Hello crispy, crunchy, creamy, cheesy potato balls! If you love cheese and cheese pulls, this is cheese pull heaven. It’s everything you never knew you wanted, in one portable, pick-up-able, potato-y package.
I love me some cheese pulls. Give me ALL the cheese, especially when it’s melted and especially when it gets gooey and pull-able. There’s something so visceral about stringy melted cheese. Cheese makes everything better and these smooth and fluffy mashed potato balls stuffed with mozzarella cheese is no exception. They are essentially a take on croquettes.
What are croquettes?
Croquettes are little stuffed balls or cylinders that are coated in breadcrumbs and deep-fried. They’re usually made with béchamel or potatoes and can have a multitude of fillings. Croquettes are originally from France but nowadays they’re eaten almost everywhere. I love croquettes! There’s nothing better than mashed potatoes coated in crispy panko then deep fried to a satisfying golden crunch.
What are cheesy potato balls?
These little cheesy potato balls are essentially a croquette stuffed with cheese. A deep fried cheese stuffed mashed potato ball, that melts in your mouth. The outsides are crispy-crunchy and the insides are filled with creamy mashed potatoes and a molten core of cheesy goodness.
These cheesy potato balls were inspired by two different things: LA’s famous Porto’s potato balls and those Korean cheese balls you see in mukbang. If you’ve been to LA then I’m sure you know about Porto’s Bakery, the Cuban bakery famous for their papas rellenas potato balls. They’re stuffed with picadillo (a Cuban meat dish) and are SO good. Mike and I always make a stop when we’re in the area to stuff our faces on potato balls and cubanos.
The other inspiration for this cheesy potato ball is the Korean mozzarella cheese ball. Korean cheese balls are chewy, crispy doughnut-type deep fried cheese balls that are super popular with mukbangers (those youtubers who eat INSANE amounts of food). Cheese balls are usually sold alongside Korean fried chicken. They’re really cheesy and melty and are great for cheese pulls.
I combined the deliciousness of a mashed potato ball with the gloriousness of a cheese ball and here were are: cheesy potato balls! They hit all the right notes and even though we’re in the middle of a heat wave right now, I made the commitment to deep fry these guys at night so we could have a decadent after dinner snack, just because.
So satisfying to make and eat
These cheesy potato balls look impressive but they are actually really easy to make and even easier to eat. If you have leftover mashed potatoes, this recipe becomes even quicker, but I recommend making mashed potatoes just for this purpose – more on that later.
Ingredients for cheesy potato balls
- Potatoes. The best potatoes to use for potato balls are Yukon golds. Yukon gold potatoes are a dense, rich, and fluffy potato that will hold up to boiling without getting too water-logged. Waxy potatoes like red or white potatoes end up being gummy so avoid those. If they don’t sell Yukon golds at your grocery store, russet/Idaho potatoes will work too. You can use leftover mashed potatoes too – I’ve done that for croquettes in the past but in this case a stiff potato works best for containing the cheese when deep-frying. If your mashed potatoes have too much butter and cream/milk, the cheese will tend to ooze out while you’re deep-frying.
- Cream. There’s a very small amount of full fat cream in the potatoes – adding too much extra liquid will make the potatoes too loose to shape into balls. The cream adds body, flavor, and creaminess. If you don’t have cream, you can use milk.
- Salt. It’s important to salt both the water you cook the potatoes in as well as salting the mashed potatoes. Taste them and salt according to taste. We like to use sea salt or kosher salt instead of table salt because it’s easier to pinch and add to dishes.
- Cheese. The best cheese for cheesy potato balls is mozzarella, hands down. Mozzarella is the best for meltability and stretch. It adds a delicious mild creamy flavor and pairs well with potatoes. You can use mozzarella string cheese cut into small cubes or shredded mozzarella cheese, which is what I used. I recommend using cut up string cheese because it’s easier to wrap into the potato balls. If you use shredded mozzarella, squish up the mozzarella into little balls before wrapping with potato. Other cheeses will work as well, but cheese pulls will vary.
- Flour. Flour is the first step in a three-step battering process. All-purpose flour is the gold standard for this.
- Eggs. You need a whisked egg for the egg wash portion – you could get away with using one but whisking up two eggs gives you more room to coat your potato balls. Make sure you give your eggs a really good whisk so you don’t end up with goopy bits stuck to your potato balls. Pro-tip, don’t throw away your eggs after you’re done, you can scramble them up for a quick snack.
- Panko. Panko is the secret to light and crispy breaded things. Panko is what makes Japanese pork tonkatsu so good. You might think a breadcrumb is a breadcrumb is a breadcrumb, but panko isn’t just breadcrumbs, they’re better! Panko, also known as Japanese breadcrumbs, are fluffier and larger than regular breadcrumbs because they’re made from crustless white bread. They and are dryer and flakier which makes deep-fried panko crusted things airy and extra-crispy. It’s worth it to buy a bag of panko, especially if you love crunch. Panko is sold in most grocery stores in the Asian aisle but it’s cheaper to buy it at an Asian grocery store.
- Oil. You need about 1-2 cups of oil to deep fry your potato balls. Go for a high smoke point oil as you want the oil temperature to be between 350°-375°F. The best oils for frying are, in order of highest to lowest smoke point: safflower, rice bran, soybean, corn, sunflower, vegetable, canola, or grapeseed. You want a neutral oil that has no flavor. We usually buy sunflower because I think it’s cute, but go for what’s affordable.
