Macaroni and Cheese Baked Cheese Balls

I have a weakness for cheese and if it’s fried, even better.

Growing up in Minnesota in the dairy heartland, and neighbor to the great cheese producing state of Wisconsin, I great up eating copious amounts of cheese, including fried cheese curds.

Macaroni and Cheese Baked Cheese Balls - A perfect use for the leftover macaroni that gets cold and old in your refrigerator. Bread it, bake it, devour it! Easy recipe at

For those of you who have never had fried cheese, don’t start. It’s everything that coronary heart disease is made of and it tastes delicious.

Macaroni and Cheese Baked Cheese Balls - A perfect use for the leftover macaroni that gets cold and old in your refrigerator. Bread it, bake it, devour it! Easy recipe at


Then I lived in Chicago where the Greeks fry and ignite their cheese in the form of flaming saganaki and boy, that makes me shout, Opa!

After moving to and settling in San Diego, I have access to so many wonderful Indian restaurants with their fried paneer cheese.

I’ve never met fried cheese I’ll say no to. Show me an appetizer menu at a restaurant and if there’s mozzarella cheese sticks on it, that’s what I’m having, extra marinara sauce for dipping. Extra of the extra, please.

Macaroni and Cheese Baked Cheese Balls - A perfect use for the leftover macaroni that gets cold and old in your refrigerator. Bread it, bake it, devour it! Easy recipe at

But these cheese balls aren’t actually fried and instead I baked them. I don’t fry in my house because frying stinks it up for days and the next morning I do not want to smell fried cheese or fried anything. Or smell whatever it was that I fried five days later.

These cheese balls start out with good old all-American Kraft Macaroni and Cheese from a box. I had a box with Spongebob Squarepants-shaped noodles, and these cheese balls are what became of it. I boiled the macaroni according the package directions and added a handful of extra shredded cheese, and extra butter and extra cream because powdered cheese in a packet needs some doctoring up, even though I have a nostalgic soft spot for the blindingly bright orange powder. If you have a favorite homemade macaroni and cheese recipe, by all means make it, or use your favorite storebought variety.

After making your mac ‘n cheese, homemade or from a box, you must and I repeat must, put it into an airtight container and refrigerate it for at least 12 hours, up to 3 or 4 days because in order to shape the cheese balls prior to baking, and not have them turn into a literal cheesy hot mess in the oven while they bake, you need cold, thick, day-old mac ‘n cheese. I refrigerated mine for two days. It needs to congeal, set up, and get thick. If you’ve ever turned your nose up at cold, refrigerated, leftover mac ‘n cheese because it’s thick, gloppy, and solidified, that is exactly what you want. Now you know what to do what that kind of mac ‘n cheese in the future.

In the fifteen minutes preceding breading and battering, I put the container in the freezer so the mac ‘n cheese would be extra chilled prior to shaping the balls. When you’re ready to bake, get your assembly line of flour, two beaten eggs, and breadcrumbs lined up. I used Trader Joe’s breadcrumbs which aren’t seasoned, but use seasoned breadcrumbs or toss a few pinches of garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper, or whatever sounds good for seasoning plain breadcrumbs if you prefer them seasoned.

Prepare two baking sheets by lining them with Silpats or aluminum foil and I really suggest lining your baking sheets for easier cleanup. Drizzle about one tablespoon of olive oil on each baking sheet and spread it around with your hands. Then, scoop out tablespoon-sized balls of mac ‘n cheese with a small cookie scoop. If you don’t have a cookie scoop, mine is $3.99 and I highly recommend it, but using a tablespoon and hand-shaping the mac ‘n cheese into domed mounds will work.  Whatever method you use, it’s a messy project; keep the paper towels handy.

Don’t make the mistake of initially scooping out or rolling your balls too large. What looks small before being breaded becomes much larger after the breading and battering process. You want your finished cheese balls in the golf ball-sized as opposed to the baseball-sized range.

Roll each ball through the flour, dip it briefly in the egg, and dredge it through the breadcrumbs. Repeat until your mac ‘n cheese is gone, placing about 10 balls on each cookie sheet. I made 20 balls in this batch from the 5.5-ounce box of mac ‘n cheese.

Bake for ten minutes at 425F, add one more tablespoon of oil to each baking sheet, flip all the balls over, and bake for another 7 to 10 minutes, or until they are golden brown, crispy, and crunchy on the edges.

