These gluten-free jalapeño poppers are stuffed with a cream cheese-bacon filling. They disappear fast! So be sure to make extra!
One thing to know before making a batch of jalapeño poppers: they are slippery little buggers! So slippery, in fact, that prepping them for frying takes a little extra care so that in the end, you have jalapeño poppers and not jalapeño exploders.
First things first: You need peppers.
This time of the year, I get mine at the grocery store. Later this summer, when my garden produces peppers faster than I can keep up, I pick them fresh.
No matter where you get your peppers, you want to look for two things: an intact stem that gives you something to hold onto while breading the peppers, and no holes! Any holes allow the filling to leak out during frying. I usually select small jalapeño peppers because I like serving finger food that can be eaten in two or three bites, but that’s just preference.
Cut and Scrape
Jalapeño poppers are really just a delivery system for the cheese-bacon filling, right? Since it’s a nightmare to fry a leaky jalapeño–think lots of hot oil “pops” while you deep fry–we want to keep all the filling inside the jalapeño until the first bite.
Instead of cutting the peppers fully in half, slice them only 3/4 of the way from base to stem. By not cutting the pepper completely, it won’t separate during frying and make a mess.
After you cut all the peppers, use the back handle of a spoon to remove the rib and seeds, this is where the heat lives.
If you like spicy, leave a couple–really, just one or two–seeds in each cavity for a hotter popper. If you want your peppers hot but not fiery, take care to remove everything.
Getting the cream cheese filling into the peppers isn’t hard but it’s a little tricky. Don’t just smear the filling into the pepper with a spoon–you’ll make a mess. The peppers will split apart, and even when they don’t, you can’t fill them all the way to the top. And who wants an under-stuffed popper?
The pastry cook in me took one look at my problem and said, What are you doing?!? Grab a pastry bag. This allowed me to fill the entire pepper with no mess, and not one pepper split in half.
As you fill the peppers, the cream cheese filling softens and gets a little warm. If the poppers are fried while the filling is warm, it can ooze out of even the best filled and sealed pepper.
To prevent this: pop the the peppers into the freezer for about 15 minutes. You don’t want to freeze the peppers; you just want to chill the filling so it sets up.
Thanks to the jalapeño’s smooth skin, the breading on my first batch of peppers slide off in the fryer. This was easy to solve, I “double breaded” the next batch, just like I do with my gluten-free mozzarella sticks. By enrobing the jalapeños in egg and bread crumbs twice, a thicker coating encases the peppers that not only seals in the filling well but also keeps the coating on during frying.
First roll the pepper in seasoned white rice flour. This is where the stem comes in handy, use it to gently roll the pepper in flour.
Then dip in whisked eggs.
Roll in finely ground breadcrumbs. Try to avoid any bare spots. But try as you might, a few might sneak through. This is okay.
Return the pepper to the egg mixture. Again, use the stem as a handle.
Finally, return the pepper to bread crumbs for the last time.
Take care this time to cover any bare spots.
Freeze (Again) and Fry (Finally)!
Return the peppers to the freezer for about 10 minutes. (While the jalapeños firm up in the freezer, I heat my deep fryer.) Again, you don’t want to freeze the peppers, you just want the filling to firm up and the coating to set.
Finally it’s time to fry! Heat oil to 375°F degrees. This oil temperature gives the pepper a nice, crisp coating while cooking it until it’s tender but not mushy. The pepper retains a pleasant crunch, even after frying.
This piece first appeared on SeriousEats.com
Gluten-Free Stuffed Jalapenos
- 12 jalapeño peppers
- 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature (1 cup; 228 grams)
- 1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded (about 4 ounces; 113 grams)
- 3 slices cooked bacon, crumbled
- 2 scallions, white part only, chopped
- 1 cup white rice flour (4 ounces; 113 grams)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 large eggs (about 3 1/2 ounces; 100 grams)
- 1 cup finely ground gluten-free bread crumbs (4 ounces; 113 grams)
- about 2 cups vegetable oil
- Slice peppers 3/4 of the way from end to stem. Using the handle of a spoon, remove seeds and ribs under cool running water. Take care not to split peppers. It’s a good idea to wear gloves during this step. And be sure to avoid touching face and eyes.
- In small bowl, cream together cream cheese, cheddar, bacon, and scallions. Fit pastry bag with #12 round top or cut medium opening in disposable bag. Fill pastry bag. Pipe filling into peppers. If any filling oozes out of the peppers, wipe it away with a paper towel.
- Freeze peppers for 10 minutes. Line up three pie pans or rimmed plates on your counter. On the first, place the white rice flour and 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Stir with a fork to combine. On the next plate, whisk together eggs. On the last plate, combine bread crumbs and 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 3/4 teaspoon pepper. Stir to combine.
- One at time, roll peppers in white rice flour, coating completely. Then roll in whisked eggs and bread crumbs. Return peppers to eggs and then, finally, to bread crumbs. Be sure there are no bare spots on the peppers.
- Place peppers on large plate. Return to freezer for 10 minutes. In heavy bottomed Dutch oven, heat oil to 375°F. Two or three at time, fry peppers until golden brown, about three minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and season with salt. Allow to cool a few minutes before serving. Filling will be hot.