I like to give “adult-ier” makeovers to my favorite foods from my childhood. Mac and cheese was a staple in my house growing up – but it wasn’t until college until I had mac and cheese balls for the first time. Since then, I’ve been on an obsessive hunt to make the best mac bites in town – and today, I think I might have done it.
These mac and cheese balls are rolled in a thick breading and then fried until golden brown. You could also bake the mac balls if you don’t have a way of frying. I first fried mine and then froze the leftovers for reheating in the oven later.
You can make the mac and cheese balls any size you want – mine came out a little bit bigger than I probably personally would have preferred, but the guests at our engagement party loved that they could eat the whole thing in just 2 or 3 bites.
Rolling them bigger than a bite sized snack makes them the perfect finger food or easy dinner.
I gave my mac and cheese balls a hearty drizzle of sweet and sticky balsamic vinegar, which plays beautifully with the sweet and savory flavors of the goat cheese and bacon.
Mac & Cheese Bites with Goat Cheese, Bacon & Dates
- 5 cups macaroni noodles cooked
- 6 strips bacon
- 2 tablespoons salted butter
- 1 cup onion chopped
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 12 oz beer
- 1 ¼ cup flour
- ¼ cup sweet bell peppers chopped
- ½ cup dates chopped
- ½ cup milk
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 8 oz cheddar cheese cubes room temperature
- ½ cup goat cheese room temperature
- 3 tablespoons green onion chopped
- ½ cup plain bread crumbs
- 2 eggs whisked
- 2 cups vegetable oil for frying + more as needed to cover balls
- 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar for drizzling
- fresh parsley chopped for topping
- Cook the macaroni noodles according to the instructions on the box. Drain and let cool completely.
- In a large skillet over medium high heat, sear the bacon until the bacon is just shy of being crispy. Remove from the skillet and set aside to dry on paper towels. When dried, finely chop.
- Without cleaning the skillet, add butter and as it melts, scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the skillet.
- Add the onions to the skillet and saute until golden and tender, about 3-5 minutes. Stir in the minced garlic and cook until fragrant, another 2-3 minutes.
- Pour in the beer. Bring the liquid to a rolling simmer and reduce the liquid until the spoons leaves trails in the pan and the volume has reduced by half.
- Reduce the heat to a medium low. Sift the flour into the skillet and stir until the flour has absorbed the liquid and is starting to appear dry in the pan.
- Toss in the chopped sweet peppers and dates. Stir until combined. Slowly pour in 1/2 cup of milk and 1/2 cup of buttermilk. Stir until a smooth roux forms.
- Add the cubed cheese and goat cheese to the skillet. Stir until the cheese is melted and the sauce is golden with few clumps – about 10 minutes.
- Pour the cheese sauce over the cooked macaroni noodles. Add the green onion, remaining dates and chopped bacon. Stir everything together until the cheese and noodles are completely combined.
- Chill the mac and cheese sauce until cold – about 1-2 hours or overnight. If it is not COLD, it will be much harder to form solid balls that hold their shape.
- Preheat 3-4 inches of oil in a large pot OR preheat your deep fryer to 325 F.
- Use a ice cream scoop or spoon that is the desired size of the mac and cheese balls. This will ensure even sizes. Scoop out a portion of the mac and cheese and then roll it between your palms to form a ball shape. Repeat with the remaining mac and cheese.
- In four separate bowls, have the remaining flour, remaining buttermilk, bread crumbs and whisked eggs. It's best to have them in this order.
- Dreadge the mac balls first in flour until completely covered. Then roll the balls in the buttermilk, followed by the bread crumbs. Roll the balls next in the whisked eggs. Let the excess drip off. Then roll the balls once more in the bread crumbs. The balls should have a thick breading.
- Fry the mac and cheese balls for 5-6 minutes in batches of 2-4 – however many can fit in your pot without over crowding or overflowing the pot. The balls should be at least half way to fully covered in oil to prevent splitting while cooking.
- Serve the balls hot with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and a dash of fresh parsley for a pop of color. Enjoy!