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Ranch Mac and Cheese Balls

Super cheesy mac 'n' cheese gets a boost from ranch seasoning, and then gets even better: It's deep-fried into crunchy and creamy golden-brown bites.
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  • Level: Intermediate
  • Total: 2 hr 25 min (includes cooling and chilling times)
  • Active: 55 min
  • Yield: 16 balls
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2 cups whole milk

6 ounces elbow macaroni (about 1 1/2 cups)

4 ounces Monterrey Jack cheese, shredded (about 1 1/2 cups; see Cook's Note)

2 ounces part-skim mozzarella, shredded (about 2/3 cup; see Cook's Note)

1 ounce cream cheese, cut into small pieces

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Two 1-ounce packets dry ranch seasoning (1/3 cup)

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 cup panko breadcrumbs

Vegetable oil, for frying

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup buttermilk


Special equipment:
a 1-ounce ice cream scoop, optional, and a deep-frying thermometer
  1. Put the milk and macaroni in a small saucepan and bring the milk to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently to keep the macaroni from clumping. Simmer until the macaroni is tender and the milk has thickened to the consistency of heavy cream, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat, add the Monterrey Jack, mozzarella, cream cheese, butter, 1 packet of the ranch seasoning (8 teaspoons) and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and stir until smooth, thick and creamy. Transfer the mixture to a shallow bowl and cool to room temperature to stiffen up.
  2. Meanwhile, put the flour, eggs and breadcrumbs into 3 separate shallow dishes and season each with salt and pepper.
  3. Using a 1-ounce ice cream scoop or 2 tablespoons, scoop out balls of the cooled macaroni mixture and put them on a baking sheet. Roll each ball in your hand until smooth, then dredge in the flour, dip in the eggs to coat and roll in the breadcrumbs until completely covered. Put the balls back on the baking sheet and refrigerate until chilled, at least 1 hour.
  4. Pour enough oil into a large heavy pot to come 2 inches up the side and attach a deep-frying thermometer to the pot. Heat the oil over medium heat to 360 degrees F.
  5. Working in batches, fry the balls until golden brown on the outside and heated through inside, about 6 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, lift the balls from the oil and transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.
  6. Stir together the mayonnaise, buttermilk and remaining packet ranch seasoning in a small bowl until smooth. Transfer the mac 'n' cheese balls to a serving platter, drizzle with some of the dressing and serve with the remaining dressing on the side for dipping.

Cook’s Note

Be sure to buy blocks of cheese and shred it yourself. The pre-shredded cheese that comes in bags is often tossed with starchy cellulose, which can give this mac 'n' cheese a clumpy texture.