Chipotle Mac and Cheese

There are weeks when I feel like my brain is working in overtime.  Last week was one of those weeks.  I wasn’t feeling 100% for most of the week and by Friday, I was kaput.  Done.  Fried.  I worked only in the morning, had a doctor’s appointment and came home early ahead of the snow that started building during my afternoon nap (which felt wonderful by the way).  And since it was snowing so heavily, I nixed my weekly Friday evening grocery store trip which left me scrambling for ideas of what to make for dinner.  I wanted something warm and comforting, especially considering the convergence of the weather and my rough week.  I wanted mac and cheese.

Chipotle Mac and Cheese

But I had no ordinary mac and cheese in mind.  I had some smokey chipotle cheddar cheese leftover from book club the previous night and was dying to use it up.  I also had a small can of chipotles in adobo in my pantry that was screaming to be used…and hence the idea of this chipotle mac and cheese was born.  Probably not to my despair, we were out of milk but I certainly had plenty of heavy cream and half-and-half!  Holy cow – mac and cheese made with heavy cream and half-and-half? Yes, please!!  I rarely use anything other than skim milk for mac and cheese so this dish turned out to be such a treat.  It was creamier than I could have imagined, oooey-gooey from all three types of cheese, and had just enough smokey heat to boost my mood and warm me up for the rest of that cold, snowy night.  Kyle and I both loved this mac and cheese so much that we’ve been fighting for the leftovers for lunches this weekend.  Luckily, the recipe makes almost enough to feed an army so there will plenty to go around your table too!

Is Stove Top Mac and Cheese More Your Thing?

Then you must try my homemade Panera Bread mac and cheese recipe! It’s amazing!!


Chipotle Mac and Cheese
source: Smells Like Home original

3 cups elbow macaroni, cooked and drained
6 tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 cup flour
1 tsp Kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
2 1/2 cups milk (any kind), half-n-half, or heavy cream, or a combination of any of these
2 – 4 tbsp (adjust to your taste) roughly chopped chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
2 tsp adobo sauce
1/4 cup cilantro, roughly chopped, plus extra for garnish
8 oz mozzarella cheese, divided
4 oz chipotle cheddar cheese (Recommended: Cabot) or pepper Jack, divided
4 oz sharp cheddar cheese, divided
Up to 1/2 cup reserved pasta water, as needed
1/2 cup Japanese panko breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9×13 inch baking dish.  Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling water for 7 minutes. Reserve about 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid before draining.

Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat.  Stir in flour until the two become a smooth mixture.  Cook for 1 1/2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in salt, pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder. Slowly whisk in milk, making sure there are no lumps in the mixture.  Add chipotle peppers, adobo sauce, and cilantro to the milk mixture and stir to combine. Bring the heat up to medium-high and continue to stir frequently until the mixture thickens (it should coat the back of a spoon) and begins to simmer.  Allow the mixture to simmer for 2 minutes and remove from the heat.  Slowly stir in most of the mozzarella, chipotle cheddar, and sharp cheddar cheeses, reserving some to sprinkle on top before baking.  The cheeses should melt into the milk mixture and become slightly stringy.  If the mixture starts to become a mass of cheese, add in some of the hot pasta water to help thin it out.

Pour the drained pasta into a large bowl (or the pot you cooked it in) and stir in milk-cheese mixture so that it completely coats all of the pasta.  Transfer the pasta to the baking dish.  Sprinkle with remaining cheese and Japanese panko breadcrumbs.  Bake uncovered for 20 – 25 minutes or until the sides begin to bubble and top is nicely browned.  Allow the mac and cheese to set for 5 minutes and garnish with extra cilantro (if desired) before serving.


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Leave a Comment

  • January 11, 2011 at 7:34 AM

    What a GREAT TWIST on a classic! This is something I would love, and so would my bookmark. You are a genius.

  • January 11, 2011 at 8:43 AM

    This looks so incredibly delicious! It’s not even 9am, and I could eat a plate of that right now.

  • January 11, 2011 at 9:08 AM

    Oh oh…..chipotle in mac and cheese….love it! This looks so tasty.

  • January 11, 2011 at 9:39 AM

    I always crave mac n cheese when I am having a rough week (or day)! This version looks like a terrific change of pace.

  • January 11, 2011 at 10:39 AM

    I only recently became a mac n cheese fan, but this version with the chipotle , multiple cheses and rich creams sounds like a winner to me.

  • January 11, 2011 at 11:06 AM

    OH. MY. GRACIOUS! I want this mac ‘n cheese NOW! What a wonderful twist and bold flavors…I can’t wait to try it!

  • January 11, 2011 at 12:13 PM

    Love this! I already put hot sauce on mac and cheese so this would be right up my alley!

  • January 11, 2011 at 12:55 PM

    OMG this is sooo right up my ally! I can already tell it would be a smashing hit in our house – great pictures, too, Tara!

  • January 11, 2011 at 1:18 PM

    This sounds and looks amazing. Thanks for sharing!

  • January 12, 2011 at 11:45 AM

    What a fabulous idea for a twist on mac & cheese! I’m a sucker for anything chipotle flavored!

  • January 12, 2011 at 6:59 PM

    My husband would LOVE this! We’re big fans of chipotle peppers in our house. I can’t wait to try this recipe. Thank you for posting it, and thanks from the farm families who own Cabot for your support!

  • January 12, 2011 at 8:54 PM

    Ooo, I love mac and cheese and love this spicy twist!

  • January 12, 2011 at 9:28 PM

    I love adding hot sauce to my mac and cheese, but never tell anyone because I thought it was kinda weird. CLEARLY, I was wrong 😀 Thanks for sharing!

  • January 12, 2011 at 10:09 PM

    I love it when something new and delicious comes out of a need to use up other ingredients. I’d say this was a success and I don’t blame you for fighting over the leftovers. 🙂

  • Lauren
    February 5, 2011 at 2:10 PM

    I made this recipe the other night for my boyfriend and I and we LOVED it! It had just the right creaminess and the chipotle gives it a great kick! I used 1 cup heavy cream and 1.5 cups whole milk. It was a real treat! Thank you for posting this!

  • Ellen
    March 28, 2011 at 11:02 AM


    This is the new family/friend favorite!!! I have made it almost every weekend since the beginning of March. Spicy but not overwhelming and just feel good food.


  • Lori Connors
    May 6, 2013 at 2:07 PM

    I have had this bookmarked forever and just got around to making it. All I can say is YUMMY!