In my parents’ home and Michael’s parents’ home, the Christmas Eve tradition is to eat appetizers for dinner. There’s usually quite a spread and everything is delicious. It’s perfect, and is minimal fuss and effort.
It’s our favorite meal of the year, hands down–more than Thanksgiving, birthdays, Easter, or any other holiday. For the past few years, we’ve brought something new to my parents’ Christmas Eve feast. Last year, it was Chinese chicken wings; this year, we decided to go for homemade jalapeno poppers.
I. Love. Jalapeno. Poppers. I’ve never met one I didn’t like. Really. But the idea of making my own seemed right up my alley.
For some reason, I absolutely love making things at home that you can buy pre-made or in mixes at the store–bread, salad dressing, chicken broth, brownies, ravioli–I just love it. I like trying to mimic the flavors and textures I like of convenience food but without the preservatives and additives. Yes, it’s a little more work, but the results rarely disappoint.
This was our first time making jalapeno poppers at home and we actually tried three different versions for the taste test. I’m giving you our favorite, which included pineapple and barbeque sauce. If you’re not a pineapple fan, you have my condolences and you can feel welcome to leave it out without ruining anything. Ditto for barbeque sauce, though I will warn you, they won’t brown as nicely without barbeque sauce.
A FEW NOTES ON THE RECIPE:
1. PLEASE NOTE: it is really important to protect your hands when working with jalapenos or any other spicy pepper. The capsacin oil in hot peppers easily gets onto your skin and hangs out for a while, which increases the likelihood of skin irritation and a wicked burning feeling should you accidentally scratch your eye, nose, or mouth. I use plastic gloves, but you can even use plastic bags over your hands.
2. If you are concerned about the heat of the jalapenos, you can blanch them in boiling water for a few minutes before filling them. This will leach out some of the heat.
3. You can bake these halfway and either freeze them or refrigerate them until you’re ready to eat them. If you’ve baked them halfway, you can finish cooking them through by baking them at 400 degrees for about 15-20 minutes.
4. FYI: the pictures are shown of the batch without pineapple, so you’ll have to imagine the pineapple on there. Sorry!
- 18 jalapenos, halved lengthwise, seeds and ribs removed
- 12oz cream cheese, softened (1 1/2 8oz packages)
- 3/4c cheddar cheese, grated
- 3–4 green onions, sliced
- 1 small can pineapple tidbits, optional
- 18 pieces of bacon, halved*
- your favorite barbeque sauce*
- Working with gloved or protected hands, arrange jalapeno halves on a large baking sheet covered with foil or parchment paper. In a medium bowl, combine cream cheese, cheddar cheese, and green onion until very well mixed and smoothed.
- Working with gloved or protected hands, fill jalapeno halves with cream cheese mixture. You can do this with a spatula, small spoon, or even by pinching off little balls of the mixture with your gloved hands and pressing the mixture into the jalapenos.
- If using pineapple, press a few tidbits into the surface of the cream cheese mixture in each jalapeno–I liked putting them in a line all across the surface.
- Wrap each popper with half a slice of bacon, securing the bacon with a toothpick.
- Brush poppers with barbeque sauce thinned with a little water for spreadability.
- Bake at 275 for 1 hour or until browned well.
*For gluten-free: double-check that your brands are gf. Hormel Natural uncured & Applegate Farms are gf, as are Sweet Baby Ray’s bbq sauce.
adapted from The Pioneer Woman cookbook