Bacon Mac and Cheese Recipe photo by Taste of Home

Bacon Mac and Cheese

Total Time
Prep: 35 min. Bake: 40 min.
This bacon mac and cheese features a blend of jalapeños, scallions and four different cheeses. It’s creamy, comforting and hearty, making it an absolute winner on any spread.

Updated: Jun. 11, 2024

The sides steal the show when my family gets together for special gatherings. This bacon mac and cheese fits right in, serving the main character energy with creamy and smoky bites.

Bonus: it doesn’t take much to prep, yet it will trick your loved ones into thinking you spent all day cooking.

Let’s break down why this bacon mac and cheese recipe shines so bright: Jalapeños make a guest appearance, proving comfort food classics can infuse spicy surprises. We can’t forget the cheese and this dish layers in four different types to add sharp and rich notes. It’ll pair well with your grandmother’s honey ham or your uncle’s smoked ribs and ultimately offer delicious, exciting bites at the next gathering you attend.

Bacon Mac and Cheese Ingredients

  • Elbow macaroni: These elbow-shaped noodles contain tunnels that absorb the cheese sauce, creating a delightful chew.
  • Bacon: The crispy bacon infuses smoky and crunchy notes into your mac and cheese.
  • Jalapeño pepper: To kick up the spiciness, leave the seeds in when dicing your jalapeño.
  • Green onions: Aromatics like scallions infuse sharp and fresh flavors into the creamy mac and cheese.
  • Milk: Add warm milk to the pot to help with thickening and prevent your cream sauce from breaking.
  • Cheese: We use a combination of pepper jack, Velveeta, Colby-Monterey Jack, and cheddar to produce a sharp and creamy cheese sauce.
  • Seasonings: To infuse smoky and savory notes we season the cheese sauce with a blend of onion powder, chili powder, and hot sauce.

Directions

Step 1: Boil the macaroni

Cook the macaroni according to the package instructions. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Editor’s Tip: Boil the noodles until slightly tender, so they still have a bite after being covered with cheese sauce and baked in the oven. (We prefer our pasta al dente.)

Step 2: Make the bacon mac and cheese sauce

Heat a Dutch oven on medium heat. Add your chopped bacon and cook until crisp. Use a slotted spoon to remove the bacon from the pan and set it aside to drain on a paper towel-lined plate. In the same pan, sauté the diced jalapeños in the bacon drippings until they reach a tender texture.

In the same Dutch oven pour the milk and sprinkle in the shredded cheese. Stir the sauce consistently until it’s smooth. Season the cheese sauce with onion powder, chili powder, salt, pepper, and hot pepper sauce. Mix the cooked macaroni, bacon, and diced scallions into the cheese sauce.

Step 3: Bake the bacon mac and cheese

Transfer the bacon mac and cheese to a 13×9-inch baking dish. Cover it with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. Afterward, uncover the mac and cheese and continue baking for 10 to 15 minutes or until it becomes golden brown.

Bacon Mac and Cheese Recipe Variations

  • Switch up the pasta: Swap the elbow macaroni for another shape that’ll withstand the creamy cheese sauce, like cavatappi or mezze rigatoni.
  • Use evaporated milk: To infuse rich flavors into your mac and cheese with bacon, swap the 2% milk for an evaporated one.
  • Create a buttery topping: Use crushed Ritz crackers or panko bread crumbs to add texture to your bacon mac and cheese crust.

How to Store Bacon Mac and Cheese

First, portion your bacon mac and cheese into smaller pieces. Then, store those in an airtight container in the fridge for three to four days.

Can you freeze this bacon mac and cheese recipe?

This bacon mac and cheese is so rich that it’s totally understandable if you end up with lots of leftovers. You can store it in the freezer for up to three months and simply reheat it whenever you’re ready to dig back in.

Can you make this recipe for bacon mac and cheese ahead of time?

This bacon mac and cheese can easily be prepped in advance. Follow the recipe except for the baking step. Then, store it in your fridge for one to two days. When you’re ready to serve, cook it for 30 to 45 minutes or until the top turns golden brown.

Bacon Mac and Cheese Tips

Can you make a vegan version of this bacon mac and cheese recipe?

With loads of plant-based products available, making this recipe vegan-friendly is definitely possible. Simply swap the cheese, milk, and pasta for options that nix dairy. Crumble in seitan-based bacon for those delicious smoky notes. And if you prefer a thicker cream sauce, mix in puréed squash. (We’ll let you in on a secret: here’s how to make vegan mac and cheese if you’re a newbie.)

What type of cheese do you recommend for this recipe?

First, you’ll want to pick a cheese that melts well. This recipe mixes in pepper jack, Velveeta, Colby-Monterey Jack, and cheddar, but options like Gouda or Fontina work deliciously, too. You can also try opting for unique flavor profiles, like blue cheese for pungent bites or brie for nutty notes.

Do you have to bake this bacon mac and cheese?

Baking this recipe creates layered textures of caramelized and melty bites, but it’s not required. If you lean towards a saucier and creamier mac and cheese, cook it on the stovetop instead. To preserve the crunchiness of the bacon, reserve half of it to sprinkle on top of your finished pasta.

Bacon Mac and Cheese

Prep Time 35 min
Cook Time 40 min
Yield 16 servings (3/4 cup each).

Ingredients

  • 6 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
  • 1 pound bacon strips, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
  • 3 cups 2% milk
  • 2 cups shredded pepper Jack cheese
  • 1 package (8 ounces) process cheese (Velveeta), cubed
  • 1 cup shredded Colby-Monterey Jack cheese
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • Dash hot pepper sauce
  • 3 green onions, chopped

Directions

  1. Cook macaroni according to package directions.
  2. Meanwhile, in a Dutch oven, cook bacon over medium heat until crisp. Using a slotted spoon, remove to paper towels; drain, reserving 1 tablespoon drippings. Saute jalapeno in reserved drippings. Add milk and cheeses to pan; cook and stir until blended. Stir in the onion powder, chili powder, salt, pepper and pepper sauce.
  3. Drain macaroni; add to pan with the onions and cooked bacon. Mix well.
  4. Transfer to a greased 13x9-in. baking dish. Cover and bake at 350° for 30 minutes. Uncover; bake 10-15 minutes longer or until heated through.

Nutrition Facts

3/4 cup: 438 calories, 26g fat (13g saturated fat), 75mg cholesterol, 1106mg sodium, 26g carbohydrate (4g sugars, 1g fiber), 25g protein.

Jalapeno pepper adds an extra kick to this bacon mac and cheese, giving it great grown-up taste. I serve this comforting dish throughout the year.—Shelly Boehm, South Bend, Indiana