Or bake until your smoke detector goes off and there’s a fairly high likelihood it will. There is something about baking at temperatures over about 400F and if any oil is present whatsoever, my smoke detector goes off and it’s so highly alarming. Pun intended. I hate that jarring, nerve-rattling screeching and I jump ten feet and my heart pounds. Just giving you a heads up so you can take a Zanax beforehand if necessary.

These cheese balls were worth the alarm bells. The outside was extra crunchy and crispy, which I attribute to the battering process as well as a very hot oven because the fiery and intense heat really sets up the coating and gives it crispness. The cheese balls need to get into, and out of the oven; no lingering in a moderate oven because there’s too much risk for the cheese to leak and ooze the longer they’re exposed to heat.

The macaroni noodles inside these golden nuggets lend texture and chewiness amidst the sea of molten, hot, warm, gooey and oozing cheese. Even with melted cheese, I like texture and the noodles gave me what I was looking for.

I ate them dipped in various condiments including barbeque sauce, ketchup, Ranch dressing, and Homemade Spicy Honey mMustard. I get around when it comes to condiments. Extra of the extra, please.

I really don’t think you’ll  have trouble polishing off a batch of these but if you do, leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator and reheated gently in the microwave or wrap them in plasticwrap and toss them into your lunch for the next day. Scott savored a few cheese balls the next day in his lunch.

I did all my savoring immediately after these photos were taken.

Macaroni and Cheese Baked Cheese Balls - A perfect use for the leftover macaroni that gets cold and old in your refrigerator. Bread it, bake it, devour it! Easy recipe at

Macaroni and Cheese Baked Cheese Balls
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
I love cheese sticks and cheese balls on the appetizer menu in restaurants and this is a way to take everyday macaroni and cheese and turn it into cheese balls, which are baked rather than fried. Don't skip the step of using well-chilled mac 'n cheese prior to baking them because you want the cheese to melt in your mouth, not all over the baking sheets. I promise these crispy 'n crunchy yet soft 'n gooey cheese balls are worth the wait.
Serves: Makes about 20 to 22 cheese balls
  • 1 batch macaroni and cheese, prepared as directed and well chilled (1 box store-bought or your favorite homemade recipe, I used one 5.5-ounce box -google--crm_brandbroad-_-kraftbrand_kraft_broad" target="_blank">Kraft)
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • about 1 cup breadcrumbs (seasoned if preferred; I used Trader Joe's which are unseasoned)
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  1. Prepare mac 'n cheese according to package directions. Place in an airtight container and refrigerate for at least 12 hours, up to 3 days; I made these after 2 days. Chilling the mac 'n cheese is an instrumental step and cannot be skipped because the cheese needs to congeal, solidify, and dry out a bit prior to baking the cheese balls. You may be able to speed this process up and shortcut it a bit by freezing the cooked mac 'n cheese, but I have not tested it.
  2. About 15 minutes prior to preparing the cheese balls, place the container of mac 'n cheese in the freezer for a quick cold blast. Meanwhile, place flour, eggs, and breadcrumbs in 3 separate small bowls; set aside.
  3. Preheat oven to 425F and line two baking sheets with Silpats, parchment paper, or aluminum foil (line baking sheets with something to save yourself cleanup work). Drizzle 1 tablespoon olive oil on each baking sheet, smear it around with your hands; set baking sheets aside.
  4. Remove mac 'n cheese from the freezer and using a 1-inch cookie scoop or tablespoon-sized scoop, portion out and shape the balls, taking care not to make them larger than about 1-inch in diameter because after battering and breading, they become much larger in size. Depending on the type of noodles in your mac 'n cheese, how cold, or how cheesy the mac 'n cheese is, lightly hand-shaping the noodles into balls may be necessary rather than replying solely on a cookie scoop. Roll each ball through the flour, dip briefly in the egg, roll it through the breadcrumbs, and place it on baking sheet. Repeat until all balls have been battered, placing about 10 balls per baking tray.
  5. Bake for 10 minutes (don't be surprised if your smoke detector goes off), remove trays from oven and add 1 tablespoon of oil to each tray and smear it around, flip balls over, and bake for 7 to 10 minutes, or until browned and golden. Remove from the oven and serve immediately; optionally serve with Homemade Spicy Mustard, prepared mustard, ketchup, chipotle mayo, or a favorite condiment.

