Restaurant-quality mozzarella sticks…in the air fryer? Sounds too good to be true, but rest assured, these Air Fryer Mozzarella Sticks boast all the flavor and crunch of a freshly fried cheese stick, only without all that extra oil.
That’s right: stretchy, melty mozzarella cheese on the inside, and a golden, “fried-like,” crunchy texture on the outside.
Serve these cheese sticks as a snack or a party appetizer alongside marinara dipping sauce or ranch dressing and enjoy!
Looking for more yummy goodness to cook up in your air fryer recipes? Add these delicious nibbles to your list for next time:
- Air Fryer Pickles
- Air Fryer Chicken Nuggets
- Air Fryer Shrimp
- Air Fryer Sweet Potato Fries
- Air Fryer Eggplant
WHAT DOES THE AIR FRYER DO?
The air fryer doesn’t actually fry food at all. It does, on the other hand, crisp breaded foods like no other cooking vessel can….other than a pot of hot oil that is.
The air fryer is a countertop convection oven with a fan built into it that help to circulate even airflow. In addition to the even airflow, it also comes equipped with a basket made of perforated holes. These holes enable heat and air to give food a total 360° of crispy, crunchy browning effect.
This convenient little device is perfect for whipping up your favorite fried treats ( like cheese sticks) in a healthier manner.
HOW TO MAKE AIR FRYER MOZZARELLA STICKS
- Cut the Cheese
- Set Up the Dredging Station
- Bread the Cheese Sticks
- Freeze (30 minutes)
- Bread and Freeze Again (1 hour)
- Mist With Cooking Spray
- Preheat, Add Parchment Paper, and Air Fry
1. CUT THE CHEESE
You can use either a block of mozzarella or cheese sticks for this Air Fryer Mozzarella Sticks recipe. If you’re using block cheese, cut it crosswise into quarter-inch rectangles. If you’re using string cheese, cut the cheese stick in half.
2. SET UP THE DREDGING STATION
To set up a dredging station, you’ll need three shallow trays or bowls (such as a pie plate). Add flour and salt to the first tray, whisk together eggs and water in the second tray, and in the third tray, combine Italian breadcrumbs, panko breadcrumbs, salt, and garlic powder.
3. BREAD THE CHEESE STICKS
You’ll kick off the breading with a nice even coating of flour. Be sure to shake off any excess flour before sending the cheese stick to the egg mix or the egg won’t stay put!
Next, submerge each piece of cheese in the egg tray, again, allowing any excess to drip off before moving on to the next tray.
Make sure you get a nice, generous coating of breadcrumbs. To do this, turn the cheese as needed and press gently to make sure the breadcrumbs adhere.
4. FREEZER TIME (ROUND ONE)
To keep your Air Fryer Mozzarella Sticks from suffering major cheese loss in the air fryer, you’ll need to freeze them.
To do this, you’ll want to have a baking dish, a small rimmed baking sheet, or a large tupperware container ready. Anything with a rim that’s large enough to fit the cheese sticks, yet small enough to fit in your freezer will work.
Add a layer of wax or parchment paper to the bottom of your container and top with a single layer of the cheese sticks. Separate each layer of cheese sticks with another sheet of wax or parchment paper, and place in the freezer for at least 30 minutes or up to an hour. This will keep your Air Fryer Mozzarella sticks from freezing and sticking together.
5. BREAD AND FREEZE (AGAIN)
Breading and freezing Air Fryer Cheese Sticks will help to keep your cheese sticks intact while cooking in the air fryer (see more on this below). And, while these extra steps might seem laborious, just know, these Air Fryer Cheese sticks are totally worth it. Totally. Worth it.
Return the cheese sticks to the breading station and submerge each piece of cheese in the egg/water tray once again. Then, transfer them to the breadcrumbs, pressing gently to make sure the coating adheres.
Return the cheese sticks to the freezing vessel (layering again as directed above) and freeze again, this time for one full hour.
6. MIST WITH COOKING SPRAY
Space out your cheese sticks and spray generously with nonstick cooking spray. Make sure you mist the tops and the sides of each and every cheese stick.
