Copycat Cheesecake Factory Fried Mac and Cheese Bites

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Fried Mac and Cheese Bites combine all the best textures into one delicious bite! As one of my favorite appetizers from Cheesecake Factory, I knew I had to recreate them at home. Fried macaroni and cheese is easy to make and even easier to customize. Enjoy these bites as a savory snack or part of a larger meal!

Titled Image: Cheesecake Factory Fried Mac and Cheese


Fried Mac and Cheese Bites

Crunchy on the outside, gooey in the center, and loaded with cheese, these little bites of heaven are everything you could want in an appetizer or snack! 

You’ll need to prepare your mac and cheese ahead of time and chill it in the refrigerator before starting this recipe.

This makes it much easier to roll into balls and hold its shape when frying.

It just makes sense to use my copycat version from Cheesecake Factory, but you can make fried macaroni and cheese with any of your favorite recipes too — as long as the pasta is elbow macaroni!

Try more crispy, fried delights with different fillings such as crab bites (another Cheesecake Factory recipe), fried zucchini sticks (a Carraba’s recipe), or Sicilian arancini, also known as Italian rice balls. Yum!!

ingredients for fried mac and cheese bites

Ingredient Notes and Substitutions

  • Macaroni and Cheese – Use boxed, prepared, or homemade — as long it’s made with classic elbow noodles.

    Shells or straighter noodles (like Kraft) don’t hold together as well, and corkscrew pasta is too big.
  • Panko Breadcrumbs – These are naturally crunchy thanks to the light and airy texture, and they crisp up even more when fried!

    Feel free to experiment with different types of breadcrumbs, including seasoned varieties.
  • Eggs – Needed to help the breading stick to the surface. Whisk these really well so the whites and yolks are combined.

    This is easier if you let them warm on the counter for a bit first.
  • Flour & Seasonings – All-purpose flour is perfect, and you can customize which seasonings you use.

    I like to keep it simple with salt, pepper, and paprika — enough to boost the other flavors without taking away from the cheesy center.
  • Vegetable Oil – Perfect for all kinds of deep-fried foods due to its neutral flavor and high smoke point. Canola and sunflower oils are good alternatives.
rolling frozen mac and cheese ball in flour mixture

Tips to Make Copycat Cheesecake Factory Fried Mac and Cheese

  • Chill pasta first, then freeze after each stage of assembling.

This requires a little planning ahead. I usually prepare my macaroni and cheese the night before and let it chill overnight in the refrigerator so it’s ready when I need it.

Once you form the balls, flash freeze them for about an hour to help them hold their shape.

After breading, freeze again for 30 minutes to help the coating stick and firm them back up.

  • Work in batches.

Cook 3 to 5 macaroni balls at a time, depending on the size of your pot or deep fryer.

There should be enough room for them to move around freely without bumping into each other.

  • Ensure the frying oil is consistently at the right temperature.

A deep fryer or candy thermometer will confirm that your pot of oil reaches 360°F for frying. But don’t think you’re done!

Leave the thermometer in the pot and keep an eye on it between batches.

Oil temperature usually drops a bit when food is added, so bring it back up to temp before making the next round of fried mac and cheese bites.

  • Move bites around frequently and drain well.

Use your slotted spoon or tongs to gently flip and rotate your Cheesecake Factory fried mac and cheese balls as they cook.

This ensures they brown evenly on all sides and that the cheese melts all the way in the center.

Then, transfer the bites to a paper towel-lined plate and let them sit for a few minutes. Any excess grease will drain off and the bites will cool enough for serving.

Prep Ahead

  • Cook mac and cheese
  • Roll into balls and freeze
  • Heat frying oil

Kitchen Tools You Will Need

rolling mac and cheese ball in egg

Serving Suggestions 

Fried macaroni and cheese at Cheesecake Factory is served hot and crispy over creamy marinara sauce with a sprinkle of parmesan and some fresh parsley.

Plate yours up the same or serve the sauce on the side as a dip. These make a great snack or appetizer, but you could pair them with salad or veggies as a meal.

They’re also a hit for game-day snacking alongside buffalo wings, jalapeno poppers, and air fried pickle chips.  

rolling mac and cheese ball in breadcrumbs

Storing and Reheating Fried Macaroni and Cheese

While these are best served fresh, leftovers will keep for up to 3 days in the refrigerator when stored in an airtight container.

You can also freeze them for 1-2 months for longer storage.

Reheat fried mac and cheese bites in the air fryer to get them hot and crispy again, or bake on a wire rack for 5-8 minutes at 400°F.

If frozen, don’t thaw first — simply increase the cooking time by 5 minutes.

fried mac and cheese bites

Fried Macaroni and Cheese Cheesecake Factory FAQ

Can I make this recipe ahead of time?

