Jalapeno Ranch Macaroni and Cheese is full of rich flavors including three of my favorite things, ranch dressing, jalapeños and macaroni and cheese.
Homemade Mac & Cheese
I'm hoping that your mouth is watering because this macaroni and cheese is terrific!
This recipe is a favorite for the creamy cheese sauce, the ranch flavor, and the amazing zesty hot peppers, no matter which variety I choose.
If you follow this blog you are already aware that I love ranch everything pretty much. I knew it was only a matter of time before getting this jalapeno ranch macaroni and cheese recipe published on this blog.
Honestly, when my son makes this recipe he adds extra spice for sure. He will even mix his peppers which makes this dish so colorful and flavorful too!
Jalapeno, poblano, red chili peppers, and serrano are his favorites.
My husband and I can't handle the heat that he can that is for sure. Make sure you adjust your heat levels to accommodate your personal taste.
Truth be told, sometimes my husband and I use sweet peppers too or add them in as well. They add a nice sweetness and some color.
How to Make the Best Macaroni and Cheese
These are just a few of the best tips that I've found when making mac and cheese with jalapenos.
Pick the Right Noodle
Aside from traditional macaroni-shaped pasta or noodles there are numerous choices, just in case you want to switch things up! Remember though to choose a noodle that has grooves, ridges, gaps, tunnels, crevices, or cracks for the cheese sauce to hide in.
If you use spaghetti or fettuccine pasta, that has an even or flat surface, the amazing cheese sauce you create won't stick to it and will slip right off of each piece! Your goal is to have a little sauce in every single bite!
Salt your Pasta Water
Unfortunately, so many people do not use enough salt in their pasta water and it makes such a difference in the taste of pasta. I always add a tablespoon of salt to my pasta water, every time I make it. Please try it. I think you will be glad you did.
Timing your Pasta
Always read the information on your box or bag of uncooked noodles to see the recommended timing for al dente pasta. Al dente pasta is generally somewhat chewy and firm.
When making this recipe, or any other baked pasta recipe, you need to cook noodles for 2 to 3 minutes less than al dente.
Remember that the noodles will still cook while in the oven so an undercooked noodle is perfect in this circumstance. If you are preparing noodles that will be served immediately then al dente is the most common way to go.
However, you always have a choice, so have a look at your pasta package, decide which way you prefer your noodles, and prepare them as desired.
When making macaroni and cheese I believe you need to include a blend of cheeses The best macaroni and cheese requires you to combine more than one variety of cheese and don't hesitate to use 3 kinds or more, the more the better!
Usually, I try to always include cheddar and frequently parmesan, but not always. In this recipe, I include Colby or Monterey Jack Cheese with the cheddar and the resulting flavor is absolutely wonderful.
Cheese doesn't need to be expensive to taste great. I urge you to try another kind of cheese, grab a small piece, shred it, include it and see what happens! You might just surprise yourself and come up with a winning cheese combination that you can share with us all!
Grate or Shred the cheese yourself
Cheese that you purchase at the store, already shredded, contains extra ingredients that cause the cheese to taste differently and not melt the same either.
I can't stress enough the importance of you trying this recipe with cheese that you shred yourself at home. One time. Just see if you can see and taste the difference.
Taste it as You Go
While making your cheese sauce I always suggest using the common cheeses first and then throw a little something extra in to mildly switch up the flavor.
Add a little bit of a different kind of cheese to the sauce, then taste it as you go and check if you want to add more or less of something. Also be cautious not to add too much cheese or anything else that could potentially ruin your cheese sauce!
You can always add but you can never take out ingredients, as my grandma used to say! Myself, I go through up to a dozen small spoons while I am tasting as I go so don't be afraid to be like me!
The Perfect Cheese Sauce
The most important part of a great macaroni and cheese recipe is of course the cheese sauce and luckily this easy and versatile cheese sauce is fabulous! We use evaporated milk instead of making a roux, adding milk, and all of the other steps and this sauce couldn't be easier!
In the last few minutes of cooking time, while your pasta or noodles are boiling away, add some fresh or frozen cauliflower, broccoli, peas or beans. All are terrific and taste good in any macaroni and cheese.
Also, chopped spinach, sweet peppers, tomatoes or a drained can of corn can be tossed with the macaroni mixture before going right into your casserole dish, without boiling at all.
For a change, try adding sauteed mushrooms and/or onions to the macaroni and cheese mixture, right before it goes into the oven. Totally delicious!
There are so many meat options that you can include. First, you can chop, dice, and cook bacon until crisp, drain on a paper towel and add it to your macaroni and cheese mixture.
