No summer party or tailgate is complete without a big tray of these crowd-favorite smoked jalapeño poppers! Thick, crisp bacon is wrapped around jalapeño peppers stuffed with the most decadent cream cheese filling to make one irresistible party snack. You can prep these jalapeño poppers in 20 minutes and then let the smoker take care of the rest.
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
A guaranteed party favorite: Whenever you set down a platter of jalapeño poppers, they’re always quick to disappear, leaving you with happy, full guests. Don’t be surprised if these little bites become your most requested party appetizer.
That cheesy, smoky, spicy goodness: Between the bacon and that smoky flavor from our cooking method, these jalapeño poppers show off a depth and complexity that you don’t get from deep frying, baking or air frying. When you combine that with the cheddar-cream cheese filling and spicy jalapeños, you’re in for a major flavor explosion. You'll just love this delicious twist on a classic appetizer.
Perfect for make-ahead preparation: Let’s make entertaining as easy as can be. While you can certainly prepare these jalapeño poppers and smoke them right away, you can also fill them and store them in the refrigerator ahead of serving. Plus, making the cream cheese mixture and filling the jalapeños are quick and easy, and this recipe only requires a few simple ingredients.
Now let’s chat about a few ingredients notes to set you up for success.
Jalapeño peppers: Look for medium-size chiles that are smooth with a bright green hue. You don’t want any red or yellow spots on the peppers. If the peppers are too small, you may have too much bacon, and if they’re too large, you may run short on your jalapeño popper filling. Also, make sure the size of your peppers are roughly the same for even cooking.
Cream cheese: We want full-fat cream cheese in block form. This isn’t the time to skimp with a lesser-fat cream cheese.
Cheddar cheese: I always recommend getting a block of cheddar and grating it yourself. Bagged shredded cheese is covered in a coating to prevent it from clumping, so it doesn’t melt as nicely.
Step 1: We begin by making our cream cheese mixture. This is as simple as stirring together cream cheese, cheddar cheese, fresh garlic and cumin in a medium bowl (photo 1). You can use a sturdy wooden spoon or a hand mixer if you prefer.
Step 2: Now we prepare our jalapeños by using a paring knife to slice off the stems and cut them in half. We then remove the seeds and membrane with a small spoon (photo 2).
Step 3: With our peppers prepared, we’re ready to fill each jalapeño half by spooning in a dollop of the cream cheese mixture (photo 3).
Step 4: For our next step, we take a slice of bacon, wrap it around each filled jalapeño and secure the ends with a toothpick (photo 4).
Step 5: Now we’re ready to put a tray of the prepared jalapeño poppers on the smoker's grill grates with a water pan (photo 5). We let them cook until the bacon browns and the peppers soften.
Step 6: Since we’re using thick-cut bacon, I recommend a quick broil at the end of smoking. The extra high heat ensures perfectly crisp bacon, and it's much more efficient and quicker than trying to crank up the smoker to a hotter temperature. Technically, this step is optional, but it will give you the best results.
Now serve with some ranch dressing on the side if you’re so inclined and enjoy every cheesy, spicy bite. After one taste, I'm sure you'll agree this is the best appetizer for game day and all your casual summer parties.
Making Ahead of Time
Want to prepare this recipe ahead of time? That's no problem.
Once you fill the jalapeño peppers and wrap them with bacon strips, store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator. As long as they're stored properly, you can keep them for up to one or two days.
Before smoking, let the poppers sit at room temperature for 30 to 60 minutes. This removes the chill and helps with more even cooking. Then, proceed with the recipe on a preheated smoker as directed.
This recipe calls for a 225 smoking temperature. Most of the meats I smoke are at that temperature, so it makes it easy to throw in the poppers with our main meal. Plus, this lower temperature means the peppers will be on the smoker longer for a better infusion.
That said, you can smoke these poppers at higher temperatures. Just know that they may not be quite as smoky and will finish cooking sooner, so keep an eye on them.
While exact smoking times can vary, expect to smoke these peppers for an hour and a half to two hours. I typically go for the full two hours, especially with the thick-cut bacon. This also makes for a softer bite, and I find they stay together a bit better. But if you prefer a more tender-crisp chile, an hour and a half may suit your preference better.
