Fried Mac and Cheese

This copycat version of Cheesecake Factory’s Fried Mac and Cheese appetizer is to die for! It’s made of creamy mac and cheese inside a delicious and crispy breading.

Mac and Cheese balls are the appetizer I get EVERY time we go to Cheescake Factory! We don’t go very often, so I’m glad we have this copycat recipe that allows me to make this delicious dish from home.

Hands pulling apart a fried mac and cheese ball

A Cheesecake Factory Classic

Have you ever had the Fried Macaroni and Cheese balls from Cheesecake Factory? They are to die for (along with everything else there) – and one of our fav appetizers to order!

We’ve redone several of their recipes, like their Luau Salad, their famous Avocado Egg rolls, or my very favorite recipe from there—Sun-Dried Tomato Fettuccine.

All of them turned out amazing, but I think these Fried Mac and Cheese Balls might be my favorite copycat recipe to date!

I warn that they take a little time to put together, but every second is so worth it. We ended up double breading them too, and I think it made a big difference. They were perfectly crunchy on the outside and deliciously soft and creamy on the inside.

Mac and cheese balls being frozen before frying

How to Make Fried Mac and Cheese balls

NOODLES. Cook macaroni according to package instructions. Immediately drain and rinse with cold water. Drain again and set aside.

SAUCE. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Sprinkle in flour and stir with a whisk. Cook for 2 minutes. Whisk in warm milk, working out any lumps. Cook for about 2 minutes until sauce has thickened. Remove from heat. Add both cheeses and stir until melted and smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

COMBINE. Fold in macaroni noodles and pour into a shallow pan and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, until macaroni is cold.

FREEZE. Shape the cold mac and cheese into meatball-sized balls and place them onto a waxed paper-lined tray. Freeze overnight.

BREADING. Beat together your eggs with your 2 tablespoons milk and pour it into a shallow bowl. Pour your bread crumbs into another shallow bowl. Dip the frozen balls into the egg wash then into the bread crumbs. Repeat these steps twice for each ball.

FRY. Fry the coated mac and cheese balls for 5 minutes, until golden brown and center is hot.

  • Oil: I typically use vegetable oil, but you can also use peanut oil, or even lard to fry up these delicious bites. The oil temp should be around 350°F. You may need to adjust the temp as the frozen balls may lower the temp each time you add them.

SERVE. Serve hot with your favorite marinara or Alfredo sauce for dipping.

Recipe Notes

  • I used seasoned bread crumbs, but you can use crushed crackers, crushed potato chips, or panko crumbs.
  • For an extra burst of flavor add cooked crumbled bacon bits to the bread crumb coating.
  • Be sure you do not buy pre shredded packaged cheese as it does not melt as well as cheese you grate yourself.
  • You can make these with leftover Mac N Cheese. Simply scoop the mac and cheese into a ball and continue with steps 3-5.
Deep fried mac and cheese balls on a white plate

Alternative Cooking + Storing

If you’d rather not deep fry these, there are other methods for cooking.

  • Oven: Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 375°F. Place the frozen Mac N Cheese balls onto the pan and bake for 15 min.
  • Air Fryer: Preheat the fryer to 360°F. Place frozen Mac N Cheese Balls into the basket of the air fryer and spray with cooking spray. Fry for 8-10 min. 

Leftover Mac and Cheese Balls can be STORED in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days or in the freezer for 1-2 months. To REHEAT, bake in the oven at 400°F for 5-8 min or until heated through. If frozen, heat for 10-12 minutes. 

Two hands pulling apart a fried mac and cheese ball revealing the gooey center

Seriously?! Look at the cheesy center!! SO GOOD!!! This cheesy, delicious appetizer is definitely a new favorite, and we hope you like them as much as we did.

For more mac and cheese recipes, check out:

For more cheesy appetizers, check out:

Fried Mac and Cheese Recipe

4.78 from 18 votes
This copycat version of Cheesecake Factory's Fried Mac and Cheese appetizer is to die for! It's made of creamy mac and cheese inside a delicious and crispy breading.
Course Appetizer, Main Course
Cuisine American
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Refrigerate 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 35 minutes
Servings 20
Calories 387 kcal
Author Lil’ Luna

Ingredients

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

Instructions
 

  • Cook macaroni according to package instructions. Immediately drain and rinse with cold water. Drain again and set aside.
  • Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Sprinkle in flour and stir with a whisk. Cook for 2 minutes. Whisk in warm milk, working out any lumps. Cook for about 2 minutes until sauce has thickened. Remove from heat. Add both cheeses and stir until melted and smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Fold in macaroni noodles and pour into a shallow pan and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, until macaroni is cold.
  • Shape the cold mac and cheese into meatball-sized balls and place them onto a waxed paper-lined tray. Freeze overnight.
  • Beat together your eggs with your 2 tablespoons milk and pour it into a shallow bowl. Pour your bread crumbs into another shallow bowl. Remove the mac and cheese balls from the freezer. Dip the frozen balls into the egg wash then into the bread crumbs. Repeat these steps twice for each ball. This will give it a nice thick coat. Put back into the freezer until you are ready to fry.
  • Fry the coated mac and cheese balls for 5 minutes, until golden brown and center is hot. Serve hot with your favorite marinara or Alfredo sauce for dipping.

