Baked Mozzarella Sticks

Forget the fryer, mozzarella sticks have a healthier side that's still crispy on the outside and gooey on the inside.

Since most Americans dine out more than four times each week, we’re only in complete control of what we eat less than half of the time. In an ideal world, we'd know exactly what we’re consuming both at home and out -- right? Consider one of America’s favorite appetizers, fried mozzarella, and read the stats:

Restaurant Fried Mozzarella Sticks

Nutrition Info Per Serving (range in numbers reflects different restaurants)

Calories: 660-770
Total Fat: 35-46 grams
Saturated Fat: 15-24 grams
Total Carbohydrate: 54 grams
Sugars: not listed
Protein: 32-36 grams
Sodium: 1510-2040 milligrams
Cholesterol: not listed
Fiber: 1-7 grams

And it's usually eaten as a starter, even though it maxes out your fat and sodium intake for the entire day. For those days when you’re home but want a restaurant-style treat, I’ve got the perfect solution. My baked mozzarella sticks have less than half the calories and 1/3 the fat and sodium of their restaurant counterparts. Even better – they boast the same herb-infused, crispy exterior and soft gooey cheese center. Try ‘em this week and let me know what you think!

Baked Mozzarella Sticks

I’ve also made the sticks with the swirled cheese sticks – mozzarella and cheddar. I like to serve these mozzarella sticks with a good marinara sauce that I’ve warmed in the microwave.

Note: I refrigerate the breaded cheese sticks for 10 minutes before baking to make sure the cheese doesn’t over-melt in the oven. You can actually refrigerate the breaded cheese sticks for up to 24 hours (meaning you can prep ahead).

Cooking spray
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1/3 cup Italian style dry bread crumbs
1 teaspoon salt-free Italian seasoning
3/4 cup nonfat milk
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

16 (1-ounce) sticks low-moisture, part-skim mozzarella cheese, halved crosswise

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat two large baking sheets with cooking spray.

Combine panko, bread crumbs and Italian seasoning in a food processor and process until finely ground. Transfer mixture to a shallow dish.

In a separate shallow dish, whisk together milk and 2 tablespoons of the flour. Place remaining 1/2 cup of flour in a large freezer bag.

Add cheese sticks to the bag with the flour and shake to coat. Working in batches, dip the flour-coated cheese sticks into the milk mixture and then into the panko mixture. Arrange cheese, in a single layer, on prepared baking sheets. Spray the surface with cooking spray. Refrigerate 10 minutes.

Bake 8-10 minutes, until crust is golden brown and cheese is soft.

Serves 8
Nutrition Info Per Serving (serving size: 4 pieces)
Calories: 248
Total Fat: 11 grams
Saturated Fat: 7 grams
Total Carbohydrate: 17 grams
Sugars: 2 grams
Protein: 18 grams
Sodium: 451 milligrams
Cholesterol: 31 milligrams
Fiber: 1 gram
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