Jalapeño Poppers with Bacon (Low Carb Recipe)

Some people think Cinco de Mayo is just Mexico's version of the 4th of July. The truth is the day--which actually commemorates Mexico's win in a minor battle against the French--is barely acknowledged south of the Rio Grande!

It's here in the US where Cinco de Mayo has become a holiday, and an opportunity to celebrate Mexican heritage (and food!).

All that to say that I feel entirely justified sharing these not-in-the-least-bit Mexican jalapeño poppers with you today.

Totally American and perhaps even just a little bit cheesy (both literally and figuratively!), they're still a great party food and will go perfectly with your favorite margarita (yet another slightly-Mexican thing that became bigger than the original when it hit the US--we just really like to run with things here).

I've made jalapeño poppers before, but these are my low-carb version, and I actually like them even better! I've gotten rid of the breading and the frying, and instead split the peppers in half, stuff them with a seasoned cheese mixture and top them off with bits of bacon. I bake them in the oven until the peppers are roasted and the bacon is crisp.  This way you get the flavorful crunch, without the fuss of frying (or the carbs!).

Like all my entertaining recipes, these can be prepared several hours in advance and kept in the fridge until your guests arrive, and then simply baked for about 20 minutes. MUCH better than the high-maintenance fried recipes, which require you to hover over a fryer or pot of hot oil.

When you make these, I recommend that you either wear latex gloves OR coat your hands with some vegetable or olive oil before you start working with the peppers in order to keep from burning yourself with the natural oils of the pepper. And wash your hands well when you finish!

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Low-Carb Jalapeño Poppers
Makes 24 poppers

1 8-oz package full-fat cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon smoked Spanish paprika
12 jalapeño peppers
4 strips thick-cut bacon (preferably nitrate free), cut into 1/4" pieces

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Whisk together the softened cream cheese and smoked paprika until smooth and evenly combined.

Cut each pepper in half lengthwise, and use a spoon to scoop out the center veins and seeds. Discard the seeds.

Fill the cavity in each jalapeño pepper half with a teaspoon or two of the cheese mixture and place cheese side-up on a baking sheet. Top each pepper with 3 or 4 pieces of the cut bacon.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the bacon is crisp and the jalapeño peppers are fully roasted. Let cool 5 minutes before serving.

Tip: To protect your skin from the natural oils in the jalapeño pepper, which can burn or irritate, rub your hands with a tablespoon olive or vegetable oil as you would hand lotion before you begin working with the peppers.

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