Macaroni and cheese is really one the ultimate comfort foods. Chipotle in Adobo Macaroni and Cheese is creamy, spicy with a just enough smokiness and heat. Topped off with some buttered, Ancho Chile covered Panko and it becomes a memorable dish. There are so many ways of making Macaroni and Cheese. We love Chipotles in Adobo. You will see them in many of my recipes. I love the smoky flavor they impart without the sharp bite of heat. The heat is just right.
I created this recipe with cheeses that are easily found in most grocery stores. I’m also making suggestions to up your Mac and cheese game at the bottom of the post.
How to Make Chipotle in Adobo Macaroni and Cheese
Most macaroni and cheese starts with a roux. If this is your first time making roux, it’s simply equal parts butter and flour. When finished, this helps to bind cheeses into a creamy sauce that will cling to the macaroni. I admit, this is one of those dishes that has taken much practice where now I’m at a place where it’s second nature. When we were kids, my Mom would make a Mexican version that was a stovetop Mac and cheese. It was macaroni, jack cheese with tomato sauce with minced onions. It had a major cheese pull action because of the jack cheese. She doesn’t make it anymore…I need to ask her about this, as she only made it when were we kids and not later when we were older. She now makes this type of Macaroni and cheese with a roux based sauce.
So many cheeses, so little time
A note about the cheeses used: If you can shred your cheese before making this dish, this is ideal. You can certainly used prepackaged shredded cheese, but freshly shredded cheese has more flavor which will be imparted into the Mac and cheese.
Chipotle in Adobo Macaroni and Cheese – for complete directions, see below for recipe card.
- How to make the roux
Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat.
Once the butter is melted, add flour and whisk until fully combined.
Continue to whisk roux for 1-2 minutes until bubbly and golden.
Add milk gradually and continue to whisk until the flour is completely incorporated.
Cook the roux for about 3 minutes. Add 1/2 tsp of salt and 1/2 tsp of pepper. Continue to whisk so it doesn’t burn. There should be bubbles on the surface and it should be thickened.
- Cheese sauce
Add Colby Jack cheese, extra sharp cheddar and Mozzarella.
Continue to whisk until the cheese is completely melted and the sauce is fully combined. This takes about 5 minutes.
Add minced Chipotle peppers and stir until fully combined.
- Assembling the casserole for baking
Add cooked, well drained macaroni to a buttered, oven safe casserole dish and add cheese sauce.
Stir gently until all the macaroni is covered. Sprinkle the parmesan cheese and then buttered Ancho Chile Panko.
Bake for 20-25 minutes.
How to Step up this Chipotle in Adobo Macaroni and cheese recipe
We love this recipe for it’s flavor, texture and zest. But you can definitely step this recipe up into super star hero status. How you ask? You can substitute one cup of the Colby Jack for a smoked cheese. My local Sprouts has an Apple Smoked Gruyere that is excellent in this Mac and Cheese. Another way to step this up? Top with some great protein like Pulled Pork or sautéed shrimp. The ultimate topping? Lobster! Also, you don’t have to bake this, you can omit the topping and serve it ultra creamy.
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Chipotle in Adobo Macaroni and Cheese
- large skillet or 3 qt sauce pan
- oven safe casserole dish
- 1 lb pasta Cavatappi or elbow
- 2 cups Colby Jack cheese shredded
- 1 cup Mozzarella cheese shredded
- 1 cup Extra sharp cheddar cheese shredded
- 3-4 whole Chipotles in Adobo finely chopped with liquid
- 1/2 cup Panko Japanese breadcrumbs
- 1/2 cup parmesan grated
- 3 tbsp flour all purpose
- 4 tbsp butter 3 tbsp for roux + 1 tbsp for panko
- 1/2 tsp Ancho chile powder
- 2 3/4 cup milk whole, cold
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Cook macaroni/pasta to package directions. Drain well.
- Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat. Once the butter is melted, add flour and whisk until fully combined.Continue to whisk roux for 1-2 minutes until bubbly and golden.
- Add cold milk gradually and continue to whisk. Add 1/2 tsp of salt and 1/2 tsp of pepper. Cook the roux for about 3 minutes. Continue to whisk so it doesn't burn. There should be bubbles on the surface and it should be thickened.
- Add cheese and stir until cheese is fully melted. I like to continue to stir for about 5 minutes until the sauce fully combined and a bit thicker in consistency.
- Place well drained, cooked macaroni/pasta in an buttered oven safe casserole dish and then add cheese sauce.
- Stir gently until the macaroni/pasta is fully covered in cheese sauce.
- Add parmesan cheese on top.
- Melt 1 tbsp of butter in a small pan. Once melted, add panko and stir until completely covered. Sprinkle Ancho Chile powder and mix well.
- Add buttered Ancho chile Panko breadcrumbs to the top of the casserole.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.
Frequently Asked Questions
You can swap Mozzarella and Colby Jack for straight cheddar cheese, however, I suggest using at least one cup of extra sharp cheddar or smoked cheddar or Gruyere.
Yes, just follow the recipe without adding the powdered Chile powder.
Yes. Typically gluten free pasta comes in 12oz packages. You can make the same amount of cheese sauce for gluten free pasta. Gluten free versions tend to absorb liquid so the consistency will be the same as using 16oz of regular pasta, especially after baking it.
You can use chipotle pepper powder. For each whole chipotle en adobo the equivalent powder is 1 tsp. But, I highly recommend the canned Chipotles in Adobo as suggested in the recipe. The taste of the canned vs powder is superior for this recipe.
I freeze the chiles, however, fair warning because they intensify in heat. They can get very hot.
They can also keep in the fridge for 1-2 months in a tightly sealed container. I prefer glass to store them in. Keeping them in fridge does not seem to intensify the heat.
Check out our post on How to store canned leftovers.