If you love mozzarella sticks, but are looking for a lighter way to make them that uses less oil than deep frying, try this air fryer recipe! Air Fryer Mozzarella Sticks are crispy on the outside, gooey on the inside, and easy to prepare. A great appetizer for game day, weekend snacking, and casual get togethers.
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Cheesy appetizers are always devoured at my house, and mozzarella sticks are no exception. Whether it’s the melty cheese, the crispy coating, or the nostalgia that takes me back to my childhood (they were the ultimate treat as a kid), mozzarella sticks are pure comfort food.
(Bonus Read: Ever wonder who invented mozzarella sticks? Check out The Mozzarella Sticks Origins Are Actually Fiercely Debated from Thrillist.)
Traditionally, breaded mozzarella sticks are deep fried until golden. By making them in the air fryer, you use much less oil for a lighter treat that still feels indulgent.
While they don’t taste exactly like the deep fried version, these mozzarella sticks do come out of the air fryer irresistibly melty with a great crunch. They’re a great alternative if you don’t like to deep fry at home, or you want to enjoy a healthier version of a classic snack.
Ingredients You’ll Need
One of the best parts of making mozzarella sticks at home is the simple ingredient list. You might already have everything you need in your pantry and fridge to air fry a batch!
- Mozzarella String Cheese. Either low moisture whole milk or part skim string cheese works well for making mozzarella sticks in the air fryer. Whole milk mozzarella sticks will be a bit creamier when melted. I don’t recommend using fat free cheese.
- All Purpose Flour. For dredging the string cheese to help the egg wash and breading adhere.
- Seasonings. We like to season the flour with garlic powder, Italian seasoning (our favorite is Savory Spice Shop’s Italian Herbs Blend), and salt.
- Egg Wash. A combination of large eggs mixed with a splash of milk.
- Plain Panko Breadcrumbs. Japanese-style Panko has a flaky consistency that is lighter and crispier than regular breadcrumbs. When making mozzarella sticks in the air fryer, using Panko will help you get an extra-crunchy coating without a lot of oil.
- Oil Cooking Spray. Spraying the mozzarella sticks before air frying will help them brown and minimize sticking to the basket. I use vegetable oil cooking spray.
- Marinara Sauce. For serving. Make your own, our use your favorite store bought sauce (our favorite jarred marinara is Rao’s). Want to add some heat? Try dipping your mozzarella sticks in Arrabbiata Sauce instead of Marinara.
Tip: For a finer-textured coating, try pulsing the Panko in your food processor to break up the flakes before breading. You’ll still get the extra crunch, but the coating will have a finer crumb, closer to that of a classic mozzarella stick.
How to Make Air Fried Mozzarella Sticks
Before getting started with breading and air frying your mozzarella sticks, you’ll need to prep the coatings in 3 separate bowls. In the first bowl, combine the flour, Italian Herbs, salt, and garlic powder. In the second bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk. Place the Panko breadcrumbs in the 3rd bowl.
Unwrap the string cheese and cut each in half crosswise.
Dredge each piece of cheese in the seasoned flour, then dip into the egg wash to coat (let the excess drip off), and bread with the Panko breadcrumbs.
Place the breaded mozzarella sticks on a parchment-lined baking sheet and freeze for 2 hours.
Arrange the frozen mozzarella sticks in your air fryer basket in a single layer, spray with cooking spray, and air fry at 390 degrees F for 5-7 minutes. Serve hot with marinara sauce for dipping.
Note About Air Frying: Cooking times can vary by air fryer model. I made these mozzarella sticks using the Air Crisp setting on my Ninja Foodi. Keep a close eye during the cooking process when making your first batch to note any adjustments needed for your model. You might need to increase or decrease the cooking time.
Q. Can I make these mozzarella sticks gluten-free?
A. To make this recipe gluten-free, substitute your favorite gluten-free breadcrumbs and flour. For the crumbs, try Aleia’s Gluten Free Real Panko or Jeff Nathan Creations Gluten Free Panko. For gluten-free flour, I like Cup4Cup and King Arthur Flour’s Measure For Measure.
Q. Why do you freeze the mozzarella sticks before frying? Can I skip this step?
A. Freezing the mozzarella sticks helps to prevent the cheese from melting out from the breadcrumb coating before it finishes crisping in the air fryer. While some cheese will inevitably bubble out while cooking, mozzarella that isn’t frozen will quickly melt into a cheesy puddle in the air fryer. I don’t recommend skipping this step.
Q. Can I prep these more than 2 hours ahead and store them in the freezer?
A. Absolutely! I recommend freezing the uncooked mozzarella sticks in a single layer on a baking sheet first so they don’t stick together. Then, transfer the frozen sticks to a freezer-safe container for longer storage. For best results, air fry them within 2 months.
Top Tips for Making Mozzarella Sticks in the Air Fryer
- Make sure your mozzarella sticks are well-frozen before air frying.
- For best results, preheat your air fryer for 5-10 minutes before cooking.
- Air fry the mozzarella sticks in a single layer, cooking them in batches if your basket isn’t big enough to fit all of them without crowding.
- Some cheese will bubble out of the mozzarella sticks when cooking. If your air fryer has an open basket in a countertop oven (such as the Breville Smart Oven Air), place a lined baking sheet on a lower rack to catch any cheese drips from reaching the heating elements.
- Start checking the mozzarella sticks early, and keep a close eye on them as they’re cooking. Air fryers can vary by brand.
More of our Favorite Air Fryer Recipes
- Air Fryer Crab Cakes
- Chicken Milanese
- Balsamic Marinated Chicken Breasts
- Cheesy Garlic Pull Apart Bread
Air Fryer Mozzarella Sticks
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning ("Italian Herbs")
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- 2 large eggs
- 1 tablespoon milk
- ¾ cup Panko breadcrumbs *
- 8 low-moisture mozzarella string cheeses (whole milk or part skim)
- ½ cup marinara sauce , warmed
- Combine the flour, Italian seasoning, salt, and garlic in a small mixing bowl. Whisk together the eggs and milk in a second small mixing bowl. Place the breadcrumbs in a third bowl.
- Unwrap the string cheese and cut each stick in half crosswise.
- Transfer the breadsticks into the egg mixture, ensuring they are evenly coated.
- Dredge each mozzarella stick in the flour mixture, then dip it into the egg wash, coating completely and letting any excess liquid drip off. Bread the mozzarella with the Panko, gently pressing to adhere.
- Place the breaded mozzarella sticks onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Place the sheet pan into the freezer for at least two hours.
- Preheat your air fryer to 390°F. Spray the air fryer basket with cooking spray and add the mozzarella sticks in a single layer (depending on your basket, you might have to work in batches). Lightly spray the mozzarella sticks with cooking spray.
- Cook for 5-7 minutes, until the mozzarella sticks are golden brown. (Watch your first batch carefully; air fryers can vary by model and you might need to increase or decrease the cooking time.)
- Serve warm with marinara sauce for dipping.