Crispy Air Fryer Mac and cheese balls
Air Fryer Appetizers & Sides pasta Snacks Vegetarian

Air Fryer Crispy Mac & Cheese Balls

What are the ingredients for Air Fryer Crispy Mac & Cheese Balls?

The good news is that these require ingredients you likely already have in your pantry, so if the mood strikes, feel free to indulge.  Here are the simple ingredients that you will need:

  • Left-over Macaroni & Cheese  (I used 1 box of Kraft elbow mac & cheese, 7.25oz, though any brand, or homemade will work just fine)
  • ½ cup of flour
  • 2 eggs
  • Seasonings: paprika, seasoned salt & grated parmesan cheese
  • Olive oil spray

How to Make Air Fryer Crispy Mac & Cheese Balls?

First, make sure to use chilled macaroni & cheese.  The dish will form easier if the macaroni has been made a day in advance; however, fresh mac & cheese, fully chilled, will also work.

Next line a small baking sheet or large plate with parchment or wax paper.  Use a Tablespoon-sized scoop to scoop out portions of the macaroni & cheese.  Use your hands to press into round balls.  Place on the prepared sheet pan or plate.  Keep going until you run out of pasta.  Mine made about 25 balls.

Move the plate or sheet pan to your freezer and chill for at least 30 minutes to allow to firm, longer is fine if you are trying to split up the preparation just allow to sit out for a bit before breading so that they are not 100% frozen.

While you are waiting for the macaroni balls to chill you can proceed with preparing the breading.  Mix the flour, paprika, seasoned salt and grated parmesan in a shallow bowl.  Beat the eggs and place in a second bowl.  Place the breadcrumbs in a final dish.

When the mac & cheese balls are sufficiently chilled, remove from the freezer.  Working quickly (especially if you have used the minimum chill time), dip each ball first in the flour mixture, then in the egg, finally dip in the breadcrumbs.

After breading, return the balls to the prepared plate or sheet pan until you have breaded all of the balls.

Pre-heat the air fryer to 400 degrees and line with air fryer parchment paper.  Place the balls in a single layer, depending on the size of your air fryer, you may need to do this in batches.  Lightly spray the tops with cooking oil.  Cook at 400 for 5 minutes. 

After 5 minutes, gently flip using tongs, spray the other side with cooking oil and then cook an additional 5 minutes.  Serve and enjoy!

Crispy Air Fryer Mac & Cheese Balls

Can Air Fryer Crispy Mac & Cheese Balls be made in advance?

Yes.  There are two different options to make this happen:

  • First: the balls of plain mac & cheese can be frozen for longer than 30 minutes.  The balls could easily be made a day or two in advance and frozen before breading.
  • Second: after the initial breading, the balls can be placed on a parchment-lined baking sheet and flash frozen.  Once solid, move to a gallon freezer bag and store for up to two weeks.  When ready to use, Remove the balls to a tray and allow to sit for 15-20 minutes to lightly thaw and then cook as directed.

What type of macaroni and cheese can I use?

  • Any pasta shape of your choice should work just fine for this dish, assuming it has a fairly small noodle (rotini, ziti, etc would not work well for this dish).
  • You will need the equivalent of about one 7.25oz box of macaroni and cheese.  This comes to about 3 cups. 
  • Homemade macaroni and cheese can definitely be substituted.
  • Any macaroni and cheese you choose should be at least a day old, to help it come together to form the balls.
  • Brand of macaroni and cheese is irrelevant, ie, powder cheese or squeeze cheese will work equally well for this dish.

What dipping sauces work well with Air Fryer Crispy Mac & Cheese Balls?

  • Ranch Dressing
  • Marinara Sauce
  • Salsa
  • Wing Sauce
  • Sriracha
  • Ketchup
  • Tomato Soup
Crispy Air Fryer Mac & Cheese Balls

What to serve with Air Fryer Crispy Mac & Cheese Balls?

Here are some ideas that will work great!

  • Simple arugula salad: add some tomatoes, some shaved parmesan and a simple, light dressing.
  • Succotash: corn, tomatoes, and fresh veggies will make for a nice, light side dish.
  • Roasted Broccoli or Green Beans
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Simply cooked Spinach or Kale
  • Black eyed pea salad: a blend of black eyed peas, peppers, and veggies with a light seasoning
  • Marinated Cucumbers
  • Carrot Salad

Want to make the Air Fryer Crispy Mac & Cheese Balls a side dish?  Here are some main dishes that will pair well:

  • Barbecue Pork Chops: simple pork chops well-coated with barbecue sauce will be a great addition.
  • Hot Dogs: served with any additional topping you happen to love.
  • Meatballs: Barbecue, Korean, Sweet and Sour, pretty much any flavor you prefer will work with these bites.
  • Ribs add some coleslaw and the Mac & Cheese Balls and dinner is ready.
  • Meatloaf paired with some baked apples would go well for a cozy cold weather meal.
  • Sloppy Joes with a side of broccoli would work great.

Can Air Fryer Crispy Mac & Cheese Balls be prepared in a conventional oven?

Yes.  To do this, prepare the Cheese Balls as directed for this recipe.  Heat the oven to 450 degrees.  Arrange the balls on a parchment paper lined sheet pan and lightly spray with cooking oil.  Bake for 9 minutes.  After the nine minutes are up, carefully flip the balls, spray the other side lightly with cooking spray and return to the oven for 3 minutes.  Serve immediately.

Crispy Air Fryer Mac and cheese balls

Air Fryer Crispy Mac & Cheese Balls

Cook Time 10 mins
Chilling Time 30 mins
Course Appetizer, Side Dish, Snack
Cuisine American

Equipment

  • Air Fryer

Ingredients
  

  • 1 batch prepared macaroni & cheese
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • 2 Tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 eggs beaten
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs

Instructions
 

  • Use well chilled mac & cheese that is preferably a day old (to help it bind together).
  • Prepare a baking sheet by lining with parchment paper. Using a Tablespoon, scoop out portions of the mac & cheese and form into balls using your hands.  Place on the prepared baking sheet.  Continue until you run out of mac & cheese.
  • Place in the freezer for around 30 minutes to firm up.
  • While the macaroni is chilling, prepare the breading. Place the flour, paprika, seasoned salt and parmesan in a shallow bowl. Place the beaten eggs in a second bowl. Place the breadcrumbs in a final bowl.
  • Remove the mac & cheese balls from the freezer. 
  • Working quickly, dip each ball first in the flour mixture, then in the eggs, and finally in the breadcrumbs.
  • Return to the prepared pan. Continue until all the balls are coated.
  • Pre-heat the air fryer to 400 and then line with a parchment paper.
  • Place the balls in the air fryer in a single layer (do in batches if needed).  Lightly spray with cooking oil.  Cook at 400 for 5 minutes.
  • Gently flip, spray the other side and then cook an additional 5 minutes. These are best served fresh from the fryer.
Keyword air fryer, mac & cheese, pasta

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