We all know mac and cheese is a must have comfort food; it’s rich, creamy, and cheesy with the perfect amount of flavor in each gooey forkful. Serve it hot, bubbly out of the oven as a delicious side dish at Sunday dinners, cookouts, barbecues, and holidays.
Mac and cheese is macaroni and cheese with a spicy kick. If you like jalapeño poppers and mac and cheese, then you’re bound to fall in love with this ultra creamy jalapeño macaroni and cheese. Pull up with a large pot full of jalapeño mac and cheese and you’ll always be invited to the cookout!
WHY YOU’LL LOVE THIS MAC AND CHEESE RECIPE
- Better Than the Boxed Stuff. Put down the Kraft and grab a large skillet because you’re about to make the best mac and cheese!
- Quick and Easy. Made without flour or a complicated roux, this hearty side dish still comes out perfectly creamy. Prepare it on a busy weeknight. With just 15 minutes of prep time and another 15 minutes of cook time in the oven, dinner will be ready before you know it!
- The Perfect Side for Every Occasion. This side dish is perfect for holidays, cookouts, barbecues, gatherings, and holidays.
Mac and Cheese Ingredients
- Butter: Salted or unsalted.
- Heavy Cream: For the creamiest texture, this is a necessity.
- Garlic Paste: You can buy this or make it at home. See the instructions below in the recipe notes.
- Short pasta noodles: You can use whichever macaroni you prefer; elbow macaroni, penne, cavatappi, bow tie, etc. Just prepare it al dente.
- Cheese: I opt for milder cheese in this jalapeño mac and cheese recipe so the peppers can really shine. I use Mexican blend cheese and mild cheddar cheese.
- Sour Cream: Add this for an extra zing of flavor.
- Seasoning: Bayou City All Purpose Seasoning, Bayou City Garlic Pepper, lemon pepper, smoked paprika (plus more for topping). I excluded salt because it’s contained in some of the seasonings listed above.
How To Make Mac and Cheese
Prepare Cheese Sauce
Preheat the oven to 350° F. In a saucepan melt butter. Once the butter is melted, toss in roasted garlic paste and season with 1 tsp smoked paprika, 1 tbsp Bayou City AP, 1 tbsp Bayou City GP, 1 tsp Smoked Paprika, and 1 tsp lemon pepper. Whisk together while mashing up that garlic paste until combined and cook for 3 minutes.
Pour heavy cream into a saucepan and bring to a low simmer and then stir in 2 cups Mexican blend cheese. Let simmer for 8 minutes or until the cheese is completely melted and mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
Bring water to a boil and cook pasta until al dente (about 8 minutes).
Combine Pasta and Cheese Sauce
Drain pasta and while the pasta is still hot, place in a large bowl and mix in the rest of your Mexican blend cheese (2 cups), your cheese sauce, and 1 jalapeño chopped. Mix well and place in a 10” Cast iron or 2 qt baking dish.
Bake Mac and Cheese
Top with 2 cups of mild cheddar making sure to evenly cover the top and 1 jalapeño. Then sprinkle with some smoked paprika. Place in the oven for 15 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.
- Spicy: Add jalapeños to make Jalapeño Mac and cheese or hot sauce like Tabasco, Texas Pete, or Tapatio. Add pepper jack cheese for a spicier cheese sauce.
- Mild: Use just one jalapeño instead of two or use mild green chiles
- Bacon Jalapeño Mac and Cheese: Fry up some thick-cut bacon, dice it, and add it to the cheese sauce for a savory, salty burst of flavor.
- Cream Cheese: Add this to the cheese for a deep, tangy flavor that more closely tastes like jalapeño poppers.
- Cheese: Use mozzarella, Monterey jack, or Velveeta as an alternative to the other cheeses used in this recipe.
- Crunchy: For a satisfying crunchy topping, add bread crumbs to your mac and cheese. Panko works best.
- Grate block cheese instead of purchasing pre-shredded cheese. Pre-shredded cheese is coated in a waxy anti-clumping substance that prevents the cheese from melting easily. So freshly grated cheese is best.
- Prepare the pasta al dente to prevent noodles from over cooking.
Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. For longer storage, freeze for up to 2 months. When you want to reheat, defrost in the fridge overnight. Then gently warm up single portions in the microwave.
Frequently Asked Questions
What cheeses go best together for mac and cheese?
Traditional macaroni cheese pairs best with strongly flavored cheeses that also melt well. I suggest sharp cheddar cheese, gruyere, and fontina.
Can mac and cheese be made ahead of time?
Yes! Prepare the mac and cheese and just before baking, cover the dish with foil and refrigerate. Bake within two days. Before baking, allow it to sit and come to room temperature (about 30 minutes).
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Mac and Cheese
- 1 10in cast iron
- 1 2qt baking dish
- 2 1/2 tbsp butter
- 2 tbs Bayou City All Purpose Seasoning
- 2 tbs Bayou City Garlic Pepper
- 2 tsp smoked paprika
- 4 cups heavy cream
- 2 tbsp 1 whole roasted garlic bulb see note
- 32 oz short pasta noodle of your choice ex: elbow, penne, bowtie
- 4 cups medium cheddar shredded
- 2 cups smoked gouda shredded
- smoked paprika
- Preheat oven to 350
- Shredded cheeses and combine.
- In a saucepan melt butter. Toss in roasted garlic and season with Bayou City Seasonings and Paprika. Whisk together while mashing up that garlic until combined. Cook for 3 minutes.
- Pour Heavy cream into the same sauce pan a little at a time, starting with 2 cups, and bring to a low simmer and then add in 2 cups of your cheddar/gouda cheese mixtures. Let simmer for 8 minutes or until cheese is completely melted. Add in the rest of your cream and 2 more cups of your cheese. And follow the same process as before until sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
- In a stock pot Bring water to a boil and cook pasta until al dente (about 8 minutes or according to package instructions)
- Drain pasta and while pasta is still hot place in a large bowl and mix in cheese sauce until all noodles a covered in cheesy goodness. Taste and adjust seasoning. Mix well and pour half of your Mac noodles in a 10” Cast iron or 2 qt baking dish. Add a layer of half the remaining cheese. Add the rest of your noodles and top that with remaining cheese, making sure to evenly cover the top.
- Place in the oven for 30 minutes, uncovered
- Let cool for 10 minutes. Garnish with finely chopped parsley and smoked paprika.