This post is sponsored by Cache Valley Creamery. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Baked mac and cheese bites are a fun appetizer or side dish. These tasty bites are made with spicy mac and cheese with jalapeno and baked in the oven with crispy golden breadcrumbs!
They make the perfect finger food for game day and can also be used as the ultimate comfort food side dish for your next party.
🧀 Ingredient notes
- Cheese - A mixture of Cache Valley® Sharp Cheddar cheese and Pepper Jack cheese gives this easy mac and cheese recipe a savory, spicy kick. I highly recommend grating your own cheese instead of using pre-grated cheese for a more creamy sauce.
- Breadcrumbs - Panko breadcrumbs are a Japanese-style breadcrumb that is lighter and makes for a crispier topping. Use regular breadcrumbs, if needed.
📋 Substitutions and variations
- Mac & Cheese - Use leftover macaroni and cheese and top with the bread crumb topping. Bake as directed.
- Larger Portions - Bake the mac and cheese bites in a regular-sized muffin tin for bigger portions.
- Baked - Instead of bites, bake the mac and cheese in a greased 8x8 baking dish with the bread crumb topping. Bake as directed.
- Non-spicy - Replace the Cache Valley® Pepper Jack cheese with Sharp Cheddar cheese, Monterey Jack, or Regular Cheddar and omit the jalapeno.
- Dairy-free - Use a dairy-free substitute for the butter, milk, and cheese.
- Gluten-free - Use gluten-free pasta, gluten-free flour substitute, and gluten-free panko bread crumbs.
🔪 Step by step instructions
First, cook pasta in boiling salted water for 2 minutes less than the package instructions, and then drain and set aside.
While the pasta is cooking, you can make the cheese sauce. Melt the Cache Valley® salted butter over medium heat in a large skillet and saute the onions and jalapenos until they start to soften.
Stir in the flour for 1-2 minutes until it is absorbed and then slowly whisk in the milk. Whisk for a couple of minutes until it starts to thicken and then take off the heat.
In a small bowl, combine the melted Cache Valley® salted butter and the breadcrumbs, along with the salt, black pepper, and garlic powder, and mix until combined.
In a large bowl, mix together the cooked pasta with the cheese sauce and beaten egg.
Evenly divide the macaroni mixture into a greased mini muffin tin and then sprinkle the panko mixture on top. Bake the mac and cheese bites until crispy and golden brown on top.
If you ever don't recognize a tool or skill that I mention, be sure to look it up in our Glossary of Cooking Terms and Definitions for more information.
⭐ Expert tips
- Make sure to whisk the milk slowly and add the cheese off of the heat. This will make sure the sauce has the best texture and isn't lumpy.
- Generously grease the mini muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray to prevent the bites from sticking.
- Bake the mini macaroni bites until they are just golden brown so they don't dry out.
- For best results, let the baked bites cool for 5-10 minutes before trying to remove them from the muffin tin.
⏲️ Make ahead and storage instructions
Make the homemade macaroni and cheese mixture up to two days ahead of time. Cool completely and store it covered in the refrigerator until you are ready to assemble the bites.
Assemble the mac and cheese bites up until baking time and store them covered in plastic wrap in the refrigerator up to 2 days ahead of time. Take them out of the refrigerator while the oven preheats and bake as directed. They may take a few minutes longer to cook.
Leftover mac n cheese bites will keep for 3-5 days in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Reheat in a microwave or toast them up under the broiler in the oven or in the air fryer until heated through.
🍔 More appetizer recipes
If you loved these baked mac and cheese bites, you are sure to love these other delicious appetizer recipes too!
- Roast Beef Sliders
- Spinach Ricotta Stuffed Mushrooms
- Parmesan Bread Bites with Marinara
- Buffalo Chicken Dip
Easy Baked Mac and Cheese Bites Recipe
Mac and Cheese
- 8 ounces elbow macaroni
- 2 Tablespoons Cache Valley® salted butter
- ¼ medium yellow onion diced
- ½ medium jalapeno diced
- 2 Tablespoons all purpose flour
- 1 ¼ cups whole milk
- 4 ounces Cache Valley® Sharp Cheddar cheese shredded, approximately 1 cup
- 2 ounces Cache Valley® Pepper Jack cheese shredded, approximately ½ cup
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 large egg beaten
- Preheat the oven to 400˚ and generously grease a mini muffin tin with butter or non stick cooking spray.
- Cook the elbow macaroni in a large pot of boiling salted water over medium-high heat for 2 minutes less than the package instructions. Drain and set aside.
- While the pasta is cooking, heat a saucepan over medium heat on the stovetop with the Cache Valley® salted butter.
- Once the butter is melted, add the onions and jalapeno and saute for 2-3 minutes until they start to soften.
- Sprinkle the flour evenly over the onions and jalapeno and cook for 1-2 minutes until the flour is absorbed.
- Slowly pour in the milk, while whisking continuously until it is all combined. Continue to simmer the mixture while whisking for 1-2 minutes until it starts to thicken.
- In a small bowl, combine the bread crumbs, melted Cache Valley® salted butter, garlic powder, and paprika for the topping and stir until well combined.
- Mix the beaten egg into the macaroni and cheese and then evenly distribute it into the prepared mini muffin tin.
- Evenly distribute the bread crumb topping over the macaroni and cheese and bake in the preheated oven for 10-15 minutes until lightly browned.
- Let the mac and cheese bites cool for about 5-10 minutes before serving.
- Mac & Cheese - Use leftover macaroni and cheese instead and top with the bread crumb topping. Bake as directed.
- Larger Portions - Use a regular-sized muffin tin.
- Baked - Bake mac and cheese in a greased 8x8 square baking dish with the bread crumb topping until crispy and golden brown.
- Non-spicy - Replace the pepper jack with sharp cheddar and omit the jalapeno.
- Dairy-free - Use dairy-free substitutes for butter, milk, and cheese.
- Gluten-free - Use gluten-free pasta and a gluten-free flour substitute.
- Make Ahead - Make the mac and cheese mixture up to two days ahead of time and store covered in the refrigerator until assembly and baking time. Bites can be fully assembled and stored covered in plastic wrap in the refrigerator up to two days ahead of time. Take them out of the refrigerator while the oven preheats and bake as directed.
- Leftovers - Keep leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-5 days. Reheat in the microwave, under the broiler in the oven, or in an air fryer.