MOZZARELLA STICKS WITH BUTTERMILK DIP

Mozzarella Sticks with Buttermilk Dip

When I told my friends I was planning on making homemade mozzarella sticks for a guy’s weekend out of town the idea was met with a profound lack of enthusiasm.  Everybody knows that I like to experiment in the kitchen, but somehow the idea of making a bar food staple like mozzarella sticks from scratch seemed like a complete waste of time to the group.  After being lectured about the innumerable brands available in the freezer section at the grocery store and a heated debate about whether marinara or ranch is the better dipping accompaniment, I decided to risk further heckling and see if I couldn’t one-up T.G.I. Friday’s in my own kitchen.

It might have been the alcohol, but the first batch was gone within a matter of seconds.  Simultaneously crispy and gooey, these mozzarella sticks seem to defy the laws of physics and flavor.  After the second batch had been demolished, a few halfhearted concessions came my way; they had to admit,  homemade outranked frozen by a long shot.

With the right breadcrumbs, fragrant Italian spices and an organized assembly line for the essential double-dredging technique, perfect, scratch-made mozzarella sticks can be made at home in no time and with little effort.

With the question about whether or not it’s a waste of time to make mozzarella sticks at home answered, the question of the perfect dip remained.  We decided to go with a buttermilk dip that was tangy, cooling and delicious.  But I wouldn’t mind trying these with a marinara sauce, too.

MOZZARELLA STICKS WITH BUTTERMILK DIP

The secret to getting restaurant quality mozzarella sticks at home is using panko-style breadcrumbs and making sure that each piece of cheese is double dipped for an extra crispy crust that is free of any holes for the cheese to escape from during frying.  Freezing the mozzarella sticks prior to frying ensures that the crust has time to adhere to the cheese in the dry environment of the freezer.  As with all frying, make sure to carefully monitor your oil temperature and allow it to rebound in between batches.  Because the mozzarella sticks are frozen, it might be a good idea to make a double batch to keep on hand for any last minute game day parties.

INGREDIENTS:

For the Mozzarella Sticks:

  • 12 stick s of string cheese or 12 pieces of mozzarella cut into 4 x 1/2 inch sticks
  • 1 1/2 cups panko-style breadcrumbs (or Progresso Italian-style Panko breadcrumbs)
  • 4 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup of all-purpose flour
  • Canola oil for frying

For the Buttermilk Dip:

  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh basil
  • 2 tablespoons minced green onions
  • 2 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of table salt to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste

METHOD:

  1. Dredge the mozzarella sticks: Spread the flour and breadcrumbs on separate plates (pie plates work well for this).  Add the Italian seasoning, salt and pepper to the breadcrumbs and mix well.  Place the eggs in a small bowl and beat them lightly.
  2. Drop a piece of cheese into the flour and roll it around until it is well covered.  Shake off the excess flour and dip the cheese into the egg mixture before rolling it in the breadcrumbs until well coated.  One last time, dip the breadcrumb coated cheese back into the beaten egg and roll again in breadcrumbs to create an extra crispy coating.  Set aside on a clean plate and repeat with the remaining cheese sticks.  Once all of the mozzarella has been breaded, place the plate into the freezer uncovered and freeze until the breadcrumb coating is firm, at least 2 hours.
  3. Meanwhile, make the buttermilk dip: In a small bowl, whisk all of the ingredients together until well combined.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.
  4. Fry the mozzarella sticks: Pour enough oil into a large heavy-bottomed pot to come to a depth of at least 2 inches.  Using an candy thermometer, heat oil until it reaches a temperature of 350°.  Fry the mozzarella sticks in batches, being careful not to overwhelm the oil, until crispy and browned on the exterior, about 5 minutes.  Drain on paper towels.
  5. Repeat with remaining mozzarella, allowing the oil temperature to rise back to 350° between batches.  You can place the finished mozzarella sticks in a 200° oven to keep them warm while the others fry.
  6. Serve immediately with buttermilk dip.

Serves 4

mozzarella sticks
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    • devi
    • October 20th, 2009

    What italian seasoning did you use?

  1. BOOKMARKED!! Those look fantastic and I know my kids would love them, not to mention us parents. LOL!!

  2. Fried cheese sticks are one of those things I absolutely abhor when they’re done badly…but when they’re good, they’re fantastic. I’ve only had one version I liked, and it reminds me a lot of your take on the idea. Yours look delish!

  3. It is 7:00 a.m. and I am drooling, those look soooo yummy!

  4. I love mozzarella sticks they are such a good, gooey treat. I am always a little hesitant to deep-fry at home, but these might very well change my mind.

