Jalapeno Mac and Cheese
Updated: Apr 23, 2021
Our Jalapeno Mac and Cheese is one of our all time favorite dinners. A healthy portion of creamy goodness, this meal serves enough for lunches for the following days, even when I have seconds and thirds of it at dinner, which of course I always do.
This meal will remind you of the homemade mac and cheese you ate when you were little with the fun twist of spicy jalapenos.
This creamy and spicy Jalapeno Mac and Cheese is the perfect cozy dish that will cure any bad day. Whenever I am feeling under the weather, Taylor will make a double batch of this Jalapeno Mac and Cheese. One dish she keeps for her own dinner and the other half she brings to me. Taylor and I, thank goodness, live less than ten minutes away from each other (there is no way we could be farther apart than that), so whenever I am feeling unwell she will drive over to drop off a care package for me, including dinner ready to go.
For this prepared mac and cheese, Taylor will bring the breadcrumb mixture in a separate container so that whenever I am ready for dinner my partner, Devin can mix the breadcrumbs with melted butter and sprinkle on the saucy pasta. Devin can then throw the casserole dish in the oven while I lay bundled up on the couch watching movies and drinking tea (if you enjoy tea too, check out our London Fog Loaf for a delicious tea filled sweet treat).
First, I start by preheating my oven to 400°F. I then measure the vegan butter for the base of my sauce, add this butter to a large pot, and melt it over medium heat. While the butter heats, I slice my jalapenos.
Keep in mind that every jalapeno varies in spice. A ripe jalapeno has a deep, rich green and sometimes will have thin white lines throughout its skin. These jalapenos are typically the spiciest. You can choose the number of jalapenos you use based on their spice level and your spice tolerance!
After adding the jalapenos to the heated butter, I give them a few minutes head start to soften before I add the chopped onions. By the time I have sauteed the onions and jalapenos so that the onions are translucent, the jalapenos have broken down quite a bit. Breaking them down this way infuses their spice into the sauce. That way you taste the jalapeno flavor in every bite of your mac and cheese rather than just when you eat a jalapeno piece.
Then I add the sauce base spices, give them a stir, and add the flour. Adding the flour begins the process of creating a white roux, which is a trademark to any traditional mac and cheese. I saute the jalapeno, onion, and flour mixture constantly to ensure the raw flour lightly browns but does not burn. This cooks out the raw flour flavor to provide a rich depth to the dish. I slowly add my vegetable broth while stirring constantly, add the unsweetened vegan milk, stir to combine, and reduce the heat so that the sauce can simmer. Most importantly, the flour will act as a thickener for the sauce and as this sauce simmers, the sauce will become thicker.
Of course, every stove-top is different, and you may have to adjust the heat to make sure that your sauce is simmering rather than remaining stagnant or boiling. Because I used cold milk, I found that I needed to wait a minute before reducing the heat so that the sauce could return to its hot temperature.
While stirring the sauce base occasionally, I begin to prepare the cashew mixture. I bring a small pot of water to a boil, add the cashews, and let them boil for 12 minutes.
Boiling the cashews cooks out some of their nutty favour and softens them so that they blend quickly and smoothly.
While the cashews boil, simply add all the other cashew mixture ingredients to your blender. Add the boiled cashews and blend until smooth.
How to make our Jalapeno Mac and Cheese with a large food processor:
While I prefer using a high-speed blender for its efficiency, I have made the mac and cheese many times with just a food processor. To achieve the best results while using a food processor, boil the cashews for 12 minutes, prepare the food processor with all the other cashew base ingredients except for the vegetable broth. Use half a cup of vegetable broth to start, add the softened cashews, blend, scrape the sides of the food processor and add another half a cup of vegetable broth. Repeat the process until you have added all the vegetable broth and the cashew mixture is creamy and smooth.
I pour the cashew mixture into the sauce base, stir to combine, and heat sauce over medium-low. Heating this sauce allows the tapioca starch to fully dissolve and become activated.
The tapioca starch will give the sauce a gooey, cheesy texture that will cling to the noodles.
At this point, I can cook my dry pasta in salted boiling water.
You can choose whichever type of small pasta you might have on hand, but note that your choice might change the texture of your mac and cheese.
