It’s no secret that we’re huge fans of the Air Fryer! Quick-cooking seafood meals, less fat and calories, easy cleanup—what’s not to love? And the Air Fryer really comes in handy when we want something savory like our Mac-and-Cheese Tuna Bites! They’re a finger-food version of your favorite tuna casserole, with a creamy center and a crispy, 360-degree crust.
Before we get into this new recipe, let’s review some basic Seafoodie math: Mac plus cheese always equals awesome! Add tuna to the equation, and you’ve got a dish greater than the sum of its parts. And when you put all of this in a bite-sized, crunchy package, it ups the gobble factor exponentially.
Best of all, you probably already have the ingredients in your pantry and refrigerator! When developing this recipe, we kept all the comfort food essentials and swapped in 2% milk to lighten things up a bit. The tuna makes this a nutritious, high-protein dish that really satisfies.
This dish starts with our best Seafoodie take on mac-and-cheese—cheddar, mozzarella, some shelf-stable tuna and a dash of turmeric. And here’s where it gets really interesting: We roll all of that goodness into panko breadcrumbs and then air-fry until golden-brown.
While everyone will love these tuna bites, they’re an especially satisfying snack for the kiddos and a smart way to incorporate more seafood into their diets. This is one cravable dish. Bet you can’t eat just one!
Air Fryer Crispy Mac-and-Cheese Tuna Bites
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes
Total: 30 minutes
- 2 cups uncooked whole grain elbow macaroni
- 2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
- 1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
- 1 cup 2% milk, divided
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric
- 5 ounces canned or pouched tuna, drained and flaked
- 1 egg
- 1½ cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- Nonstick cooking spray
- Favorite prepared tartar or marinara sauce for dipping
- Cook macaroni according to directions; drain. Add macaroni back to pot, and add cheddar cheese, mozzarella cheese, ½ cup milk and turmeric; mix well. Add tuna; stir to mix well. Let sit until cool enough to handle with hands.
- While mac-and-cheese is cooling, spray air fryer basket with nonstick cooking spray and preheat it to 400 degrees F for 5 minutes.
- Place remaining ½ cup milk and egg in a small mixing bowl; whisk until well combined. In another small mixing bowl, place panko breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, paprika and garlic powder; mix to combine.
- Using a spoon, scoop about 2 tablespoons of mac-and-cheese and roll tightly into a ball (should make about 12 smaller or 16 bigger balls). Roll each ball in the milk and egg mixture until well-coated, then roll in panko mixture until all sides are coated. Reshape into a firm ball (you may need to squeeze some liquid out to reshape).
- Place balls in air fryer basket and spray each mac-and-cheese ball with nonstick cooking spray. Be sure not to overlap balls (cook in batches, if necessary). Cook for 5 minutes or until golden brown on top; then turn each ball, spray other side with cooking spray and cook for another 4 minutes, or until bites are crispy and golden. Enjoy warm with your choice of sauce.
Air fryer, pot, spatula, two small mixing bowls, spoon