Related Recipes

Double Melted Cheese and Red Pepper Dip – Make in the microwave in 5 minutes. It’s the fastest and easiest cheese dip I’ve ever made

Roasted Grapes with Balsamic Reduction (vegan, GF) with Cheese and Crackers – People make a big deal about reducing balsamic with very elaborate methodology, but simply add a little brown sugar to balsamic vinegar, and boil until it reduces by about half. I boil at a fairly rapid boil because I’m impatient and it literally takes 5 to 7 minutes from start to finish and costs pennies compared to store-bought. It’s wonderful drizzled over anything

Vegetable Lasagna Casserole (vegan, GF) – A noodle-less, non-traditional lasagna that’s made using a giant zucchini-carrot pancake-like ‘noodle’ and lots of veggies and cheese

Mango Basil Personal-Sized Tortilla Pizzas – Extra cheese, mangoes or pineapple, and hot pepper flakes are my favorite pizza toppings. These pizzas are personal-sized and easily customizable so everyone gets their preferred toppings

Chips and Cheese Chili Casserole (vegetarian/vegan, GF) – Chips and cheese, baked together, for a hearty and easy meal

Mini Grilled Cheese and Tomato Sandwiches – Everything tastes better when it’s mini. I love the texture and flavor of tomatoes in my grilled cheese, with ketchup on the side

Cheesy Taco Casserole (GF with vegan options) – Think of a taco with rice and beans baked into a casserole with cheese. Easy, cheesy, and comforting

Do you like cheese balls, cheese sauce, cooking with cheese, or eating cheese in general?

Feel free to link up your favorite cheesy recipes.


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  2. Too funny! My father in law, brother in law and a few friends all went there too! :)

  3. I am WI girl and yes I love my cheese curds!!! And that you bake these – yes I am going to be cooking up these!

  4. I did it! I did it! I made these and I LOVED THEM. Coming from someone who’s never had cheese curds, I now want them like crazy if they’re even remotely similar to these cheese balls. Holy moly. It was so stinkin’ easy to make these and they tasted so cheesy and crispy after they were baked–I loved it. I added a little panko to my breadcrumb mixture since I had a little extra to use up and I loved the added flaky crunch. These were so good, Averie!

    • I am so thrilled they worked out so well for you! And that you made them! And now, one day, you need to have fried cheese curds. Well, maybe don’t even start :) Seriously glad these were a hit for you, Hayley!

  5. Oh I am so in love with these!! I love that you baked them instead of fried too. I had fried mac & cheese bites when I was in Vegas this summer and I’ve been wanting to recreate them and this looks like the perfect recipe!

  6. Mac n cheese balls took me back to New Mexico will be making these thank you

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  8. Must try these, Averie! Thank you!

  9. The reason your smoke alarm is going off is because you are using olive oil. Use vegetable oil next time – it has a higher smoke point than olive oil does – olive oil smokes/burns quicker than vegetable oil. Good basic recipe – thanks and good luck!

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  12. I tried to make this and although the Mac and cheese was amazing (probably the best box I’ve ever made), it didn’t stay in the form of a ball. As soon as the cheese started to melt everything fell apart. I was thinking about shaping them, then putting them in the freezer until they are hard. Please help!!!

    • Was everything EXTRMELY well-chilled? If you followed the directions on your mac and cheese box, made it to specification, then chilled it for at least a day or two, and then breaded it, not sure why it melted everywhere. Could just be that you bought/used a super cheesy version of mac n cheese? I didn’t have that issue with the Kraft I used. I would chill them, reshape them, bread them, try to bake them again and see if you can get the coating to firm up. Good luck!

  13. I made these tonight and they were AWESOME!!! I used the Kraft Homestyle mac n cheese (cheddar) with a handful of extra cheese because that’s how my kids like it, then it sat in the fridge for a few days. Freezer for 15ish minutes while I got the bowls of dip ready and made waffle batter. It mushed together really nicely for the balls and they stayed together in the oven great. I used panko bread crumbs and added 1 tsp of Morton’s Nature Seasoning. I also made alfredo from scratch for dipping. Unfortunately, I think I need to work out for an hour just to even out all of the cheese balls a little. ;)

    • Thank you for trying this recipe, Lori, and for your detailed comment about what you did! I know it will be helpful to others who see it and I am so glad you loved them and the kids did too! And yes, a little extra gym time happens sometimes. For me, it’s not the mac and cheese that does me in; it’s the cookies :)

  14. I made these tonight and hubby and I thought they were really good! I love the idea of baking them vs. deep frying to save a few calories and fat. I was not able to shape into balls though b/c they started to fall apart. That may result in how cheesy/starchy (glue!) the mac & cheese is! Maybe, next time I will try a different version. I just cut them into cubes and they made it through the dipping stages well. Some of the cheese did bake out, but, with a little help I was able to remove them from the pans easily. Would love to incorporate some lump crabmeat into them next time, any suggestions?

