I’m all about fun appetizers! These delicious fried mac and cheese bites are melty in the center and crispy on the outside. So good!
This post is sponsored by Cooper® Cheese and includes tracking links. For more information about tracking links and how to opt out, please visit All About Do Not Track prior to clicking any links found in this post. All opinions and texts are mine.
If you love cheesy appetizers, then these fried mac and cheese bites are for you! Melty, crispy, golden brown, and full of flavor…all in one.
Plus, they are great for using leftover mac and cheese, especially since they need to be a bit cold before assembling. I don’t know about you, but I always make extra mac and cheese for later. Mac and cheese lover right here!
So, let me show you how to make these delicious and fun mac and cheese bites. Let’s get started!
The key to amazing mac and cheese bites is using really good and melty mac and cheese.
If you’ve ever had issues with the cheese not melting properly, then you have to try Cooper® Cheese! It melts really well, so it works perfectly for these mac and cheese bites. They always turn out cheesy in the center and beautifully golden brown on the outside.
I used hand-grated to make my mac and cheese, and let me tell you…it comes out super melty, creamy, and cheesy! Plus, the flavors are out of this world. So delicious!
Cooper® Cheese is made with milk and hand-selected aged cheese, and you can use them for almost anything! Aside from these mac and cheese appetizers, I’ve used it for grilled cheese, burgers, and salad toppings. It’s really versatile!
You can order Cooper® Cheese products online. Mine came in a well-refrigerated box and shipping was super fast. Easy and convenient.
As always, you can find the specific ingredient quantities in the recipe card below. To give you a quick idea, here’s what you will need:
For the homemade mac and cheese:
- Elbow macaroni: Use small pasta.
- Grated cheese: I used Cooper® sharp white cheese.
- Unsalted butter and all-purpose flour: You’ll use equal parts of each to make a roux.
- Whole milk: Try not to use skim milk, which can get too watery for the cheese sauce. Whole milk works great.
- Seasonings: Garlic powder and onion powder for extra flavor.
- Salt and pepper: To taste.
For the mac and cheese bites:
- Refrigerated mac and cheese: Recipe below! You can also use Cooper’s mac and cheese recipe.
- All-purpose flour: To get a crispier batter.
- Eggs: The binder.
- Panko bread crumbs: Adds great crunchiness.
- Italian bread crumbs: For texture and extra flavor.
- Salt and pepper
- Vegetable oil: For frying; don’t use olive oil since it smokes very quickly.
Let’s Make Them!
To give you an idea of the process:
- Make the mac and cheese and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.
- Prepare your breading station: Flour, panko and Italian bread crumbs, and eggs.
- Roll the mac and cheese into balls: Each one should be about 1.5 inches round.
- Get the oil ready: Heat vegetable oil to about 360 to 375 degrees F. A candy thermometer is highly recommended.
- Assemble: Dip each ball into the flour first, then eggs, then bread crumbs.
- Deep-fry! About 3 minutes or until golden brown.
Make Ahead Tips
There are many ways to prep these mac and cheese bites in advance to save you time.
- Make the mac and cheese 1-2 days in advance.
- You can also roll the mac and cheese into about 1.5 inch balls in advance and refrigerate, but don’t bread them until ready to fry. I always do this!
- Prepare the bread crumb mixture in advance.
Tips for Successful Deep Frying
Deep frying the right way will ensure you get beautifully golden brown mac and cheese bites.
Here are my top recommendations:
- Use a candy thermometer to get the right oil temperature
- Use a sturdy cast iron Dutch oven for better heat retention
- Use vegetable or peanut oil, which have a high smoke point
- Turn up the heat after adding food to get back to about 360 to 375 degrees Fahrenheit
Deep frying can get a bit messy, but when you’ve got a process down, it’s pretty easy!
The fried mac and cheese bites are so yummy and just perfect for any occasion: game day, entertaining, parties…or just because!
Plus, it’s a great recipe to make with kids. They can help with the assembly process while you do the frying.
They are the perfect appetizer that everyone will be drooling over. I hope you enjoy these!
More cheesy appetizers:
Tips for Success
- This is a great recipe to use leftover mac and cheese.
- Make sure the mac and cheese is a bit cold (not frozen though). This will help them retain their shape really well while frying.
- Do not use olive oil, which has a low smoke point. Use vegetable or peanut oil.
Mac and Cheese Bites
Homemade Mac and Cheese
- 0.75 pounds elbow macaroni
- 3 cups Cooper® Sharp White Pasteurized Process American Cheese (grated)
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into cubes
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder (plus more to taste)
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder (plus more to taste)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 5 large eggs
- 3 cups panko bread crumbs
- 1 cup Italian style bread crumbs
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Vegetable oil for frying, enough to fill 3-4 inches deep in the pan
Make the Mac and Cheese
- Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
- In a medium saucepan (I used a 3 quart), melt butter over medium to medium-low heat. Once melted, add the flour and whisk constantly for about 3 minutes, until thickened and nutty. This is called a roux.
- Gradually, add the milk, stirring until there are no lumps. Increase heat to medium and bring to a light simmer, whisking. It will thicken up.
- Add the cheese and stir until melted and incorporated. Stir in the cooked pasta. Let cool and refrigerate in an airtight container for at least 4 hours or overnight.
Make the Mac and Cheese Bites
- Form 1.5 inch balls with the cold mac and cheese, pressing to make them compact. Lay them on a sheet pan and put it back in the fridge while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. Note: they need to stay a bit cold (but not frozen) so they retain their shape well.
- Prepare your breading station: In a shallow bowl, add the flour. Then, in a second shallow bowl, whisk the eggs. In a third shallow bowl, combine the panko bread crumbs, Italian bread crumbs, and 1 teaspoon salt. Set aside.
- Get the oil ready: Heat the vegetable oil (3 to 4 inches deep, or enough for the mac and cheese bites to fully submerge) in a deep large Dutch oven until the oil’s temperature reaches 360 to 375 degrees F. Tip: Use a candy thermometer to measure the oil’s temperature.
- While the oil is heating, assemble the mac and cheese bites: coat each ball in flour first, then the whisked eggs, and then the bread crumb mixture. Press slightly to make sure the bread crumbs adhere well.
- Deep fry: Fry in small batches for about 3 minutes or until evenly golden brown. Tip: every time you add food into the oil, the temperature drops. Increase the heat to get it back closer to 360-375 degrees F.
- Transfer to a large plate lined with paper towel to drain excess oil. Serve immediately. Enjoy!
- Special equipment: large cast iron Dutch oven, candy thermometer.
- Oil: The type of oil you use is very important. Use oils with high smoke points, such as vegetable oil or peanut oil.
- Make sure the mac and cheese is a bit cold (not frozen). This way, they will retain their shape very well when frying.
- For deep frying, use a cast iron Dutch oven since it retains heat a lot better than other materials. You can also use a deep fryer.