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Pepper Jack Mac

Pepper jack mac and cheese is a creamy, zippy, delicious mac and cheese recipe. Up the heat by adding sliced jalapenos!

Some days you just need something creamy, with a hint of heat, coated in cheese.

No judgement here. I know that feeling!

Pepper jack mac is the perfect side dish for those kind of days.

This pepper jack mac and cheese recipe is dedicated to some days.

Pepper jack mac in a cast iron skillet

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Tips + tricks

No. 1 --> Please don't use pre-shredded cheese! I know it sucks to grate a pile of cheese, but pre-shredded cheeses are coated with starch and anti-caking agents - they will not melt the same way and will affect your sauce consistency. Get the block and the grater - you're worth it!

No. 2 --> If you like your mac thicker, cook it in the oven longer and if you like it saucier, let it bubble in the oven less! I personally prefer my mac to be thicker, so I cook it for the 20 minutes.

No. 3 --> Take this mac and cheese to the next level by swapping out some of the cheese for home smoked cheese!

A spoon full of pepper jack mac and cheese steaming.

Key Ingredients

Cheese - The base cheese in this recipe is jalapeno Monterey jack cheese, but I also add a little bit of mozzarella too. Can you really have too much cheese?

Jalapenos - Don't be afraid to use jalapenos in this recipe. The amount of dairy in this recipe cuts the heat big time and makes the flavor present without all the heat. Slice your jalapenos into 1/8" slices and toss them into your mac seeds and all.

Pasta - I usually use macaroni noodles but any bite sized noodles will work! Just make sure to cook them al dente - I usually go one minute shy of the shortest time specified on the package, so if it says 6 -8 minutes, I'll cook my noodles for 5.

Ingredients for homemade mac and cheese displayed

How to make pepper jack mac and cheese

  1. Preheat the oven to 375f.
  2. Meanwhile, fill a pot of water and bring to a boil. Once boiling, cook pasta for one minute less than directed on package for al-dente. Strain the noodles and rinse. Set aside.
  3. Heat a large oven safe skillet over medium heat - I used my 12" cast iron skillet. Melt the butter in the skillet and allow to simmer until slightly darkened and fragrant.
  4. Whisk in the flour and cook for about a minute before whisking in the milk in batches. Once the milk has been completely whisked in, simmer it until it thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon.
  5. Reserve about a cup of cheese, then add the remaining cheese to the milk mixture. Whisk the mixture until completely smooth. Add the sliced jalapenos and continue simmering for 2-3 minutes, stirring regularly.
  6. Pour the cooked pasta into the sauce, and stir until completely combined.
  7. Top the pasta with reserved cheese and bake at 375f for 15- 20 minutes.
  8. Broil at 400f for 2 -3 minutes, if you like your cheese a little crispier!
  9. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

More delicious side dishes

Variations + substitutions

  • The cheese, in part or in whole, can be substituted for any cheese that melts nicely. Cheddar, white cheddar, fontina, gruyere, or even havarti would be delicious! Smoked white cheddar instead of mozzarella adds a great flavor!
  • Add in some crumbled home smoked bacon.
  • The milk in this recipe can be swapped out for cream.
  • Add a buttered crumb topping: combine 1 1/2 cups of panko with 4 tbsp butter and sprinkle it on top of the reserved cheese.
A spoon stirring cooked jalapeno monterey jack mac and cheese.

Storage + batch information

Storage:

Any leftover pepper jack mac can be kept in the fridge in an air-tight container for 3-4 days.

Reheat your mac and cheese in the microwave or in an oven-safe baking dish. Add a small amount of milk or cream to the mac and stir well before heating.

Batch:

This recipe for pepper jack mac will feed about 8 - 10 people as a side dish. If you're looking to feed fewer people, simply halve the recipe!

Make ahead mac and cheese

This recipe can be made ahead easily made ahead! Follow the same preparation steps, but stop before baking.

Mix in the macaroni noodles and the cheese sauce then transfer to a baking dish. Sprinkle the reserved cheese on top, then wrap tightly with plastic wrap and place in the fridge or freezer until ready to bake. If you choose to freeze, allow the mac to thaw at room temperature for a couple of hours before baking.

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📖 Printable Recipe

Pepper jack mac in a cast iron skillet
Yield: 8 - 10 servings

Pepper Jack Mac

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes

Pepper jack mac is the mac and cheese of your dreams! It's loaded with jalapeno monterey jack, mozzarella, pasta, and yummy jalapenos.

Ingredients

  • 12 oz macaroni noodles or other bite sized pasta
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 400 g jalapeno pepper monterey jack, shredded
  • 200 g mozzarella, shredded
  • 1 - 2 jalapenos, sliced

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375f.
  2. Meanwhile, fill a pot of water and bring to a boil. Once boiling, cook pasta for one minute less than directed on package for al-dente. Strain the noodles and rinse in cold water. Set aside.
  3. Heat a large oven safe skillet over medium heat. Melt the butter in the skillet and allow to simmer until slightly darkened and fragrant.
  4. Whisk in the flour and cook for about a minute before whisking in the milk in batches. Once the milk has been completely whisked in, simmer it until it thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon.
  5. Reserve about a cup of cheese, then add the remaining cheese to the milk mixture. Whisk the mixture until completely smooth. Add the sliced jalapenos and continue simmering for 2-3 minutes, stirring regularly.
  6. Pour the cooked pasta into the sauce, and stir until completely combined.
  7. Top the pasta with reserved cheese and bake at 375f for 15- 20 minutes.
  8. Broil at 400f for 2 -3 minutes, if you like your cheese a little crispier!

Notes

variations + substitutions

  • The cheese, in part or in whole, can be substituted for any cheese that melts nicely. Cheddar, white cheddar, fontina, gruyere, or even havarti would be delicious! SMOKED WHITE CHEDDAR instead of mozzarella adds a great flavor!
  • Add in some crumbled HOME SMOKED BACON.
  • The milk in this recipe can be swapped out for cream.
  • Add a buttered crumb topping: combine 1 1/2 cups of panko with 4 tbsp butter and sprinkle it on top of the reserved cheese.


Storage:

Any leftover pepper jack mac can be kept in the fridge in an air-tight container for 3 -4 days.

Reheat your mac and cheese in the microwave or in an oven-safe baking dish. Add a small amount of milk or cream to the mac and stir well before heating.

Batch:

This recipe for pepper jack mac will feed about 8 - 10 people as a side dish. If you're looking to feed fewer people, simply halve the recipe!

make ahead mac and cheese

This recipe can be made ahead easily made ahead! Follow the same preparation steps, but stop before baking.

Mix in the macaroni noodles and the cheese sauce then transfer to a baking dish. Sprinkle the reserved cheese on top, then wrap tightly with plastic wrap and place in the fridge or freezer until ready to bake. If you choose to freeze, allow the mac to thaw at room temperature for a couple of hours before baking.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

10

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 215Total Fat: 11gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 31mgSodium: 182mgCarbohydrates: 20gFiber: 2gSugar: 6gProtein: 10g

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