7. PREHEAT, ADD PARCHMENT PAPER, AND AIR FRY!
Preheating the air fryer is just as important as preheating an oven. Actually, it may be more important since the cooking time is typically drastically lower in an air fryer. Don’t skip this step!
Add a fitted sheet of parchment paper to the bottom of the basket of your air fryer (this will keep any cheese from escaping to the bottom of the air fryer), and spritz the parchment paper with nonstick cooking spray.
Add a single layer of cheese sticks to the basket, taking care to space each out with room to breath, and cook for 6 minutes. Remove from the air fryer and repeat one to two more times with the remaining cheese sticks.
HOW TO KEEP AIR FRYER MOZZARELLA STICKS FROM EXPLODING
There’s nothing difficult in regard to the preparations for this recipe. The hard part was figuring out how to keep that cheese from breaking out of the breading and oozing out into the air fryer.
To avoid the mess (and the heartache), here are three simple things you can do to keep your Air Fryer Mozzarella Sticks intact:
- Don’t skimp on the freezer time.
- Bread them twice.
- Use a parchment paper liner.
You might find that some cheese still makes its way out of the panko breadcrumb coating, but the loss won’t be nearly as much.
WHY FREEZING THE AIR FRYER MOZZARELLA STICKS MATTERS
In recipe testing, we most definitely tried avoiding the freezer time, but no matter what, the cheese always managed to ooze out, leaving behind a deflated, flat mound of breadcrumb coating with a thin, barely-there layer of cheese in between.
The problem is, at room temperature, the cheese will melt before the breadcrumb coating has time to cook and crisp up. However, when the cheese sticks go into the air fryer frozen, it slows down the rate at which the cheese melts tremendously, giving that breadcrumb coating all the time it needs to develop a gorgeous golden crust.
Just trust me on this one: Freezing before air frying is a must.
BREAD THEM TWICE
Breading Air Fryer Mozzarella Sticks twice is an extra precaution worth taking. Consider the second layer of breading insurance that your cheese will stay trapped in that deliciously crunchy crust and stay put.
CAN I SKIP THIS STEP?
If you don’t want to go through the extra process of breading the cheese sticks twice, be sure you still freeze them for an 1 1/2 hour to 2 hours before air frying.
You might lose a little extra cheese without that second coating, but if you’re not making them for company and don’t care much about their appearance, this is a totally acceptable solution.
PARCHMENT PAPER IN THE AIR FRYER
Last, but not least, a parchment paper liner in the air fryer basket will keep any escape artist cheese from leaking to the bottom of your air fryer. We found in recipe testing that even when you freeze the cheese sticks and double bread them, some cheese will still leak. The parchment paper liner will keep it from seeping to the bottom of your air fryer and burning.
Although your technically blocking airflow with the parchment paper, it is thin enough that both sides of the Air Fryer Mozzarella Sticks will still get crispy.
HOW TO ADD PARCHMENT PAPER TO AN AIR FRYER
My favorite way to add parchment paper to the air fryer is to use 8-9″ pre-cut, parchment paper rounds that are actually intended for cakes, and fit perfectly in the basket of the air fryer! If you have sheets of parchment paper, just cut it down to fit as close to the size of the basket as possible.
PRO TIP: If you crinkle it up before adding it to the basket, this will keep it from sloping on the sides and your food will lay down easier because of it.
Do NOT (I repeat, DO NOT) preheat your air fryer with parchment paper in the basket. It could very well burn up.
CAN I SKIP THIS STEP?
Yes, if you don’t mind cleaning a bit of cheese from the bottom of your air fryer, you can absolutely skip this step.
Mozzarella Cheese | You can use a block of mozzarella cut into slices crosswise or cheese sticks cut in half for this recipe.
If you are using cheese sticks, I advise using full-fat cheese sticks to ensure a nice and creamy interior. When low-fat cheese sticks melt down, they have a bit of a rubbery texture to them.
