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Panko Mozzarella Sticks!

Posted by in Step-by-Step Recipes

I first discovered panko bread crumbs back in 1999. Please don’t ask me how I know that; I just do. I remember vividly reading a recipe that contained panko bread crumbs, and I remember vividly that I was nursing my second baby, and I remember vividly that I was hormonal and desperate, and the next thing I knew I was ordering panko bread crumbs from some market in Chelsea that the magazine recommended. On the phone, of course, because although I had a computer at the time, I certainly wouldn’t have been cool enough to use it to order panko bread crumbs. Plus, I was nursing. Not enough hands.

Panko bread crumbs, in a word, are delicious. They’re indispensable. They’ve saved the word. And they’ve really burst into the mainstream in the last few years, and are available in most larger supermarkets—even stores in my neck of the woods!

Panko are Japanese breadcrumbs, and are lighter and flakier than regular breadcrumbs. They absorb less oil, too, so after frying they result in an incredibly crunchy texture. I just love panko. They’re a wonderful creation!

When I set out to make a recipe with panko bread crumbs, I started in the direction of something Asian/exotic. But Erika set me straight and said, simply, “Why not just make something simple…like mozzarella sticks?”

So guess what I did? I made mozzarella sticks!

Let me back up: my family LOVES fried mozzarella sticks. Loves them. Even Marlboro Man. I make fried mozzarella quite a bit, but I’ll tell you that without fail, they love the panko version the best. The panko crumbs are so light and incredibly crispy, which is such a necessary contrast to the soft, melted mozzarella inside. Coating the mozzarella adequately is the key; I’ll show you the best way I’ve found to get it all to stay put. And the great thing is, you can use this same method—and same recipe—with lost of other fried items. Zucchini spears would be perfect. I’ll wait till my garden is exploding with them!

Here we go: Panko Mozzarella Sticks!

Grab the panko breadcrumbs.


You’ll need a bunch of string cheese—one string cheese per two fried mozzarella sticks you’d like to make.



You’ll need a bowl of flour…



A couple of eggs…



A little milk…



And some dried parsley flakes.



Add the parsley flakes to the panko crumbs…



And stir them together with a fork. Now, you could certainly sprinkle in a little salt, garlic salt, or other seasoning mix—even a little cayenne pepper—but I wanted to keep things simple. I don’t think the crumbs really need much help.



Next, splash a little milk into the eggs…



And whip it together with a fork.



Finally, unwrap as many pieces of string cheese as you need…



And just slice them in half with a sharp knife.



Now, this is just a great, basic way to bread basically anything with panko crumbs. Use this method for everything from chicken tenders to zucchini spears. In this case, just set one of the pieces of mozzarella in the bowl of flour…



And roll it around to lightly coat.



Next, dip the flour-coated mozzarella in the egg/milk mixture.



Coat it completely…



Then place it straight into the seasoned panko crumbs.



Rather than roll it around and disturb the coating, I just use my hand to scoop panko crumbs on top of the mozzarella so that it’s adequately coated.



Pat it gently to make sure it’s all coated with crumbs, then gently remove from the crumbs…



And place on a clean tray or cookie sheet.



Repeat until all the pieces are coated.



Now—this is an important step: Place the tray, uncovered, directly into the freezer for 20 to 30 minutes. This will flash freeze the mozzarella sticks (at least partly), which will help them stay together better when it’s time to fry, and will also keep the mozzarella from melted too quickly when it hits the hot oil.



When you’re ready to fry ‘em up, heat a good inch to an inch-and-a-half of canola oil over medium heat. Medium high or high, at least on my stove, proves to be a little too hot for panko crumbs. Medium’s about right, but you can sort of gauge your stove and see what you need to do.



Pull the frozen sticks out of the freezer…



And carefully add a few to the hot oil.

Oh! And I always feel like saying this: be careful with pans of hot oil if you have cute little roly poly kids walking around the house. I always, out of habit—even now that my roly poly kids are getting bigger—keep pans on the back burner of the stove (handles far out of reach) if I’m going to fry with oil. It’s just one of those things that crawled into my brain at an early stage of parenting, and something I’m going to keep bugging you about anytime I share a recipe that involves frying with hot oil.

Hope you don’t mind.



Things will move quickly—be ready to roll them over to the other side when the first side gets brown. The trickiest part of making these is getting the oil to just the right temp in order to melt the cheese without burning the crumbs, but it isn’t difficult to get the swing of it right away. Keep in mind that the cheese will continue to soften/melt after you remove them from the oil.



