Appetizers,  Dairy Free,  Recipe,  Sides,  Snacks,  Vegan,  Vegetarian

Fried Jalapeño Popper Macaroni & Cheese Balls

I’m so bad……………………. these are so bad…….

Hey, have I mentioned that our (ha, I say “our” like we own it or something) volcano is still huffing and puffing like the big bad wolf? Well, it is and it’s been almost 4 months since it erupted. Craziness, right? You’d think it would run out of ash but it just keeps up with it’s little stream of gray cloudiness, reminding us it’s still awake and plotting. Of course, we hardly get to see it these days because it’s nearly always covered by a bajillion rain clouds over the lake but, we haven’t forgot it’s there.

We’ve been having fun speculating that it might go off again and trying to find out who can predict it, but I’m pretty sure it’s anyone’s guess. I mean, they didn’t know it was going to erupt in the first place. I was just being reminded of it because today is looking like it will be clear and beautiful and Calbuco is in full view.

Okay, but speaking of things that are explosive and dangerous…….these mac balls are going to knock some socks.

If you’ve ever thought that something I’ve made was outrageous, oh boy, were you wrong. You ain’t seen nothin’ yet! These cheesy pasta bombs top them all. Talk about carb on carb sinfulness! These are basically bread, covered in creamy fat, dipped in more bread, and then fried in more fat. Who wants one!

I had a friendly suggestion recently to make a copycat version of Cheesecake Factory’s fried mac n cheese balls and, even though it’s taken me a while because I clearly have mixed up priorities, I finally got around to doing it. Except, I made them with a twist of spice to liven things up. Are there any jalapeño popper fans in the house?

Hey, isn’t there some scientific explanation for how spice speeds up your metabolism? And in that case doesn’t that make these like negative calorie food or something? You know, like celery, you burn more calories eating it then it contains. Uh huh, so these are totally health food, yep. If you believe that I’ve got a bridge to sell you.

So, okay, maybe that’s a bit too wishful to be for real and these actually aren’t that spicy. I’d say they are perfectly balanced. All the jalapeño flavor that you could want but enough creamy goodness to cool it off and leave you with just enough spice in your mouth to guarantee you’ll go in for another bite. It’s what makes these truly dangerous and that’s why I’m not going to tell you to make these. In fact, do not make these, okay? Now you can’t say I didn’t warn you….

Fried Jalapeño Popper Macaroni & Cheese Balls

Basic macaroni and cheese is already a favorite, but frying it takes it to a whole other level!


  • 16 ounces macaroni noodles
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup unflavored almond milk
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons arrowroot starch or cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons cashew butter
  • 3 tablespoons pumpkin puree
  • 4 ounces vegan "cream cheese" at room temp
  • 1/2 cup coconut cream *see note
  • 1/3 cup nutritional yeast
  • salt & black pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric optional for color
  • 2 tablespoons chopped jalapeños
  • 1 1/2 cups seasoned dry breadcrumbs
  • oil for frying
  • extra salt


  1. Cook the macaroni noodles according to package instructions until al dente. Drain and rinse; set aside.
  2. While water is boiling for pasta noodles make your sauce. In a medium saucepan whisk starch, oil, and milk until completely smooth with no lumps. Increase heat to medium and stir gently until it begins to thicken. Once it starts to thicken add the lemon juice, broth, coconut cream, and cream cheese to pan and stir until smooth.
  3. Reduce heat to low again and add the nutritional yeast, garlic, turmeric, jalapeños, salt, and pepper. When noodles are finished cooking, add them to the sauce and gently mix to coat. Remove pan from heat and cool macaroni for about 30 minutes.
  4. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours and up to overnight, until completely cold. (I did it overnight but if you are in a major hurry you could probably get away with putting it in the freezer for 60 to 90 minutes)
  5. Once the mac is cold, use a large scooper (or hands) to scoop out a ball, then use your hands to compress the noodles together. Dip the ball into breadcrumbs and turn to coat all sides well, then place on a plate or tray and repeat until all of your mac has been rolled and breaded.
  6. Heat about 3 inches of oil in a large skillet or wide pot over medium high heat until it's about 350 degrees F (180 C). Fry a few balls at a time on each side until golden brown then remove with a slotted or wire spoon to a paper towel lined plate. Serve hot with an extra sprinkle of salt!
  7. (Tip: just know that at least one of your balls will probably have a mind of it's own and want to fall apart on you, but if it has been a few minutes from the time you've rolled the balls until you're frying them it helps to re-compress them right before dropping in oil. :D)

Recipe Notes

If you have trouble finding coconut cream at your local grocery store it's completely fine to use full-fat coconut milk and scrape the cream off of the top. Just be sure that it's cold enough to separate.


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