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Baked Mozzarella Sticks

It’s time to just ‘fess up, people, and admit to one another that fried stuff is really good.  And too often our efforts to reduce the fat quotient and increase the health quotient by baking things that we love fried ends up being an exercise in compromise.  And these mozzarella sticks are just one in a long line of examples of this heartbreaking truth.  And yet we still loved them.

Now, if you’ve never tasted a fried mozzarella stick, then you’re good to go here.  These really are pretty tasty and fun.  It’s just that if you HAVE ever had a fried mozzarella stick, it will be hard not to notice the absence of, well, crispy fat.  I think we all sort of (maybe secretly) love crispy fat. 

But here’s the deal.  Crispy fat isn’t really very good for us.  So I decided that a baked version of our beloved mozzarella sticks was worth a try.  And really, they were awfully good.  All of my guinea pigs liked them a lot, especially my 16 month old grandson who dipped them repeatedly in the marinara sauce, which for some reason, really made me laugh.

But mozzarella sticks are tricky, people, especially if you’re baking them.  It’s almost impossible to get a nice crispy-brown exterior cuz you can’t cook them overly long for fear of creating a very large cheese puddle on your baking sheet.  So after scouring dozens of recipes for these babies (yes, my job can be grueling at times), I gathered a couple of tricks that actually worked pretty well in accomplishing said goal of a crispy, brown exterior while avoiding the dreaded melted cheese explosion.

So the first crispy trick is to use panko bread crumbs instead of standard crumbs.  Very crispy.  Second trick is to brown the crumbs before applying them to your cheese sticks (very clever).  Third trick is to freeze your cheese sticks before baking them (exceptionally clever).  I wish I could take credit for this abundance of cleverness, but I can only claim a limited amount of cleverness in compiling the cleverness of others into one recipe.  That’s sort of clever, but not like exceptionally so.

But we did love these, once we got over the fact that they weren’t going to taste like fried.  They taste like baked.  But that’s not necessarily a bad thing, especially since we’re talking about melty mozzarella cheese (see my follow-up at the end of the post).  And since they’re NOT fried, you can just go ahead and eat a whole bunch of them.  Here’s the recipe…

Baked Mozzarella Sticks

 Click here for a printable recipe

I found that the secret to making good mozzarella sticks is to freeze them before baking, so be sure to allow enough time in your planning for them to spend an hour in the freezer.  And since we’re lacking the flavor of fried crispiness, make sure your marinara sauce is super flavorful!  I’ve included a link to my recipe below.

1 ¼ cups panko breadcrumbs
¼ cup flour
1 12-oz package mozzarella sticks, cut in half
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons milk
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning (I used my Tuscan Herb Salt)
1 cup marinara sauce

Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with nonstick cooking spray.

Place the breadcrumbs in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat and stir until golden brown.  Remove to a plate.  Stir in the Italian seasoning.

Beat together the eggs and milk in a shallow bowl.

Place the flour in a separate bowl.

Dip each cheese stick in the flour and until the cheese is coated really well.  Then dip in the egg mixture to coat and then into the breadcrumbs, turning to cover completely.  Place on the prepared baking sheet and continue with the rest of the mozzarella sticks.

Place the baking sheet into the freezer for at least one hour.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Remove the cheese sticks from the freezer and spray them with a little nonstick cooking spray and then bake for 8 to 10 minutes.   Let sit 3 to 5 minutes before serving.

Note:  To increase the crispiness factor, you can re-dip the mozzarella sticks in the egg and then again in the breadcrumbs before baking.

Click here to ask a question or leave a comment

Reader Comments (23)

I love these! They're so easy and your ones look absolutely perfect!

Thanks, Becca! They really were good!

July 14, 2013 | Registered CommenterPatrice Berry

Yowsers! Those look de-lish! And they sound pretty easy to make! I'm on it!

July 14, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKatie M.

Love the fried version of these, but willing to try baked. Look pretty good!

July 14, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterWeaselbites

These look amazing! My kids would adore them as they go through string cheese like crazy. Can't wait to make these!

July 14, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDelia

No kidding, these look delicious! And VERY clever, I have to say! :)

July 14, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSandy Franklin

So clever to freeze these before baking them off. And I bet the panko breadcrumbs work great here. Gonna have to give these a try. They look good!

July 14, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBonnie T.

One of my favorite bar snacks made figure friendly!

July 14, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterHaley

Oh, boy! My boys (7 and 9) would eat these like candy! I have everything in the house to make these today. Thanks!!

July 14, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterUrsula Petersen

You're welcome, Ursula! Hope those boys enjoy them!

July 14, 2013 | Registered CommenterPatrice Berry

I made a similar version of these a couple months ago using regular breadcrumbs. We weren't all that excited about the outcome. Maybe I'll have to give these a try. I didn't freeze those either. It really is hard to duplicate that fried exterior!

July 14, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNicky

I can't wait to try these mozzarella sticks! I was thinking that maybe adding a little grated parmesan cheese to the breadcrumbs might add flavor and help them brown up in the oven too.

July 14, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLeslie

I love that idea, Leslie! I think the parmesan really would help them brown faster and it would be a great flavor addition too. Thanks for the tip!

July 14, 2013 | Registered CommenterPatrice Berry

I made these for my boys last night and as I predicted, they devoured them! My husband and I loved them too and I surely be making them again! Thanks for the great recipe!

July 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterUrsula Petersen

So glad to hear those boys liked 'em, Ursula! Thanks for letting us know!

July 15, 2013 | Registered CommenterPatrice Berry

I love the way you write! :) Very fun and comical.
Also, these look wonderful! Did the cheese melt though??

July 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterHilary

Thanks, Hillary! The cheese DID get soft and melty. In a good way. I never got a very good photo of that and I know it would have been helpful. Sorry. The important thing was that they came off of the baking sheet intact, but then when you bite into them they're just the right amount of meltiness. Hope that helps!

July 15, 2013 | Registered CommenterPatrice Berry

No secret here. Love the crispy fat but these are more healthy and look delicious. :)

July 18, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDebra

Your post was so funny! It made me laugh out loud. This looks like a wonderful recipe that I want to try, and I think my teenage daughter and her friends would love. Thanks so much for finding all those helpful tricks out for us so we don't have to have puddles of cheese all over our oven!:)

July 18, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterShari Kelley

You're so welcome, Shari! I just made another batch of these last night and it's amazing how easy they are to throw together and I'm pretty sure your daughter and friends would love them! Nice to hear from you!

July 19, 2013 | Registered CommenterPatrice Berry

Patrice, how far in advance could you freeze these? Thanks--anxious to try these!

July 21, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPam

You can freeze these as far in advance as you'd like, Pam. I've done it 3 days ahead, but you could do it longer. I froze them on sheet trays and then put them in ziploc bags and you can just take out how many you want to bake off.

July 21, 2013 | Registered CommenterPatrice Berry

I love how crispy these are on the outside, and so soft and stretchy on the inside!

September 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterA patent attorney

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