I’m a snacker. Though I never miss a meal, I still get hungry between those meals. Like many, I’m most prone to absent-minded grazing in the hour or two before dinner, when salty or savory high-carb snacks seem irresistible.
Baked Mozzarella Sticks are a pre-dinner nibble I love for several reasons. First, the protein in the cheese truly satisfies my hunger until dinner so I don’t keep munching. Second, the make-ahead recipe is conveniently stored in the freezer until needed. Then, the mozzarella sticks go from freezer to oven and cook in a few short minutes. If my kids are starving after sports practice, (if??) I can pull out just the right amount. And while these tasty bites are perfect for everyday snacking, they make a convenient, crowd-pleasing appetizer, too.
Straight out of the wrapper, string cheese has long been a go-to snack for both my husband and my kids. For me, the protein and calcium are a bonus. With the aid of basic pantry ingredients, this make-ahead recipe transforms that refrigerator-staple cheese stick into something extra special…and I have to move fast so my portion doesn’t disappear. It has yet to occur to my kids that the make-at-home version of this perennial restaurant favorite is baked, not fried. They just want me to make more!
Yields 24 pieces (12 servings).
- 12 sticks Sargento part-skim mozzarella string cheese
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 2 tablespoon flour (may use an all-purpose gluten-free blend)
- 1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs (see notes)
- 1/3 cup regular dry breadcrumbs
- 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 tablespoon dried Italian herb blend
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- Olive oil cooking spray
- Optional: your favorite marinara sauce for dipping
Cut the cheese sticks in half. You will have 24 pieces. Place the cheese in the freezer until the cheese is frozen, several hours or overnight. (I place them on a small, parchment or wax paper-lined tray so they don’t freeze to the pan.)
In small bowl, whisk the egg. Place the flour on a small dish or in a zipper-top bag. In separate bowl or bag, thoroughly combine the panko, breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, dried herbs and salt.
Dip the frozen sticks in the flour, shaking off the excess. Then dip them in the egg, followed by the crumb mixture. Be sure to coat the ends, too. This coating will form a thin crust that will give structure to the cheese as it begins to soften. (I find it easiest to use one hand as the hand used for dipping will get rather messy.)
Repeat this process with the remaining pieces of cheese, placing them on a parchment or wax paper-lined tray as you go. Place the cheese back in the freezer until ready to bake. The cheese must be completely frozen for good results. Once frozen, you may transfer the sticks to a zipper-top back and store until ready to use.
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and lightly coat with oil.
Place the frozen cheese sticks on the baking sheet, and spray the tops of the mozzarella sticks with olive oil. Bake 3-4 minutes. Turn the sticks over, and bake an additional 3-4 minutes or until the cheese sticks are lightly golden and just soft through the center. Watch them VERY closely after you flip them so they don’t melt. Serve immediately with optional marinara sauce for dipping. Like any cheese, these will firm up as they cool…but will still taste great!
- In lieu of the 1/3 cup each panko and breadcrumbs, I have also made these with all gluten-free breadcrumbs (2/3 cup) with good results. The cheese sticks in the photo are actually a gluten-free batch. The texture is a little finer with a hint less crunch than using the two crumbs in combination, but it demonstrates that a gluten-free version works quite well and that all breadcrumbs may be used if you don’t have panko on hand. Finally, I have always used unseasoned breadcrumbs. If you use a seasoned variety, I suggest omitting the 1/4 teaspoon of salt.
A few fun cheese facts:
- Sargento Natural Cheese Snacks are a natural source of high-quality protein offering 4-8 grams of protein per serving.
- Consuming high-quality protein after regular exercise or resistance training can help aid in post-exercise recovery.
- There are more than 2000 varieties of cheese available world-wide. Mozzarella is the most consumed variety.
- And finally, I recently read that another benefit associated with cheese is that cheese helps protect tooth enamel and has an antibacterial effect. So brush, floss and eat cheese! 🙂
This recipe was adapted from Skinnytaste.