If you love gooey cheese, tender pasta, smoky meat, and earthy poblano peppers, you’re going to flip for this Spicy Green Chile Bacon Mac and Cheese.

Al dente macaroni is tossed with three types of melty cheese, crispy bacon, and a creamy poblano and hatch green chile sauce, topped with a crunchy breadcrumb topping, then baked to cheesy perfection. YUM.

spicy poblano, hatch green chile, and bacon mac and cheese on a black and white dinner plate with a silver fork.

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

When I was a little girl, one of my favorite dishes was my mom’s homemade Mexican mac and cheese. (That recipe is not on this blog, but it is in our first published cookbook.) When she would make it, I would inhale it, and then get seconds and thirds. It was THAT delicious!

After learning how to make espagueti verde, I was inspired to make a fusion of my mom’s Mexican macaroni and cheese and spaghetti verde, but with a spicy kick. This Mexican-inspired pasta dish features a creamy poblano sauce combined with chopped Hatch green chile and smoky bacon (because we all know everything tastes better with bacon!).

crispy bacon draining on paper towels.

Aside from being a fun twist on your run-of-the-mill blue box pasta, this spicy mac and cheese recipe is packed with three different types of cheeses: enchilado cheese (or Muenster), sharp cheddar cheese, and parmesan cheese. It’s also topped with a crunchy-salty combination of breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese for a beautiful golden crust.

In short, this obscenely delicious baked macaroni and cheese is super creamy and cheesy, but not too cheesy, rich and ooey-gooey, and, with the addition of bacon and roasted chile, both spicy and smoky to boot. Best of all, it’s made with simple, easy-to-find ingredients and takes just 20 minutes of active prep to get in the oven!

whole green chiles on a wooden cutting board.

Ingredients & Substitutions

As promised, you only need a few simple ingredients to make this addictively yummy bacon and green chile macaroni and cheese:

  • Bacon – You’re welcome to use either regular or thick-cut bacon, as well as any flavor (e.g. applewood, hickory, or Black Forest) bacon you prefer. You can also swap in cubed pancetta, lighter turkey bacon, or your favorite vegetarian substitute.
  • Poblano Pepper – These mildly flavored dark green peppers are among my favorites. Feel free to substitute banana pepper, cubanelle pepper, or even slightly spicier jalapeño pepper instead.
  • Hatch or Anaheim Chile Peppers – You can either buy pre-roasted peppers in cans or jars, or you can roast your own.
  • Chicken Bouillon Cubes – For salty, savory flavor. Feel free to use powdered chicken bouillon, chicken bouillon paste, or vegetable bouillon instead.
  • White Onion – Red, yellow, or sweet onions will also work.
  • Garlic – Fresh is best, but in a pinch, swap in minced jarred garlic instead. You can also use garlic powder in a pinch!
  • Milk – I typically keep 2% milk in my fridge, but whole, 1% or skim will also work. You’re also welcome to use unflavored, unsweetened plant-based milk like oat or soy if you prefer.
  • Small Elbow Macaroni – Mac and cheese is traditionally made with macaroni, but feel free to swap in the short pasta shape of your choice.
  • Butter – I used salted butter, but you’re welcome to use unsalted. You can also use plant-based butter if needed.
  • Enchilado Cheese – Also known as añejo cheese, this mild and melty Mexican cheese’s name means “flavored with chile,” and is often rolled in smoked paprika for an added layer of flavor. You’re welcome to use Muenster instead.
  • Sharp Cheddar Cheese – I love the tang of sharp cheddar in this spicy mac and cheese, but you can also use medium or mild cheddar instead.
  • Parmesan Cheese – Perfect for adding a salty, umami, almost nutty flavor to the cheese sauce. You can also use any other hard-aged cheese like asiago, pecorino romano, or grana padano.
  • Bread Crumbs – Feel free to use store-bought or homemade breadcrumbs, or use flaky panko-style breadcrumbs instead. You can also swap in your favorite gluten-free version, or use crushed pork rinds if you like.

How To Make Spicy Bacon & Green Chile Mac and Cheese

This tasty poblano mac and cheese comes together with just 20 minutes of active time in the kitchen. Here’s how:

Step 1: Roast Chiles. Peel the blackened skins off the chiles, and then remove stems and seeds. Chop the Hatch chiles and set them aside. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

halved poblano with the seeds being removed.

