Smoked Jalapeno Poppers – A Game Day Favorite

Smoked Jalapeno Poppers – A Game Day Favorite

If you’ve ordered jalapeño poppers from your local sports bar, you’re probably familiar with the typical breaded variety. And while those can be yummy in their own way, they often just taste like chunks of fried cream cheese. I promise you can do so much better at home! With these smoked jalapeño poppers, you’ll really taste the pepper, cheddar, and bits of bacon. And getting rid of the breading means these are keto-friendly, if you (or any of your guests) live the low-carb lifestyle. Make these at your next gameday party, and they’re sure to be a hit!

The Recipe

Prep Time: 40 minutes | Cook Time: 30 minutes | Makes: 20 poppers

Ingredients

  • 5 slices of thick-cut bacon
  • 1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 10 jalapeño peppers
  • 1 teaspoon paprika

Directions

  1. Cook the bacon to your liking (chewy or crispy). Allow it to cool, then chop it into small pieces.
  2. Mix together the bacon, cream cheese, and cheddar cheese in a medium-sized bowl. Set aside.
  3. Slice the jalapeño peppers in half lengthwise, and remove the seeds and ribs with a spoon.
  4. Stuff the jalapeños with the filling, taking care not to overfill them, and lightly sprinkle the paprika on top.
  5. Smoke at 250° F for about 30 minutes. The peppers should soften up, but still have a little bit of crunch, and the filling should turn a nice golden color.
  6. Remove the poppers from your grill/smoker, and allow the filling to cool and set for at least 5 minutes before serving.
several smoked jalapeno poppers on pan

Why Not Wrap the Jalapeños in Bacon?

Maybe you were hoping for these to be wrapped in bacon, rather than having the bacon in the filling. If so, I’m sorry, but allow me to make a case for this method. Doing it this way allows you to make the bacon far crispier – this is my personal preference, and the crunch adds some nice texture. 

If you wrap jalapeños in bacon, the bacon will inevitably end up chewier, especially when you’re smoking at a relatively low temperature. And it can be a balancing act trying to cook the bacon fully without overcooking the pepper inside. While I can admit that bacon-wrapped poppers are more visually impressive, these are definitely more practical.

Notes and Tips

  • If you’re concerned at all about the spice level, don’t be! The seeds are the spiciest part of the pepper, so removing them takes care of most of the heat. Additionally, the cream cheese filling does a great job of neutralizing any remaining spice.
  • Cooking for a large crowd? Consider a rack like this one, which saves real estate by holding the peppers vertically. You will have to cut the top of the peppers off rather than slicing them lengthwise – which means cleaning out the insides isn’t as easy – but you won’t have to make any adjustments to the recipe.
  • I like to cut off the stem (despite what you see in the photos!). While the stems can be nice for presentation, they also tend to burn up and get brittle. Also, these are easier to eat when you don’t have to discard a part of each popper.
  • If you’re juggling multiple dishes for a get-together, you can prepare the filling and even stuff these the night before.

Substitutions and Variations to Consider

You can think of my ingredients as a base recipe. There’s a whole lot more you can do with these! Here are some ideas to consider:

  • Instead of cream cheese, you could use Boursin or any other soft, spreadable cheese. And the same goes for the shredded cheddar in this recipe – help yourself to a different cheese, so long as it melts nicely.
  • Feel free to substitute a different type of meat for the bacon. If you’re feeling fancy, throw in some prosciutto instead of bacon! Just remember that a lot of salt comes from bacon. If you swap it for something that isn’t as salty, be sure to add some salt to make up for it – sprinkling a dry rub on top works great if you have one on hand.
  • Personally, I’ve been wanting to add some caramelized onions to the mix. When I finally get around to it, I’ll update this post and tell you all if it’s as delicious as I’m anticipating. I also think the slight crunch and flavor from chopped fresh greens onions would be delicious.
  • Sweet stuff pairs nicely with pork, especially bacon. Consider incorporating some bits of pineapple in the filling, or thinking up another way to add some sweetness.

What If I Don't Have a Smoker? Can I Still Make These?

If you don’t have a smoker, you can definitely make these in an oven. In fact, missing out on the smoke isn’t as big of a deal with this recipe, since you should still get some smokiness from the bacon.

But remember, it’s really easy to set up a typical charcoal grill for smoking just by essentially banking your coals to one side. If you haven’t tried before, let this be your first time! You can even smoke on a propane grill.

To Sum Up

Next time you need an appetizer, I urge you to give these smoked jalapeno poppers a try. The slight heat from the pepper, cool creaminess from the cream cheese, and bits of salty goodness from the bacon are the perfect combination. They’re also very simple to make, and you can easily put your own spin on this recipe. If you do customize yours, please let me know in the comments how your creation turned out!

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