The Best Fried Mac and Cheese in the Air Fryer

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Fried Mac and Cheese in the Air Fryer

Raise your hand if Mac and Cheese is one of your favorite dishes! Homemade mac and cheese is one of my very favorite recipes to make because it is so tasty and perfectly cheesy.

If you have been at Fabulessly Frugal these past couple of months- you know that the air fryer has changed the way I cook. Naturally, I decided to try mac and cheese in the air fryer. And let me tell you- air fryer mac and cheese is such a fun recipe that is perfect for feeding a crowd or when you want to indulge your love for cheese! Today, I am very excited to share with you how to make air fryer macaroni and cheese

What you need to make Air Fryer Mac and Cheese

This recipe is more involved than other air fryer recipes, but it is so worth it. For this recipe you will need:

  • 1 lb elbow macaroni
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups milk plus 2 tbsp for egg soak
  • 1/2 lb grated cheddar
  • 1/2 lb grated smoked gouda
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 large eggs
  • 4 cups seasoned bread crumbs
  • marinara or alfredo sauce for dipping

We are going to break up this recipe into two parts: pre-air fryer preparation and air fryer.

How to Prepare Mac and Cheese Balls for the Air Fryer

Before you can fry your mac and cheese balls, you need to make them. First, cook macaroni al dente according to package directions. It is important that you don’t overcook your macaroni or it will be too mushy to form into balls later.

While the noodles are cooking, make your cheese sauce. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Sprinkle in flour. Whisk until your white sauce base has formed.  Then whisk in milk, until all lumps are gone. Cook for about 2 minutes until thickened. If you want the sauce more thick, add another tablespoon of flour.

Remove from heat, add cheeses, and stir the sauce until melted and smooth. Feel free to play with the ratio of cheddar to gouda to your preference.

Once your noodles are cooked and cheese prepared, fold the macaroni noodles into the cheese and pour mixture into a shallow pan and refrigerate for at least one hour. You want the macaroni to be cold so you can mold it into balls.

How to Fry Macaroni and Cheese in the Air Fryer

Once the macaroni and cheese mixture is cold, you can form it into meatball-sized balls. I used an ice cream scoop to form and shape the mac and cheese.

Next,  you need to prepare the coating for your mac and cheese balls. First, beat together your eggs with 2 tablespoons of milk. In a separate shallow bowl, pour in breadcrumbs.

Then, dip the balls into the egg mixture then into the breadcrumbs. Repeat this twice so that each ball is thickly coated.

Now is the fun part! Preheat the air fryer to 375°F for 5 minutes. Once preheated, place the coated mac and cheese balls into the air fryer basket and cook for 10 minutes at 375°F. You want the outside to be golden brown and the center hot. You don’t need to flip halfway through.

Once your mac and cheese balls have been thoroughly fried, you can enjoy the best part of cooking- the eating! Dip these air fryer mac and cheese balls with your favorite marinara or alfredo sauce.

Important Tips for the Best Air Fried Mac and Cheese Balls.

This recipe is simple, but also more involved than other air fryer recipes. Here are some important notes to keep in mind while preparing air fryer mac and cheese balls:

  • You could always cut this recipe in half or double it for your needs. It would be a great appetizer to feed a crowd, but would need to be cooked in batches, even if you have  a large air fryer.
  • If you wanted to make this ahead, you could freeze the formed cheese balls prior to the coating. Then when you are ready to cook them, remove them from the freezer, coat them in the egg & breadcrumbs as instructed, and then fry them for a little longer since they were originally frozen.
  • This recipe could also easily be cooked in the oven at 375 for 20 minutes and easily reheated or kept warm in the oven until all the air fryer batches are done.

Final Thoughts

Air fryer mac and cheese is not only creamy and delicious, but also fun to make. While more involved than other air fryer recipes, it is a fun way to get creative in the kitchen with family or friends! You will love this recipe as an appetizer for a party, a fun after school snack, or a treat during the weekend.

What’s your favorite way to make mac and cheese? Have you tried this amazing instant pot mac and cheese?

If you loved this recipe, you will also love these air fryer recipes:

Wondering How to Use an Air Fryer? I got you!

Ingredients

  • 1 lb elbow macaroni
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups milk plus 2 tbsp for egg soak
  • 1/2 lb grated cheddar
  • 1/2 lb grated smoked gouda
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 large eggs
  • 4 cups seasoned bread crumbs
  • marinara or alfredo sauce for dipping

Instructions

  1. Cook macaroni al dente according to package instructions. Drain and rinse with cold water.
  2. While noodles are cooking, melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Sprinkle in flour and stir with a whisk until thickened.
  3. Whisk in warm milk, working out any lumps. Cook for about 2 minutes until sauce has thickened. Add 1 more tbsp flour if it is not thickened. Remove from heat.
  4. Add both cheeses and stir until melted and smooth. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Fold in macaroni noodles and pour into a shallow pan and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, until macaroni is cold, making it easier to mold into balls.
  6. Shape the cold mac and cheese into meatball-sized balls.
  7. Prepare the coating by beating together your eggs with 2 tablespoons milk and pouring the bread crumbs into a shallow bowl.
  8. Dip the balls into the egg then into the bread crumbs. Repeat these steps twice for each ball to give it a thick coating of bread crumbs.
  9. Preheat the air fryer to 375˚F/191˚C for 5 minutes, then fry the coated mac and cheese balls for 10 minutes, until golden brown and center is hot. No need to flip halfway. Serve with your favorite marinara or Alfredo sauce for dipping.

Notes

For the oven: cook at 375˚F/191˚C for 20 minutes
Do not overcook noodles, or they will be too mushy to hold a good shape
You can play with the ratio of cheddar cheese to gouda cheese to your preference.
Use an ice cream scoop to help create uniformed sized balls.
If you wanted to make this ahead, you could freeze the formed cheese balls prior to the coating. Then when you are ready to cook them, remove them from the freezer, coat them in the egg & breadcrumbs as instructed, and then fry them for a little longer since they were originally frozen.

Recipe Adapted From: Lil' Luna

Ingredients: Cheese
Meal Type: Appetizers and Snacks, Main Dish, Popular, 4th of July, Back to School, Fall, Father's Day, Mother's Day, New Year's Eve, Spring, St. Patrick's Day, Summer, Super Bowl Party, Thanksgiving, Winter
Categories: Finger Food and Dips, Air Fryer, Make Ahead/Freezer Meal, Oven

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