Air Fryer Mac and Cheese Balls

Air fryer mac and cheese balls

The Spruce / Leah Maroney

Prep: 15 mins
Cook: 20 mins
Total: 35 mins
Servings: 4 servings
Yields: 12 balls
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
546 Calories
20g Fat
73g Carbs
17g Protein
See Full Nutritional Guidelines Hide Full Nutritional Guidelines
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 546
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 20g 26%
Saturated Fat 5g 24%
Cholesterol 99mg 33%
Sodium 1434mg 62%
Total Carbohydrate 73g 26%
Dietary Fiber 4g 15%
Total Sugars 10g
Protein 17g
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 198mg 15%
Iron 4mg 23%
Potassium 380mg 8%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Air fryer macaroni and cheese balls are crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside, and so good, you won’t believe they’re not deep-fried. 

Because you make the macaroni and cheese ahead of time, this recipe comes together quickly. It makes for a quick and easy party appetizer and is also a great way to use up leftover mac and cheese. With these air fryer cheese balls, there’s far less fat than with deep-frying, but you still get the decadence from the mac and cheese. 

You can use any kind of mac and cheese you want, but make sure it has a thicker cheese sauce. This will help it hold together when you are forming the balls as well as when you are air frying. If the macaroni and cheese is still saucy, even after refrigeration, it won’t bind well when you try to form the balls. And if they don't bind well, they won't fry well—they will be more likely to fall apart.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs

  • 4 cups prepared macaroni and cheese, refrigerated

  • 3 tablespoons flour

  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided

  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper, divided

  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika, divided

  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, divided

  • 2 eggs

  • 1 tablespoon milk

  • 1 /4 cup ranch dressing, garlic aioli, or chipotle mayo, for dipping, optional

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Heat the oven to 400 F and the air fryer to 370 F.

    Ingredients for air fryer mac and cheese balls

    The Spruce

  2. Spread the breadcrumbs onto a baking sheet, shaking to create an even layer. Bake for 3 minutes, then shake and bake for another 1 to 2 minutes or until they are mostly toasted.

    Toasted breadcrumbs on a rimmed baking sheet

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  3. Form the refrigerated macaroni and cheese into the size of golf balls. Place them onto a baking sheet.

    Mac and cheese balls on a rimmed baking sheet

    The Spruce

  4. Whisk together the flour with 1/2 teaspoon each of the salt, 1/2 teaspoon of the black pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon of the smoked paprika, and 1/4 teaspoon of the garlic powder.

    Flour mixed with spices for air fryer mac and cheese balls

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  5. Whisk together the 2 eggs with milk in a shallow bowl.

    Egg whisked together with the milk

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  6. Toss the breadcrumbs with the remaining salt, pepper, paprika, and garlic powder.

  7. Roll the macaroni and cheese balls into the flour to coat.

    Mac and cheese balls rolled in flour

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  8. Then, dip the flour-coated ball into the egg mixture, rolling to coat. Transfer the cheese ball to the breadcrumb mixture and roll to coat, patting to help the breading adhere.

    Mac and cheese balls rolled in breadcrumbs

    The Spruce

  9. Repeat with the rest of the macaroni and cheese balls.

    Mac and cheese balls on a baking sheet

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  10. Spray the basket of the air fryer with cooking spray along with the mac and cheese balls, too. Add 6 to 9 of the cheese balls into your air fryer, depending on how large it is. Air fry for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown and crisp.

    Air fryer filled with mac and cheese balls

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  11. Remove them from the air fryer basket and keep warm in your oven. Repeat with the second batch of mac and cheese balls. 


    Serve with your favorite dipping sauce, such as chipotle mayo, ranch, or garlic aioli. Enjoy.

    Air fryer mac and cheese balls

    The Spruce

Recipe Variations

  • You can season the breadcrumbs however you like. Try chipotle pepper powder, Italian seasoning, or Cajun seasoning. Old Bay would taste good, too.
  • Try adding 1/4 cup crumbled cooked bacon to the breadcrumbs. 
  • You can use whole wheat or Italian seasoned breadcrumbs.

Recipe Tips

The mac and cheese balls will not be golden brown unless you toast the bread crumbs first. If you don’t care about them getting golden brown, then you can skip this step. 


These are best eaten the day they are made, but they may be warmed through in a hot oven (375 F) within a day or so of air frying.

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