Fried mozzarella sticks seem to be a mainstay on every kid’s menu when dining out. My mother would have loved for me to order those with a tiny bowl of marinara sauce on the side. I probably would have liked them. I wasn’t a normal kid. I wanted a lobster tail with drawn butter, cheesy Welsh rarebit on toasted bread, or chopped sirloin steak with gravy and a side of creamed spinach. I wasn’t going for the hot dogs, chicken fingers, or breaded cheese sticks that I could get at home from the freezer. My siblings thought I was nuts.
Then, I had to feed normal children later in life. I tried to get them to eat healthy and sophisticated foods. Thumbs down and many tears later, I learned that I had to have frozen mozzarella sticks and boxes of mac n cheese on hand for mealtime meltdowns. Guess what? I like these things too when I am tired and need a quick meal. Cheese is good mood food.
Here’s the thing, I try not to eat a lot of fried foods because of the calories and trans fats. Baking frozen mozzarella sticks in my air fryer solves that problem. All I need is a low-cal dipping sauce, maybe a green salad, and a glass of crisp white wine. It’s a great dinner in a pinch.
Tips for Air Frying Mozzarella Sticks
When air frying prepared frozen food, it is recommended that you don’t defrost the food prior to cooking it. This is especially true for breaded items, such as mozzarella sticks. The breading can become gummy or pasty when it is defrosted prior to air frying.
It is also recommended that frozen mozzarella sticks be placed in a well preheated air fryer at a relatively high temperature. It should be preheated for 5 minutes at a temperature between 360°F and 400°F. I like to cook them at 390°F to ensure the exterior is crispy and the interior is creamy and hot.
Place the sticks in a single layer so they crisp up and don’t merge into one giant cheese platter. Cook in batches if necessary. You might want to give them a good spritz or brushing of olive oil so they don’t stick to the crisper plate or basket. Keep an eye on the mozzarella sticks. They should only take about 6 minutes. But, every air fryer is a little different, and varieties of mozzarella sticks also differ.
Now we are ready for the recipes. The mozzarella sticks are the easy part. Actually, the dipping sauce is pretty easy as well. You will want to make the dipping sauce first and just keep it over a low flame so that it is served warm with your hot and gooey mozzarella sticks. So, let’s start there.
Spicy Marinara Dipping Sauce Recipe
- 1 TBS extra virgin olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp dried basil
- 1 (15 ounce) can good tomato sauce
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- Few dashes of sriracha or other hot pepper sauce (optional)
Total time: 20 min – Prep time: 5 min – Cook time: 15 min – Serves: 4 people
1. Place a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat. Add the oil and garlic and sauté until just softened and quite fragrant, being careful not to brown the garlic, approximately 2 minutes. Add the oregano and basil. Stir and cook until warmed through and aromatic.
2. Add the tomato sauce. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer the sauce until bubbling, approximately 12 minutes. Taste to be sure the herbs have softened. Season with the salt.
3. Keep the sauce warm on low while you cook the mozzarella sticks. Place in individual ramekins and serve with air fried mozzarella sticks. Store leftovers in an air-tight container in your refrigerator.
Air Fryer Frozen Mozzarella Cheese Sticks
- 1 (12 to 16 ounce) bag or box of your favorite frozen breaded mozzarella sticks
- Olive oil spray or in a dish to brush on
Total time:6 min – Prep time:1 min – Cook time:5 min – Serves:4 people
1. Preheat your air fryer at 390°F for 5 minutes.
2. Lightly spray or brush both sides of the mozzarella sticks with olive oil.
3. Place the sticks on the crisper plate or in the basket of the air fryer. Set the timer for 5 minutes. Check the sticks to make sure they are crispy and hot. Continue to cook for another minute or two if necessary.
4. Serve immediately with dipping sauce and a hearty salad.
I just love to compliment mozzarella sticks with a healthy salad with bold flavors. This may not be a hit with the little ones, but it makes a great meal for adults. For kids, I would just keep the air fryer on and toss in some hot dog slices for a minute or two that they can dip in the sauce with toothpicks. Or, air fry some parmesan seasoned frozen broccoli florets for a bit of greenery.
1. Mexican Cabbage Salad with Pomegranate Seeds: This is a refreshing and crunchy slaw with the colors of the rainbow for ultimate nutrition. It is made with both red and white cabbage and carrots as the base. The dressing is avocado mayonnaise and lime juice. The salad is topped with pomegranate seeds, chili flakes, fresh cilantro leaves and chopped cashews. It is vegetarian and Paleo compliant.
2. Kale Caesar Salad: I am pretty sure I was addicted to Caesar salad as a young teenager after my father took me to a restaurant where it was made tableside in a large wooden bowl. It may have been more of the experience than the actual taste. Though, what isn’t to like about crunchy lettuce, cheesy dressing, and croutons?
I found a modernized version of a Caesar salad that is vegan and Paleo compliant. The kale is crunchy, pepitas add a crouton-like bite, and the avocado/lime dressing offers some creaminess.
3. BLT Salad: Not in the mood for sticking with the vegetarian theme? One of my favorite salads is a classic iceberg wedge with blue cheese dressing, tomato slices, and bacon crumbles. I found a deconstructed version of this salad that is much easier to eat and has some herbs to add a pop of freshness. It is super easy to make and pairs really well with cheesy mozzarella sticks.