When they’re nice and golden, remove them to a paper towel-lined plate.



Yum! Look at the yummy panko breading. If I took a bite of this, you could hear the crispiness in Yonkers!



Pretty dish.



Pretty dish filled with marinara sauce.



My kids and husband were gathered around as I was taking these photos. I had to beat them away with my tongs.



Because I wanted to try one first.



The Verdict: Perfection. These are not your typical run-of-the-mill fried mozzarella sticks. The panko crumbs absolutely make them. They add a much-needed crispiness and texture to this widely loved (but sometimes tired) bar-and-grill food. You’ll love them!

Here’s the printable recipe:

Panko Mozzarella Sticks



And remember: use this flour-egg/milk-panko breading process on any number of things:

chicken tenders
zucchini spears
raw, deveined shrimp
sweet potato sticks

The list goes on!


Comments are closed for this recipe.

aggieheather on 5.26.2010

I wonder too if you could bake them, I do the same technique for chicken fingers but I think the longer cooking might melt them. I think I will try anyway!

AliciaC on 5.26.2010

Yum! Perfect for a Memorial Day gathering!

[email protected] on 5.26.2010

I love Panko… although I find it impossible to say without putting on a Japanese accent!!!
I will definetly be giving these a try as breaded cheese is silly expensive in the shops and you don’t get many in a packet… well not enough for me anyway!

Cindy on 5.26.2010

Love..absolutely love panko for everything!

christine on 5.26.2010

You have inspired me to try panko instead of the italian bread crumbs when I make my dad’s chicken cutlets and potatoe croquettes.

on 5.26.2010

They call this tempura in Japan. They serve a eggplant, zucchini, shrimp, on top of a big bowl of rice. YUM!

Laura on 5.26.2010

These look divine. :) I wonder if you could do these in the deep fryer instead of in the pan. I am sure it would come out wonderfully! (I hope so since I just got a deep fry daddy!)

PamJ on 5.26.2010

Hi Westmonster…yeah I tried that once…and yes, it makes a lovely puddle in the pan….but if it’s on silpat you can still peel it off and eat it! LOL!

PamJ on 5.26.2010

Put them in the freezer…huh…so that’s the secret…mine would always run all over the pan before they got crispy! Now I wonder how long they would keep in the freezer..could I make them in advance for a party in mass quantities? Yum.

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westmonster on 5.26.2010

I see that my question has been asked before here in the comments. Left unanswered, though. :(

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westmonster on 5.26.2010

Those look soooo yummy! I read somewhere that most things you usually fry, you can just as well bake in the oven without any added fat. Does anyone think that could work with these? Or would I end up with a layer of cheese, sprinkled with panko in the end?

sylvia dennis on 5.26.2010

In no way am I sayin, ‘that’s more information than I needed
about the day/night you first read about the Panko Crumbs’….
cause I loved every word of that story…and they sound
absolutely delicious.

betty on 5.26.2010

oh these look great im like drooling over my keyboard…

Linda on 5.26.2010

Love it! cant wait to try!

~melly on 5.26.2010

man, forget mozzarella. do cubes of pepperjack.


Basel on 5.26.2010

Does your culture allow polyandry?

Jordan M on 5.25.2010

I love using wanton wrappers for my mozz sticks, but these do look good.

Kelly on 5.25.2010

Waaah…I had my tonsils out on Thursday and can’t swallow anything but water and chicken broth. These are making my drool!

Body, heal thyself. I’m hungry!

rachel whetzel on 5.25.2010

These sound DELISH. I’ve been hooked on your food since your stuffed jalapenos wrapped in bacon…

:::and pssst! I think you mean to say the WORLD not word when you said “They’ve saved the word”:::

Jenn D on 5.25.2010

Can’t wait to try these! WHERE did you get the cute serving dishes? And yes, anyway to bake them instead?

Claire on 5.25.2010

This is why Americans are all chubby. :-)

Kat @Drawing Cowboys on 5.25.2010

I just made these, adding some chili and pepper to the breadcrumbs. Delicious!

Shannon on 5.25.2010

Yummy yum! Deep fried cheese is so devine!

Heather in Kansas on 5.25.2010

Can’t wait to find some panko. I think my family will appreciate it. Stopped by one store and they didn’t have it. Going on a trip this weekend. Maybe I can find it in a larger town.

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Alison Zulyniak on 5.25.2010

I just bought a mega big box of Kikkoman Panko flakes from Costco!! I’m totally going to make these mozza sticks this weekend.

