X

Stovetop Pepper Jack Mac and Cheese

This post may contain affiliate links meaning if you buy from them, I will make a few pennies, at no cost to you. See disclosure here.

Stovetop Pepper Jack mac and cheese is easy-to-make comfort food that can be on your table in 20 minutes! Made with tender elbow macaroni smothered in a spicy cheese sauce made with 2 kinds of cheese, and all done in one pot for a creamy, cheesy, weeknight dinner or side dish with a kick!

wooden spoon lifting mac & cheese from a saucepan.

Can you ever really have too many mac and cheese recipes?

I’ve made slow cooker mac and cheese, mac and cheese in a mug, stovetop macaroni and cheese, and buffalo macaroni and cheese, to name a few. So, I’m going to go with no, you can’t have too many. Let’s add one more!

Pepper Jack mac and cheese is still a classic comfort food but with a spicy twist. We’re using Pepper Jack cheese, mozzarella, and red pepper flakes instead of the traditional cheddar cheese. It’s creamy, cheesy, and a special spicy mac!

If you aren’t a fan of too much heat you can easily adjust the spice level. Plus, the fat in the dairy helps to minimize the spice (like when you drink milk after eating spicy food), so you’re getting a lot more of the flavor than the heat.

We’re making this rich and melty pepper jack mac with a cheese sauce starting with a roux and it’s still crazy easy to make!

Everyone loves to see a big dish of comforting mac and cheese on the table, whether as a main dish or as a side, and this is about to become everyone’s new favorite!

Why you’ll love Pepper Jack Macaroni & Cheese

Creamy, Cheesy, and Melty – Homemade mac is a favorite comfort food of just about everyone I know.

Super Easy – It’s all done in one pot, with a simple roux, shredded cheese, and macaroni, ready in 20 minutes!

Family-Friendly – Everyone loves a bowl of mac and cheese and because you can adjust the spice level to your liking it’s great for the whole family.

Easy Weeknight Meal – It’s quick and easy to make any night of the week. You can add protein to make a complete meal, enjoy it as is for a meatless dinner option, or use it as a side dish for all your main meals!

fork lifting a bite of cheesy mac & cheese from a plate.

Tools you’ll need

Ingredients

Below is a list of the simple ingredients you’ll need to gather to make this recipe, why you need them, and possible substitutions. Scroll all the way down for the full recipe card with measurements.

  • Noodles – Elbow macaroni noodles are the noodle of choice for classic macaroni. You can use whatever kind of short or medium pasta you prefer. Fusilli, penne, bowtie, or conchiglie are also good options.
  • Butter – Using unsalted butter allows you to control the amount of added salt, however, if you are using salted butter, you would add less later on. Use what you’ve got. The fat melted makes part of the roux, the base of the entire cheese sauce.
  • Flour – Along with butter, all-purpose flour makes the roux which is what thickens the cheese sauce.
  • Milk – This gets added to the roux and turns from a paste into a creamy mixture. I use at least 2% milk to have a rich and creamy consistency. Heavy cream or whole milk can be used as well.
  • Salt & Black Pepper – To taste.
  • Red Pepper Flakes – Just a pinch for medium heat. Use more or less as desired.
  • Cheeses – Both pepper jack cheese and mozzarella cheese should be grated fresh from a block of cheese to melt nicely and evenly into the sauce. Pre-shredded cheese just doesn’t melt the same.
overhead shot of labeled ingredients laid out to make macaroni & cheese.

How to make Stovetop Pepper Jack Mac and Cheese

This section shows you how to make this recipe, with process photos showing the steps to help you visualize it. For full instructions, including amounts and temperatures, see the recipe card below.

  1. Step One: Cook the noodles according to package directions to al dente. This is usually 1 minute less than “done.” Just so that it has a bite to it and won’t be mushy by the time it’s coated in the cheese sauce. Also, make sure to generously salt the boiling water to help flavor the pasta. Drain the pasta and set it aside.
  2. Step Two: Melt the butter over medium-high heat in the same pot. Once bubbly, whisk in the flour 1 Tablespoon at a time, making sure to cook each addition fully. Cook until the flour is no longer raw and it’s turned into a thick and pale yellow paste. This is the roux.
  3. Step Three: While constantly whisking, slowly add in the milk. Continue cooking and stirring until the mixture is thick and creamy. Season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes then remove it from the heat.
collage of 4 photos showing the process of making a roux.
  1. Step Four: Stir in the cheese until fully melted and smooth. Add the cooked pasta back into the cheese mixture and stir until all the noodles are fully coated. If it’s too thick for your liking, add a little extra milk to thin it. Enjoy!
collage of 3 photos showing the process of add noodles to cheese sauce.