How to make cheesy potato balls
- Peel and boil the potatoes. Start by peeling your potatoes and then cutting them into large, even chunks. After your potatoes are peeled, place them in a large pot and cover with COLD water. Starting with cold water ensures that your potatoes cook evenly. If you add potatoes to boiling water, the outsides will cook faster than the insides. Add a generous amount of salt and turn the heat up to medium high. When the potatoes and water come to a simmer, set a timer for 15 minutes. The potatoes are done when fork tender. Poke a fork into a chunk. If it slides through easily, it’s done. Drain the potatoes well.
- Mash the potatoes and cool them. I usually like to push my potatoes through a sieve so they’re extra light and fluffy but for these potato balls it doesn’t matter so much, so just give them a light mash making sure they don’t have any lumps. Stir in just 1 tablespoon of cream – you want a stiff potato so it’s easier to shape – and season with salt to taste. Spread the potatoes out to cool. You can make the potatoes the day before and keep them in the fridge overnight if you want to make the potato balls in two steps. Just make sure to take the potatoes out of the fridge and let them come to room temp because they will be easier to shape.
- Shape and fill the potato balls. Use a ice cream/cookie scoop to scoop out about 2 tablespoons of potato then pat into a round patty. Cup your hand and place a cube of cheese inside and bring the potatoes up and around the cheese to cover making sure that potato surrounds all of the cheese. You want the cheese to be totally encased in potato otherwise the cheese will leak out while you’re frying. Lightly roll the potato ball between your hands.
- Coat the potato balls. Prep a breading station with three bowls: flour, whisked egg, and panko. Use your right hand to pick up a ball and roll it in flour, then put it in the bowl with the egg. Use your left hand to roll it around in the egg until it’s coated. Place it into the panko and use your right hand to roll it around until it’s completely covered in panko. Using different hands for the wet and dry ingredients will keep your hands from clumping up.
- Deep fry the potato balls. After all the balls are coated, heat up the oil on medium high heat. You want the oil temperature to be between 350°F and 375°F. When you add your potato balls, the oil temp will drop, so aim for 375°F to start with. I use an instant read thermometer to make sure I’m in the right range. If you don’t have a thermometer, you can check if your oil is ready with an uncoated wooden spoon or uncoated chopsticks. Just put the spoon/chopstick into the oil. If nothing happens it means the oil isn’t hot enough. If the oil starts bubbling around the chopstick/spoon steadily then you’re ready to fry. If there are too many bubbles and it looks like it’s boiling around your chopstick, your oil is too hot. When the oil is ready, gently lower in a couple of potato balls being sure not to crowd the pan and lower the temperature of the oil too much. Move around gently and fry until the outside turns golden brown. Scoop out with a slotted spoon and let drain on a wire rack.
Tips for making cheesy potato balls
- Room temp mashed potatoes: Cooled down mashed potatoes won’t burn your hands, they’re easier to mold, and they hold their shape better. I made the mash the day before (okay, actually several days before because I forgot about them) and then just popped them out on the counter to bring them up to room temp. Bringing the potatoes up to room temp is also key because you don’t want to deep-fry cold balls as the outside will color but the cheese inside won’t melt.
- Same sized balls: Using a cookie scoop or a measuring spoon will keep your potato balls the same size meaning they’ll all finish cook at the same time. Plus your potato balls will look nice and professional. Maybe you can start a cheesy potato ball food truck!
- Consistent heat: It’s inevitable that your oil temp will rise and fall when you’re adding stuff to the oil. Try to keep it at the same consistent temperature. I use an instant read thermometer to check obsessively because I’m type-A like that.
Time to eat!
Now that you’ve fried up your balls it’s time to eat! Be careful because the cheese can be really hot. We like to eat these as is, pulling them apart so you get the cheese pull effect. You can have them plain or with ketchup or hot sauce. They’re essentially a snack food but if you like, serve them up with some Korean fried chicken!
- 2 large russet potatoes peeled and cubed
- 1 tbsp cream or milk
- salt to taste
- 40 cubes mozzarella cheese 1/2″ cubes
- 1 cup flour
- 1-2 large eggs lightly beaten
- 1.5 cups panko
- High heat oil for deep frying such as grapeseed
Add the potatoes to a large pot and cover with cold water. Add a generous pinch of salt to the pot. Bring to a boil and cook potatoes on medium high, uncovered, until the potatoes are fork tender, about 20 minutes. Drain well and mash. Stir in the cream and salt to taste. Set aside to cool.
When the potatoes are cool (you can make them the day before then take them out of the fridge to come to room temperature for 1-3 hours) use a ice cream scoop or measuring scoop to scoop out 2 tablespoons of potato. Shape into a ball and then flatten slightly and place a cube of cheese in the middle. Bring the mashed potato up around the cube of cheese, enclosing it. Roll gently into a ball shape. Repeat as needed.
Set up a breading station with three shallow dishes. One with flour, one with lightly beaten egg, and one with panko. Working gently, with one ball at a time, dip the ball into flour, shaking off excess, then coat in egg wash. Roll in panko to coat completely. Set aside on a plate or tray and continue to coat all of the balls in panko.
In a deep sided, heavy bottomed pot, heat up 2 inches of oil over medium heat until it reaches 375°F. Gently place the potato cheese balls in the hot oil, being careful not to overcrowd, turning occasionally and maintaining oil temperature of 350°F, until the breading is golden brown and crisp, 2-3 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer to paper towels to drain. Let cool slightly and enjoy hot while the cheese is still stretchy.
I used shredded cheese because it’s what I had in the fridge but it’s a lot easier to just cube up mozzarella or string cheese and wrap that.
Nutrition info is for 6 servings (~6 balls/serving)
Cheesy Potato Balls
Amount Per Serving
Calories from Fat 43
% Daily Value*
Saturated Fat 1.7g11%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.