    • My mac ‘n cheese was pretty ‘dry’ as it goes, not overly ‘saucy’ so when it chilled in the fridge for a few days, it congealed and was pretty solid but if you had a saucy version to start with, I’d control it at that stage to make it less wet/saucy, so by the time it chills you have less liquid/mess to contend with :) As for the lump crabmeat, I would stir that in at the very end after you’ve cooked your mac n cheese and before the 2-day chill period. Then just bread as indicated. If you re-try, LMK how it goes! Thanks for the field report on this one!

  15. I had planned to make these for a little get together my stepdaughter wanted to have (several months ago). I had the Mac and cheese made but the get together fell through, so I tossed it in the freezer for later. I decided to pull it out this weekend and give it a shot. I formed the balls while the Mac and cheese was still slightly frozen and they held together extremely well. Both my husband and stepdaughter love cheese so these got great reviews–and of course I loved them too!

    • I actually remember you telling me ages ago you were going to make these and assumed you did but now I understand what happened. Forming the balls while it was still slightly frozen sounds like a great idea and so glad your hubs and stepdaughter were happy little cheeseheads with this one :)

  16. Love butter and Kerrygold Dublinger Cheese.

  17. I have never liked the Kraft Mac N Cheese made with the powder, I like the deluxe. Am I going to have a problem with these melting and falling apart if I use my favorite?

    • I haven’t tried it that way but I would say just make sure your leftovers are really…thick and congealed. Pretty much the opposite of how you’d ever want to eat it! Thick and gloppy and really well-formed/thickened from being in the fridge. If it’s soft or saucy, I can imagine that it would fall apart but not if it’s congealed. Please LMK how it goes!

  18. Your cheese ball looks so yummy. I would have to try it soon. Thanks for the recipe! ^^

  19. I just made these and they’re so good! I used some spicy mac n cheese I made last week (with a can of hot Rotel added) and they have just the right amount of kick. Next time I think I’ll have to add more shredded cheese and drain the Rotel first – it made the mac n cheese a bit watery and hard to form into balls that held together – but still very tasty!

  20. I tried these and they tasted pretty good! However I had trouble with the egg in that they fell apart a bit during that stage. Then because of that they didn’t get as breaded as they should. So they turned out but they don’t look as breaded as yours do. Any tips?

    • If they fell apart when you were dipping them into the egg, then you probably should have made tighter balls or had them more chilled or try again with less ‘goopy’ mac and cheese. Try with more dried out/congealed/thickened mac n cheese.

      Reduce the sauce volume, chill more, add more noodles to the existing sauce volume – any number of things to get the balls more solid so they won’t fall apart.

  21. Have a question: do you think i could use a very thin layer of crisco instead of oil? I, like you, have an extremely sensitive fire alarm (and live in apartment. Noting like annoying neighbors who already don’t like us!) and was wondering if maybe that could be an alternative to oil on the aluminum foil?

    • I never use Crisco in this application (I only add it to melted chocolate to keep my chocolate soft!) so I really don’t know how it behaves when heated like this. If you find that it’s less likely to set off a smoke detector than olive oil, go for it. You could also try vegetable/corn/canola oil. They are probably less likely, too; and may have a bit better flavor. Lmk what you end up doing!

    • Well, not sure what I’ve decided, but I found a wikipedia article with smoke points of oil on it…. I might try to find something practical on the list any try it (I honestly have no idea if that’s what I should be looking at)

    • Smoke points, yes. I didn’t even want to bring it all up. I mean…who cares if you set your smoke detector off. Your neighbors will live for 10 secs of loudness. Just make it and enjoy. They’ll survive, no doubt :) If you were running a biz out of your kitchen and did it every day, yes, getting really scientific about it all is practical. But you’re not. You’re making mac ‘n cheese. Enjoy! :)

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  25. LOVE these!! Saw them at Trader Joe’s in the freezer section, unfortunately, I need them to be in gluten free form! But this can totally be converted!!! What’s your thought about baking them and then freezing them to just reheat/crisp up when I need that mac & cheese ball fix :-)

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  29. Has anyone tried to prep these and freeze them to be baked at a later date? It seems that it would be most convenient to freeze them after battering them and popping in the oven right before people come over. Thoughts? I look forward to trying these.

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  35. All I needed to read to convince myself is that it has cheese in it. The process is quite not familiar to me, but I will try my best to do this! Can’t wait to enjoy these cheese balls! Thank you for sharing!

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