Step 2: Make Poblano Cream Sauce. Place roasted poblano in a blender along with 1 bouillon cube, 1/4 of the onion, 1 garlic clove, and milk. Purée the mixture until smooth.

Step 3: Boil Pasta. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 1 bouillon cube, half of the onion, and 1 garlic clove. Cook the pasta according to the box directions. When done, drain pasta in a colander and rinse with cold water and discard onion and garlic.

cooked and drained elbow macaroni.

Step 4: Sauté Onions. Meanwhile, add butter to a large oven-safe skillet set over medium heat. When it foams, add the remaining onion (finely diced) and sauté until translucent for about 2 minutes, and then pour in the creamy sauce mixture. Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring it occasionally.

Step 5: Assemble Mac & Cheese. Add the drained pasta to the skillet with the poblano cream sauce, enchilado and cheddar cheeses, chopped Hatch chile, and bacon, and gently combine for about 2 minutes until the cheese melts.

Step 6: Make Breadcrumb Topping. In a small bowl combine parmesan cheese with bread crumbs. Sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture on top of the macaroni and cheese.

Step 7: Bake. Transfer skillet to oven and bake until browned and bubbly, about 20 to 25 minutes. Allow to cool for a few minutes, then serve and enjoy!

overhead shot of a cast iron skillet filled with green chile and bacon macaroni and cheese casserole.

Optional Variations

While I love this spicy bacon mac and cheese recipe just the way it’s written, there is plenty of room for you to make adjustments to make it work for your dietary preferences. Here are a few variations to consider:

  • Dairy-Free – Swap in your favorite unsweetened, unflavored plant-based milk, vegan cheese, and vegan butter.
  • Vegan – Follow the instructions to make it dairy-free, plus use your favorite vegan bacon substitute.
  • Gluten-Free – Swap in your favorite short GF pasta shape.
  • Pork-Free – Feel free to use either turkey bacon or chopped grilled chicken as a pork substitute. You can also use your favorite vegetarian meat substitute.
  • Jalapeño Bacon Mac and Cheese – Use slightly spicier jalapeño peppers in place of the poblano.
sideways shot of steam coming off a dinner plate of spicy green chile bacon mac and cheese with the skillet of baked macaroni in the background.

Expert Tips

  • Grate Your Own Cheese. While it’s tempting to save time by buying pre-grated cheese, resist the urge. The manufacturers add a weird, starchy substance to the bags to keep the individual shreds from glomming back together into a cheesy blob, which prevents it from melting properly.
  • Remove The Seeds & Membranes To Make It Less Spicy. Most of the capsaicin (the compound that makes chiles taste spicy) is based in the seeds and membranes. Remove them to make this hatch chile mac and cheese a little less fiery.
  • Season Your Pasta Water. At the very least, you should always add salt to your pasta water since it’s the only opportunity you’ll get to season the noodles themselves. Here I swap in bouillon for the salt, plus add garlic and onion to the water for an added hit of flavor.
  • Don’t Overcook The Pasta. Refer to the package directions and err on the side of cooking just the minimum amount, as the heat from the oven and the liquid from the sauce will continue to cook the pasta in the oven.
  • Make-Ahead For A Weeknight Win. Feel free to assemble the macaroni and cheese casserole up through step 5, then cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months. When you’re ready to serve, allow it to defrost overnight in the fridge if frozen, then mix up the breadcrumb topping and sprinkle it over the top, and bake as instructed until bubbly and delicious.
overhead shot of a black and white dinner plate of spicy bacon mac and cheese next to the larger cast iron skillet filled with baked macaroni casserole.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should you cover macaroni and cheese in the oven while you’re baking it?

I generally recommend letting it bake uncovered so the breadcrumb topping can get golden and crispy. If the breadcrumbs are darkening too quickly, loosely tent the casserole with foil so they don’t end up getting soggy.

What happens if you use heavy cream or half-n-half instead of milk in the mac and cheese sauce?

