If you've ever struggled to choose between mozzarella sticks and onion rings, you know how difficult ordering bar food can be. But what if there was an appetizer that combined them both, so you'd never have to face such a cruel and impossible decision again? Under the working theory that nothing can go wrong when I combine my favorite bar foods, I decided to put them together and make one ring to rule them all: Mozzarella-Stuffed Crispy Baked Onion Rings.
Why this recipe works:
- Doubling the coating and onion ensures for a crisp ring with plenty of onion flavor.
- Freezing the string cheese first and using reduced fat mozzarella prevents the cheese from oozing out while baking.
- Sealing the coating with egg wash prevents the filling from leaking.
- The mixture of flour, panko, cornmeal, and Corn Chex gives diverse texture and flavor to the rings and prevents any gaps in the coating.
Note: I use whole wheat flour because it creates a denser coating that allows less oozing and a crunchier, sturdier crust. However, you can substitute all-purpose flour if you prefer.
Two bar-food classics unite to make the ultimate deep-fried snack.
- 1 large sweet onion, cut into 1/2 inch thick rings
- 2 1/2 cups buttermilk
- 12 sticks part skim mozzarella cheese sticks, frozen
- 1 cup whole wheat flour, divided (see note)
- 3 large eggs
- 1/2 cup cornmeal
- 1/2 cup panko
- 1/2 cup Corn Chex or cornflakes, crushed
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- Nonstick cooking spray
- Marinara sauce or ranch dressing, for dipping
In a large, shallow container, combine onion slices and buttermilk, making sure to coat all of the onions. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour, or overnight (longer soaking will yield more tender onions).
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with foil. Remove onions from the buttermilk and arrange on the prepared baking sheet. Arrange onion slices in pairs, with each pair having one ring about 1/2 inch smaller in diameter than its partner (the goal is to nest one inside the other with just a small gap between them).
Remove the string cheese from the freezer just long enough to soften it up slightly, about 5 minutes. Quarter the cheese sticks lengthwise. Press the cheese string quarters snugly in the gap between each onion ring pair. You should be able to fit about 2 string cheese quarters per onion ring.
Pour 3/4 cup flour into a small bowl. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs. In a third bowl, combine the remaining 1/4 cup flour, corn meal, panko, crushed Corn Chex, salt, and pepper. Gently dip the stuffed onion rings, one at a time, into the flour, and then into the egg, and then back into the flour. Dip the rings once more in the egg and then into the panko coating. Transfer coated onion rings to the baking sheet. Spray onion rings liberally with nonstick cooking spray.
Bake until crisp and golden, about 22 minutes, flipping once halfway through. Serve with marinara or ranch for dipping.