  5. Saw your picture on tastespotting and my mouth started watering. Mozzarella sticks are my ultimate weakness and I agree with you and your friends that homemade are way better than the kind you can buy in the grocery store. I like your use of panko too, I prefer to use that when I fry things as well since it gives such a nice crunch. Have you tried marinating the mozzarella in olive oil and garlic before breading and frying them? It adds a subtle but delicious garlic flavor. Great post!

  6. DEVI – I made my own Italian seasoning using a blend of dried rosemary, oregano, bay leaf, basil, sage, onion powder, garlic powder and chile flakes. That being said, any store-bought blend would be fine in this type of recipe. If you can find it, Progresso recently released a line of Italian-style panko breadcrumbs that would be perfect for this application.

  7. Frenchie – I used to be intimidated by deep-frying at home as well, but with a nice heavy pot, a good mountable candy thermometer and a little practice controlling the temperature of the oil, there is really nothing to it. Good luck.

  8. Katie – I too have eaten my share of bad mozzarella sticks. As good as these are, nothing compares to the freshly fried bocconcini I had in Italy.

  9. I loooove mozzarella sticks. I’ll have to try this recipe!

    • Abbey
    • October 21st, 2009

    Cheese and rice these things look delicious!!! I’m a little afraid of frying things at home but I’d be willing to try it if there was sticks of cheesy goodness waiting for me at the finish line.

  10. Deseree – I actually adapted this recipe from Hubert Keller’s recipe for Zucchini Fries in which he marinates the vegetables in olive oil, garlic and fresh thyme before frying. While I have yet to try this technique with mozzarella sticks, I can imagine how it might add another delicious dimension of flavor. Thanks for the great tip!

    Melissa – I would say that a candy thermometer is not entirely necessary if you have experience deep frying. Some people say that you will know when the oil is hot enough when it sizzles a drop of water on contact. While I’ve heard of using a piece of potato or the handle of a wooden spoon to gauge the oil temperature, I personally rely on my trusty candy thermometer for true accuracy. If the oil is too hot, the outside crust will burn before the cheese has an opportunity to melt on the inside. Too cold and the oil will saturate the breadcrumbs and leave you with some rubbery, greasy sticks.

    • Melissa
    • October 21st, 2009

    Wow! Those look amazing! I’m tempted to make them on Saturday but I don’t have a candy thermometer…is there any other way I could gauge the temperature of the oil or is it necessary to buy one?

  11. WOW, Absolutely amazing! I never have been able to make mozzarella sticks at home, my technique was always wrong.

    Thanks for showing me the right way! =o)

  12. I really like the look of the soft runny cheese in the crisp shell. Thanks for a great idea.

    • BA-lou
    • October 21st, 2009

    It was the alcohol.

    OK, not really. They were awesome.

    • devi
    • November 7th, 2009

    @Mike
    Thank you!

  13. Wow. These look perfect. And they sound delicious!

    • Erica
    • December 4th, 2009

    These look great. I’m in the process of making them right now. I was wondering if I could bake these. I’m trying to stay relatively healthy and maybe if I were to bake these at 400 for 10 minutes after freezing them they’d turn out okay?

  14. Erica – I haven’t tried baking them myself, but I think it would be best to arrange them in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake them at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes or so (maybe less). Make sure to flip them halfway through to ensure even browning. If you see some cheese melting out and the crust looks a nice golden-brown, you are probably good to go. Good luck, and let me know how they turn out.

  15. Made this last weekend for my 11 and 15 year old sons and husband- it was a huge hit. I served it with marinara sauce. I plan to make the dip next time. Thanks for a great alternative to going out or frozen cheese sticks (yuck)

  16. Tami – Glad to hear they turned out so well! The fact that your whole family enjoyed them makes me very happy. Young palettes can be tough to please. Then again, you can’t go wrong serving fried cheese. Thanks for the positive feedback.

    • Erica
    • December 14th, 2009

    So I ended up baking the cheese sticks but they didn’t turn out nearly as tasty nor gooey as the fried kind. I think the hot oil keeps the cheese warm while you’re eating them unlike baking them. So it does work, but I would recommend sticking with the recipe.

    • Sam
    • December 26th, 2009

    I was wondering if an electric skillet – the kind with an adjustable thermostat – could also be used rather than the pot and candy thermometer, assuming the skillet was of sufficient depth? Or pan-frying might be an option, as well, and manually turning the sticks to brown them evenly.

  17. Sam – I’ve never tried using a deep, electric skillet to deep-fry anything. However, considering that it is really just one giant, adjustable heat source, I don’t see why it wouldn’t be very similar to using a countertop fryer. If you decide to go down this route I would love to hear how they turned out. In terms of pan-frying the sticks, unless you have a good amount of oil in the pan I think you might have a difficult time obtaining an even, golden crust. In the end, there are many different methods you could use to make these mozzarella sticks, but if you want the crispiest crust with the gooiest filling, deep-frying will certainly render the best results. Hope this helps.

