This is far from the first time I’ve worked with the deliciousness of macaroni and cheese on this here website, but these Pimento Mac and Cheese Bites might just be one of my favorite uses of macaroni and cheese!
These balls of homemade macaroni and cheese are chilled and then stuffed with slightly spicy and sweet pimento cheese and then fried! You better believe they are delicious. These would be perfect for a hearty game-day appetizer or just as a comfort food dinner side dish.
Surprisingly, I found that these mac and cheese bites reheated really well. Making them in advance and reheating them in the oven is a wonderful idea and we got to enjoy them for many days because they reheated so well.
A little work? Sure. But SO GOOD!
My basic Macaroni and Cheese Recipe
In theory you could use any macaroni and cheese for these bites, but making the homemade version below will give you good results with the bites. It is a slightly thicker version with more pasta than I would normally use so it firms up really well and holds its shape nicely.
If you happen to try this with store-bought mac and cheese, I’d love to know the results. I think it would work okay, but I wanted to make a homemade version to ensure I got the consistency right.
My homemade mac and cheese starts with elbow macaroni and more of it than I would normally use. I added an extra four ounces of it to the cheese sauce to make sure it was heavy on the pasta side.
The rest of the mac and cheese is pretty straightforward. Make your roux with butter and flour, whisk in some milk, and then add the cheese. It’s tastes really good already!
What kinds of cheeses work well with mac and cheese?
For my homemade version, I stuck with just a good sharp cheddar cheese. But, you could definitely experiment with other cheeses for the base mac and cheese. Mozzarella would be interesting or something like gouda that melts well. Any of those would be great options.
How to make mac and cheese bites
There is nothing particularly hard about making these mac and cheese bites, but I would encourage you to take your time on the shaping and forming. If you are rushed, they might not turn out as good as my version.
For starters, after you cook the base macaroni and cheese, spread the mixture out on a baking sheet and let it cool in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. The macaroni should be very firm where you can cut it into squares.
Once the mixture has setup, I recommend cutting the macaroni and cheese into about 2-inch squares. That makes for pretty big balls, but they are easy to work with. You could try to make them smaller if you like, but it’s just more work!
Once you have your square of mac and cheese, add about a tablespoon of pimento cheese spread to the center and gently shape the mixture around the filling.
You want to really press this ball tightly so it stays compact. This was one of my finished mac and cheese bites!
Notice that it’s okay if some of the pimento cheese is coming out of the macaroni. Everything will get fried together at the end!
After you have shaped all your bites, stick them in the freezer for 30 minutes. That will make them easier to work with.
NOTE: Don’t stick them in the freezer for longer than 30 minutes! If you do that, they will be rock hard and not thaw out during the frying process. You do not want them frozen solid.
Then prepare your frying station and breading. Dip each bite in eggs and then breadcrumbs.
Then fry the bites at 350˚F for about five minutes until they are golden brown and melted on the inside. These are seriously SO good.
What is pimento cheese?
If you’ve never had pimento cheese before, it’s a delicious spread with a creamy base, grated cheese, and pickled peppers, all blended together.
It’s SO good on crackers but is also good as a filler for fried things like these mac and cheese bites.
If you want to try to make your own pimento cheese, I made a version with my pimento cheese omelet that you could try, but you can also use a store-bought spread.
Filling ideas for mac and cheese bites
Your imagination can truly run wild with these bites. I could see stuffing them with all sorts of things. Here are a few ideas!
- Ham and cheese kind of like my savory stuffed french toast!
- Bacon and cheddar and scallions.
- Something sweet like jelly and cream cheese would be interesting.
- A mix of mozzarella, basil, and sun-dried tomatoes.
Pimento Mac and Cheese Bites
Basic Macaroni and Cheese
- 12 oz. elbow macaroni
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 cups whole milk, warm
- 8 oz. sharp cheddar, grated
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
Fried Mac and Cheese Bites
- 1 cup pimento cheese
- 3 large eggs, whisked
- 2 cups seasoned breadcrumbs
- 1 qt neutral oil, for frying
To make the base mac and cheese:
- Cook elbow macaroni in salted water until it's al dente and just cooked through, about 7 minutes. Then drain and rinse with cold water to prevent sticking.
- In a medium pot, melt butter over medium heat. Whisk in flour until smooth. Cook until the roux turns a light tan color, about 2 minutes. Then slowly whisk in warmed milk until the mixture thickens into a light gravy.
- Season the bechemel sauce with garlic powder and salt and stir in the grated cheese. Stir until cheese is melted. Then stir in reserved pasta and stir to combine.
- Transfer mac and cheese to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Spread out macaroni and cheese into a single thin layer. Allow to cool for 30 minutes in the fridge.
Making the Mac and Cheese Bites
- When macaroni and cheese has cooled down and hardened, remove from fridge. Cut out a square of macaroni, about 2 inches by 2 inches. Add a tablespoon of pimento cheese spread to the center and roll the mac and cheese around the pimento, forming a tight ball. Press the ball together firmly. Return the mac and cheese bite to the baking sheet.Repeat until you have used all the macaroni and cheese. You should get about 16 large bites. You can try to make them smaller if you would like, but it's more work!
- When balls are all formed, transfer the balls to the freezer to set for 30 minutes. Don't freeze them longer than that. You don't want them to be frozen solid, just easier to work with.
- Heat oil in a large pot or dutch oven to 350 °F. Whisk eggs together in a bowl and add breadcrumbs to a second bowl.
- Working with one mac and cheese bite at a time, add to eggs to coat thoroughly and then coat completely in breadcrumbs. Repeat with all the balls.
- Once all the mac and cheese balls are formed, fry them in batches of 3-4 until they are golden brown and melted in the center, about 4-5 minutes.
- Remove and drain on a few paper towels. Sprinkle with salt before serving.
Did you make this recipe?
What to serve with mac and cheese bites
If you are serving these as an appetizer, they don’t need a sauce at all in my opinion, but if you wanted to go extra, you could serve them with this spicy ranch dip.