Breaded, fried cheese? YES PLEASE! Air Fryer Mozzarella Sticks give you the pleasure of the state fair/frozen food aisle favorite, but made with simple ingredients and baked, not fried!
With its intense convection heating capability, the air fryer excels at creating healthy versions of fried food favorites that are magnificently crispy-crunchy.
From Air Fryer French Fries (or Air Fryer Sweet Potato Fries) to Air Fryer Pickles (another of my favorite fair foods) to ridiculously crispy, juicy Air Fryer Chicken Wings, or a twist on the classic Air Fryer Egg Rolls, this appliance earns its cabinet space.
When I’m craving a bite of nostalgia (or I’m hosting a game watch and really want to make my friends go crazy), baked Mozzarella Sticks are always the right choice.
Since we love them in the oven, I thought—why not try them in the air fryer, like I did with Air Fryer Potato Chips?
Crispy outside, gooey inside; my inner kid is loving this!
How to Make Air Fryer Mozzarella Sticks
Making fried mozzarella cheese sticks in the air fryer is easy, but it does take some planning!
To keep mozzarella sticks from exploding in the air fryer, you MUST freeze them first.
- Freezing cheese sticks for 1 hour both before and after breading them ensures that the cheese doesn’t explode before the filling has a chance to turn golden and crisp.
- Good news: healthy air fryer mozzarella sticks can last in your freezer for months.
Prep and freeze a big batch, then all you need to do is pop them in the air fryer when a craving strikes!
- Mozzarella String Cheese. So simple, yet SO delicious! Mozzarella cheese sticks are a crowd-pleaser that’s packed with calcium, potassium, protein, and probiotics. I used part-skim mozzarella to lighten things up a little and keep the air fryer mozzarella sticks’ calories low.
- All-Purpose Flour. Coating the cheese sticks in flour first helps the egg stick.
- Egg + Milk. Helps the breadcrumbs adhere to the cheese sticks.
- Breadcrumbs. Skip air fryer mozzarella sticks with white bread. A mix of Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs and panko breadcrumbs creates the best texture. The Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs add flavor and the panko adds crunch.
- Spices. A blend of herbs like basil and oregano, Italian seasoning gives the mozzarella sticks an herby, Italian flair. Garlic powder adds some beloved garlicky flavor.
- Slice the cheese sticks in half crosswise, then lay them on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Freeze until solid.
- Prepare the flour mixture in one bowl. Whisk the egg mixture together in a separate bowl.
- Prepare the breadcrumb mixture in a third bowl.
- Dredge the cheese sticks in the flour, beaten egg, and breadcrumbs.
- Transfer the finished cheese sticks to a parchment-lined baking sheet. FREEZE FOR AT LEAST 1 HOUR.
- Air fry mozzarella sticks at 390 degrees F for 6 to 8 minutes. Repeat with the remaining sticks. Serve with your favorite dipping sauce. DIG IN!
- To Store. Mozzarella sticks are best enjoyed immediately after making. You can try saving the leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
- To Reheat. Gently rewarm the mozzarella sticks on a baking sheet in a 350 degrees F oven until warmed through with melty cheese. Or, reheat in the air fryer.
- To Freeze. I recommend freezing the cheese sticks before baking if possible. If you’d like to freeze them after baking, place the mozzarella sticks on a parchment-lined baking sheet and freeze until solid. Transfer the frozen sticks to an airtight freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Reheat from frozen on a baking sheet in the oven at 350 degrees F or in the air fryer.
Meal Prep Tip
For an easy snack or appetizer, prep these mozzarella sticks ahead of time. Bread the sticks as directed, then freeze until hardened. Transfer to a ziptop bag and freeze them for up to 3 months. Bake directly from frozen in the air fryer, adding to the baking time as needed.
Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe
- Air Fryer. This one has an air fryer basket that’s perfect for making this recipe.
- Pie Dish. My go-to choice for the egg and breading mixtures.
- Baking Sheet. Line it with parchment paper for easy cleanup.
The Best Air Fryer
With dishwasher-safe parts and multiple settings, this air fryer will help you prepare healthier versions of your favorite fried foods.
