Spicy Mac and Cheese | Perfectly cooked noodles in a spicy, creamy cheese sauce, this is the ultimate comfort food dinner for any night of the week. With two different kinds of cheese, fresh jalapenos, and gochujang paste, this mac and cheese is super flavorful and easy to prepare - and ready in under half an hour.
There's almost nothing better in the pasta category, for me than mac and cheese. It's easy to make from scratch, it's comforting and delicious and it's so easy to take it up a notch.
So, creamy, cheesy noodles but make it spicy, right? You'll start out by making a cheese sauce from scratch and adding some spicy ingredients to make it interesting.
For spice we'll use a couple of fresh jalapeños, diced and a Korean condiment called Gochujang. It's pretty easy to find at my Asian grocery store, Lucky's, and I've seen it in my larger grocery stores as well. It's a fermented hot pepper paste and it's delicious - like fantastic. Amazon also has Gochujang.
For more spice, we'll add some spicy Monterrey jack cheese. I pair it with Gouda - a rich and nutty cheese. Casarecce noodles make the perfect pair for the spicy cheese sauce - all in under 30 minutes. And if you're organized, under 20 minutes because you can make the cheese sauce while the noodles cook.
You could also add the spicy mac and cheese to a casserole dish and cover it with buttered bread crumbs for a crispy baked mac and cheese.
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How to spice up your mac and cheese?
There are many ways to spice up mac and cheese. You can use red pepper flakes, sambal oelek, ground cayenne pepper, fresh hot peppers, and hot sauces. For this spicy mac and cheese, I use jalapeño peppers, gochujang hot pepper paste, and a spicy Monterrey jack cheese.
About the ingredients for this recipe. See the recipe card below for exact amounts.
- the noodles: I use casarecce but you can use any short pasta shape for this recipe, such as the typical macaroni noodle. Cook to your preferred doneness. I prefer al dente pasta. Cook about two minutes less than al dente if you're also baking this spicy mac and cheese.
- the spicy: chopped fresh jalapenos, gochujang paste (a Korean hot pepper paste), and spicy Monterrey jack cheese give the spiciness to this mac and cheese. You could also sharp cheddar cheese or pepper jack cheese.
- the cheese sauce: the start to the cheese sauce is a roux of butter and flour, with milk added (this is a bechamel sauce) and two types of cheese, to make a mornay sauce (cheese sauce).
RECIPE TIP: The spiciest part of jalapeño peppers is actually in the seeds so remove them if you want a lighter kick of spice.
- chop the onions and jalapenos and mince the garlic
- measure out the rest of the ingredients for quicker cooking
Start the recipe by boiling your noodles in a large pot of salted water. Cook to package instructions. To make the cheese sauce, start by sauteing the onion and jalapeno together in oil until browned and softened, about 6-7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for about a minute. Add the butter and melt it.
Now you're making the roux - the most important part of the sauce. You'll want to take your time whisking to make sure you cook the flour and don't leave any raw flour in the pan. Add the mustard and gochujang and whisk it in well.
Next, you'll slowly add the first cup of milk, whisking thoroughly in between. You really want to make sure there are no flour clumps so whisk and go slow. Add the rest of the milk, whisking to maintain a smooth sauce.
Now you're ready to add the cheese. I do this in two additions, whisking to make sure it doesn't clump and all melts smoothly.
Finally, add in your cooked pasta, mix well and serve hot.
I like to add a generous drizzle of sriracha hot sauce on top of my mac and cheese because I love to spice it up!
RECIPE TIP: Make sure to grate your own cheese so that it melts smoothly into your sauce.
✔ This recipe is vegetarian
> Don't want it spicy? Try my Easy Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese.
> Want it baked? Add the finished mac and cheese to a casserole dish, sprinkle with panko breadcrumbs, and bake at 350°F (180°C) for 20 minutes or so, until the breadcrumbs are toasty and browned.
I make this spicy mac and cheese in my favorite large non-stick skillet.
This spicy mac and cheese is best served fresh but any leftovers can be stored in the fridge in a container with a lid for 3-5 days. You can reheat the pasta either in a microwave or on the stovetop. Add a tablespoon or two of milk while heating to make it creamier again.
More pasta recipes
Tips + FAQs
Yes, I like a variety of hot sauces on my mac and cheese like Sriracha Hot Sauce, a Louisiana hot sauce like Frank's hot sauce, and Tasty Heat's Magma hot sauce. Hot sauce goes well with the creamy cheesy sauce.
Yes! To bake homemade mac and cheese add the hot pasta and cheese sauce into a baking dish, cover with more cheese or breadcrumbs, and bake for 20 minutes or so at 350°F (180°C).
Yes, you can make mac and cheese ahead of time - just make it on the stovetop and store it in a baking dish in the fridge. Cover it with shredded cheese, panko breadcrumbs, and foil, and bake for 30-40 minutes at 350°F (180°C) until hot and bubbly, removing the foil for the last 10 minutes or so.
I'd recommend a blend of cheeses for big flavor, but sharp cheddar alone is good as well. You can also use a combination of mozzarella, white cheddar, pepper jack, Monterrey jack, gouda, and gruyere.
Spicy Mac and Cheese
- 1 lb short pasta shapes (I used casarecce)
- 1 tablespoon cooking oil
- ½ large onion (diced)
- 2 large jalapenos (diced*)
- 2 cloves garlic (minced)
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 cups milk
- 6 oz shredded spicy Monterrey Jack (1 ½ cups)
- 6 oz shredded Gouda cheese (1 ½ cups)
- 2 teaspoons Gochujang Hot Pepper Paste
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- sriracha (to top, optional)
- Cook the pasta according to package instructions. I like my pasta al dente.
- Meanwhile, start the cheese sauce. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add the oil. Add the onion and jalapeno and saute until softened and browned, about 6-8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for one minute.
- Next, make the roux. Add the butter to the skillet and let it melt. Add the flour and whisk together the butter and flour for a minute or two to cook the flour. Make sure there is no raw flour left in the pan. Add the Gochujang and mustard and whisk in.
- Make the sauce. Next add the first cup of milk, very slowly while whisking. Be careful to whisk out any flour clumps and keep going until it's all smooth. This will ensure you have a smooth cheese sauce. Once the first cup of milk is incorporated you can add the second cup a little faster. Add the cheese in two additions, whisking thoroughly.
- Add the pasta and stir together. Serve hot with a healthy drizzle of hot sauce.
Nutritional information is an estimate. Values vary based on products used.
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning I get a commission if you decide to purchase through my link, at no extra cost to you.
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