It will add extra fat and calories, which is decadent, but not a bad thing. Just note that the nutrition facts will change pretty dramatically since the ones listed below are based on regular milk.

What should I serve with hatch chile macaroni and cheese?

I think that it works well as a standalone dish, but feel free to pair it with a side salad or some crusty bread if you like!

More Mexican-Inspired Pasta Recipes

Spicy Green Chile Bacon Mac and Cheese

5 (2 ratings)
If you love gooey cheese, tender pasta, smoky meat, and earthy poblano peppers, you're going to flip for my Spicy Green Chile Bacon Mac and Cheese. Al dente macaroni is tossed with three types of melty cheese, crispy bacon, and a creamy poblano and hatch green chile sauce, topped with a crunchy breadcrumb topping, then baked to cheesy perfection. YUM.

Ingredients

  • 8 slices bacon, cooked and chopped
  • 1 poblano pepper
  • 3 to 4 Hatch or Anaheim chile peppers
  • chicken bouillon cubes, divided
  • 1 large white onion, quartered and divided
  • 2 garlic cloves, divided
  • 1 cup milk
  • 16 ounces small elbow macaroni
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 ½ cups enchilado cheese, or Muenster
  • 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Topping:

  • ½ cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • ½ cup bread crumbs

Instructions 

  • Turn the broiler to high. Set poblano and Hatch chiles on a baking sheet, and then place the sheet underneath the broiler. Cook, flipping the chiles occasionally with a pair of tongs, until blackened on all sides. Turn off the broiler, and transfer chiles to a plastic bag. Let steam for five to ten minutes. Peel the blackened skins off the chiles, and then remove stems and seeds. Chop the Hatch chiles and set aside.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Place roasted poblano in a blender along with 1 bouillon cube, 1/4 of the onion, 1 garlic clove, and milk. Puree mixture until smooth.
  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 1 bouillon cube, half of the onion, and 1 garlic clove. Cook the pasta according to the box directions. When done, drain pasta in a colander and rinse with cold water and discard onion and garlic.
  • Meanwhile, add butter to a large oven-safe skillet set over medium heat. When it foams, add remaining onion (finely diced) and sauté until truculent for about 2 minutes and then pour in the creamy sauce mixture. Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring it occasionally.
  • Add the pasta to the pot and add enchilada cheese, cheddar cheese, chopped Hatch chile, bacon, and gently combine for about 2 minutes until cheese melts.
  • In a small bowl combine parmesan cheese with bread crumbs.
  • Sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture on top of the macaroni and cheese.
  • Transfer skillet to oven and bake until browned and bubbly, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Notes

Expert Tips:
  • Grate Your Own Cheese. While it’s tempting to save time by buying pre-grated cheese, resist the urge. The manufacturers add a weird, starchy substance to the bags to keep the individual shreds from glomming back together into a cheesy blob, which prevents it from melting properly.
  • Remove The Seeds & Membranes To Make It Less Spicy. Most of the capsaicin (the compound that makes chiles taste spicy) is based in the seeds and membranes. Remove them to make this hatch chile mac and cheese a little less fiery.
  • Season Your Pasta Water. At the very least, you should always add salt to your pasta water since it’s the only opportunity you’ll get to season the noodles themselves. Here I swap in bouillon for the salt, plus add garlic and onion to the water for an added hit of flavor.
  • Don’t Overcook The Pasta. Refer to the package directions and err on the side of cooking just the minimum amount, as the heat from the oven and the liquid from the sauce will continue to cook the pasta in the oven.
  • Make-Ahead For A Weeknight Win. Feel free to assemble the macaroni and cheese casserole up through step 5, then cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months. When you’re ready to serve, allow it to defrost overnight in the fridge if frozen, then mix up the breadcrumb topping and sprinkle it over the top, and bake as instructed until bubbly and delicious.
Calories: 817kcal, Carbohydrates: 71g, Protein: 36g, Fat: 43g, Saturated Fat: 23g, Cholesterol: 109mg, Sodium: 1253mg, Potassium: 432mg, Fiber: 4g, Sugar: 7g, Vitamin A: 992IU, Vitamin C: 20mg, Calcium: 663mg, Iron: 2mg

Photography by Jenna Sparks
Originally published: October 2018.