Make These Lazy Air-fried Mac & Cheese Bites

Make These Lazy Air-fried Mac & Cheese Bites

As I sit here, chomping away at my air-fried mac and cheese nuggets, the word that keeps popping into my head is “Cheez-Its.” That’s because the crisp coating paired with the concentrated flavor of cheddar is a dead-on match. I don’t think I’ve ever made a lazier or more gratifying snack. Consider this an early Air Fryday present.

Macaroni and cheese, much like potatoes au gratin or oatmeal, is full of starch. When chilled, the starches in these foods will thicken and set in a process called retrogradation. That’s why leftover pasta is always so stiff. Pair those cold gelatinized starches with saturated fat, like that in melted cheese, and you’ve got a solid brick. You could put a lot of work into scooping the macaroni into balls, coating them with bread crumbs, and deep frying them to make fried mac and cheese balls. Or you can do it my way. This distinctly lazier way requires no breading, but provides just as much crunch.

How to make lazy mac & cheese bites

This works really well if you baked your mac and cheese in a casserole dish because it’s already densely stacked, however if your mac and cheese was refrigerated in a bowl, that’s absolutely fine. The shape doesn’t really matter too much once you cut them into pieces. 

Remove the entire lump of mac and cheese from its container and onto a cutting board. Use a sharp knife or serrated blade to slice the macaroni into 1-inch slabs. Turn the slabs and cut them again into 1-inch thick sticks, then decide if you want to cut them again into shorter sticks, or even into cubes. Scatter them into a preheated 400°F (200°C) air fryer on the “air fry” setting, with at least a half-inch of space between them so they don’t melt together. Air fry the cubes for eight minutes, and sticks for 10 minutes, or until crisp and well browned on the corners. Cool the mac and cheese nuggets on a wire rack for a few minutes before devouring. 

These bites brown beautifully, and since they’re already loaded with cheese from the original recipe, you don’t have to add a single thing to get a crisp frico-like outer coating. Even the exposed pasta edges crisp-up nicely. If you used a good deal of cheddar in your mix, or topped a baked mac with cheddar, then you’ll get the Cheez-It flavor I’m talking about. 

The bites are crusty on the outside, but the interior is tender and soft. It’s a huge reward for doing almost no work. These would be great as a party hors d’oeuvres since they’re easily hand-held. I like my mac and cheese bites plain, but I wouldn’t fault you for serving these at a party with a bowl of french onion dip.

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