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Air Fried Mac and Cheese Bites

Air Fried Mac and Cheese Bites- Starting with a boxed mix, these mac and cheese bites are gooey on the inside, crispy on the outside, and perfect for any game day table.

January 29, 2024 by Nicole Collins


Today, we’re making Air Fried Mac and Cheese Bites!


I’ve had today’s recipe on the roster for a hot minute now. And, it’s finally time for them to receive their glory. What starts as a simple boxed mac and cheese mix is transformed into balls of goodness that are gooey on the inside and oh so crispy on the outside. You’re definitely going to want these on your game day tables this year.


Let’s talk mac and cheese. To make our lives easier, we’re starting with a basic box of mac and cheese. Now not all boxed macs are created equal. And, I actually really like the cheap $.58 Walmart brand mac. It’s really good! We’ll prepare the mac and cheese according to package directions. But, we’re going to add two extra cheeses to make these extra gooey on the inside…American cheese and some smoked gouda.


Now I know quite a few people that are averse to smokey cheeses. And honestly, that makes me so sad. I’m going through a real smoked gouda phase right now, and I want it in pretty much everything. But don’t be worried about these mac and cheese bites being overwhelmed by smokey flavor, because that’s not the case at all. The smoked gouda hides in the background of the mac and cheese adding a beautiful depth of flavor, so don’t shy away from it if smokey cheeses are also not your thing. In fact, I learned the trick of adding American cheese and smoked gouda to mac from Desarae of Cooking Comedy Chaos on Tiktok, and it really changed the way I feel about mac and cheese. Gotta give her all the credit for that one!


Once our mac and cheese is ready, we’re going to transfer it to a bowl and shove it in the fridge. We want it to be completely chilled, so I like to let it sit overnight. But, it needs at least 4 hours in there, so make sure to plan ahead. Then after the mac has chilled thoroughly, we’ll grab an ice cream scoop, portion out balls of mac, and press them tightly into a nice compact ball. I like to wear food safe kitchen gloves while doing this because it can get a little messy. Then, the balls go into the freezer for about an hour to really firmly set up.


Now that the mac part is done, we need to give our balls a crispy coating. Our breading station is very basic on this one. We need a couple well beaten eggs and a bowl of panko breadcrumbs mixed with garlic powder. But what makes these bites extra special is that we’re going in with a double breading. That’s right, TWO layers of breadcrumbs makes these oh so crispy crunchy on the outside. So we’ll take our frozen mac balls, dip them in the egg, the panko, back in the egg, then back in the panko. Once all the mac is breaded, they’ll get spritzed with some olive oil cooking spray and tossed in the air fryer to get nice and golden brown.


I like to serve these with some marinara on the side, but they honestly don’t even need sauce. The extra cheese we added to the mac helps these stay so nice and creamy on the inside. The gooey mac combined with the crunchy breading is such a nice bite. Texture heaven!


Ok, everyone! We’re not done with the game day recipes yet. I’m really embracing them this year, so I hope you are too!


I hope you guys enjoy, and let’s eat!


Air Fried Mac and Cheese Bites

Serves: 10         Print


  • 1 box (7.25 oz) macaroni and cheese (I use Walmart brand) + the butter and milk called for on the box

  • 2 slices American cheese

  • ¼ cup smoked gouda

  • 3 eggs, well beaten

  • 1 ½ cups panko breadcrumbs

  • ½ tsp garlic powder

  • Olive oil cooking spray

  • Marinara sauce, for serving


  1. Prepare mac and cheese according to package directions. While mixing in the butter and milk called for on the package, also mix in American cheese and smoked gouda until the cheeses are completely melted. Transfer mac and cheese to a bowl, cover, and chill in the fridge at least 4 hours or up to overnight.

  2. Once the mac and cheese has chilled, use a ¼ cup ice cream scoop or measuring cup to scoop out a portion of mac. Then, use clean hands (or wear kitchen safe disposable gloves) to form into a tightly packed ball. Transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet, and repeat with remaining mac. Place in the freezer to chill for 1 hour.

  3. Meanwhile, prepare the breading station: To a shallow bowl, add beaten eggs. To a second shallow bowl, add panko breadcrumbs and garlic powder. Mix well to combine, and set aside.

  4. Working one ball at a time, dip ball into the egg to coat completely, letting any excess drip off. Then transfer to the panko, pressing gently to adhere the panko on all sides. Repeat the process by dipping the ball back into the egg to coat and then back into the panko to double coat. Transfer to a parchment lined plate. Repeat with remaining balls.

  5. Preheat air fryer to 375 degrees. Spritz the basket of the air fryer with cooking spray. Arrange mac and cheese balls in a single layer in the air fryer basket. Spritz the tops with cooking spray. Air fry for 6—8 minutes until golden and crisp. Repeat with additional batches, as necessary making sure to keep any mac and cheese balls in the freezer until ready to air fry.

  6. Serve immediately with marinara sauce, if desired. Enjoy!

Recipe notes:

*Use your favorite boxed mac and cheese, but I actually think the $.58 Walmart brand is great.

*All air fryers cook differently, so in the Ninja Food Grill, these took about 7 minutes. We want them to be just golden on the outside. 


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