The Ultimate, Crunchy, Fried Vegan Mac and Cheese Balls
Need a bomb a** appetizer? Please look no further than these fried vegan mac and cheese balls! I make these using my three-cheese, creamy mac and cheese with a parmesan Italian panko bread crumb coating. And, of course, I deep fry them to crispy, crunchy, golden-brown perfection. Dip ’em into sriracha ranch, BBQ sauce, marinara (just to name a few ideas), and you’ve got yourself a delicious comfort food.
Who doesn’t love a good finger food!?
ESPECIALLY fried vegan mac and cheese! Please, find me one person who wouldn’t love a deep-fried, crispy, crunchy, cheesy ball of macaroni and cheese. I know there are obviously people out there who SOMEHOW wouldn’t be a fan, but that’s just so weird to me! I would like to sit down with them and hear why, because I am obsessed.
It’s so easy to level up classic mac and cheese.
AKA, DEEP FRY IT! I recommend making my mac and cheese recipe to make these deep-fried balls, but you can always use a store-bought one instead. It just won’t be as good (duh!)
I based this recipe on The Only Vegan Mac and Cheese Recipe You Need, which is also entirely written down below (with a bit of an adjustment to make it easier for deep frying.) I make the mac and cheese with FOUR different kinds of vegan cheese. Cheddar, smoked gouda, a homemade cashew-based cheesy sauce, and then the parmesan, which is in the breading. Delicious!
So, instead of baking the mac and cheese with the bread crumb mix on top, I bake it naked like in the original post. I then chill it overnight, portion it with more shredded cheddar cheese, and coat it in a 3-step breading. Finally, I deep fry ’em! The final product is an even cheesier mac and cheese, leveled up a few notches and dipped in sauce(s) of choice.
Don’t forget to make a plethora of dips!
I am a dip connoisseur. Seriously, give me all the dips, and I will be a HAPPY gal! I am, unfortunately, the type of person where I get bored quickly, so I always need at least two to three sauces to keep my taste buds excited.
I love dipping my fried vegan mac and cheese balls in:
- Sriracha – ranch
- BBQ sauce
- Homemade marinara sauce
- Ketchup (boring, but quite good)
- Honey mustard
- Bleu cheese dressing
If you make these fried vegan mac and cheese balls, don’t forget to post a picture to Instagram, tag me @chefsummerstorm, and #gardengrub so I can see your recreation!
Deep-Fried Vegan Mac & Cheese Balls
Mac & Cheese
- 3 cups corkscrew pasta + 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 2 cups raw cashews, soaked in water for at least 3 hours, drain, rinse, then measure out the 2 cups
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
- 1 tbsp sweet white miso paste
- 3 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tbsp + 1 tsp raw apple cider vinegar
- 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 3 tbsp vegan butter
- 3 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 2 1/2 cups cashew milk, plain, unsweetened
- 1 Daiya Medium Cheddar Style Farmhouse Block, shredded
- 1 Daiya Smoked Gouda Style Farmhouse Block, shredded *See tips below recipe for cheese alternatives
- 1 quart vegetable/canola oil, for deep frying
- *Optional: 1 Daiya Medium Cheddar Style Farmhouse Block, shredded
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup hot water
- 3 tbsp ENER-G Egg Replacer
- 1 cup panko bread crumbs, plain
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/4 tsp onion powder
- 1/4 tsp dried oregano
- 1/4 tsp dried basil
- 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/2 cup Follow Your Heart shredded parmesan
- 1/2 cup vegan ranch of choice (I use Follow Your Heart’s)
- 2 tsp vegan sriracha of choice (I use Yellowbird's Habanero sauce)
Day 1: Make the Mac & Cheese
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Fill a large stockpot with water. Season it with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Once it is at a rolling boil, add in the pasta. Give it a one time stir to ensure the pasta isn’t stuck together.
- Once it's back up to a rapid boil, set a timer and cook the pasta for 6 minutes.
- Drain and rinse off the pasta with cold water until the pasta is completely cooled down. Set aside.
- In a high-powered blender, add the softened cashews, nutritional yeast, miso paste, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, salt, pepper, and blend until extremely smooth. Scrape down the sides of the blender as needed. Set aside.
- Shred the vegan cheese blocks and combine the two to create a blend. Set aside.
- Place a large, deep stockpot over medium heat and melt the vegan butter.
- Once melted, add in the flour, stir well and continuously, with a wooden spoon, cooking for about 1 1/2 minutes.
- With a whisk, slowly whisk in the cashew milk, about 1/2 a cup at a time. The sauce should be very smooth.
- Once all of the cashew milk has been added, add in that cheese paste we blended from earlier. Whisk together really well until combined.
- Cook the sauce for about 2 minutes or until it begins to bubble.
