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Mozzarella sticks in the air fryer! We figured out the secret! They are delicious, not hard at all to make, and so much better than their freezer section counterparts.
Photography Credit:Alison Conklin
Yes, you are reading that correctly.
You can make mozzarella sticks in your air fryer. And you—and any cheese-loving person you share them with—will be oh-so-happy that you did. It’s not hard, but it does take some careful attention to detail, so that you can have pizza shop-worthy mozzarella sticks in your very own kitchen, whenever you want.
How Does the Air Fryer Work?
So, the air fryer is a bit of magic. It’s basically a convection oven that sits on your countertop. But because it’s small and mighty, it will heat up to temperature faster than your oven, and cook pretty fast, too.
The air fryer works from the outside in, which means if you don’t do your prep work for these mozzarella sticks well enough, you’re going to literally have a hot mess on your hands. The sticks will explode and stick to the inside of your air fryer. (Lining the basket with foil will mitigate a mess, but the sticks won’t cook evenly, because the air doesn’t circulate through aluminum foil. Instead, use a little nonstick spray.)
- New to the air fryer? Check out our First Timer’s Guide to Using an Air Fryer.
The Secret for Great Mozzarella Sticks
This is admittedly a bit of a persnickety process, but it’s not for nothing, as my grandmother used to say. TRUST ME. You do NOT want to go through this effort and have these cheese sticks explode all over your air fryer.
Here’s the secret: DOUBLE-COAT your mozzarella sticks.
You need to dip the mozzarella stick in the lightly beaten egg and then the breadcrumbs; freeze it for a short period of time, and then repeat the process again to add a second coating before you air fry. These steps are crucial.
Otherwise, the coating slides right off the cheese stick once you pop it in the fryer. It divests itself of the layer kind of violently, like it’s an exoskeleton or something. The mozzarella stick is rendered edible. And also, messy.
Double layering also makes for extra crunch and extra insurance that all parts of the stick get coated with the egg and panko mixture. (Have you ever tried dipping cheese in egg? It’s a slippery proposition.)
There’s a lot more freezer time than you might expect, but I promise, they won’t taste like ones you make from a box that you buy in the freezer section of the grocery store. It’s worth it.
TIPS FOR MAKING MOZZARELLA STICKS
- Choose your cheese sticks wisely: Not all cheese sticks are created equally. I used regular, full-fat mozzarella sticks. You can also make these with low-fat sticks, but I found the texture slightly rubbery. I cannot vouch for what will happen to nonfat mozzarella sticks.
- Freeze completely before air-frying: Make sure they are frozen before air frying—if they are even a tiny bit soggy in the freezer, they aren’t going to fry evenly. The coating will fall right off. The sticks should feel dry to the touch.
- Use nonstick spray: Hit the air fryer basket and sticks with some nonstick spray oil before you put them in the basket. This way they don’t stick to the basket, and a little extra oil helps them brown.
- Work in batches if need be. I didn’t like the way they sometimes got stuck together if I made all eight of these at once, so I broke the process into two batches.
- If you have a toaster oven/air fryer combo, you may want to place an extra rack underneath the fry basket and line it with foil to prevent mozzarella from dripping onto the heating elements.
Need something to dip these sticks in? Try our basic tomato sauce!
How to Stock Your Freezer with Mozzarella Sticks!
If you want to freeze mozzarella sticks for later, go ahead and coat the sticks as per the recipe, and let the freeze solid after the second coating. Once frozen, transfer them to a zip-top freezer bag and freeze for up to three months.
When you’re ready to bake a batch, reduce the temperature of your air fryer to 360°F and increase the cook time to 8-10 minutes. This will ensure that the solid, frozen cheese sticks cook all the way through and become gooey.
More Recipes to Justify Buying an Air Fryer!
- How to Make Crispy Air Fryer French Fries
- Air Fryer Chinese Egg Rolls
- Crispy Air Fryer Chickpeas
- Air Fryer Fried Chicken
Air Fryer Mozzarella Sticks Recipe
If you want to make and freeze these ahead of time, you can. After the second coating, leave the sticks in the freezer on the tray, and let them freeze completely solid. Transfer the frozen sticks to a zip-top bag for up to 2 to 3 months. Make sure you air fry them at 360°F (instead of 390°F) for 8 to 10 minutes.
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 8 whole milk (or low-fat) mozzarella sticks
- Air Fryer
- Wax paper
1 Do the prep work: Line a rimmed baking sheet with wax paper. Lightly beat the egg in a wide, shallow bowl.
Combine the Italian seasoning, salt, and breadcrumbs in a second wide, shallow bowl.
2 Coat the mozzarella sticks and freeze them: Dip a mozzarella stick into the beaten egg and coat it completely. Dip the stick into the bowl with the breadcrumbs and coat completely. This will be messy. It’s okay.
Transfer to a wax paper-lined rimmed baking sheet and line them up so they are not touching. Freeze for 1/2 hour minimum, 1 hour maximum.
3 Coat the mozzarella sticks again, and freeze them, again. Pull the mozzarella sticks out of the freezer, dip them into the egg and then the breadcrumb mix, and then freeze them for another 1/2 hour minimum, 1 hour maximum.
4 Air fry the mozzarella sticks: Set your air fryer to 390°F. Spray the air fryer basket and the mozzarella sticks with a nonstick cooking spray. Air fry the mozzarella sticks (in batches if desired or necessary, as space permits) for 6 to 8 minutes until the exterior is golden and crispy.
5 Serve! Remove from the fryer, cool just long enough to avoid burning your tongue, and eat immediately!
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