Jalapeño Popper Macaroni and Cheese

Jalapeño Popper Macaroni and Cheese

I must be a wizard because this recipe is magic. This Jalapeño Popper macaroni and cheese tastes exactly like your favorite tailgate appetizer in a bowl of happiness with a few extra special ingredients that bring everything together beautifully. 

Note: This article contains affiliate links to products that I love and use to make mac and cheese in my own kitchen. When you click links here and make a purchase, I receive a commission at no additional cost to you. For more information, see my Affiliate Link Policy here.

When I first started considering this recipe, I polled several friends on what cheeses they would want to see in a jalapeño popper macaroni and cheese. Pasta, jalapeños, breadcrumbs and possibly bacon were obvious choices. However, we all know how important cheese is to the composition of a perfect bowl. I had to carefully consider what cheese would highlight this special dish. Everyone offered different ideas on what creates a perfect jalapeño popper, varying from cheddar to Gouda or even Velveeta. After careful consideration I settled on smoked Gouda and Monterey Jack in the sauce with diced jalapeños. Cream cheese, a quintessential ingredient, deserved a prominent seat. By layering it with the pasta before baking rather than combining it in the sauce, I gave it the recognition it so rightly deserved. 

The smoked Gouda lends a smoky flavor that really brings the dish together. Monterey Jack has the added benefit of increasing both flavor and texture. While not as stretchy as mozzarella, adding Monterey Jack to a Mac and cheese will help give your dish a pull factor you won’t see with other cheeses. Unlike traditional jalapeño poppers, you can adjust the spiciness level in your mac and cheese.  Removing the seeds and sautéing them before creating the sauce will drop the heat while infusing your sauce with jalapeño flavor. Once the sauce is prepared, you can amp it up if you choose by adding additional diced jalapeños or jalapeño juice. 

This was my first time toasting breadcrumbs, and the toasty color was worth the effort. Visually it helped increase the notion that your Mac and cheese is a deep fried snack. If you are tight on time, straight out of the box will suffice. 

When serving it to everyone you know, make sure to include a generous helping of melty cream cheese. And maybe have some heartburn treatment on standby. I can’t wait for you to try this. It seriously is my favorite recipe we have tried so far. Mac and cheese is such a fun way to eat your favorite foods. We just began. The possibilities are endless. 

Penne pasta in a white sauce with brown bread crumbs and jalapeño slices on top in a black bowl with a plaid background

Jalapeno Popper Mac and Cheese Recipe

Jalapeño Popper mac and cheese is the perfect macaroni version of your favorite game day appetizer. 
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Course Entree, Side
Cuisine American
Servings 6 servings


  • 16 oz pasta
  • 2 tbsp diced jalapeño to taste
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 2 cups Whole Milk
  • 3/4 cup Monterey Jack grated or chopped into small pieces.
  • 3/4 cup Smoked Gouda grated or chopped into small pieces
  • salt to taste
  • 4 oz Cream Cheese

Breadcrumb Topping

  • 1 cup panko
  • 1/2 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp Parmesan grated


  • Cook the pasta according to package directions.
  • Preheat the oven to 400°
  • Preheat your milk in the microwave for 45 seconds.

Prepare the Breadcrumb Topping

  • In a skillet, melt butter over medium high heat
  • Mix in the panko and Parmesan. Heat while stirring until the breadcrumbs are toasted. Remove from heat and set aside

Prepare the sauce

  • Melt butter in a sauce pan over medium heat and let it heat until it becomes foamy.
  • Sauté the jalapeño in the butter for a minute.
  • Add flour and stir vigorously. Cook it for a minute while stirring constantly
  • Slowly add warmed milk to the butter mixture 1/4 cup at a time. Whisk it continually until combined.
  • Once all of the milk is added, cook it for a minute or two while stirring it. Do not let it boil. The sauce is ready for the cheese when you rub a small amount between your fingers and it feels silky.
  • Remove from heat and gradually add your cheese a little at a time.
  • Once the cheese is incorporated, use a cooked noodle to taste your sauce. If it doesn’t taste cheesy enough try adding a little salt to bring out the flavor. If you would like it to be spicier, add more jalapeño until you reach your desired spiciness level.

Combine your ingredients

  • Combine your noodles and sauce.
  • Spoon 1/2 of the mixture into a baking dish.
  • Drop spoonfuls of the cream cheese across the top.
  • Cover with the remaining Mac and cheese and top with the toasted panko.
  • Bake your mac and cheese at 400° for 20 minutes.
  • Garnish with jalapeño slices and serve
Keyword cream cheese, jalapeno, monterey jack, smoked gouda