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.
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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
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.
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.
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.
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:
Watch this video tutorial and see how I make these mac and cheese bites from start to finish.
Air Fried Macaroni and Cheese Balls
- 4 cups leftover macaroni and cheese refrigerated
- 2 eggs
- 2 Tablespoon milk
- 1 cup Japanese Panko
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 2 slices cooked bacon chopped finely (optional)
- 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.
Tuesday 2nd of May 2023
I tried this recipe. I couldn't get my Mac n cheese to stay in a rolled ball for any length of time.
Thursday 4th of May 2023
Hi Kim, that seems to be an issue if you're using boxed mac and cheese rather than the baked versions I have listed in the recipe. Did you happen to use one of those? My air fryer mac and cheese or my cheesy baked mac and cheese?
Friday 12th of August 2022
I've tried making this 2x's and both times they fell apart. 1st time I used a box of Shell's and Cheese,2nd time using my homemade Mac & Cheese. I followed instructions to a "T" and they turned into globs of mess. What could I possibly be doing wrong?¿ 🤔Ugh!
Saturday 2nd of July 2022
Has anyone used Costco deli mac and cheese?
Sunday 30th of January 2022
I am outrageously excited to try this recipe! I’m a college student and just got my first air fryer and this is perfect for those lazy nights of cooking but enjoying something different!
Monday 31st of January 2022
Thanks Ashley! I hope you like it :)
Sunday 21st of November 2021
When using the recipe for creamy mac and cheese do you prepare it fully with the panko topping or leave it off?
Sunday 21st of November 2021
Hi Marie, great question! I do add the panko and make it as is if I'm intending on serving the creamy mac and cheese on its own and just use the parts the bottom layers of the mac and cheese without the panko, if there are any leftovers. If making the mac and cheese with the plans of using it for the mac and cheese balls, I leave the panko off.