I haven’t had these for years and am so looking forward to it!!

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Juliawannabe on 5.25.2010

ohmyeverlovinggoodness I so want these RIGHT NOW! LOL Can’t wait to make my own, yum yum yum!!

Amanda's Cookin' on 5.25.2010

I’ve had panko bread crumbs on fried shrimp, so good! I’ve never actually bought them myself though, I’ll have to try them on my chicken piccata. I’ve made mozzarella sticks this way before, must try them with the panko. Thanks!

Venia on 5.25.2010

Yum. Well that’s gonna lift the frying ban in my kitchen.

And, thank you for mentioning the kids/pots on the stove thing. The very thought of a hot pan and a child colliding makes me weepy. My 4 yo daughter knows that I’m going to make her and the dog hit the couch together when I’m transferring the pasta pot to the sink for straining…it’s a momentary disruption in their meal prep crazies that could prevent a disaster. I don’t think your words of caution can be repeated too often.

Claire on 5.25.2010

I grew up in Yonkers! Shout-out!!!

Emily ( on 5.25.2010

What a great idea! I’ve had a love for panko for years.

Lily G on 5.25.2010

hmmmm…I love using panko, especially to make shrimp tempura.
I will try making these cheese sticks tempura for sure. Looks delish!! Thanks, Ree.

Sandee on 5.25.2010

Hooray for spandex!

Adena on 5.25.2010

Ummm….don’t know about you guys who are asking why these are called mozzarella sticks….but the string cheese I buy is low moisture mozzarella…so yep…these ARE mozzarella sticks…

Judy on 5.25.2010

Oh how I love Panko!!!!!!! My husband is going to die when I make this for him.
Thanks Ree!

P-Danty on 5.25.2010

Uhh, is there actually any mozzarella in these?

Lisa P on 5.25.2010

YUMMY!!! I must try these. Wonder if I could bake them in the over instead? Hmmm.

juli on 5.25.2010

I’ve used crushed corn flakes and rice flour to make these gluten free YUM

Liz on 5.25.2010

Yum!. Do you think that you could make a whole bunch and keep them frozen than fry when you wanted too. I am all about doing things like that.

Amy B on 5.25.2010

I love you, Pioneer Woman! Fried Mozzarella Cheese Sticks are my absolute favorite food in the world. I am so making these this weekend! Thank you, thank you, Thank You!!!

Annonandon on 5.25.2010

Sounds like a dream date with cheese… and my husband. I love m. c. sticks! I will be trying this recipe.

mnsmalltowngal on 5.25.2010

Think I’ll make these for my hubby when he gets home on Thursday- he’ll think I’m the greatest wife EVER, since he loves mozz sticks but usually only gets the frozen kind, since we live out in the boonies. These will blow his mind! Thanks, Ree!

kit on 5.25.2010

Any chance you could make these with regular mozzarella instead of string cheese? There shouldn’t be any difference, should there?

patti on 5.25.2010

I’m a huge fan of Panko over regular breadcrumbs…there’s just no comparison.

If you like Panko – go try my Panko, Parmesan, & Parsley Pork chops. Unfortunately, since the upgrade, my 30 “reviews” now just show up as comments, but it’s safe to say that it’s not just me that likes these! ;)

Maybe you could do a Panko themed post here on the ‘ol blog? I’d like that – there are some fantastic recipes out there!

Cat on 5.25.2010

Anyone recommendations for BAKING instead of frying these? I usually buy frozen mozz sticks and bake them since I don’t like to eat greasy food often.

Missy on 5.25.2010

I must find these Panko Breadcrumbs that you speak of.

Elizabeth Weddendorf on 5.25.2010

When I was in college I worked in an American restaurant In Ohio called The Cooker and this is exactly how they made fried cheese sticks. They are simply the best.

Lizard Breath on 5.25.2010

We prefer fried pickle SLICES rather than spears. The trick is to make sure they are dry, dry, dry before dusting them with flour. The rest of the recipe is the same.

We also like to do fried jalapeno slices. Tres` yum! Again, if using canned/bottles, just make sure they’re dry.

tiffany on 5.25.2010


Memoria on 5.25.2010

I make these in a similar fashion. I use fresh mozzarella instead and freeze it longer. They taste great, but I don’t like to fry foods very often. I feel greasy and can’t enjoy the food haha. Your sticks look absolutely perfect.

Leslie on 5.25.2010

You really are cruel!