This Quintessential Appetizer Should Be on Your Game Day Menu

BY Renae Wilson, TIMEJanuary 31, 2023 PRINT

Whether you’re watching the Super Bowl or just having a movie night, jalapeño poppers deserve a place in your appetizer spread. You can make them ahead of time and heat them in the air fryer as needed. That means you can have a never-ending parade of hot, spicy, gooey goodness.

Once you’ve hollowed out, filled, and topped your jalapeño poppers, they can go directly into the air fryer for around 10 minutes, depending on your air fryer. If you don’t want to enjoy them right away, line them on a plate or tray, wrap them in plastic, and freeze. They can even be cooked directly from frozen.

If you like your poppers spicier, leave the seeds in the jalapeños. Or switch the jalapeños to Fresno chilis, the hotter red version of the popular pepper. Omit the bacon for a vegetarian, or for something a little funkier, substitute goat cheese for the cream cheese.

Air Fryer Jalapeño Poppers

Serves 4; makes 16 poppers


  • 6 ounces cream cheese
  • 8 medium to large jalapeños (about 1 pound total), halved and seeded
  • 4 ounces extra-sharp cheddar, shredded (about 1 cup)
  • 5 ounces sliced bacon (about 5)
  • 2/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Cooking spray

1. Place 6 ounces cream cheese in a medium bowl and let sit at room temperature until softened, about 45 minutes. (Alternatively, soften by microwaving for about 25 seconds.)

2. Halve 8 jalapeõs lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Grate 4 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese on the large holes of a box grater (about 1 cup).

3. Cut 5 ounces sliced bacon crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces. Place in a medium skillet over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until just beginning to brown and crisp, 4 to 6 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat. Transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined cutting board. Add 2/3 cup panko breadcrumbs to the bacon grease and stir to combine. Finely chop the bacon, add to the panko, and stir to combine.

4. Add the cheddar cheese, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon onion powder, 3/4 teaspoon smoked paprika, 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (if using), 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper to the bowl of softened cream cheese. Mix with a fork until combined and mostly smoothed.

5. Heat an air fryer to 400 F. Fill each jalapeño shell with 1 tablespoon of the cream cheese mixture. The filling should be flush with the rim of the jalapeño. Take each jalapeño and press cream cheese-side down into the panko and bacon mixture. Press any remaining panko mixture onto the jalapeño poppers.

6. Coat the air fryer tray or basket with cooking spray. Lightly spray the jalapeño poppers with cooking spray. Cooking in batches if needed, placing a single layer of peppers in the basket or tray, leaving about 1/2-inch of space between poppers. Air fry until the filling is hot, the jalapeños are fork tender, and the tops are golden-brown, 7 to 10 minutes. Tent the poppers with aluminum foil if the tops are browning too quickly before the jalapeño poppers are done.

Recipe Notes

Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to four days.

Freeze the assembled but uncooked jalapeño poppers in an airtight container for up to three months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight or at room temperature before air frying.

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Renae Wilson is a contributor to, a nationally known blog for people who love food and home cooking. Submit any comments or questions to Copyright 2021 Apartment Therapy. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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