Jalapeño poppers go hand-in-hand with sports, but deep-frying can deter some fans from making the tailgating classic at home. To eliminate the stress, this flavorful version eliminates the messy dredging process and gets baked instead of fried. Oh, and did I mention there's bacon?!
Jalapeño poppers are definitely a decadent treat, but sometimes over-the-top comfort food is just what the doctor ordered. They are perfect game day food, but they are equally good served at a pizza party or poker night, or even as an afternoon snack.
I have made plenty of fried poppers before, but this time around I wanted something easier and less messy, but every bit as tasty. I baked a batch of standard poppers and bacon-wrapped poppers side by side. The bacon not only adds amazing flavor, but it also holds the cheese in place so that it doesn't ooze all over the pan. Leave it to bacon to save the day!
If you're serving these jalapeño poppers at a party, prep them a day in advance, hold them in the fridge, and bake them on aluminum foil for minimal cleanup. Just be sure to serve them with plenty of napkins and a cold one, 'cause these are messy and they can get hot!
Bacon Cheddar Jalapeño Poppers
Makes 24 poppers
large jalapeño peppers
(8-ounce) package cream cheese, at room temperature
sharp cheddar cheese, grated (about 1 cup)
Monterey Jack cheese, grated (about 1 cup)
ground cumin, or more to taste
unsalted butter, melted
thick-cut bacon, cut in half into lengthwise strips
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil.
Slice each jalapeño in half lengthwise. Wearing disposable gloves (see Recipe Note), remove the core of the jalapeño and scrape out all of the seeds with paring knife.
Place the cream cheese, cheddar cheese, monterey jack cheese, cumin, and a pinch of kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the beater attachment. Beat on medium-low speed to combine. (This can also be done by hand.) Generously stuff each pepper with 1 to 2 tablespoons of the cream cheese mixture.
In a small bowl, combine the panko crumbs and melted butter. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle a generous amount of panko mixture over each stuffed pepper.
Wrap a strip of bacon twice around each pepper, allowing a few inches of bacon to hang off each side. (The bacon will shrink as it cooks.) Secure with a toothpick, if necessary, to hold the bacon in place.
At this point, the poppers can be covered and refrigerated until serving, up to three days.
Place the poppers on a sheet pan with the peppers on their backs and the cheesy filling facing up, like bowls. Bake until peppers are tender and the bacon begins to crisp, 20 to 25 minutes. (For darker, very crisp bacon, finish off under the broiler for a minute or two.) Cool the poppers for 10 minutes before serving.
I recommend wearing disposable rubber gloves when slicing and coring the peppers in order to prevent irritation to your mouth or eyes.
(Images: Nealey Dozier)