Spicy Mac and Cheese Recipe

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Ever wonder how to spice up macaroni and cheese? This easy spicy mac and cheese is the recipe you’re looking for! Baked jalapeño mac and cheese with bacon is the perfect restaurant quality comfort food you can easily make at home.

Jalapeño Mac And Cheese

If you’re looking to spice up the ol’ mac and cheese recipe, this spicy mac and cheese is so worth a try.

It’s creamy and cheesy like a traditional recipe, but it’s got a little something extra that really makes it special.

The bacon bits add a little chew, the panko breadcrumbs add a little crunch, and the jalapeños add just the right amount of spice.

The jalapeños don’t make it overly spicy, so the kids can still enjoy their favorite family friendly meal with a kick.

What Spices Can I Add To Mac And Cheese?

The best spices to spice up your mac and cheese are garlic powder, onions powder, salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, Italian seasoning, crushed red pepper flakes, buffalo hot sauce, and truffle salt.

Adding a little bit of just a few of your favorites can go a long way in elevating a basic mac and cheese to something truly special.

A dish of jalapeno mac and cheese next to a red oven glove and a blue pot.

What Is The Best Tasting Cheese For Mac And Cheese?

The 3 cheeses that go well together for mac and cheese are cheddar (sharp cheddar or white cheddar are best), mozzarella, and parmesan.

Cheddar gives you the classic mac and cheese flavor, mozzarella has that stretchy melted quality that makes the texture amazing, and parmesan adds the salty umami flavor.

A close up of a serving of baked jalapeno mac and cheese in a bowl.

Ingredients

For this recipe you’ll need elbow macaroni, bacon, butter, jalapeños, garlic, flour, milk, buffalo hot sauce (I used Frank’s RedHot Original), onion powder, salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, cheddar cheese, mozzarella, parmesan, and panko breadcrumbs.

Spicy mac and cheese ingredients labeled.

How To Make Spicy Mac And Cheese

Start by sautéing the sliced bacon pieces until they’re crispy. (See the recipe card below for the full printable instructions.)

Bacon pieces before and after cooking.

Sauté the jalapeños and garlic in butter until the jalapeños are a bit softened and the garlic is aromatic.

Sauteing diced jalapeno and minced garlic.

Add the flour and whisk it with the butter until it forms an even roux.

Making a roux with sauteed onions and jalapenos in it.

Slowly pour the milk in while whisking constantly. Whisk until it reaches an even consistency, then stir in the spices.

Adding powdered spices to mac and cheese sauce.

Stir in the cooked bacon and the three freshly shredded cheeses to make the creamy cheesy jalapeño sauce.

Stirring cooked bacon pieces and three types of shredded cheese into mac and cheese sauce.

Toss the sauce with elbow macaroni that is cooked to less than al dente, and then transfer the coated pasta to a baking dish.

Tossing pasta with jalapeno bacon cheese sauce and then pouring it in a baking dish.

Sprinkle with the remaining parmesan, then the breadcrumbs, and then top with the optional jalapeño slices. Bake in the preheated oven. See the recipe card below for the full written instructions, including ingredient amounts, cooking times, and helpful tips, etc.

Spicy mac and cheese before and after baking.

Optional Add-Ins

The sauce in this Southern mac and cheese is truly perfect, but feel free to play around with the meat you use! Just be sure that you’re putting cooked meat into the pasta when you bake it.

Some other great protein options are chicken, sausage, ground beef, chorizo, ham, and lobster.

Also, if you’ve got white cheddar on hand, I definitely recommend swapping that for the sharp cheddar listed in the recipe. I try to use the most common version of ingredients when I’m developing recipes, but this is really next level with white cheddar.

Have you heard about Hot Cheeto mac and cheese and are curious to try it? Just crush up some Hot Cheetos to make Cheeto dust and use that in place of the panko.

Last thing – if you have any flaky truffle salt at home, oh my gosh, you’ve got to add a sprinkling of it to the finished dish! I mean, truffle mac and cheese – need I say more? It’s heaven on a plate.