Whether you use wood chips or wood pellets, I prefer hickory or a fruit wood, such as applewood or cherry wood. Hickory is a bit stronger for more smoke flavor while the fruit woods add a slight sweetness that’s perfect with pork.
This is one versatile recipe and can be used on any type of outdoor smoker. I use an electric pellet smoker, but an offset, charcoal or propane smoker works just as well.
Wear latex gloves: The oils in the jalapeños have a way of sticking around on your fingers, and it does not feel good if you rub your eyes with any lingering oil. Kitchen gloves are the safest way to protect your skin and eyes.
Keep a close eye on the broiler: We should only need 30-60 seconds of broiling time. The broiler is powerful, so check it at 30 seconds and then short intervals if they need more broiling time.
Use softened cream cheese: You will not be able to get a creamy mixture if the cheese comes straight from the refrigerator. Let it sit at room temperature for 30-60 minutes to soften.
Place the jalapeños on a wire rack on top of a baking sheet: This allows the bacon grease to drip down, making for nice and crispy bacon.
Skip the bacon for a vegetarian option: Serving any vegetarians? You can simply leave off the slices of bacon on a few peppers. There’s no need to broil them at the end either.
If you love a little extra heat, the hops of a double IPA will accentuate the spice while the extra malt backbone offers some sweetness to counter the peppers and complement the bacon. But if you’re looking for more of a palate cleanser, a pilsner is a great choice. You’ll also love the way a pilsner’s high carbonation cuts through the fatty bacon and cheesy filling mixture.
For wine, a riesling is a classic pairing. Not only does a riesling bring acidity but it adds some sweetness to balance the heat. I prefer a dry or off-dry riesling here. That way, you get just the right touch of sweetness without it tasting cloying.
Or maybe you prefer a cocktail. My tequila lemonade is perfect for a crowd and ultra refreshing. You’ll also love my Barbados rum punch or peach mint julep — dark rum and bourbon are always wonderful with bacon.
For the ultimate party appetizer, make this smoked jalapeño poppers recipe and watch as everyone quickly and happily gobbles them up. You won’t find a more crowd-pleasing snack.
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The Best Smoked Jalapeño Poppers
- Kitchen gloves
- Wire rack and baking sheet
- Wood chips or pellets depending on type of smoker, hickory or a fruit wood recommended
- 8 ounces cream cheese softened
- 1 cup freshly shredded cheddar cheese
- 3 garlic cloves minced or grated
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- 8 jalapeños
- 16 strips thick-cut bacon (see note)
- Heat the smoker to 225 degrees. In a medium bowl, stir together the softened cream cheese, cheddar cheese, garlic cloves and ground cumin using a sturdy wooden spoon or hand mixer until it becomes one cohesive mixture.
- Wearing kitchen gloves, slice off the stems of the jalapeños and cut them in half. Remove the seeds and membrane inside the peppers.
- Use a small spoon to spread the cream cheese mixture into each jalapeño half.
- Wrap the cream cheese-filled jalapeño halves with a strip of uncooked bacon. Secure at both ends with toothpicks.
- Put the jalapeño poppers on a wire rack on top of a baking sheet and place in the smoker with a water pan. Close the lid and smoke until the bacon browns and the peppers soften, about an hour and a half to two hours.
- Heat the broiler and broil the smoked jalapeños until the bacon crisps and browns even more, about 30-60 seconds. Remove from the broiler. Allow to cool for a few minutes and serve. Enjoy!
- If you don't have access to a broiler after smoking, you'll want to use regular-cut bacon. The broiler is necessary for crisping up the thick-cut bacon, but it's well worth it for the extra bacon goodness.
- To make ahead of time, prepare the poppers and store in an airtight container for a day or two. Let sit in room temperature for 30-60 minutes before smoking.
- This recipe calls for a 225-degree smoking temperature, but you can go up to 250 degrees without it affecting cooking time too much. If you choose to smoke them at an even higher temperature, monitor them because they should cook faster.
- Keep a close eye on the broiler. The broiler is powerful, so check it at 30 seconds and then short intervals if they need more broiling time.
- Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.