Big Little Recipes

Jalapeño Popper Grilled Cheese Is What Dreams Are Made Of

This Big Little Recipe is crispy, melty, perfect.

April  5, 2022

A 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.

Shop the Story

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.

Order now

Put down those long grocery lists. Inspired by the award-winning column, our Big Little Recipes cookbook is minimalism at its best: few ingredients, tons of flavor.

Order now

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • mitchhellman
  • Jenny
  • EdgedInBlue
  • Robinkennedy88
  • Dave Young
    Dave Young
Emma was the food editor at Food52. She created the award-winning column, Big Little Recipes, and turned it into a cookbook in 2021. These days, she's a senior editor at Bon Appétit, leading digital cooking coverage. Say hello on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.


mitchhellman May 5, 2022
Here in Silver City, NM jalapeños are for those who can't handle the truth: green chiles from nearby Hatch, NM are what you didn't know you needed. A local bar in town serves what is known as a "Big Kid Grilled Cheese"-- either cheddar or Swiss cheese grilled on either rye or sourdough bread, with strips of bacon and a generous shmear of chopped Hatch chiles. Accept no substitutes!
Jenny April 10, 2022
I was out of bacon, and don't eat chips, so I use some turkey pepperoni slices! Yum.
EdgedInBlue April 7, 2022
Added a schmear of cream cheese with finely chopped sweet red pepper on the bread, for a more "popper" taste, eliminated bacon (veggiesaurus), and LOVED the chips (used sour cream).
My idea of hot heaven!
Robinkennedy88 April 6, 2022
If skipping the bacon I'd probably add a slice of smoked gouda. Between that and the salty chips, it'd probably make up for it. I'd keep the bacon though personally.
Dave Y. April 6, 2022
Heck.. I'd go with both.! Why not go all the way.!! I've got to try this.!
Andrea F. April 5, 2022
Haven’t tried it but the chips would save a step and time so they could be the winner😊
Teena April 5, 2022
hankgoodman April 5, 2022
I've been skeptical of your recipes, but have followed them. I'm 73 and I'm a fan after this one. I spent some time in Colombia and enjoy potato chips on hot dogs and sandwiches.
Lynn R. April 5, 2022