What to serve with spicy pepper jack mac

I could eat a bowl or two of this mac and cheese and call it a day. Load me up with all the carbs and cheese!

I guess if I’m feeling ambitious and like I need a vegetable in my life, I’ll pair it with a side of veggies like a chopped veggie salad, roasted carrots, or roasted garlic green beans.

As much as I love it on its own, I also think it makes the perfect side dish for grilled meats and BBQ staples all summer!

Who doesn’t love a side of mac and cheese with their brisket with BBQ sauce? Or on the side of Buffalo ranch crockpot wings?

We also have it with slow cooker meatloaf instead of mashed potatoes sometimes!

Tips & Suggestions

  • Make it milder. You can swap the amounts of each cheese to use more mozzarella and less pepper jack if you’d like. Or you can use half and half of each. Alternatively, you can use a completely different kind of cheese altogether! Cheddar, Gouda, Gruyere, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Colby Jack, and Swiss are great melty cheeses that can be used with a mix of pepper jack cheese or in place of. 
  • Make it hotter. A dash of cayenne pepper, more red pepper flakes, or even more Pepper Jack cheese can all be done to make it as spicy as you’d like. You can also add diced jalapenos to the mix.
  • Add protein. Shredded chicken, diced leftover ham, or crispy bacon bits can be added for extra protein and loads of flavor.
  • Veggies. Want to sneak in some vegetables? How about some broccoli, cauliflower, corn, green onions, or red bell peppers?
  • Extra seasoning. For extra flavor in your cheese sauce, try adding garlic powder, paprika, ground mustard, or even some dried herbs.

How to reheat and store Pepper Jack Mac and Cheese

How to store leftovers

Leftovers will need to be kept in an airtight container. Allow it to cool completely before closing the lid so that the residual heat doesn’t add excess moisture inside.

How long will pepperjack mac last in the fridge?

Up to 4 days in the refrigerator.

Can I freeze homemade macaroni and cheese?

You can! Once again, allow it to cool completely. If you are freezing a lot, feel free to portion it into different freezer-safe containers so you only need to thaw what you’ll eat. Either way, mac and cheese will keep frozen for up to 3 months. Thaw in the fridge overnight before reheating.

How to reheat stovetop mac and cheese?

You can reheat it in the microwave or on the stovetop on low. Once it has cooled, the cheese sauce will thicken and absorb into the pasta noodles. You may need to add a splash of milk or even broth to loosen it up into a smooth creamy cheese sauce again.

spoon lifting stretchy cheese macaroni from a pot.

FAQs

Is pepper jack the same as monterey jack?

Pepper jack is a type of Monterey Jack cheese. It is a semi-soft cheese that has the added spicy flavor from jalapenos, habaneros, and other peppers and spices.

Can I add a breadcrumb topping?

Definitely. You’ll need to transfer it to a casserole dish or buttered baking dish and spread it out into an even layer. Top with a Panko breadcrumb and melted butter mixture (and more cheese if you want) and place it under the broiler for about 4 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.

What if I can’t find Pepper Jack cheese?

You can actually make your own substitute! That is if you can find Monterey Jack instead. Then mix that with minced jalapeno peppers and you’ve got a great alternative. Otherwise, use any of your other favorite melty cheeses instead.

Can I make this dish ahead?

You can make it up to a day in advance, but no more than that. Reheat it on the stovetop with a splash of milk and serve once heated through and creamy.

One-Pot Pepper Jack Mac and Cheese

Need more mac and cheese recipes? Try these:

Best Macaroni and Cheese (with a secret ingredient)

Macaroni and Cheese Flatbread

Easy Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Click here for my entire collection of macaroni recipes.

overhead shot of creamy macaroni and cheese on a white plate.
wooden spoon lifting mac & cheese from a saucepan.