I find that when I use elbow macaroni, the pasta absorbs a lot of the sauce while it bakes in the oven, while using a wider noodle like rigatoni absorbs less, leaving a saucier dish, and multigrain pasta hardly absorbs any sauce at all.
Since the sauce is full of flavor, the dish benefits from a pasta that absorbs some of the sauce, but if you opt to freeze half of your Jalapeno Macaroni and Cheese, I would recommend using a wider pasta than macaroni so that less sauce is absorbed as the sauce will naturally reduce from the freezing and thawing process. More about the freezing process below!
I cook the pasta until a true al dente, aiming for a pasta with some bite as the pasta will continue to cook when it bakes. I add the al dente pasta to the sauce and stir to combine. I turn off the stove top and pour the macaroni and cheese into a large casserole dish (a glass or ceramic dish).
I tend to make the full portion because I love a meal with a lot of leftovers, but if you want a smaller serving, use 2 small casserole dishes, allow one to cool, then cover and freeze for another easy meal! You can just allow the frozen casserole to thaw, cover and bake until it is hot in the middle, then sprinkle with the breadcrumb mixture and continue to bake for another 15 minutes.
After I pour my Jalapeno Mac and Cheese into a casserole dish, I prepare my breadcrumb mixture by melting the butter in a small dish. I measure the rest of the breadcrumb mixture into a medium bowl, stir to combine, add the melted butter, and stir again. I spread the breadcrumbs over the macaroni and cheese. I place the macaroni and cheese in the preheated oven and bake until the breadcrumbs are brown and the sauce is bubbling in the corners of my casserole dish.
I serve the Jalapeno Mac and Cheese with sliced green onions for a fresh crunch and I eat it in bounteous scoops!
Jalapeno Mac and Cheese
Yield: 6-8 Servings
Cook time: 55-60 minutes
Author: Kitchen Potatoes
· 4 cups dried macaroni or your choice of pasta
· Green onions, sliced (optional topping)
· 2-4 jalapenos, sliced (de-seed if you prefer milder spice)
· 1 onion, chopped
· ½ cup vegan butter
· 2 tbsp garlic powder
· 1 tsp salt
· 1 tsp black pepper
· ⅓ cup all-purpose flour
· 2 cups vegetable broth
· 1 ¾ cup vegan milk (I use unsweetened, plain soy milk)
· 1 cup raw, unsalted cashews
· 2 cups vegetable broth
· 2 tsp salt
· 1 tbsp dijon mustard
· 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
· ⅓ cup nutritional yeast
· ⅓ cup tapioca starch
· 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
· 1 tbsp garlic powder
· 2 tsp paprika
· ½ tsp salt
· 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
· 3 tbsp vegan butter
Preheat oven to 400°F.
To make the sauce base, melt butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add jalapenos and saute for 3 minutes. Add onions and cook both onions and jalapenos until the onions are soft and translucent. Add garlic powder, salt, and pepper to the onion and jalapeno mixture.
Add flour, stirring constantly for 2-3 minutes while the flour cooks. Slowly add 2 cups of vegetable broth while stirring. Reduce heat to medium-low and add vegan milk. Let simmer while you prepare your cashew mixture, stirring occasionally.
To make the cashew mixture bring a small pot of water to a boil. Add cashews and let boil for 12 minutes. Measure the rest of the cashew mixture ingredients into a high-speed blender. Once cashews have softened, drain and add the cashews to the blender. Blend until smooth.
Add the cashew mixture to the sauce base and stir to combine. Continue to heat sauce over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally. If the sauce begins to boil, adjust heat to low.
Now, cook 4 cups of dry pasta until al dente (do not overcook pasta). Add pasta to the mac and cheese sauce and transfer to a large casserole dish.*
Combine breadcrumbs and the breadcrumb seasonings in a medium bowl. In a small bowl, melt vegan butter and add the melted butter to the breadcrumb mixture. Stir thoroughly to combine and spread over mac and cheese.
Bake for approximately 15 minutes or until breadcrumbs are browned and sauce is bubbling.
Serve with sliced green onions.
*alternatively, you may use two small casserole dishes and freeze one (without the breadcrumb mixture) to save for a meal another day. Just let thaw before you plan to eat, bake with foil for approximately 40 minutes or until sauce is bubbling. Then add breadcrumb mixture and bake until breadcrumbs are brown.