Bacon Pepper Jack Mac and Cheese
Bacon pepper jack mac and cheese is a flavorful spin on traditional mac and cheese, filled with crispy bacon, creamy sauce and loaded with cheese.
I’m excited to share this recipe because I’m all about sprucing up normal recipes into an over-the-top flavor dish.
Mac and cheese is a crowd-pleaser! From kids to adults, you really can’t go wrong with pasta noodles and cheese. But with so many delicious cheeses out there, it’s about time we spruce up the old classic.
My husband loves this meal. I mean, it’s kind of a no-brainer husband dish because of the delicious crispy bacon pieces! My husband’s pretty confident that adding bacon would improve any meal. 😂 Plus, the pepper jack cheese instead of traditional sharp cheddar adds flavor depth and the perfect kick. (If you’re worried that this dish will be too spicy, have no fear. The cheese isn’t as spicy when cooked with the additional ingredients.)
One tip: If you’re cooking for a small family, I’d recommend cutting this recipe in half. Even halving the recipe should give you plenty. The full recipe makes enough for a bigger group.
- Macaroni noodles — Cooked and drained. If you’re wanting to mix things up and pick a different noodle, see my recipe tip item below where I explain the best noodle options to use.
- Unsalted butter — If you have salted butter, you can use that and then cut out some of the salt from the recipe.
- Garlic clove, minced — For added flavor depth.
- Flour — Adding flour will thicken the sauce.
- Milk — Any percent will do. This is the base that will make the cheese sauce.
- Half and half — This will help the cheese sauce be additionally creamy.
- Cream cheese — Softened and cut into 1-inch cubes.
- Freshly ground pepper
- Pepper jack cheese — Shredded (about 14 oz. of cheese)
- Bacon — Cooked and crumbled (about 8 slices)
How to Make Bacon Pepper Jack Mac and Cheese
- Prep the pan. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray a 9×13-inch baking dish with cooking spray.
- Make the sauce. In a large pot, melt the butter. Once melted, stir in the garlic and stir for 1 more minute. Stir in the flour and cook for another minute. Slowly pour in the milk and half and half. Once smooth stir in the cream cheese, salt and pepper.
- Add the cheese. Once melted and combined, stir in 3 cups of pepper jack cheese and ½ cup bacon. Stir in the cooked noodles.
- Bake. Transfer the mac and cheese to the prepared baking dish and smooth into an even layer. Top with the remaining cheese and bacon. Bake for 15 minutes or until cheese is melted and the mac and cheese is warmed through.
Tools Used for This Recipe
If you’re cooking for a small family, cut the recipe in half.
If you’re looking for a spicier kick to this dish, dice a jalapeño and add it into the recipe.
Half and half is just half part whole milk half part heavy cream. So if you don’t have half and half but you have cream and whole milk, you can just make it with that!
If you aren’t a fan of pepper jack cheese, that’s OK! You can use this same recipe and switch out the pepper jack cheese for something else. Some of my favorite cheeses include sharp white cheddar, Colby jack, Monterey jack, and gruyere. Just be sure to test the cheese together if you’re wanting a combination. Some cheeses go better together than others.
Tips to make the creamiest mac ‘n cheese:
If you’re really wanting to take your mac and cheese to the next level, here are some tips:
- Cook the pasta in milk — This will make the pasta creamier than if cooked in water.
- Choose your cheeses thoughtfully — If you’ve ever added parmesan to a pasta sauce, you probably noticed it doesn’t melt very well. If you’re looking for a creamy mac and cheese sauce, be sure to choose cheeses that melt well for the sauce. If there’s a cheese you like but it doesn’t melt well, you can use it as a topper.
- Use high-fat dairy products — This includes cream, half and half, whole milk (instead of skim, 1% or 2%), plain yogurt (if adding yogurt, make sure it’s plain and sugar free), mascarpone (a creamy Italian cheese) or cottage cheese. The high-fat dairy products in this recipe include half and half, milk and cream cheese, which make this mac and cheese recipe perfectly creamy!
- Choose a pasta noodle that holds sauce well — When it comes to pasta dishes, it’s all about choosing the right noodle. Noodles that are shaped like cups (such as orecchiette or shells) or have ridges (such as radiatore, cavatappi, rotini, penne, or cavatelli) are good options.
- If finishing in the oven, don’t over bake — Make sure you don’t over bake the mac and cheese in the oven, since this will remove a lot of the moisture in your dish.
Can you freeze mac and cheese?
Because of the large diary content in this recipe, I wouldn’t recommend it. Dairy products usually separate when they’ve been frozen. With the cheese, cream and milk in this recipe, there’s a chance the sauce will separate, affecting the texture and flavor.
What cheeses can you use in mac & cheese?
The great thing about this dish is it’s so easily customizable! Pick your favorite cheeses, cut a slice or two, and try different cheese combinations. Once you’ve found one you like, use that in the dish! Mashed has a list of different cheeses that go well in mac and cheese and potential flavor combinations. I love the pepper jack cheese and bacon combination, so that’s the one I’ve shared with you. If you find another combination you love, tell me about it in the comments below!
What can I serve alongside Mac & cheese?
- Cooked peas – I share a post on how to cook frozen peas, and I’m not kidding it’ll change your life.
- Grape Salad
- Oven roasted broccoli
- Sweet boiled corn
- Feta corn salad
- Broccoli caesar salad
- Pomegranate salad
More Delicious Recipes
- Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon
- Maple Bacon Popcorn
- Potato Pepper Jack Soup
- Ham and Cheese Sliders
- Fettuccine Alfredo
If you make this recipe and love it, I would be so grateful if you come back to leave a rating and review. Thank you! ❤️
Bacon Pepper Jack Mac and Cheese
- 1 lb macaroni noodles - cooked and drained
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 garlic clove - minced
- 1/4 cup all purpose flour
- 2 1/2 cups milk
- 1 1/2 cups half and half
- 8 oz cream cheese - softened and cut into 1 inch cubes
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 4 cups pepper jack cheese - shredded, about 14 oz
- 1 cup bacon - cooked and crumbled, about 8 slices
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a 9×13 inch baking dish with cooking spray. Set aside.
- In a large pot melt the butter. Once melted stir in the garlic and stir for 1 minute more. Stir in the flour and cook for another minute. Slowly pour in the milk and half and half. Once smooth stir in the cream cheese and salt and pepper.
- Once melted and combined stir in in 3 cups of pepper jack cheese and ½ cup bacon.
- Stir in the cooked noodles.
- Transfer the mac and cheese to the prepared baking dish and smooth into an even layer. Top with the remaining cheese and bacon. Bake for 15 minutes or until cheese is melted and the mac and cheese is warmed through.
Recipe adapted from Chef-in-Training.