bacon on top.
- On a separate baking sheet, toss the bread cubes in olive oil and add salt, garlic powder, and oregano.
- Put both the bread cubes and the bacon in the oven.
- Bake the bread cubes for 15 minutes, or until golden brown, leave the pan with the bacon in the oven longer.
- Bake bacon until crispy, about 20 minutes. Cool and chop into large pieces.
- Prepare macaroni, al denté, as directed in the package. Drain well.
- Return the macaroni to pan and add the cream cheese and butter. Mix until the butter and cream cheese are melted.
- Mix in the whipping cream and shredded cheeses. Stir until cheese is melted.
- Fold in sliced jalapeños and bacon pieces.
- Add the macaroni mixture to the greased baking dish and top with the croutons.
- Bake for 35 minutes or until golden and bubbly. If desired, broil for 5 minutes (watch it!) to create a golden and bubbly top.
Other delicious macaroni and cheese recipes to try:
- Campfire Macaroni and Cheese Recipe. Prepare it ahead and cook it over the campfire! Perfect for camping trips.
- One-Pot 30 Minute Cauliflower Macaroni and Cheese. Rich & creamy macaroni & cheese packed with the added nutrition of cauliflower.
- homemade Cheeseburger Macaroni Recipe. BETTER than the boxed version, this homemade cheeseburger macaroni is a family fave.
- easy Macaroni and Cheese pizza. I know, the kids freak out over this one!
- Nothing like Four Cheese Baked Macaroni and Cheese! I mean, with four different kinds of cheese, you can’t go wrong!