As young eaters build their palates, it seems like nothing satisfies quite like a crunch! Kids love munching on crispy, crunchy textures. And Mac N Cheese? Everyone knows that’s a huge staple in any kid’s diet. What could be more nostalgic and comforting than creamy mac n cheese? Add a vegetable in this easy mac and cheese balls recipe, and mom is a happy camper! You can imagine just how excited my boys were when I came up with this recipe to combine leftover mac n cheese and the perfect crunch.
I always aim to make our meals as healthy as possible. There’s nothing wrong with a good carb now and then, but why not mix in nutritious veggies? Serving kids dishes like this, that incorporate vegetables into everyday favorites, helps build healthy eating habits for the future. Plus it makes me feel better knowing that they’re getting their nutrients. If you have a super picky eater you can cook up some riced cauliflower until soft and add it in the cream cheese.
Why You’ll Love This Easy Air Fryer Recipe
• Leftover Win – Is it me, or do kids never want the same food the second day? Repurpose yesterday’s mac n cheese in a fun, fresh way.
• Undercover Veggies – Mac and cheese is a great vehicle for serving kids vegetables. The flavors in the cheese sauce compliment most vegetables, and even mask some (like cauliflower.) It will be easy to deliver a vitamin-packed meal without any complaints.
How to Make The Best Macaroni and Cheese Balls Recipe
Prepare your ingredients. Wash and grate vegetables. Soften cream cheese. Line a baking sheet and set aside.
Begin by mixing leftover mac n cheese, cream cheese and vegetables.
Form the mixture into tightly packed balls around 1 ½ inches in size.
Set macaroni balls onto baking sheet and chill for five minutes in freezer.
While the macaroni is chilling, prepare your dredge. In a small bowl, crack eggs and stir. In a separate bowl, combine panko, salt, smoked paprika, and garlic powder.
Dip one mac n cheese ball in egg wash. Then roll in panko mixture until completely coated. Repeat this step until all of the mac n cheese balls have been dredged.
Line your air fryer basket with mac n cheese bites, leaving space between each ball so as not to overcrowd the basket.
Cook at 400 degrees for 3-4 minutes.
• Try vegetables your kid doesn’t like! Just because your kid won’t normally eat broccoli doesn’t mean they won’t love it in these tasty mac n cheese bites. If you’re concerned that they may not eat them, try dividing the macaroni and cream cheese mixture into separate bowls, and adding a different veggie into half of the mix. Just remember to keep track of which is which when they get fried.
• Before forming the mac n cheese mixture into balls, spray a little bit of nonstick spray onto your hands. This will prevent the mixture from sticking to your hands, and help the bites to keep their shape.
The Best Mac And Cheese Balls Recipe
A kid's all time favorite with mom's special sneaky vegetable!
- 3 Cups Left Over Mac N Cheese
- ½ cup Reduced Fat Cream Cheese
- 2 Eggs
- 1 ½ Cups Panko Crumbs
- 1 Teaspoon Salt
- 1 Teaspoon Smoked Paprika
- 1 Teaspoon Garlic Powder
- 1/4 C. vegetables grated carrots, chopped spinach are great options, cooked rice cauliflower
In a bowl, start mixing the leftover mac n cheese and softened cream cheese, and vegetables
Squish together 1 ½ inch tightly packed balls and arrange on a lined baking sheet. (TIP: Spray hands with a little nonstick spray to prevent sticking) Chill for 5 minutes in freezer.
Meanwhile set up your dredging station. In one small bowl, crack your eggs and give them a little stir creating an egg wash. In another small bowl combine panko crumbs, salt, smoked paprika and garlic powder.
Take each chilled mac n cheese bite and dip into egg wash. Then roll in panko until completely coated.
Line your air fryer basket with the prepped mac n cheese bites, leaving ample room around them. Make sure to not crowd the basket.
Cook on 400 degrees F for 3-4 minutes. Enjoy warm!