Don't let your leftover mac and cheese go to waste. Instead, make these super easy and crispy air fryer mac and cheese balls! This recipe is perfect (and designed) to use up leftover cooked and cooled macaroni and cheese. Because leftover mac and cheese isn't always the best reheated, so why not turn it into something crispy and delicious. Once you have the mac and cheese balls formed, cooking them in the air fryer takes about ten minutes, and you only need a spritz of oil.
To make these air fryer mac and cheese balls easily, you'll need to have cooked and cooled macaroni and cheese. I used my stovetop gouda mac and cheese recipe to make these which worked great.
Turns out, making crispy mac and cheese bites in your air fryer is SO easy.
Once you have your cooked and cooled macaroni and cheese, all you need to do is roll them into balls, dip it into egg, then panko and bake.
Here is a more detailed explanation of what to do.
Once the macaroni and cheese has been cooked and cooled completely in a large bowl, add the cheese a little at a time to the bowl until mixed well.
Using a cookie or ice cream scoop, scoop the macaroni and cheese into balls and use your hands to form them.
Whisk the eggs in one bowl, and the panko and smoked paprika in another bowl.
Dip each ball into the egg and coat on all sides. Then transfer to the panko and coat on all sides.
Preheat the air fryer to 360ºF.
Place the mac and cheese balls in the air fryer and spray with avocado oil.
Bake for 11 to 12 minutes (flipping halfway through and spraying with oil on the other side), until the balls are lightly browned and crispy.
Remove the balls and season with a pinch of flaky salt and garnish with chives. Serve and enjoy!
I have personally tested this with my easy, homemade stovetop gouda macaroni and cheese.
If you are making this one (or something similar), it's best to leave off the panko on top of the whole dish when serving if you are going to be turning leftovers into balls. And don't bake the mac and cheese if you plan on using leftovers for these air fried mac and cheese balls.
I have not tested this with a boxed macaroni and cheese, so I can't say for sure if the sauce would thicken enough to hold the macaroni and cheese together.
This air fryer mac and cheese balls recipe works best with a homemade cheese sauce that thickens nicely in the fridge. Ideally, one that has had time to cool overnight in the fridge.
Cooked air fryer mac and cheese balls can be stored in a sealed container for up to three days. Re-crisp them in the oven or air fryer for a few minutes before eating.
Rolled mac and cheese balls which have been coated in egg and panko but not air fried can be frozen. To do this, place the mac and cheese balls on a baking sheet with parchment paper in the freezer for one hour (or until firm). Transfer to a sealed container or freezer safe plastic bag and freeze for three months.
When you're ready to bake them, follow the baking instructions provided for the air fryer. Bake from frozen. Add a few extra minutes of cook time because they will be frozen.
Although I love, love, love my air fryer and use it all the time, you can still make these bites in the oven if you don't have an air fryer.
To do so, spray the mac and cheese balls with oil and then bake at 425ºF for about 8 minutes. Flip and bake for another 6 to 8 minutes, until golden and crispy.
I recently purchased a new air fryer, the Cosori based on doing a TON of research online and I absolutely love it. Here’s why.
Check out the Cosori Air Fryer here!
Looking for more appetizers, check these ones out!
Ready to make this? Let's get to it!
If you make these crispy air fryer mac and cheese balls please share with me, by tagging me on Instagram or leave a comment and/or review below. I truly love seeing and hearing form you!
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These crispy air fryer mac and cheese balls are the perfect snack or appetizer to serve. All you need is some leftover mac and cheese, plus they come together in no time.
This recipe makes about 20-22 balls. One serving is two balls.
Leftover mac and cheese must be cooked and cooled for at least five hours, overnight is best.
If your mac and cheese isn't super firm after rolling into balls, place the balls in the freezer to firm up for 30 minutes prior to air frying.