The first time I ever tried fried mac and cheese was at a Cheesecake Factory. I knew it would be a sin to see the words “fried” and “mac and cheese” beside one another in some sort of glorious partnership and not order it. It was like Marvel’s The Avengers, assembling history’s greatest heros (and hottest actors); you can’t not go witness such an epic assembly.
Turns out, The Cheesecake Factory makes some stellar FM&C, and by stellar I mean oh-my-god-I-must-be-dreaming-somebody-slap-me-this-is-so-darn-GOOD. If you ever go to Cheesecake Factory, you must get yourself some fried mac and cheese. Period.
With just one bite, my world was changed. I love deep-fried food, wrong and unhealthy as that love may be, and adding to that repertoire gave me joy. From that bite on, I wanted to try making my own at home. I’m the Smart Cookie Cook; I could make my own Fried Mac and Cheese as good as or better than the old CF.
And so, I did. My Fried Mac and Cheese is one of the best things to come out of my kitchen yet, and it is going to rock your culinary world. Why is it so awesome? Because you get my cheesy Extra Creamy 4-Cheese Mac and Cheese encased in a delicious, crunchy, golden brown breadcrumb shell; That’s like having 360 degrees of breadcrumb topping!
I specifically designed the mac and cheese filling to be extra creamy and saucy so you aren’t overwhelmed by pasta. Instead, there’s tons of molten, gooey cheese and just the right amount of pasta to compliment it. You can make a whole batch of my Mac & Cheese to fry, or even better yet, you can make it for dinner the night before and turn the leftovers into these incredible Fried Mac & Cheeses the next day.
If you’ve not tried Fried Mac & Cheese yet, now is the time. It’s crunchy, deep-fried, creamy, cheesy heaven, and it tastes like a dream come true. Everyone’s favorite comfort food just got a whole lot better.
A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:
- As I noted in the recipe, box mac and cheeses (and most other mac and cheese recipes) will not work well for the filling because the sauce dries up a bit while frying, and you’ll wind up with a lot of pasta, and not much cheese. I specifically made my Extra Creamy 4-Cheese Mac and Cheese for the filling so that it would still be good and saucy after frying.
- The seasoned breadcrumbs add a lot of flavor here, so don’t replace them with plain breadcrumbs or Panko.
- You can make a whole batch of my Extra Creamy 4-Cheese Mac & Cheese for this like I did then chill it before frying, or you can make the mac and cheese for dinner one night, and fry the leftovers the next night. Just cut the frying ingredients in half.
- You MUST chill the mac and cheese until firm and solid or these will not hold together.
Fried Mac & Cheese
By The Smart Cookie Cook
Yield – about 2 dozen mac & cheese patties, the size of your palm (if you use the whole recipe of Mac & Cheese)
- Vegetable or canola oil, for frying
- 1 batch Extra Creamy 4-Cheese Mac & Cheese (recipe follows), chilled for at least 4 hours or overnight
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup milk
- 1 egg
- 2 cups seasoned breadcrumbs
- Salt, for sprinkling
- Optional: marinara sauce, for dipping
*I do not recommend using another recipe or boxed mac and cheese for this. I specifically designed that mac & cheese to be extra saucy so it won’t dry up when fried and isn’t too heavy on the pasta. Other recipes, and especially boxed mix, are likely to dry up and just be deep-fried noodles.
- Make Extra Creamy 4-Cheese Mac & Cheese (recipe below). Let come to room temperature then cover and chill in fridge for at least 5 hours or overnight until firm and solid.
- Preheat oven to 200 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and set aside. Line another baking sheet with a few layers of paper towels. Set aside.
- Pour oil into a deep frying pan so that it’s 2 inches deep. Bring to medium-high heat.
- Meanwhile, put the flour, milk + egg, and breadcrumbs into three separate bowls (one for each). Whisk the egg & milk mixture together.
- Take a generous scoop of the chilled mac and cheese (it should be nice and firm) and form into a patty. It should be about the size of your palm. Dip it first in the flour, flipping it so it gets completely covered, then into the milk/egg mixture, and finally the breadcrumbs. You should completely coat the patty with each layer; you should not be able to see any mac and cheese underneath.
- Drop one breaded patty into the oil carefully. If it sizzles, proceed to put a few more patties into the oil (about 4 or 5 per batch). If the oil does not sizzle, it’s not hot enough, and you need to wait a few more minutes.
- Allow patties to cook until the bottom is golden brown, about 2-3 minutes, then use a spatula to gently flip and let the other side brown. Once both sides of patty are browned and crisp, use a spatula to transfer to the paper towel-lined baking sheet to absorb excess oil. The patties are fragile, so be gentle.Once you have a batch completed, transfer to the aluminum foil-lined baking sheet and place in oven to keep warm while you finish the rest of the fried mac and cheeses.
- Sprinkle finished fried mac and cheeses with salt and serve immediately. Dip in marinara sauce, if you’d like.
Extra Creamy 4-Cheese Mac & Cheese
- About 12 oz. cavatappi or elbow pasta (use ¾ of a 16-oz. box, it doesn’t have to be exact)
- 4 tbsp. butter
- 1 tsp. minced garlic
- 4 tsp. all-purpose flour
- 3 – 4 cups heavy cream
- 1 cup milk
- 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar
- 2 cups shredded Muenster cheese
- 1 cup shredded Monterey jack cheese
- ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
- ½ tsp. salt
- ½ tsp. hot sauce
- In a large pot of salted boiling water over high heat, cook the pasta according to box directions. Drain.
- Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté until translucent and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Whisk in the flour so that it’s free of lumps and let cook for one minute, continuing to whisk.
- Whisk in 3 cups cream and all the milk until free of lumps. Cover and let simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes. Do not boil.
- Once sauce is thickened, whisk in all the cheeses, salt, and hot sauce until cheese is melted and sauce is smooth. Test taste to decide if you’d like any more cheese. If sauce is too thick for your liking, whisk in more cream, ¼ cup at a time.
- Turn off heat and immediately fold in pasta until well-coated. Enjoy some for dinner and cover and chill in fridge for frying the next day or cover and chill whole batch in fridge for 4 hours to overnight, until solid and firm. The longer you chill, the better off you’ll be.