A delicious upgrade to fried zucchini…these Mac and Cheese Stuffed Oven Fried Zucchini Bites will not disappoint. Homemade, macaroni and cheese sandwiched between zucchini slices, breaded in panko breadcrumbs, and oven “fried” until golden and crisp. Enjoy as a fun summer snack or appetizer. Or make these bites into a family meal as part of a loaded summer salad. Each oven baked zucchini bite is crispy on the outside plus creamy and cheesy on the inside. A truly delicious summer snack.
There is fried zucchini, and then there are these fried zucchini bites. AKA…little nuggets of deliciousness. I’m not entirely sure how I ever thought this concept up, but it’s a delicious recipe that gives mac and cheese AND fried zucchini a whole new identity.
Plus, if you’re looking to use up an abundance of zucchini this summer, this is the perfect recipe.
The history on this recipe…
This is a remake of a recipe I shared years back, in the earlier days of HBH. Back in the day, I liked to create only the most complicated recipes. Recipes that no one had time to make. I’m talking multiple sauces, multiple steps, literally just so much happening. They were overly different recipes. And while delicious, at times they were honestly just a little too much.
As with everything, I’ve learned over time. Since those days I’ve honed in on creating simple, creative, and flavorful recipes without a million and one things happening. It’s actually crazy to see the evolution of growth if you look back through the years. I love how all of your input has helped to guide HBH to where it is today and how far we’ve come together. I’m so excited to see what the next five to ten years have in store. I have lots of ideas!
Anyway, the original version of this recipe was much more complicated, and also deep-fried. Listen, I’m not completely against deep frying, but I do try to avoid it whenever possible (but will make exceptions…hello to crispy BBQ cauliflower). I took inspiration from my original concept of mac and cheese stuffed fried zucchini and turned it into an oven-baked recipe that you’d think was actually fried.
First things first, this is not a 20-minute meal, like Monday’s dinner. But I did try my best to simplify things as much as possible. That said, plan ahead with this recipe, as the homemade mac and cheese needs time to chill before you roll it into “bites”.
For the mac and cheese, I use my go-to one pot mac and cheese recipe. It’s pretty simple and straight forward. Make the creamy sauce, add the pasta and cheese, toss…you now have cheesy macaroni and cheese. I like to use a mix of sharp cheddar cheese, creamy fontina, and buttery Havarti. But pretty much all cheese is good, so use what you and your family really love. Just be sure to use a melting cheese, not something like a parmesan.
Once the mac and cheese is made, you need to chill it to allow the cheese to stiffen up. I just throw my pan of mac and cheese into the freezer for thirty minutes while I prep the zucchini. If you have more time, you can chill the mac and cheese in the fridge for up to two to three days.
To assemble, scoop the mac and cheese into balls and simply sandwich between two rounds of zucchini. It’s key to really pack the balls of mac and cheese tight, so that they hold together while baking.
Then just secure the stuffed zucchini with a couple of toothpicks.
Once all of the bites are assembled, simply dip through a few beaten eggs, then dredge through a mix of panko breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese.
And now for baking…
Just like with my oven fried chicken recipes, the key to getting a golden crust is to add olive oil before baking. I like to drizzle the bites with olive oil, then bake in a super hot oven. This helps the coating to really crisp up nicely in the oven. You can’t skip this step, it’s crucial.
If you do skip…your bites will be dry on the outside…not ideal.
As the bites bake, the kitchen is going to smell like mac and cheese baking in the oven, but with an extra special element…zucchini all coated in (cheesy) breadcrumbs.
And when you pull the pans out of the oven? They’re going to be sizzling, crisp, cheesy, and oh my gosh, they’re going to look GOOD. The bottoms will be crispier than the tops, but this is OK. There are varying textures and I found this to be delicious.
Here’s the thing, you have to eat these HOT while the cheese inside is all melty. It is THE BEST!
Of course, the leftovers are great too, but reheat them in the oven. Warm, just out of the oven, is the way to go.
Serving ideas plus make-ahead tips.
Serve these up at your next summer BBQ, enjoy on the 4th of July, or just incorporate into your family dinner with a summery salad to round out the meal.
And for sauces? Honestly, you don’t have to add any kind of sauce. But you could dip these into ketchup, honey mustard, BBQ sauce, ranch…really anything goes here. For me personally, no sauce is needed…though I do love a little ketchup dip if presented.
You can prepare the bites a few days ahead of time and keep them in the fridge. Then just bake them off before serving. This makes for simple and easy entertaining.
And the real added bonus? If you’re looking for a way to get everyone in the house to eat more zucchini this recipe will surely entice them. I mean, it’s fried mac and cheese with zucchini on either end. These are pretty hard not to love.
And fair warning? Stopping with just one bite is really not possible. Again, crispy and fried on the outside…melty, cheesy, and pasta filled inside.
Just too good!
Looking for other summer appetizer recipes? Here are some favorites:
Lastly, if you make these mac and cheese stuffed oven fried zucchini bites, be sure to leave a comment and/or give this recipe a rating! Above all, I love to hear from you guys and always do my best to respond to each and every comment. And of course, if you do make this recipe, don’t forget to tag me on Instagram! Looking through the photos of recipes you all have made is my favorite!
Mac and Cheese Stuffed Oven Fried Zucchini Bites
Servings: 40 bites
Calories Per Serving: 90 kcal
Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.
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- 1/2 pound elbow pasta
- 2 tablespoons salted butter
- 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups whole milk
- 1 1/4 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- 1/2 cup shredded fontina cheese
- 1/2 cup shredded havarti cheese
- 1/4 teaspoon mustard powder
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- kosher salt and black pepper
- 1 1/2 cups panko bread crumbs
- 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 3 large eggs, beaten
- 2-3 medium zucchini, cut into 1/4 inch rounds
- extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
- 1. In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in 2 tablespoons flour. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 1 minute, stirring to avoid burning—it will bubble. Gradually whisk in the milk and 1 cup of water, then stir in the macaroni. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a boil. Stir frequently until the macaroni is just al dente, 8 to 10 minutes. If the sauce thicken too quickly, add 1/2 additional water.2. When the macaroni is al dente, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cheddar, fontina, Havarti, mustard, and cayenne. Season with salt and pepper. Stir until the cheeses have fully melted. Let cool. Transfer to the fridge to chill 2 hours or place in the freezer 30-45 minutes, until cold. 3. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.4. Place the panko, parmesan, 2 tablespoons flour, and the paprika in a shallow bowl. Add the eggs to a separate bowl. Scoop out 1 tablespoon of mac and cheese and pack it into a ball. Sandwich the mac and cheese between 2 zucchini slices, secure with 2 toothpicks. 5. Dredge the stuffed zucchini bites through the egg, and then through the panko mix, tossing to coat entirely. Place onto the prepared baking sheet. Repeat until all the bites are breaded. Make sure not to crowd your pans. 6. Brush/drizzling the bites with olive oil. Transfer to the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden and crisp. Some of the bite may break in half, it's OK, they will still be delicious. Serve while hot with your favorite dipping sauces and or fresh herbs.