You can assemble the mac and cheese bites in advance and freeze them once breaded. Make sure they are firm before storing. 

Uncooked, they will keep for up to 3 months when stored in an airtight container or freezer bag.

Then, partially thaw them in the refrigerator before frying — they should still be quite firm, but not rock-hard.

Why is my fried macaroni and cheese falling apart?

There could be a few things happening. First, ensure the pasta is cold cold cold at every stage of preparation. It needs to be chilled before rolling into balls, then frozen before and after breading, to help everything stick together.

Also, make sure your frying oil is hot enough. If it’s not, your Cheesecake Factory fried mac and cheese will simply soak up the oil. The breading won’t crisp, the cheese will melt and start to ooze, and the whole bite will be a soggy, greasy mess.

Can I bake these instead of deep frying?

Yes, you can make fried macaroni and cheese like Cheesecake Factory in the oven — it just won’t come out quite as crispy.

Assemble the bites as directed, then spray the outside with cooking spray. Bake on a parchment-lined baking sheet for 15 minutes at 375°F, flipping them halfway so they brown evenly.

mac and cheese bites in marinara on a serving tray

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closeup of inside of a cheesecake factory fried mac and cheese bite

Closeup of inside of a cheesecake factory fried mac and cheese bite

Copycat Cheesecake Factory Fried Mac and Cheese Bites

Donna Elick
Fried Mac and Cheese Bites are a delightful twist on the classic dish, combining gooey pasta with crunchy breading into one poppable bite!
5 stars from 2 reviews
Tried this recipe?Please comment and review!
Prep Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Cook Time 7 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 37 minutes
Course Appetizer
Cuisine American
Method Stovetop
Servings 15 fried mac and cheese balls


  • 6 cups prepared mac and cheese, cold
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs
  • vegetable oil, for frying
  • marinara sauce, for serving
  • Optional: chopped fresh parsley, for garnish
  • Optional: shredded parmesan cheese, for garnish


  • Using clean hands, roll the prepared mac and cheese into large 2-inch balls. Place the mac and cheese balls onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  • Place the baking sheet with the mac and cheese balls in the freezer for 1 hour to allow them to set and firm up.
  • In a shallow dish, whisk together the flour, kosher salt, black pepper, and paprika until well combined.
  • In another shallow dish, add the beaten eggs.
  • In a third shallow dish, place the panko breadcrumbs.
  • Remove the mac and cheese balls from the freezer. If needed, reshape them into balls.
  • Dredge each mac and cheese ball into the flour mixture, shaking off any excess.
  • Dip the floured mac and cheese ball into the beaten eggs, ensuring it is completely coated.
  • Press the coated mac and cheese ball into the panko breadcrumbs, gently pressing to ensure it is fully covered. Repeat this process for all the mac and cheese balls.
  • Once breaded, place the mac and cheese balls back onto the baking sheet and return them to the freezer for an additional 30 minutes. This helps the coating set and adhere better during frying.
  • Heat vegetable oil in a deep fryer or large pot to 360°F (182°C).
  • Fry the mac and cheese balls in batches for approximately 5-7 minutes, or until they turn golden brown and crispy. Move them around frequently while frying to ensure even cooking.
  • Once fried, use a slotted spoon or tongs to remove the mac and cheese balls from the oil and transfer them to a paper towel-lined plate to drain excess grease.
  • Serve the mac and cheese balls hot with marinara sauce for dipping. Optional: Garnish with chopped fresh parsley and shredded Parmesan cheese for added flavor and presentation.

Donna’s Notes

Make sure the prepared mac and cheese is cold before rolling it into balls. This helps it hold its shape better during frying.
Freezing the mac and cheese balls at various stages (setting and after breading) helps them retain their shape and prevents the cheese from oozing out during frying.
Use a candy thermometer or deep fryer thermometer to ensure the oil reaches and maintains the correct temperature of 360°F (182°C) for frying.
Feel free to customize the seasoning in the flour mixture and experiment with different types of breadcrumbs for added flavor and texture.
Serve the mac and cheese balls immediately after frying while they are still hot and crispy for the best eating experience.


Serving: 1 | Calories: 368cal | Carbohydrates: 52g | Protein: 14g | Fat: 11g | Saturated Fat: 0.4g | Cholesterol: 33mg | Sodium: 859mg | Sugar: 0.4g | Fiber: 0.4g | Calcium: 154mg | Iron: 3mg

All nutritional information is based on third party calculations and is only an estimate. Each recipe’s nutritional value will vary depending on the ingredients used, measuring methods, and portion sizes.

Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
Cheesecake Factory Fried Mac and Cheese - PIN

Originally published March 2024

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  1. 5 stars
    loved this recipe! i added a bit of garlic powder to the breadcrumb mixture for extra flavor. turned out amazing!

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