I used to love fried cheese sticks in high school and college and would even order these as my meal in restaurants. Something about the crispy breadcrumb fried exterior of mozzarella sticks combined with a warm, melty center is the ultimate comfort food. They go really well as an appetizer with these crispy Korean chicken wings too.
Since we don’t eat grains, all-purpose flour, or vegetable oils anymore, I decided to find a healthier way to fry food at home. I started with homemade chicken tenders and moved on from there. My kids quickly requested fried cheese sticks so I gave it a try. Several tries, actually. The end result was delicious, grain-free, and much cheaper too!
Homemade Fried Cheese Sticks
My quest to make cheese sticks healthier included using a grain-free coating. From other recipes, I knew that almond flour worked great, so I decided to go with that. I added some salt and a good amount of Italian seasoning and called it good.
By dipping the cheese into at least two layers of beaten egg and seasoned almond flour to double coat I get pretty good results.
In my cheese stick experimentation, the two most important things I learned were:
- Make sure there’s enough almond flour on the cheese sticks or the cheese will leak out.
- Make sure that the cheese is frozen to start or it will be too melty before the coating cooks and seals it in.
Freezing Tip: If you don’t want to fry (and potentially eat!) a whole batch of these mozzarella sticks at once, you store them in the freezer after breading and just fry a couple at a time as needed.
Frying the Mozzarella Sticks Recipe
The other key step to making healthier fried cheese sticks is to use a healthy fat source for frying. I don’t like to use peanut oil or canola oil, so I usually use tallow (rendered beef fat) or coconut oil. Both contain healthy fats and have a high smoke point, making them excellent for frying. Olive oil is a healthy oil, but not the best for frying (unless you want a smoky kitchen!).
If you haven’t used tallow before, don’t be afraid to try it! I like its mild flavor and healthy fat profile. Not familiar with tallow? I write more about it in my post for parsnip fries (which are delicious!) and get it from Thrive Market. You can re-use tallow or lard several times — just store it in the fridge.
An Alternative to Frying: the Air Fryer!
Since I originally published this post, air fryers have become a thing. I’ve experimented with mine quite a bit and have enjoyed making healthy recipes like zucchini fries. Also, air fryer sweet potato fries are waayyy tastier than oven-baked.
When I decided to update this post I figured I’d try cooking them in the air fryer, which worked beautifully. They’re nice and crispy, just like the deep-fried ones. I did learn though, that since they don’t cook quite as rapidly in the air fryer, the cheese tends to leak out more easily. So keep an eye on them. Once they’re browned and the cheese starts to drip out, take them out.
If you’re interested, this is the air fryer I have.
Healthy Cheese Sticks Recipe
- Line a baking sheet with wax paper or parchment paper and set aside.
- Cut the block of cheese into sticks. I like mine about ½” x ½” x 3”.
- In a small bowl, whisk the eggs and water.
- In a medium-size shallow dish, stir together the almond flour, Italian seasoning, and salt.
- Dredge each cheese stick first into the beaten egg and then into the almond flour mixture, setting the breaded sticks onto the prepared baking sheet.
- Repeat the above step, dipping each cheese stick into the beaten egg and almond flour a second time. Make sure the cheese is completely covered or it will leak out when you cook it.
- Place the baking sheet of cheese sticks into the freezer and freeze for about 3-4 hours or until the cheese is completely frozen.
- In a medium-sized skillet add enough tallow, lard, or coconut oil to reach a depth of 1½-2 inches.
- Preheat the oil over medium-high heat until very hot. If you drop a bit of the almond flour into the hot oil and it bubbles and starts to float, the oil is ready.
- Remove the cheese from the freezer and fry 3 or 4 at a time in the heated oil for a couple of minutes until they turn golden brown.
- Use a slotted spoon to carefully remove the fried cheese sticks from the skillet and onto some paper towels to drain.
- Repeat frying with the remaining cheese sticks until they're all cooked.
Serve these with homemade marinara or pizza sauce!
What was your favorite “bad” food before switching to a real food diet? Do you like cheese sticks? Share below!