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Spicy baked mac and cheese

Imagine nachos and mac and cheese meeting over perfectly cooked pasta. Just the right amount of heat and all the creaminess you can handle–this spicy baked mac and cheese is it. 

a white baking dish of spicy baked mac and cheese on a wooden table with sliced jalapenos and a block of cheese on the side

I think one of these days people will probably end up knowing me as “the macaroni and cheese lady.” After all–that’s all you guys want! Two years and tons of recipes later and there might as well be a picket line outside my house because everyone yells for mac and cheese.

And I have good news! I’ve been listening and this mac and cheese may be the best one yet. I’ve used my basic baked recipe and pumped it up with the spiciest cheeses I could find, some jalapeños and an easy bread crumb topping for some crunch  and texture. Here’s a quick shot of the cheeses I chose: Boar’s Head 3 Pepper Colby Jack and Rio Briati Smoked Mozzarella–I got both at my local Kroger.

a block of Boar's Head 3 Pepper Colby Jack and Rio Briati Smoked Mozzarella

It’s that perfect kick and change you’ve been looking for. While I was making the sauce I took a whiff and it smelled just like queso dip. This is where your eyes can roll back in your head with happiness. 

a spoonful of spicy macaroni and cheese with sliced jalapenos on the side

And as usual, it comes together in a snap. You can even put it together the night before and stick it in the fridge then bake it the next night. Remember to undercook that pasta just a bit. Mine called for 9-11 minutes and I did just about 9. Because it has to bake in the oven too, you don’t want mush.

And don’t forget the salt. Dairy in and of itself can be sort of bland and you want to make sure to season your spicy mac and cheese well. Taste your cheese sauce before baking and add more to taste. Remember you can always add more but you can’t take it out so go slow. And, admittedly, I’m sort of a wimp with hot food so feel free to add the ribs and seeds of your jalapeños, or use something hotter if you’re feeling fiesty.

Spicy baked mac and cheese

Spicy mac and cheese is the perfect change for your dinner table. Staying true to it's tasty roots, my most popular recipe cranks up the heat.
5 from 3 votes
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Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes
Servings: 6 -8
Calories: 375kcal
Author: Rachel Ballard


  • 1 1/2 cups elbow macaroni cooked but still firm (measure 1 1/2 cups dry macaroni noodles)
  • 1 tablespoon diced jalapeño pepper seeded and ribs removed (seeds and ribs can be left in for more heat)
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 1 cup shredded pepper jack or colby jack cheese with peppers
  • 1 cup shredded smoked mozzarella cheese
  • 2 cups 2% milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper or to taste
  • 1 cup of fresh bread crumbs *See note this could be some day-old french bread or other similar bread--just don't use your squishy sandwich bread
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 teaspoon thyme leaves optional


  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Mix the thyme leaves, bread crumbs and butter together in a small bowl; set aside.
  • Melt the butter in a high sided pan.
  • Add the jalapeño peppers and saute one minute.
  • Add the flour and stir 1-2 minutes to help cook out the raw flour flavor
  • Add the milk, salt and pepper and cook over medium heat until the sauce starts to bubble and thickens--about 8 minutes or so. Stir often to keep it from sticking. The sauce is thick enough when it coats the back of a spoon.
  • Add the cheeses and stir until melted and smooth.
  • Add the noodles and stir.
  • Transfer to a greased baking dish.
  • Top with the bread crumb mixture and bake uncovered 35-40 minutes until browned and bubbly.


Make bread crumbs by running any kind of bread EXCEPT premade sandwich bread (no Butternut here!) through your food processor. A couple of pulses and you should have it.


Calories: 375kcal

Spicy baked mac and cheese is the perfect, creamy, spicy change from the everyday and this cranked up version of my most popular recipe delivers.

Recipe Rating


Thursday 1st of July 2021

Hey Rachel,

Just made this -- was delicious! thank you for such a great recipe!

Rachel Ballard

Monday 5th of July 2021

Wonderful Anna! Thank you for letting me know. --Rachel


Sunday 29th of November 2020

Made these for thanksgiving. Not too spicy at all, was amazing. Didn’t have smoked mozzarella so I used smoked Gouda. Will make again!

Ali Hanley

Thursday 3rd of September 2020

How spicy would you say this is. I love spicy foods but my family not so much and I would love you try

Rachel Ballard

Friday 4th of September 2020

It will depend entirely on what cheese you use Ali. If you use what I did, it reminded me of the spiciness of a queso dip or something similar. Totally not over the top on heat. --Rachel

Tonya Bergmann

Monday 2nd of March 2020

This recipe looks amazing can not wait to make it for hubby and I.


Wednesday 19th of February 2020

Can you use a sarano pepper for more heat and can I bake it in a 9x13 pan

Rachel Ballard

Thursday 20th of February 2020

You can use any pepper you like Sarah and you can use a 9x13 but the layer of mac and cheese will be thin. You may want to make 1 1/2 times the recipe to make it fit a bit better in a 9x13. --Rachel

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