Bacon, spicy Pepper Jack cheese, cream cheese, and garlic all come together for a mac and cheese that will knock your socks off! This Loaded Pepper Jack Mac and Cheese is perfect for a night at home watching football, or fancy enough to claim a side dish spot on your Thanksgiving Dinner Menu.
I’ve got a handful of kids who love a little spice in their food, so this comforting version of mac and cheese went over really well at our house. For reference on the spice level, I would say it is fairly mild, similar to adding a can of Rotel to your chili. So if you want more kick than that, I suggest you also chop up a jalapeño and sauté it with the garlic.
The amount of bacon you want to use is up to your own discretion as well. Another option would be using bacon grease in place of the butter. You could replace the full 1/2 cup or just a tablespoon or two. Using the bacon grease will definitely increase the bacon flavor in the dish.
You can see in the pictures that I added some sliced green onions to the top. (Green onions are not pictured in the ingredients photo.) The green onions were an afterthought and something I decided to throw on to help the pictures look better. But honestly, I think they add a nice flavor, and I highly recommend adding them. I’m excited for you to give this yummy mac and cheese a try! It’s creamy, cheesy, and so full of flavor! YUM!
More Kid-Friendly Recipes
- Easy Pizza Casserole
- Sticky Teriyaki Bake Chicken Thighs
- Mini Meatloaf Recipe
- Amazing Spaghetti Sauce
- Ketchup Sloppy Joes
- Copycat Chick-fil-A Chicken Nuggets
step-by-step pictures on how to make loaded pepper jack mac and cheese
Frequently Asked Questions & Tips about how to make Loaded Pepper Jack Mac and Cheese
do you recommend using pre-cooked bacon crumbles instead of making your own?
If you have pre-cooked bacon crumbles on hand, they’re a good substitute for the bacon called for in this recipe.
can I use a different type of pasta for this recipe?
Yes. I recommend using small shells, rotini, penne, and even wagon wheel pasta (rotelle).
what type of cheese can I use in place of the pepper jack?
If you don’t like Pepper Jack cheese, you can use cheddar, Colby Jack, Sharp Cheddar, or even a combination of cheddar and Colby Jack cheese.
Do I need to use whole milk in this recipe or will low-fat milk work?
You can use 2%, 1%, or non-fat milk in place of whole milk in this recipe. Using whole milk will produce a richer flavor.
- Use part or all bacon grease in place of the butter to give a stronger bacon flavor to the mac and cheese.
- Make sure to spray the 9×13 dish with cooking spray so the macaroni doesn’t stick to the bottom of the dish.
- Top the casserole with a sprinkle of diced green onions to add another layer of flavor.
- 1 (16 ounce) package elbow macaroni, cooked according to package directions and drained.
- 8-16 ounces bacon, cooked and crumbled
- ½ cup butter (Can use part or all bacon grease in place of the butter.)
- 3 large cloves of garlic, crushed
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 3 cups milk
- ½ cup heavy cream or half and half
- 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
- 1 tsp salt
- ¼ tsp ground black pepper
- pinch of ground mustard or nutmeg if desired
- 3 cups shredded Pepper Jack cheese, divided
- green onions for garnish, optional
- Cook the elbow macaroni and drain it. Cook the bacon. Set both aside.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.
- In a deep skillet, add ½ cup butter and crushed garlic. (You can use part bacon grease in place of some of the butter if desired.)
- Once butter is melted and garlic has sautéed and is fragrant, add the flour and stir to create a roux. Stir roux for 1 minute.
- Next, add the milk and heavy cream and stir vigorously while adding to avoid lumps.
- Next, stir in the cream cheese, salt, pepper, and pinch of ground mustard or nutmeg (optional).
- When the cream cheese has completely melted, remove the pan from heat and add 2 cups of shredded Pepper Jack cheese and the bacon pieces. (Reserve a small amount of bacon to sprinkle on top of the casserole.) Stir until cheese is melted.
- Next, add the cheese mixture to the cooked elbow macaroni. Stir until combined and pour into a greased 9x13 baking dish.
- Top with remaining shredded Pepper Jack cheese, bacon pieces, and sliced green onion if desired.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until heated through and the cheese on top is browning.
Side Dishes for the Holidays