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Air Fryer Mac and Cheese Balls

Air Fryer Mac and Cheese Balls are a fun appetizer or dinner idea. Air Frying gets them extra crispy on the outside while staying cheesy on the inside!

Make sure to check out all my tips on How To Use An Air Fryer!

Air Fryer Mac And Cheese Balls

Mac and Cheese Balls are basically the most perfect appetizer. I mean, what could be better than fried macaroni and cheese? In this case they’re “air fried”, but of course you could deep fry these as well…or even bake them! If you’re looking for an appetizer or easy snack food idea that will be a huge hit with your friends and family will love, this is the recipe for you! Yes, there are a few steps involved, but the payoff is absolutely worth it!

The Quick Breakdown:

  1. Cheesy mac and cheese incased in a crispy, flavorful breadcrumb coating.
  2. You can use mac and cheese leftovers, or make a quick box of Kraft as the base for this recipe.
  3. Air Frying the mac and cheese bites makes the process very easy and way less messy than deep frying, while cutting down on the fat.
  4. If you have leftover mac and cheese this is a fantastic way to repurpose it, while getting oohs and ahhs from your friends and family!
  5. Easy to put together, and a great way to get your kids involved in the kitchen!
fried mac and cheese balls on a plate

What Kind Of Mac and Cheese Do You Use?

The great thing about these little fried mac n cheese balls is that you can use pretty much any kind of mac and cheese you would like! If you have homemade macaroni and cheese that would work great, or just your store bought favorite mac and cheese! You can use a box of Kraft (which is what I did for this recipe) and that works great…plus it’s simple! OR you could even heat up a frozen tray of mac and cheese, like Trader Joe’s Mac, Marie Callenders or Stouffers! There’s no reason to go to the trouble of making homemade mac and cheese especially for this recipe.

Ingredients:

  • Macaroni and cheese. For this recipe I use Kraft, as it is easily accessible and quick to make, but you can use any brand you like, or even homemade. A box of Kraft makes approximately 3 cups of mac and cheese, so you can easily sub any other type you prefer. Whatever type you use, it needs to be COMPLETELY chilled, so it holds together and forms the balls. Also note that the pasta should no be cooked al dente. It should cooked until soft, which will allow the balls to hold together better, as well as result in a softer, cheesier mac and cheese bite!
  •  cooled completely and refrigerated until firm *see note
  • Grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • Plain panko bread crumbs
  • Plain bread crumbs
  • Kosher salt (you can even add a little fresh ground black pepper if you would like)
  • Paprika
  • Garlic powder
  • Whisked Eggs

How To Make Air Fryer Mac and Cheese Balls 

  1. Prepare mac and cheese according to package directions. Allow it to cool. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, until completely chilled and firm.
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
  3. Remove the mac and cheese from the refrigerator and stir in the grated cheddar cheese until evenly combined.
  4. Using a small (1 1/2- tablespoon) sized scoop, portion out the mac and cheese. Roll the mac and cheese into balls, squeezing so they hold together. Place all the balls onto the prepared baking sheet and freeze for 1 hour.
  5. In a medium bowl mix together all the breadcrumbs, salt, paprika, and garlic powder.
  6. Whisk the eggs in a small bow and set aside.
  7. Remove the baking sheet from the freezer and dip each into the egg mixture and then into the breadcrumb mixture, coating evenly. 
  8. Coat the air fryer rack with nonstick cooking spray and place the coated balls in a single layer in the basket. The number of balls you can cook depends on the size of your air fryer basket. Leave at least 1 1/2- inches in between each to allow for air circulation, cooking in batches if necessary. 
  9. Air fry at 380°F for 10 -12 minutes, flipping halfway through cooking. 

Mac and Cheese Bites Dipping Sauce Ideas

These crispy mac and cheese bites are so good on their own, but can be dipped in a variety of sauces too! Here are a few ideas:

  • Marinara Sauce. This is our go-to with these cheesy bites. I just heat up a jarred sauce in a bowl and serve along side!
  • Chicken Dipping Sauce. This might sound strange, but it’s such a great dipping sauce that it pairs well with just about everything!
  • BBQ Sauce
  • Honey Mustard
  • Ketchup
  • Ranch. Chipotle Ranch would be great too!
  • Cheese Sauce. You can even use a queso or nacho cheese sauce!
  • Salsa
  • Blue Cheese Dressing. If you really love cheese, this is a great dipping option! 

How To Reheat:

  1. In the air fryer: 350°F for 3 – 5 minutes
  2. In the Oven: 375°F for 5 – 7 minutes
  3. Microwave (not ideal but will work): 45 seconds
dipping fried mac and cheese balls in marinara sauce

Can You Make Mac and Cheese Balls In the Oven?

Sure! If you don’t have an air fryer, you can absolutely deep fry these OR bake them in the oven. Even better of your oven has a convection setting, in which you would follow the air fryer instructions exactly! If you don’t have a convection setting, bake these on a nonstick baking sheet at 400°F for 12 minutes, flipping halfway through baking!

More Air Fryer Recipes:

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Air Fryer Mac and Cheese balls

Air Fryer Mac and Cheese Balls

  • Author: Shelly
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Chill Time: 3 hours
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 3 hours 30 minutes
  • Yield: 24 balls 1x
  • Category: Appetizer
  • Method: Air Fryer
  • Cuisine: American

Description

These Air Fryer mac and cheese balls are always a huge hit with family and friends! Crispy on the outside and cheesy on the inside!


Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 (7.25- ounce) box of macaroni and cheese (like Kraft) prepared according to package directions and cooled completely and refrigerated until firm *see note
  • 1 1/4 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup plain panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 eggs, whisked

Instructions

  1. Prepare mac and cheese according to package directions. Allow it to cool. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, until completely chilled and firm.
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
  3. Remove the mac and cheese from the refrigerator and stir in the grated cheddar cheese until evenly combined.
  4. Using a small (1 1/2- tablespoon) sized scoop, portion out the mac and cheese. Roll the mac and cheese into balls, squeezing so they hold together. Place all the balls onto the prepared baking sheet and freeze for 1 hour.
  5. In a medium bowl mix together all the breadcrumbs, salt, paprika, and garlic powder.
  6. Whisk the eggs in a small bow and set aside.
  7. Remove the baking sheet from the freezer and dip each into the egg mixture and then into the breadcrumb mixture, coating evenly. 
  8. Coat the air fryer rack with nonstick spray and place the coated balls in a single layer into the basket. The number of balls you can cook depends on the size of your air fryer basket. Leave at least 1 1/2- inches in between each to allow for air circulation, cooking in batches if necessary. 
  9. Air fry at 380°F for 10 -12 minutes, flipping halfway through cooking.

Notes

*1 box of Kraft Mac and Cheese makes approximately 3 cups. If you are using another brand or leftover, measure out 3 cups of prepared mac and cheese. Make sure the mac and cheese is completely cold. This is the only way it will stick together and form balls.

Store airtight in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. 

Keywords: cookies and cups, air fryer, mac and cheese, appetizer

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