- Now turn the heat down to medium-low, add 2 1/2 cups of the shredded cheese blend, and whisk it all together. Continue cooking until most of the cheese has melted into the sauce. A little bit of texture is okay.
- Turn the heat off and add the cooked pasta in. Stir very well to coat the pasta evenly in the sauce.
- Add in the rest of the shredded cheese blend and stir well.
- Pour the vegan mac and cheese into an 8×8 inch baking dish of choice, scraping in all of the sauce. With a rubber spatula, flatten the mixture out from corner to corner. *I like to place my baking dish onto a sheet pan just in case the mac and cheese ooze over.
- Wrap the top of the dish with tin foil and bake it on the middle rack for 30 minutes.
- Allow to completely cool at room temperature and then place in the refrigerator to chill overnight. Chilling this will solidify the mac and cheese and make it easy to roll into balls.
Day 2: Portion and Bread the Mac & Cheese
- Portion the mac & cheese into twenty 2 tablespoon portion balls. I found the quickest way to get this done is by filling half of a 1/4 measuring cup (equivalent to 2 tablespoons).
- If you would like the fried mac & cheese balls to be even cheesier, add a hefty pinch of finely shredded vegan cheddar cheese to each ball. Press it in and around the ball.
- Firmly squeeze/pack each ball tight, so it is easy to bread them. ***If the balls aren't cold anymore, pop them into the freezer for about 20 minutes to make them easier to work with. If needed, you can sprinkle a little bit of flour onto your hands before rolling each ball. This will help them not to stick as much!
- Pop the rolled balls onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and freeze them for 20 minutes.
- Get three medium-large, shallow bowls. Add the flour into the first bowl. In the second bowl, whisk together the warm water and ENER-G Egg Replacer until extremely smooth. Finally, in the third bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients, from the panko bread crumbs down to the parmesan cheese.
- Bring a deep fryer or a large saucepan filled with the vegetable oil up to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Use a thermometer to make sure it is accurate!
- Now, bread one mac & cheese ball at a time. First, using one hand, roll it well in the flour. Then with your other hand, roll it in the water/ENER-G Egg mix, making sure it is completely coated. Finally, with your dry hand that you used to cover it in the flour, use it again to coat it in the bread crumb mix.
- Set the breaded ball on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Continue breading the rest of the balls.
How to Deep Fry the Mac & Cheese Balls
- If you haven't already, preheat a deep fryer or a large saucepan with the vegetable oil to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Use a thermometer to make sure it is accurate!
- Gently place no more than three mac & cheese balls into the fryer (unless you're using a large deep fryer).
- Deep fry them for 3 minutes, turning them over and around as needed.
- Carefully pull them out using a spider, slotted spoon, or tongs and let the extra fat drip off. Rest them on a baking sheet that is lined with a few sheets of paper towel.
- Immediately sprinkle a pinch of salt on each ball.
- Mix the two ingredients together!
Welcome to my tip section of the fried mac and cheese recipe! Here I provide my top tips to help you perfect the recipe. Sometimes, I also give substitute suggestions that I think you may find helpful.
- Are you here to use up your leftover The Only Vegan Mac and Cheese Recipe You Need? That’s great! This might seem kind of weird, but try to scrape off the bread crumb topping and set it to the side.
- Now you can either:
- A. Toss it into a fresh batch of the breading recipe from above. (Psssst, this is actually what I always do, and it works just fine!)
- B. Use it on another dish- it’s okay to recycle a part of a recipe onto a different one!
- Now you can either:
- Here are some other cheese recommendations. I HIGHLY recommend using the cheeses that I do in the recipe, but I understand that not everyone can always get their hands on the same ones. So, here are a few substitute suggestions for you.
- Can’t find Daiya’s smoked gouda? Swap it out for a block of their Monterey jack and add 15 dots of liquid smoke of your choice. Another idea would be to use instead Follow Your Heart’s Smoked Gouda slices. Chop the slices up into shred-like pieces, and you’re good to go!
- Can’t find Daiya’s Farmhouse Cheese Blocks? Daiya’s Cutting Board Shreds are great, too! I also really love Violife’s and Follow Your Heart’s shreds. These are my three favorite brands of cheese at the moment, and I think any of these substitutions would be delicious!
- You are going to have leftover mac and cheese after you’ve rolled the twenty balls. You will have about four servings leftover. Feel free to make a bit more of the breading and deep fry it all, but I think you might want to eat the mac and cheese on its own, too! Throw some cooked broccoli, mushroom bacon, or vegan ham into it!
- Do you want to save a little bit of extra time? Skip making your own Italian panko bread crumbs and buy the store-bought stuff. Then add in the smoked paprika and shredded parmesan!