Adapted from Food Network.

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About Kristyn

My name is Kristyn and I’m the mom of SIX stinkin’ cute kids and the wife to my smokin’ hot hubby, Lo. My mom’s maiden name is Luna, and I’m one of the many crafty “Lil’ Lunas” in the fam. On this site I like to share all things creative - from recipes to home decor to gifts and home decor ideas. Welcome!

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Comments:

  1. I was looking at the nutrition facts for the mac and cheese balls and it is super high in calories, fat, sodium and carbs but it doesn’t say how many are in a serving. can you clarify that for me? thanks

  2. 4 stars
    I had to add a little extra milk, my cheese saice was too thick even before adding noodles. I still would like more of the sauce after frying the bites.

  3. 5 stars
    I made these today, we’ve been in isolation and needed a change. We love the Cheesecake Factory and these were amazing! We have plenty left over in the freezer for a special appetizer whenever we want. Thank you so much for this recipe, it was simple and now a new staple in our house.

    1. Hi recipe looks good! I do have a few questions tho: do we fry the made the mac and cheese balls frozen or thawed? Also, why didn’t you give us the sauce recipe!!!??? lol Also I have a few more cheesecake factory suggestions; Factory nachos, spicy chicken sandwhich, and oreo cheesecake. Thanks! Bye 🙂 😀

      1. You fry them frozen. So you’ll double bread them by dipping the frozen balls into the egg wash then into the bread crumbs. Repeat these steps twice for each ball. Then fry the coated mac and cheese balls for 5 minutes, until golden brown and center is hot. I link to both our Marinara and Alfredo sauces earlier in the post, if you want a specific sauce recipe. And I love the other suggestions. The Cheesecake Factory has so many good options! 🙂

  4. 5 stars
    Just delish , makes for a meal in itself. I will continue to make these for company. Everyone loved the macaroni and cheese balls!!

  5. 5 stars
    These were so good! I always ordered these at Cheesecake Factory! We haven’t been there in a couple years. The memory came right back to me. MAKE THEM. SO WORTH IT!

  6. Hi recipe looks good! I do have a few questions tho: do we fry the made the mac and cheese balls frozen or thawed? Also, why didn’t you give us the sauce recipe!!!??? lol Also I have a few more cheesecake factory suggestions; Factory nachos, spicy chicken sandwhich, and oreo cheesecake. Thanks! Bye 🙂 😀

    1. You fry them frozen. So you’ll double bread them by dipping the frozen balls into the egg wash then into the bread crumbs. Repeat these steps twice for each ball. Then fry the coated mac and cheese balls for 5 minutes, until golden brown and center is hot. I link to both our Marinara and Alfredo sauces earlier in the post, if you want a specific sauce recipe. And I love the other suggestions. The Cheesecake Factory has so many good options!

  7. I love getting this at the Cheesecake factory too. Thanks for the easy to follow recipe it turned out crispy and delicious!

  8. 5 stars
    A little more effort is required in this Mac and cheese recipe but I think you’ll find it worth it.

  9. 5 stars
    My husband could not stop raving about these. He’d never heard of them before and now they’re on the top if his list.

  10. 5 stars
    These were an absolute delicious addtion to our family BBQ .. I even plugged in the air fryer outside and served them up hot !
    I used half Velveeta and hald shredded cheddar … I then added a bit of extra cheddar while rolling them into balls. When I ran out of panko, I used whatever chips/crackers I had on hand. Callmeafoodie

  11. I work there almost spot on it’s baked Mac and cheese has heavy cream and cream cheese in it too. Leave in fridge still hard get scooper to form balls dip in flour we have a crispy flour that’s what we call it so it’s seasoned. Egg wash bath then breadcrumbs.

  12. 2 stars
    Prep Time should be more accurate in the description of the fact that you have to freeze the balls for an overnight duration

  13. 5 stars
    I’m a single mom of 7 time is not my friend at all lol. So meals I can make in advance and freeze are a must, and I absolutely love this one. I have a Mac and Cheese recipe from my grandfather that I use and always will because you know how kids are about things changing, and it’s my go to comfort food. So I used that instead of yours. Basically I used your cooking method and my little monsters truly loved it. Definitely a new favorite so thank you so much.
    I usually make 2 or 3 extra pans for the freezer when I do Mac and Cheese. You know for those busy week nights, that unexpected company, or those lazy weekends lol. So I took 1 out and since it was already frozen I just cut it into squares instead of making balls. It worked perfectly and I will definitely be making more very soon. Probably tonight if my 6yr old has her way. I love how simple it is and that the kids can have a portable real meal they actually want to eat. Next time I think I’m going to hide some broccoli in there as well.
    I can’t wait to try out your other recipes, thank you again 💕

    1. I love to hear that!! I bet your are super busy, so I am glad the recipes could help!! I hope you like other ones you try!