Breadcrumbs | This recipe for Air Fryer Mozzarella Sticks calls for both standard breadcrumbs and Panko breadcrumbs. We found in recipe testing that the fine texture of regular breadcrumbs better traps the cheese and keeps it from escaping and oozing out. However, without the panko, that same crunchy “fried” effect was missing almost entirely.
A combination of the two provided the best of both worlds. Italian breadcrumbs work wonderfully in this recipe, but regular breadcrumbs will also do just fine.
Cooking Spray | When looking to purchase cooking spray to use with your air fryer, choose good quality, flavorless oils with a high smoke point. Oils such as avocado oil, canola oil, and vegetable oil are all great candidates.
To provide a nice even coverage all across the panko coating, cooking spray in an aerosol can is best.
HOW TO STORE LEFTOVER AIR FRYER MOZZARELLA STICKS
If you end up with leftover Air Fryer Mozzarella Sticks, you can either keep them in the refrigerator or the freezer. If you like your cheese sticks extra crunchy, the latter is the best option.
To freeze leftover cheese sticks, lay them down on a flat surface lined with wax or parchment paper and place them in the freezer. Once they’re frozen, transfer them to an airtight, freezer-safe, ziptop bag and freeze for up to two months.
You can reheat them the same way you cooked them — in the air fryer! Preheat to 400°F and cook for 6 to 8 minutes.
CAN I MAKE AIR FRYER CHEESE STICKS IN ADVANCE?
Because Air Fryer Cheese Sticks are best as close to frozen as possible before hitting the air fryer, they are an excellent make-ahead recipe!
Here’s how you do it:
- Bread the cheese sticks as directed, and keep them in the freezer until fully frozen, 2 to 3 hours.
- Then, transfer them to a freezer-safe, gallon-sized ziptop bag and seal.
- Freeze for up to two months.
Once you’re ready to cook them, preheat your air fryer as directed in the recipe and cook for 6 to 8 minutes.
5 MORE FINGER FOODS YOU’LL LOVE
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- Southern-Style Deviled Eggs
- Homemade Pigs In a Blanket
Air Fryer Mozzarella Sticks with stretchy, melty mozzarella cheese on the inside, and a golden, "fried-like," crunchy texture on the outside!
- 1 (8-ounce) block Mozzarella cheese or 1 (12-ounce) package
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt, separated
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup Italian breadcrumbs
- 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- Nonstick cooking spray (Avocado, canola, or vegetable oil preferably in an aerosol can), about 2 tablespoons
If using a block of mozzarella, cut the cheese crosswise into 1/4" slices. You should have about 14 pieces). If using cheese sticks, cut them in half. Set the cheese aside while you prepare the breading stations.
Have ready three shallow bowls or trays for a dredging station. In the first tray, mix together the flour and a 1/2 teaspoon of salt. In the second tray, whisk together the eggs with 2 tablespoons of water. In the third tray, combine the Italian breadcrumbs, panko bread crumbs, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and garlic powder.
Fully coat each piece of cheese in the flour and shake off the excess. Submerge in the egg mixture, allow excess to drip off, and then transfer to the tray of breadcrumbs. Coat thoroughly, applying gentle pressure as needed to ensure the coating adheres. Do not discard of the egg or the breadcrumb mix.
Have ready a small pan, tray, or container lined with wax or parchment paper. Place the cheese sticks in the container, separating each layer with a sheet of wax paper and transfer to the freezer for 30-45 minutes.
Return the cheese sticks to the breading station and submerge each one in the egg mixture, allow excess to drip off, and then transfer to the tray of breadcrumbs. Apply gentle pressure to make sure the crumb adheres and transfer to the freezer for 1 hour more.
Preheat the air fryer to 400°F for 10 minutes. Remove the cheese from the freezer and mist the tops and sides with the nonstick cooking spray. Flip and mist the other side.
Line the basket with parchment paper and spritz the paper with cooking spray. Add a single layer of cheese sticks to the basket of the air fryer and cook at 400°F for 6 minutes. Remove the cheese and repeat twice more with the remaining cheese.