Hatch Chile Mac and Cheese

Hatch Chile Mac and Cheese trader joe's copycat recipe

Aside from Trader Joe’s Soup Dumplings (while using my favorite hack – check out the video here!), their Hatch Chile Mac and Cheese is one of my all-time favorite things. It’s actually hard to believe that it’s a frozen item judging by how delicious it is. I’ve always wanted to create a homemade version and finally did. This is my copycat version of the Trader Joe’s Hatch Chile Mac and Cheese!

Although it takes a litttttle bit more time and effort to make than just popping something into the microwave, it’s well worth it! Here’s a video of how I put the Hatch Chile Mac and Cheese together and the full recipe is written out below. It’s much more elevated than the Trader Joe’s version yet still simple to make. Hope you love it as much as I do! For another delicious dish, check out this Creamy Mac & Cheese With Crispy Parmesan Topping recipe.

A few important tips before you start:

1. Whatever you do, please do not use pre-shredded cheese for this! You will never achieve the same silky and creamy consistency with it. I know it can be a pain but take the time to grate your own cheese – I promise it will make all the difference! Unfortunately, there can be a lot of additives and binders in pre-shredded cheese that affect the texture. My favorite hack is to use my favorite food processor for this – it’s done in seconds.

2. Just keep whisking! This is the name of the game for a smooth cheese sauce that doesn’t break on you! I like to look at it as a mini arm workout.

3. Microwave your milk and heavy cream before adding to the sauce. It doesn’t have to be super hot, just warm enough to ensure it combines into the sauce seamlessly. I would recommend heating up in a microwave safe measuring cup for one to one and a half minutes prior to incorporating.

4. You can TOTALLY sub a 4 oz. can of hatch chiles instead of roasting your own. It will save a ton of time and taste delicious. I prefer to roast them if time allows, but both methods work.

5. If you prefer to skip the Panko mixture, skip it! I personally love the crispy and crunchy texture it provides but it’s not necessary. Base it on your preferences and make it your own!

What You'll Need:

+ 1 lb box cavatappi pasta

+ 2 cups whole milk (heated up in microwave)

+ 2 cups heavy cream (heated up in microwave)

+ 1/2 cup unsalted butter (divided – melt 1/4 cup of it)

+ 1/4 cup all purpose flour

+ ½ tsp. onion powder

+ 1 tsp garlic powder

+ 1/2 tsp. paprika

+ 2 1/2 cups medium cheddar cheese – shredded (reserve 1 cup)

+ 1 1/2 cups monterey jack cheese – shredded

+ 4-6 whole hatch chiles – roasted

+ 2 1/2 tsp Trader Joe’s dried hatch chile flakes or crushed red pepper flakes (adjust based on spice preference)

+ 1 cup panko bread crumbs

+ Salt and pepper to taste (season generously and taste as you go)

+ ¼ cup reserved pasta water (optional)


1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9×13 baking pan with butter and set aside.

2. Cook cavatappi pasta in heavily salted boiling water until al dente. Drain and set aside.

3. Roast the hatch chiles over an open flame on a gas stove for approximately 2-3 minutes on each side until charred. You can also broil in the oven on the top rack, checking every 5 minutes (or 450 degrees and as close to the heating component as you can, checking every 5 mins to make sure the peppers are charring.) You want them to be roasted but not all the way. Place chiles in a bowl and allow to cool. Once cooled, use hands or a knife to scrape off any skin and deseed the peppers. Cut into strips and then dice.

4. Combine whole milk and heavy cream in a microwave safe measuring cup and heat up. To make the roux, melt 1/4 cup of butter in a large dutch oven over medium heat. Once butter is just starting to foam sprinkle in the 1/4 cup flour while whisking. Whisk the roux constantly to ensure there are no lumps. Cook for 2 minutes.

5. Slowly pour in the milk mixture while whisking constantly. Bring to a simmer, stirring every few minutes to ensure the milk does not burn. Simmer while whisking often for approximately 8-10 minutes.

6. Reduce the heat to low and continue to whisk every couple of minutes so it does not stick and burn. Add in garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, salt, pepper, 2 tsp. crushed red chile flakes (or hatch chile flakes from Trader Joe’s – adjust based on spice preference), 1 ½ cups of cheddar cheese and 1 ½ cups of Monterey Jack and whisk until the cheese is completely melted. Taste for seasoning and add pasta water if desired/needed based on consistency – this is personal preference! Turn the heat off.

7. Mix the al dente cavatappi pasta into the cheese sauce and stir to combine. Pour mixture into the buttered baking pan. Set aside.

8. In a bowl, combine Panko, 1/4 cup melted butter, salt, pepper and 1/2 tsp. crushed red chile flakes or hatch chile flakes.

9. Top the mac and cheese with the reserved 1 cup of cheddar cheese and panko bread crumb mixture.

10. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes, or until the cheese on top is melted and the bread crumbs are golden brown. I personally like to broil for 1-3 minutes to get it extra crispy and golden! Serve it up and enjoy!

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