  18. Hmmm … Thanks, will try at home :)

    • Kate
    • December 30th, 2009

    Made these as a snack today, but used swiss cheese instead of mozzarella, replaced the italian seasoning with a little dried thyme and made a honey mustard sauce for dipping.

    Totally, 100% worth the pain of bringing out the deep fryer. We may have them again for dinner.

  19. Kate – Glad they turned out so well. I love the twist using swiss instead of mozzarella. Honey mustard sounds like the perfect match. Gonna have to give that a try.

    • Nick Davis
    • January 3rd, 2010

    A Toasted Cumin and Chili Pepper marinara goes along great with Itialian seasonings in the bread crumbs

  20. Mmmm I love mozarella sticks. looks crunchy and yummy!

    • MARLINA HARRIS
    • January 13th, 2010

    WOW THOSE LOOK TERRIFIC MADE THEM LAST WEEK WOW

  21. Those look simply amazing…I WILL be making those sometime very soon. I love cheese sticks, especially good ones and it looks like those fit the bill. Thanks for sharing.

  22. Yummy! What a tasty way to serve cheese.
    Thanks for sharing the directions!

  23. YUM! Cheese sticks are one of a few types of bar food that I can never tire of! Now all I need is a deep fryer…

    • Tiffany
    • February 16th, 2010

    I baked them from frozen at 400 degrees for about 8 min. They turned out great. The panko doesn’t really brown, but they’re still tasty! Actually, tasty is probably an understatement.

  24. As a budding chef, I like variations on recipies. This recipe is fantastic with the buttermilk dip, but I whipped up a dip with ranch dressing, bleu cheese crumbles and red hot sauce for a buffalo-style twist. Was a big hit!

  25. These look absolutely delicious. I have thought of trying recipes similar to this before but for some reason have never gotten around to it. Your excellent presentation has ensured it now features prominently on my, “To do,” list!

    • unknown kadanth
    • April 6th, 2010

    try this out. get some aged mozz and some prosciutto shaved so thin that it it translucent. layer one slice each. smear with roasted garlic,olive oil and Italian herb paste. Roll up tight marinate a bit , then bread as described above, deep fry. you don’t need a dipping sauce.

    • Katie/Kasia
    • April 7th, 2010

    Can someone please explain one thing? – I don’t see this raised in any of the other posts so I guess im alone on this one but in my experience, mozzarella comes in a soft round ball suspended in fluid and is made of buffalo milk. Normally I would tear it gently into pieces in a salad or with bread etc , therefore im thrown at the first step of ‘cutting into sticks’ as im not sure this would exactly happen with the kind of cheese im thinking of…Im not American, so maybe this is a kind of American mozzarella that im not familiar with?….

  26. Katie/Kasia – The mozzarella that you are referring to is indeed the superior, buffalo milk mozzarella that is an outstanding topping for thin crust Neapolitan pizzas and delicious caprese salads. In Italy, I’ve seen this fresh, high-moisture mozzarella breaded and fried as I’ve described above, but using the smaller bocconcini size balls. The mozzarella commonly used here in the states for sticks is a low-moisture, processed variety that tops most pizzeria-style pizzas throughout the country. Both are in fact mozzarella, but are very different products at the end of the day.

  27. These look wonderful!!!

    • Katie/Kasia
    • April 12th, 2010

    Mike, thank you for clarifying! – im going to keep my eyes peeled for this other kind, maybe I just haven’t been looking for it and that’s why I don’t see it..

    • Nat J
    • April 18th, 2010

    Mike–I am a huuuuge lover of mozzarella sticks and will be heading out shortly to buy the ingredients for this so I can make this week. Another question regarding the type of mozzarella you used…can you specify which brand? I’m really only familiar with the ball of mozzarella but have seen kids eating cheese sticks/strings…is this what you used? I’m from Canada so we definitely have a fair amount of cheeses to choose from but I’d love to try to get whatever brand you used. Thanks.

  28. Nat – Any string cheese variety should work just fine. Go with Horizon or Trader Joe’s brand if you can find it, but Sargento would also be a good pick. Good luck with the recipe.

  29. OMG these look great i must try making some. thanks

    • meg
    • June 11th, 2010

    I don’t even like moz. sticks but that photo is GORGEOUS. i have to give you props for that!

  30. These look so good! My daughter is a mozzarella stick maniac LOL

  31. that is better than anything i’ve seen at a restaurant

  32. This is a fantastic recipe. I tried it over the weekend and it turned out perfectly – with any recipe like this though, I am always careful to make sure not to overcook. My oven is a bit on the older side and that can lead me to problems if I don’t keep an eye on things!

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