Bacon-Jalapeño Stovetop Mac and Cheese Recipe

Photographs: J. Kenji López-Alt

Why It Works

  • Starting the pasta in cold water works just as well as adding it to already-boiling water, plus it cooks faster and uses less energy.
  • A combination of several thickeners and emulsifying agents—cornstarch, evaporated milk, eggs, and American cheese—ensures an extra-gooey texture with real cheese flavor.
  • Replacing some of the butter from the original recipe with bacon fat gives the entire dish a smoky, bacon-y flavor.

This recipe is a variation of the Ultra-Gooey Stovetop Mac and Cheese recipe from my book, The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science.

Recipe Facts

Active: 25 mins
Total: 25 mins
Serves: 4 to 6 servings

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  • 8 ounces diced bacon

  • 1 to 2 red or green jalapeño peppers, seeds and ribs removed, finely minced

  • 1/4 cup sliced pickled jalapeno peppers

  • 1 pound elbow macaroni

  • Kosher salt

  • 1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk

  • 2 large eggs

  • 1 teaspoon Frank’s RedHot or other hot sauce

  • 1 teaspoon ground mustard

  • 1 pound extra-sharp cheddar cheese, grated

  • 8 ounces American cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 2 chunks


  1. Cook bacon in a medium skillet over medium heat, stirring, until completely crisp, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in fresh and pickled jalapeños, scraping up browned bits from bottom of pan. Set aside. Remove some of mixture to a separate small bowl and reserve for garnish.

  2. Place macaroni in a large saucepan and cover it with salted water by 2 inches. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally to keep pasta from sticking. Cover pan, remove from heat, and let stand until pasta is barely al dente, about 8 minutes.

  3. Meanwhile, whisk together evaporated milk, eggs, hot sauce, and mustard in a bowl until homogeneous. Toss cheeses with cornstarch in a large bowl until thoroughly combined.

  4. When pasta is cooked, drain it and return it to saucepan. Place over low heat, add butter, and stir until melted. Add bacon/jalapeño mixture (including bacon fat), milk mixture, and cheese mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until cheese is completely melted and mixture is hot and creamy. Season to taste with salt and more hot sauce. Serve immediately, topped with reserved bacon/jalapeño mixture.


To reheat the pasta, add a few tablespoons of milk to the pan and cook, stirring gently, over medium-low heat until hot.

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Nutrition Facts (per serving)
566 Calories
36g Fat
36g Carbs
23g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4 to 6
Amount per serving
Calories 566
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 36g 47%
Saturated Fat 17g 85%
Cholesterol 150mg 50%
Sodium 994mg 43%
Total Carbohydrate 36g 13%
Dietary Fiber 2g 6%
Total Sugars 10g
Protein 23g
Vitamin C 9mg 45%
Calcium 733mg 56%
Iron 2mg 11%
Potassium 458mg 10%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)