Spicy mac and cheese with bacon in a dark bowl.

Keep In Touch

I’d love to hear what you thought of this recipe in the comments or on Instagram! @KeyToMyLime #KeyToMyLime

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A Pinterest pin image of spicy mac and cheese with title text at the top.

Macaroni Recipes

If you like this recipe, be sure to check out our entire pasta recipe section! Some reader favorites are:

Yield: 6 servings

BEST Spicy Mac and Cheese Recipe

The best spicy mac and cheese recipe.

Make spicy mac and cheese! Baked jalapeño mac and cheese with bacon is the perfect restaurant quality comfort food to easily make at home.

Prep Time 13 minutes
Cook Time 52 minutes
Additional Time 5 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes

Ingredients

  • 300 grams uncooked elbow macaroni pasta (about 3 cups or 2/3 pound)
  • 6 pieces bacon (sliced into 1/4” thick strips)
  • 1/4 cup butter (4 Tablespoons)
  • 2 medium jalapeños (stems, seeds, and membrane removed, finely diced - plus another jalapeño sliced into thin rounds as an optional topping if desired)
  • 2 medium cloves garlic (minced)
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 1 Tablespoon hot sauce (I used Frank’s RedHot Original)
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups freshly shredded sharp cheddar cheese*
  • 1 1/2 cups freshly shredded pizza mozzarella*
  • 1 cup freshly shredded parmesan cheese* (divided)
  • 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 F (190 C), and lightly grease an 8 x 8 baking dish.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  3. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat and cook sliced bacon pieces until they’re crispy. Remove the bacon from the skillet and set aside, discard the grease left behind.
  4. Add the pasta to the boiling water, and cook for 2 minutes less than the time for al dente  according to the instructions on the back of the package. (You want the pasta to still be a bit firm so that it soaks up some of the cheese sauce in the oven.)**
  5. Once the pasta is finished cooking, drain in a colander and rinse with cool running water to stop the cooking process. Return the pasta back to the large pot, and set to the side.
  6. Add the butter to the skillet over medium heat. Once the butter has melted, saute the minced garlic and diced jalapeños for about 2 - 3 minutes, or until the garlic is aromatic and the jalapeños have softened.
  7. Sprinkle in the flour and stir until it creates a uniform roux. Pour the milk slowly into the skillet while whisking constantly. It should be a completely smooth consistency. 
  8. Add in the hot sauce, onion powder, sea salt, ground black pepper, cayenne pepper, and whisk to combine. Turn the heat up to medium-high and bring to a gentle boil until the sauce has thickened (about 2 minutes).
  9. Remove the skillet from the heat and add in the bacon, cheddar, mozzarella, and 1/2 cup of the parmesan cheese. Stir until the cheeses have melted into the sauce.
  10. Add the cheese sauce to the pot with the pasta, and stir until well combined. Pour the Mac and Cheese into the greased baking dish. Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese on top of the pasta, then sprinkle the panko bread crumbs on top***. Bake until golden brown (about 25 minutes). Once it’s finished baking, remove the baked pasta from the oven and place it on a wire rack to rest and cool for 5 minutes, then serve.

Notes

*It’s important to use freshly grated cheeses because the pre-grated varieties are coated in a starch that stops it from melting well.

**Make sure to take the pasta out 2 minutes before al dente is reached, or the pasta will get too soft while baking.

***Make sure to put the parmesan cheese under the panko bread crumbs, or the panko crumbs won’t toast.

Nutrition Information:

Serving Size:

1/6

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 712Total Fat: 37.6gCarbohydrates: 59.3gFiber: 2.2gSugar: 10.5gProtein: 33.1g

Nutrition information isn’t always accurate.

DID YOU MAKE THIS RECIPE?

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Looking for an easy way to spice up a traditional mac and cheese recipe? Try this spicy mac and cheese recipe!

The best spicy mac and cheese recipe.

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