Smoked Jalapeño Pepper Jack Mac and Cheese

This smoked jalapeño pepper jack mac and cheese is ready for its closeup.

While the BBQ meat is the main event on the plate, you can’t overlook the supporting cast: the side dishes. I’d like to think the sides you make should be good enough to eat on your own after the BBQ is all gone. This smoked jalapeño pepper jack mac and cheese has been a hit with my friends and I think it’s worthy to share.

MAKING THE MAC

Mixing it up in the Instant Pot!

You may be wondering if you cook the smoked jalapeño pepper jack mac and cheese all on the smoker. While there may be some recipes out there that call for it, this one does not. You can cook this indoors either on the stove or in the Instant Pot. For the Instant Pot, take a 16 oz bag of elbow macaroni (I prefer the large elbows), four cups of water, three tablespoons of butter, and two teaspoons of salt. Set the Instant Pot for four minutes and when you are done with the venting afterward, remove the lid and switch to sauté. Then add 1 cup of heavy whipping cream, 1 1/2 cups of medium cheddar cheese, 1 1/2 cups of pepper jack cheese, and a diced up jalapeño. Mix until cheese is melted.

SMOKING THAT JALAPEÑO PEPPER JACK MAC AND CHEESE

Now that the mac and cheese is done cooking, it’s time to add that smoked flavor! Pour your jalapeño pepper jack mac and cheese into a foil pan, preferably a little larger than 8×8 (I’ve tried that and not all of it fits. But if you want something to snack on while the rest of it smokes…). Feel free to top with something like bread crumbs to give it a little more texture. I used some jalapeño cheddar pork rinds and crumbled them up and poured over the mac and cheese in the foil pan.

Substituting bread crumbs for chicharrones (a variation of pork rinds) can alter the flavor.

Put the soon-to-be smoked jalapeño pepper jack mac and cheese on the grill at 225 degrees over indirect heat. We keep it that low because the mac and cheese is already cooked and you don’t want to dry out the noodles. For the smoke flavor, I prefer to go with hickory wood on this one. Let it cook for 30 minutes. Remove from grill and dig in!

THE RECIPE!

Smoked Jalapeño Pepper Jack Mac and Cheese

Smoked Jalapeño Pepper Jack Mac and Cheese

Kick your basic mac and cheese up a notch by adding some jalapeño and pepper jack cheese. Top with jalapeño cheddar pork rinds and give it a kiss of hickory smoke to complete the side dish!

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes

Ingredients

  • 16 oz large elbow macaroni noodles
  • 4 cups water
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded medium cheddar cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded pepper jack cheese
  • 1 jalapeño, diced
  • OPTIONAL: handful of crushed pork rinds for topping

Instructions

  1. Place water, macaroni noodles, butter, and salt together in Instant Pot. Seal vent and set on Manual for 4 minutes. Preheat grill/smoker to 225 degrees on indirect heat with hickory wood.
  2. Once the Instant Pot beeps when the 4 minutes is up, turn the top knob from sealing to venting. Once venting is completed, remove lid and set to sauté. Pour in heavy whipping cream, both cheeses, and diced jalapeño. Stir until cheese is fully melted.
  3. Pour mac and cheese into a foil pan (preferably something a little bigger than 8x8), top with crumbled pork rinds (optional) and put on grill for 30 minutes. Remove and serve.

Notes

  1. The pork rinds (or chicharrones if you prefer) are optional, but do add to the flavor and provide some texture. Substitute bread crumbs if you prefer.
  2. Check noodles after 15-20 minutes to make sure they don't dry out.
  3. If you want to kick up the heat, you can do one of the following: include the seeds from your diced jalapeño; substitute pickled jalapeño; or substitute for a serrano pepper.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

10

Serving Size:

1 Cup

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 425 Total Fat: 20g Saturated Fat: 5g Cholesterol: 8mg Sodium: 675mg Carbohydrates: 47g Fiber: 3g Sugar: 8g Protein: 10g

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