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Jalapeno Popper Mac and Cheese

Jalapeno Popper Mac and Cheese flavored with jalapenos, cream cheese, and cheese make the perfect holiday side.
4.67 from 3 votes
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time35 mins
Total Time50 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Diet Vegetarian, Gluten-Free option
Servings: 5 servings
Calories: 892kcal


for the cheese sauce

  • 1 tbsp avocado oil
  • 3 cloves garlic chopped
  • 2 jalapeños chopped with seeds
  • 1 jalapeno chopped & deseeded
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 3 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 cups whole milk added very slowly
  • 4 ounces cream cheese room temperature
  • 2 1/2 cups sharp cheddar cheese added very slowly
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/3 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • salt to taste
  • 1 pound medium shells pasta cooked

for the topping

  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 cloves smashed garlic
  • 1 cup panko crumbs



  • Chop the garlic and jalapenos. You'll need 2 jalapenos chopped WITH SEEDS, and 1 jalapeno chopped DESEEDED.
  • Set aside a large pot of water and bring to a boil. Once the water boils, add the pasta shells and cook according to the directions on the package.
  • Grate sharp cheddar cheese and set aside.
  • Set aside the butter and cream cheese so they come to room temperature.


  • Heat up a pot on medium heat, once hot, add oil followed by garlic. Cook for 30 seconds to avoid burning.
  • Add the chopped jalapenos and cook for 5-6 minutes or until softened.
  • Add 4 tbsp of butter and let it melt for about 30 seconds.
  • Now add the all-purpose flour. Stir well and cook for 2 minutes to form a roux.
  • Slowly, VERY SLOWLY, add the milk and keep stirring.
  • Once all the milk has been added, let the sauce warm up. Lower the heat to low-medium heat. This will take about 6-7 minutes. DO NOT BOIL THE SAUCE, it should just be hot.
  • You know the sauce is cooked once the back of a wooden spoon is coated with the sauce.
  • Now add the cream cheese a little at a time.
  • Whisk it in.
  • Reduce the heat to low. Slowly add the cheese - a little at a time and whisk it in.
  • Stir for a couple of minutes until the cheese sauce is hot.
  • Now add all your seasonings - garlic powder, paprika, black pepper, nutmeg, and a pinch of salt. You won't need a ton of salt in this recipe as cheese contains a good amount of salt already.
  • Cook for a minute. Your sauce is ready.
  • Drain the pasta and add the cooked pasta to the sauce.
  • It's so good. Turn off the stove.

Make the Crumb Topping

  • Heat up a pan on low-medium heat, add 1 tbsp butter. Once the butter bubbles...
  • Add the panko crumbs.
  • Stir and cook for a minute or two until the panko crumbs brown.


  • Add the mac and cheese to a serving dish.
  • Top with cooked panko crumbs.


Calories: 892kcal | Carbohydrates: 89g | Protein: 34g | Fat: 44g | Saturated Fat: 25g | Cholesterol: 121mg | Sodium: 572mg | Potassium: 517mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 11g | Vitamin A: 1455IU | Vitamin C: 11mg | Calcium: 618mg | Iron: 3mg
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