Cook ground sausage, beef, or pork until no longer pink, drain in a colander in your sink until you are ready to add it to your macaroni and cheese mixture.
I love to pan fry or crisp leftover ham, ham steak, pancetta, or Italian ham before adding it to your macaroni and cheese.
You are only limited by your imagination and I urge you to try something different in your macaroni and cheese! I can't wait to hear what you all do differently with your macaroni and cheese in the comment section below!
What can I use to substitute milk in mac and cheese?
If you don't want to use milk in your macaroni, you can use sour cream or even Greek yogurt as an alternative. This will make it creamy and delicious, too!
Can you use water for mac and cheese?
You can but it's going to lose out on flavor and also have a runny consistency to it, too. You can make up for some of the flavor being lost by adding in other ingredients or spices.
How do you thicken macaroni and cheese?
This recipe will already be thick but you can always make it thicker by putting it a tad bit of cornstarch or flour when you're mixing in the other ingredients.
Why is my mac and cheese gritty?
This happens when the cheese separates. You can try and help stop this by removing it from the heat as you're stirring in the cheese.
Ingredients in Jalapeno Ranch Macaroni and Cheese
- your favorite pasta
- evaporated milk
- colby monterey jack cheese
- ranch seasoning
- sour cream
- pepper to taste
How to make Jalapeno cheddar mac and cheese
In a large bowl, mix together noodles, evaporated milk, cheddar, Colby jack, ranch, sour cream, butter, and chopped jalapenos.
Spray a casserole dish with nonstick, and fill with macaroni mixture.
Top with extra cheese and pepper.
Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes or until the top is golden and bubbling.
Remove from oven, let cool, and enjoy!
Fun Ways to Change up the Flavor of this Creamy Macaroni and Cheese
The best thing about making macaroni and cheese from scratch is that you can easily change it up to make it taste different every single time. While there are lots of ingredients that you can add to your mac and cheese, here are some of my favorites:
- Various types of cheese
- Pickled jalapenos
- Ground meat (beef/turkey)
- Slices of pepperoni
- Crushed crackers as toppings
- diced tomatoes
As you can see, there are a lot of different ways to make spicy macaroni and cheese. Have fun with creating your very own special way to make mac & cheese at home!
Other Easy Macaroni and Cheese Recipes to Try
Jalapeno Ranch Macaroni and Cheese
- Prepare your noodles until almost cooked. Drain and set aside.
- In a large bowl, mix together noodles, evaporated milk, cheddar, colby jack, ranch, sour cream, butter, and chopped jalapenos.
- One thing to remember about this step is that you want to make sure your noodle to cheese ratio is properly balanced. Add too much and it’s overwhelming, add too little and it falls flat so for this recipe I am adding roughly three cups of cheese. I love cheddar, but since I wanted this dish to have a little kick I am splitting my cheese portion to result in half triple cheddar and half Pepper Jack.
- Spray a casserole dish with nonstick, and fill with macaroni mixture. Top with extra cheese and pepper.
- Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes or until top is golden and bubbling.
- Remove from oven and allow to sit for 5 minutes.
- Serve and enjoy every bite!
1 cup Kraft Triple Cheddar shreds
1.5 cups Kraft Pepper Jack shreds
½ cup Kraft Ranch Dressing
½ cup half and half
1 tablespoon butter
1 large jalapeno
2 sweet red chili peppers (may substitute for peppers of your choice)
8 oz sweet corn
large, shallow serving dish
The first thing you want to do is cook your noodles to *just* softened. While they are cooking dice your peppers and then combine them with your corn and a small amount of butter in a saute pan. Cook over medium-high heat until the edges are slightly browned and set aside. By now your noodles should be ready, so drain and transfer them over to a large bowl. Add in your ranch and half and half then stir. Once that is thoroughly mixed add in your cheese. One thing to remember about this step is that you want to make sure your noodle to cheese ratio is properly balanced. Add too much and it’s overwhelming, add too little and it falls flat so for this recipe I am adding roughly three cups of cheese. I love cheddar, but since I wanted this dish to have a little kick I am splitting my cheese portion to result in half triple cheddar and half Pepper Jack. I use Kraft shreds because they come in the perfect portion sized bags and using pre-shredded cheese means I’m not wasting time shredding it myself. Next fold in your corn/pepper mix, spread the whole thing evenly into a baking dish, add a light sprinkling of cheese over the top and bake at 350 degrees for around 15ish minutes. When it is ready take it out of the oven, set it aside to cool for a few minutes and serve.