Panko-crusted macaroni and cheese

Heather Barnett

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If you’re looking for a clever idea for appetizers at your next party (or just a way to wow your family), try making these panko-crusted macaroni and cheese balls. The accolades you’ll get from these tasty treats will make you the talk of the table.

panko-crusted macaroni and cheese balls

Panko-crusted macaroni and cheese

Yields 12 - 15


  • 1 (14 ounce) box deluxe macaroni and cheese
  • 1 cup Cheddar-Jack cheese, shredded
  • 3 slices bacon, cooked crispy and chopped
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 2 cups vegetable or peanut oil (for frying)
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Make the macaroni and cheese according to the package directions (we used a four-cheese variety).
  2. Add in the Cheddar-Jack and bacon, stir well, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours (4 hours is best).
  3. Create a breading station. In the first bowl, combine the flour with salt, pepper, cayenne, garlic and paprika. In the second bowl, beat together the egg and milk. Place the bread crumbs in the last bowl.
  4. Using an ice cream scoop, spoon out a small amount of the mac and cheese and create a compact ball (much like you would for a meatball). The balls should be between 1 to 2 inches in diameter when finished. If necessary, pop them back in the fridge for a 1/2 hour to 1 hour, to let them re-set.
  5. Dip each ball into the flour mixture, ensuring a complete and even coating.
  6. Then dip them into the egg wash, coating completely on all sides.
  7. Finally, roll the balls in the bread crumbs until well coated. If you need to re-pack the balls, this is a good step to do so.
  8. Preheat the oil to medium to medium-high heat (about 320 degrees F). The oil is ready when a bit of the bread crumbs sizzle when tossed in. Just don't get the oil too hot or the balls will burn on the outside and still be cold on the inside.
  9. Gently place one or two balls at a time into your oil, flipping them carefully so they cook on all sides. They should be in the oil between 10 and 20 seconds or until golden brown but not burnt.
  10. Place the freshly fried balls on a wire rack covered with paper towels to drain.
  11. Serve with marinara, Alfredo or pink (half and half) sauce.

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