Fried Mac and Cheese Balls with Bacon Jam are the perfect appetizers to use up leftover Mac and Cheese. Breaded and fried, these crispy and cheesy mac and cheese bites will be all the rage for a party or snack, especially with a savory bacon jam recipe.
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I said once before in a revealing post that I love mac and cheese. Absolute favorite of all time! Naturally, I’m always on the hunt for a delicious take on this classic and iconic American side dish (or main course, why limit ourselves right?!) I had to look no further when I stumbled upon fried mac and cheese balls with bacon jam. Yes, you read that right. These deep-fried balls of delicious pasta and cheese are something to be reckoned with! And they are surprisingly easy to make at a home, even without a deep-fat fryer.
The Process of Making Fried Mac and Cheese Balls
The base of these amazing fried mac and cheese balls is a super cheesy and thick mac and cheese sauce. The cooled, thickened cheese sauce is what’s going to bind everything together; so it is imperative that the cheese sauce be thicker than usual. I make my mac and cheese and then let it cool in a semi-shallow pan or a sheet pan lined with a silicone mat. This allows for rapid cooling and for the mac and cheese to not be hacked into tiny pieces if it were cooled in a deep dish.
If you are wanting to make these fried mac and cheese balls from dried noodles or from leftover Kraft Mac and Cheese (I’m definitely not judging, I love that stuff!), skip the first few steps as I go over how to make this from scratch, from the beginning.
If you are wanting to make this from scratch, I am giving you the full guide on how to make it (see here for pasta dough post)! I am putting in a little plug for this contraption though! It’s simple to use really:
This kitchen aid pasta extruder is a fun gadget to use! It comes with 6 different dies which makes it super versatile in what kinds of pasta you make. To add pasta to this extruder, you just take homemade pasta dough, roll it into walnut-sized balls and feed it into the machine. The trickiest part is trying to cut and catch the cut pasta at the same time. I love that this extruder takes all of the grunt work out of making this awesome pasta!
For this recipe, I used the large macaroni die; the small macaroni and the rigatoni dies would be great to use as well!
Making macaroni pasta from scratch pretty easy but time-consuming; I would go scratch if you had the time to spare. Otherwise, leftover store-bought mac and cheese works perfectly well (just add some extra cheese to the sauce while making it).
A standard breading procedure is what gives this dish a beautiful crust. When I bread foods, I use panko breadcrumbs. I find that panko is a lot crisper than traditional breadcrumbs, which tend to get soggy from the oil after a while. You can opt for traditional bread crumbs, panko, or dredge another round of flour. Just make sure that the breading is seasoned well whichever breading agent you opt for.
How To Fry at Home
When it comes to frying, I have stressed this point in every single fried recipe I have on this blog. Your oil needs to be hot enough to fry foods. If I were blessed enough to have a deep fat fryer, that would be amazing and take so much guesswork out of everything. If you don’t have a deep fat fryer, no worries! I’ll show you how to still make these deep-fried mac and cheese bites! (If you do have a deep-fat-fryer, just set the temperature of the oil to be 350 degrees and you’re set to rock and roll!).
I find that a medium-sized sauce pot, filled about 2/3 full of either vegetable or peanut oil, works the best! That gives these fried mac and cheese balls all the room they need to fry without a danger of super-hot oil spilling over.
- If you have a candy thermometer, this would come in super handy to test the temperature of the oil. You can regulate the temperature by just adjusting the temperature on your stove.
- If you don’t have a candy thermometer (confession: I don’t), you can still fry foods in oil successfully, you just have to know a quick trick and use your eyes.
A quick trick to figuring out if your oil is hot enough is to just sprinkle, with your fingers, some water into the oil. When the oil begins to pop from the water heating up, your oil is ready. Then just look at the foods being fried for color and adjust the temperature accordingly.
Once the fried mac and cheese balls are out of the fryer, it’s super important to place them on a paper towel-lined plate and season with salt immediately. This allows the mac and cheese bites to drain the excess oil and to retain the salt for maximum flavor!
A Savory Bacon Jam Recipe
I opted for a sweeter dipping sauce because the fried mac and cheese is already super savory and I find that this bacon jam plays really well off of the flavors of mac and cheese while adding another layer without them clashing.
After you’ve rendered the bacon, keep some of that grease to saute your shallots! Once you add your sugar and vinegar, you’re going to be really tempted to stir the sugar so that it cooks evenly. DON’T! That will crystalize the sugar and you’ll have a gritty jam. Just let the sugar hang out and caramelize for a bit. I will say to be careful not to let the bacon jam reduce too much or you will turn it into bacon candy… And you can’t dip with bacon candy.
I hope you all enjoy this dish as much as I do! Let me know how you like the bacon jam with it as well. If you really like this recipe, be sure to add a rating to your comment down below! Are there any other types of sauces you think would go well with this?
Happy eating everyone!
- 1 cup milk
- 1/2 cup cream
- 1/2 cup cheddar
- 1/2 cup mozzarella
- 1/4 cup parmesan
- 1/2 cup diced bacon
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
- 1 shallot minced
Cook pasta 3-5 minutes in salted water.
Make cheese sauce by bringing milk and cream to a boil. Turn off heat and begin to add cheese in small batches, stirring with a whisk.
Add pasta and stir until incorporated. Remove from pot and cool in a semi-shallow pan in the refrigerator until cool and cheese sauce has set.
Scoop mac and cheese with a cookie scooper (or even an ice cream scooper, I’m not going to crush your dreams). Bread pasta balls.
Heat vegetable oil over medium high heat.
Fry pasta balls in oil until golden brown. Remove from oil and season with salt.
Render bacon over medium heat until crispy. Remove half of fat. Saute shallot until translucent. Add brown sugar and cook until dissolved. Add vinegar and cook for about 12 minutes. Add bacon back in and stir until dissolved.