Jalapeño popper grilled cheese is what dreams are made of

A jalapeño popper, reborn as your new favorite grilled cheese

Published May 5, 2022 11:00AM (EDT)

Prop stylist: Anne Eastman. Food stylist: Yossy Arefi. (Julia Gartland / Food52)
Prop stylist: Anne Eastman. Food stylist: Yossy Arefi. (Julia Gartland / Food52)

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Big Little Recipe has the smallest-possible ingredient list and big everything else: flavor, creativity, wow factor. That means five ingredients or fewer — not including water, salt, black pepper, and certain fats (like oil and butter), since we're guessing you have those covered. Inspired by the column, the Big Little Recipes cookbook is available now.

As someone who loves jalapeños, loves cheese, and does not love football, I reject any implication that jalapeño poppers are a seasonal snack. Super Bowl, sure, but any day of the year is worthy of their crispy-spicy-gooey goodness. Jalapeño poppers are timeless.

And in more ways than one. While some spots in Texas lay claim to the invention and Anchor Food Products even trademarked the name between 1993 and 2004, as Daniela Galarza writes in Eater, "It's clear to me that an American jalapeño popper is a Mexican chile relleno — a pepper stuffed with cheese and cooked." Such a smart combination has been around since long before recipes or trademarks.

This riff takes all the craveability of those contrasts — crunchy meets gooey, spicy meets creamy — and flips it on its head. Instead of stuffing cheese into a pepper, then covering with bread crumbs, we are stuffing peppers and cheese between bread. Which is to say: We are making a grilled cheese sandwich.

Of course, this being Big Little Recipes, we're skipping some ingredients along the way. (Don't worry, you won't miss them.)

Lots of jalapeño popper recipes include more than one cheese, usually cream cheese and cheddar, and even Parmesan has been known to weasel its way into the mix. We're not doing that. Instead, Pepper Jack is melty, punchy, and brings bonus jalapeños to the mix.

Likewise, onion, scallion, and/or chive are all respected but not needed here. An ample amount of jalapeños — two peppers per sandwich — provides more than enough bite.

Many, if not most, jalapeño poppers include bacon. Sometimes wrapped around the chile, sometimes crumbled on top. And if that makes your mouth water, go — find your joy. Bacon is great here, especially since you can use the rendered fat to toast the bread.

But for anyone who doesn't eat meat — or anyone who does, you're welcome, too — the recipe includes a bonus option: barbecue potato chips. Meaty in their own way and delightfully crunchy, these take the sandwich, buckle it up in a rocket ship, and send it to outer space. Look at it go.

Recipe: Jalapeño Popper Grilled Cheese

By Emma Laperruque

MORE FROM Emma Laperruque

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