Pepper Jack Stovetop Macaroni & Cheese

Melissa | Persnickety Plates
Stovetop Pepper Jack mac and cheese is easy-to-make comfort food that can be on your table in 20 minutes! Made with tender elbow macaroni smothered in a spicy cheese sauce made with 2 kinds of cheese, and all done in one pot for a creamy, cheesy, weeknight dinner or side dish with a kick!
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American
Servings 6 servings
Calories 374 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • ½ pound uncooked elbow noodles or similar short pasta
  • 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 Tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 1 ½ cup milk I used 2%
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1 ½ cup pepper jack cheese shredded
  • ½ cup mozzarella cheese shredded

Instructions
 

  • In a large pot, bring salted water to boil and cook the noodles until al dente.
  • Drain noodles and set aside.
  • Using the same pot, melt the butter over medium high heat until bubbly. Whisk in the flour, one tablespoon at a time, making sure to fully cook each addition.
  • Cook the flour until it is no longer raw. The mixture (a roux) should be thick and pale yellow.
  • Add in the milk, while whisking. Continue cooking until the mixture thickens and is creamy.
  • Season with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Remove from heat and stir in the shredded cheeses. Stir until fully melted and incorporated.
  • Add the drained pasta to the cheese mixture and stir to fully coat.

Notes

  • Store leftovers covered in the fridge for up to 4 days. When reheating, a splash of milk may be needed to thin out the cheese.
  • Make it milder. You can swap the amounts of each cheese to use more mozzarella and less pepper jack if you’d like. Or you can use half and half of each. Alternatively, you can use a completely different kind of cheese altogether! Cheddar, Gouda, Gruyere, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Colby Jack, and Swiss are great melty cheeses that can be used with a mix of pepper jack cheese or in place of. 
  • Make it hotter. A dash of cayenne pepper, more red pepper flakes, or even more Pepper Jack cheese can all be done to make it as spicy as you’d like. You can also add diced jalapenos to the mix.
  • Add protein. Shredded chicken, diced leftover ham, or crispy bacon bits can be added for extra protein and loads of flavor.
  • Veggies. Want to sneak in some vegetables? How about some broccoli, cauliflower, corn, green onions, or red bell peppers?
  • Extra seasoning. For extra flavor in your cheese sauce, try adding garlic powder, paprika, ground mustard, or even some dried herbs.

Nutrition

Serving: 1gCalories: 374kcalCarbohydrates: 34gProtein: 16gFat: 19gSaturated Fat: 11gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0.2gCholesterol: 55mgSodium: 254mgPotassium: 211mgFiber: 1gSugar: 4gVitamin A: 554IUCalcium: 343mgIron: 1mg

Nutritional information is an estimate and provided to you as a courtesy. You should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe using your preferred nutrition calculator.

Tried this recipe? Tag me!Mention @melissa_pplates or tag #persnicketyplates!

Sharing of this recipe is both encouraged and appreciated. Copying/pasting and/or screenshots of full recipes to any social media is strictly prohibited. Content and photographs are copyright protected.

Originally published June 10, 2013

Stovetop Pepper Jack Macaroni & Cheese | Persnickety Plates
Stovetop Pepper Jack Macaroni & Cheese | Persnickety Plates




Reader Interactions

    Share Your Thoughts

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    Recipe Rating




    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  1. Ashley says

    This sounds soo good! I love all things pepper jack 🙂

  2. Jessica Pelasky says

    This looks amazing!! 🙂 I definitely Pinned this for later!

  3. Kate | Food Babbles says

    Oh my goodness, you just made me feel old 😉 NKOTB was totally my time!! And the others too. Glad you had fun! And this looks amazing. Drool!!

  4. LUCY GOTHRO says

    5 stars
    I transposed the amounts of cheese to be added, so I ended up using 1-1/2 cups of mozzarella, and 1/2 cup of pepper jack! I also added a few shakes of garlic powder and 7 cut-up slices of drained bacon – it came out GREAT! Thank you so much for posting this!

Melissa Williams/Persnickety Plates is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. For more details, please see my Privacy Policy & Disclosures page.

overhead shot of a red white & blue fruit salad.

What I'm Making for Memorial Day 

Steal my exact menu for a delicious holiday

persnickety plates logo.

FREE EMAIL BONUS