Step aside, state fair cheese sticks.
Air-fried is the new deep-fried!
Frequently Asked Questions
Whether you use store bought mozzarella sticks, or freeze this homemade recipe for later, you can make them in the air fryer!
Cook frozen mozzarella cheese sticks in the air fryer at 390 degrees F for 6 to 8 minutes. Coat the basket with nonstick spray, keep them in a single layer., and spray the tops of the sticks with additional nonstick spray prior to cooking.
Yes, you can make these cheese sticks gluten free. Use gluten free Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs and gluten free panko. Swap the all-purpose flour for a 1:1 gluten free flour.
We love serving these cheese sticks with marinara sauce or ranch dressing. I think they would also be tasty with BBQ sauce (try my homemade Barbecue Sauce) or garlic butter.
In short, no. If you cook the mozzarella sticks not frozen, the cheese will melt all over the baking sheet long before the mozzarella sticks have a chance to crisp up and turn golden. Trust me, the time air fryer mozzarella sticks spend in the freezer is well worth it!
Air Fryer Mozzarella Sticks
- 12 sticks part-skim mozzarella string cheese*
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 large egg
- 2 tablespoons nonfat milk or milk of choice
- 2/3 cup Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs whole wheat if possible
- 1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- Nonstick cooking spray or olive oil spray
- Marinara sauce or ranch dressing for serving
- Slice each piece of cheese in half crosswise so that you have 24 shorter pieces. Arrange the cheese in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet, cutting board, or plate, then freeze until completely solid, about 1 hour.
- Once the cheese is frozen, place the flour in a pie dish or similar shallow bowl. In a separate shallow bowl, whisk the egg and milk.
- In a third shallow bowl, combine the Italian breadcrumbs, panko, Italian seasoning, and garlic powder. Arrange the plates in an assembly line: flour, eggs, breadcrumbs. Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Working to 2 to 3 cheese sticks at a time, dredge the frozen cheese sticks in the flour, shaking off excess. Next, dip into the egg, then place in the bowl with the crumbs and lightly pat to coat (don’t be tempted to tackle too many cheese sticks at a time; the egg will freeze right onto the cheese and no longer be sticky enough for the crumbs to adhere).
- Place the breaded cheese on the prepared baking sheet, then repeat the process until all of the cheese sticks are coated. Place cheese back into the freezer for at least 1 hour (this is a MUST or the cheese will melt before the crumbs are golden).
- When ready to bake, preheat your air fryer to 390 degrees F. Generously coat the basket with nonstick spray. Arrange the frozen cheese sticks in a single layer on top, ensuring none are touching (you will need to cook them in batches). Coat the tops of the sticks with more spray.
- Air fry mozzarella sticks for 6 to 8 minutes, until the cheese is heated through and the crumbs are golden. Remove to a plate and let stand for 3 minutes (they are HOT; you’ve been warned). Repeat with remaining batches. Serve warm with marinara sauce (heat the sauce first for the best experience) or ranch for dipping.
- *You can also prepare this recipe with a block of mozzarella cheese rather than string cheese. Simply cut the block into 4-inch by 1/2-inch sticks.
- TO MAKE AHEAD AND FREEZE: Bread the sticks as directed, then freeze until hardened. Transfer to a ziptop bag and freeze them for up to 3 months. Bake directly from frozen in the air fryer, adding to the baking time as needed.
- TO STORE: Mozzarella sticks are best enjoyed immediately after making. You can try saving the leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
- TO REHEAT: Gently rewarm the mozzarella sticks on a baking sheet in a 350 degrees F oven until warmed through.
- TO FREEZE: I recommend freezing the cheese sticks before baking if possible. If you’d like to freeze them after baking, place the mozzarella sticks on a parchment-lined baking sheet and freeze until solid. Transfer the frozen sticks to an airtight freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Reheat from frozen on a baking sheet in the oven at 350 degrees F.
- Nutritional information has been calculated with half the amount of flour and bread crumb mixture, as not all of it sticks to the cheese.
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