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Air Fried Macaroni and Cheese Balls

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These Air Fried Macaroni and Cheese Balls are perfect for any day of the week. Air fry them for a healthier version of your favorite appetizer.

macaroni and cheese balls in air fryer basket

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Full Recipe Ingredients/Instructions are available in the 
recipe card at the bottom of the post. 
You can find important tips/tricks in the
blog post.

The Air Fryer is pretty amazing when it comes to my fried favorites, especially appetizers. I’ve done air fryer egg rolls, chicken wings, and bacon-wrapped chicken bites. It was about time I did another favorite of mine, macaroni and cheese balls. 

Whether you call these mac and cheese bites or balls, these are a must-try in your Air Fryer. 

Traditionally, these bites are deep-fried but I figured why not give it a go in my Air Fryer. It’s healthier, less messy, and pretty easy. So let’s get right to it. 

The Kind of Mac and Cheese needed for this recipe

Before I get into the making of this dish, I’d like to discuss the right kind of macaroni and cheese to make this work. You’ll need leftover mac and cheese that has been cooled and refrigerated in a bowl or pan so that it sticks together. That will make the balls easier to roll and hold together. 

You will also need a mac and cheese that has a cheese sauce that will thicken once refrigerated. Most macaroni and cheese will do this but some may not. Baked macaroni and cheese usually thickens up once refrigerated.

 If you’re making the macaroni and cheese the same day you make the bites, you will need to cook it, let it cool, and refrigerate it for about 4 hours.

I’ve made this recipe with both this creamy baked macaroni and cheese and this Air Fryer Mac and Cheese leftovers. 

How to Make Air Fried Macaroni and Cheese Balls

First, using your leftover refrigerated macaroni and cheese, take large chunks, about 2 Tbsp, and roll into balls. Set aside.

rolled up macaroni balls on a baking sheet

Create a dredging station by adding egg and milk to one bowl, whisking to combine. Then in another bowl, add panko breadcrumbs, garlic salt, salt, and cooked chopped bacon. The bacon is optional in this recipe, I’ve made it with and without, both yummy. 

dredgins station of eggs, panko, and macaroni and cheese balls in front of air fryer basket

Grab a macaroni and cheese ball and place in egg and milk mixture, coating the entire ball, then add to the panko mixture, then add to a lined parchment paper cookie sheet. Repeat for all the balls and then place in the freezer and freeze for 30 minutes. 

coated macaroni and cheese balls

When your 30 minutes are up, remove the macaroni and cheese balls from the freezer. Preheat your air fryer to 360 degrees. Place the macaroni and cheese balls into your air fryer basket in a single layer, making sure they don’t touch. Air fry for 8-10 minutes until light and golden on the outside. Remove, serve, and enjoy. 

ProTip: These are good on their own but are even more amazing with a dipping sauce. I like Sweet Thai Chili Sauce while my daughters opt for Bbq. Hubby eats them as is without any dipping sauce.

Looking for Ideas of what to Serve this with? Try these out:

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4.8 from 5 votes

Air Fried Macaroni and Cheese Balls

These Air Fried Mac and Cheese Balls are fried to perfection in the Air Fryer. A much healthier version of your favorite mac and cheese appetizer.
Course Appetizer
Cuisine American
Keyword air fryer mac and cheese bites, macaroni and cheese balls
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 8 minutes
Freezer 30 minutes
Total Time 48 minutes
Servings 4 people
Calories 887kcal
Author Tanya

Ingredients

  • 4 cups leftover macaroni and cheese refrigerated
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 Tbsp milk
  • 1 cup Japanese Panko
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 slices cooked bacon chopped finely (optional)

Instructions

  • Using your leftover refrigerated macaroni and cheese, take large chunks, about 2 Tbsp, and roll into balls. Set aside.
  • In a bowl, add egg and milk and whisk to combine. Then in another bowl, add panko breadcrumbs, salt, garlic powder, paprika, and chopped bacon if using, and stir to combine.
  • Grab a macaroni and cheese ball and place in egg and milk mixture, coating the entire ball, then add to the panko mixture, then add to a lined parchment paper cookie sheet. Place in the freezer and freeze for 30 minutes.
  • Preheat your air fryer on 360 degrees. After the 30 minutes, remove the macaroni and cheese balls from the freezer and place them into air fryer basket in a single layer, making sure they don’t touch. Air fry for 8-10 minutes until light and golden on the outside. Remove, serve, and enjoy.

Video

Nutrition

Calories: 887kcal | Carbohydrates: 116g | Protein: 37g | Fat: 30g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 96mg | Sodium: 2539mg | Potassium: 569mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 402IU | Calcium: 345mg | Iron: 6mg
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Although myforkinglife.com attempts to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Under no circumstances will myforkinglife.com be responsible for any loss or damage resulting for your reliance on nutritional information.
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Recipe Rating




Cynthia

Friday 21st of August 2020

I had to freeze the Mac n cheese before I breaded it, but the extra time was WORTH IT!! I can’t wait to try this recipe over and over!

Tanya

Friday 21st of August 2020

Thank you Cynthia! So glad you liked the recipe.

Jenny

Saturday 18th of July 2020

So good ! I used yesterday's homemade mac n cheese made with smoked gouda and cheddar.

Tanya

Monday 20th of July 2020

That sounds delicious Jenny!

Emily

Saturday 4th of July 2020

Made these with homemade dairy-free Mac and cheese and they were incredible! We misted ours with avocado oil before putting them in the fryer, and they were incredible. Thanks for sharing!

Tanya

Saturday 4th of July 2020

Thank you Emily! So glad you liked them :)

Taylor

Thursday 26th of March 2020

What is the best Mac and cheese to use? I did velveeta and didn’t seem to work

Tanya

Thursday 26th of March 2020

Velveeta from a box? That may be too soft to hold it together. I've used the air fryer mac and cheese recipe and the creamy baked mac and cheese recipes that I have on my site. I also make sure that the mixture has been refrigerated for a few hours before i try to mold them into balls.

Holly Tittle

Thursday 23rd of January 2020

How long does the macaroni need to be refrigerated? It just says old and I let it sit in the fridge for 3 hours and it wouldn't roll into a ball.

Jordyn

Wednesday 12th of August 2020

@Holly Tittle, I had the same problem, but once I semi rolled it and put them in the egg and panko, it all held together nicely.

Emily

Saturday 4th of July 2020

@Jo Loos, I had the same problem. My solution was to refrigerate the macaroni in a shallow container, and then slice the macaroni into chunks right in the container. We ended up with cubes instead of balls, just as tasty!

Jo Loos

Monday 13th of April 2020

@Tanya, I tried with Kraft and it sat overnight. It would not hold into balls. So sad.

Tanya

Thursday 23rd of January 2020

Hi Holly, the minimum amount of time I've let the macaroni set in the fridge is 4 hours.