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I Tried 7 Frozen Mozzarella Sticks & One Was Pure Cheesy Bliss

The freezer aisle is packed with these cheesy appetizers, but which brand tastes the best?
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Holiday party season is coming up quick, and if you're anything like me, then deciding on what kind of dish or snack to bring to your next gathering is always a daunting one. There are so many directions you could take. At the same time, you want to contribute an appetizer or goody that everyone will enjoy (and rave about for events to come).

So, this year, why not forgo the overdone chips and dip, skip the complicated charcuterie board, and instead go with a fan-favorite comfort food like mozzarella sticks? The cheesy breaded appetizer is always a hit, both at restaurants and at home–especially when served alongside a zippy marinara sauce.

You can make mozzarella sticks from scratch, if you're so inclined. Or, you can take the path of least resistance by picking up a box in your grocery store's freezer section. And, to help you decipher which frozen options will get you brownie points—versus which ones are bound to be the flop of the party—I've done the preemptive dirty work for you.

I rounded up seven different kinds of frozen mozzarella sticks from major grocery chains and conducted a taste test to determine which brand should be on your shopping list. All of these cheese sticks were baked in a conventional oven at 450 degrees for an average of around 10 minutes—the perfect quick, no-fuss appetizer.

Here's how each brand stacked up, ranked in descending order from my least favorite to the absolute big cheese of the freezer aisle.

Snapps Appetizers Mozzarella Sticks

Snapps brand frozen mozzarella sticks
Megan Hageman for Eat This, Not That!
PER 1 PACKAGE (7 STICKS): 450 calories, 20 g fat (7 g saturated fat), 840 mg sodium, 52 g carbs (2 fiber, 2 g sugar), 15 g protein

Snapps presents a line of various frozen snacks and appetizers, which are typically sold at budget stores like Food 4 Less and Dollar Tree. I picked up a box of its Mozzarella Sticks  at Walmart for just $1.24—a cheesy steal compared to other brands. The box describes the sticks as "real mozzarella cheese nestled in a crispy, golden coating." The ingredient list on the back also reveals that the cheese is actually a mixture of low-moisture part skim mozzarella and a cheese blend which contains modified food starch and methylcellulose, a chemical compound commonly used as a thickener.

snapps mozzerella sticks
Megan Hageman

The Look: Unappealing with a major spillage problem. Almost all of the gooey, messy cheese oozed out of the sticks while they were in the oven. Meanwhile, the outside crust didn't become firm enough even though I closely followed the directions by cooking them for just four minutes on each side.

The Taste: Largely flavorless, which is probably fitting for a product which only costs $1.24. Because a majority of the cheese escaped, a bland carcass of breading is essentially all that remained. What was left of the cheese wasn't very inspiring either: a very average mozzarella with a lack of richness or body. I will say the hollowed out stick made for a really great tool to scoop marinara sauce, but that's about the only redeeming quality of this low-cost option.

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Market Pantry Mozzarella Cheese Sticks

Market Pantry Mozzarella Cheese Sticks
Megan Hageman for Eat This, Not That!
PER 4 STICKS: 280 calories, 15 g fat (5 g saturated fat), 660 mg sodium, 24 g carbs (<1 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 11 g protein

Target only sells its Market Pantry Mozzarella Cheese Sticks in two-pound party packs, which contain about 40 cheese logs. Despite the massive quantity, the package only costs $7.99. So, I was crossing my fingers that I would enjoy them since they will inevitably be stocked in my freezer for a while. Their makeup includes low-moisture, skim mozzarella cheese, and the breading consists of ingredients such as yellow corn flour, soybean oil, modified cornstarch, and a slew of spices and flavorings, both natural and artificial.

target mozzerella sticks
Megan Hageman

The Look: Traditionally long and skinny. The outside covering is fabricated from very fine breadcrumb particles and small specks of green are faint but visible. Overall, from the outside looking in, it comes off as dry and uninviting, with the exception of the small glimpses of cheese poking through, which became a little brown and crispy from direct contact with the cooking sheet.

The Taste: Very similar to warmed-up string cheese, both in taste and texture. The mozzarella tasted fresh and acceptable, but not overly creamy or impressive. A larger portion also would have been welcome, and I didn't cafe for the way the entire cheese chunk would shed its coating in some bites, leaving behind just a husk of brittle breading. A few of my mouthfuls were also overwhelmed by the taste of parsley, which was baked into the coating. It's an interesting ingredient choice, and one that none of the other brands had made.

FarmRich Breaded Mozzarella Sticks

FarmRich brand frozen mozzarella sticks
Megan Hageman for Eat This, Not That!
PER 3 STICKS: 270 calories, 15 g fat (5 g saturated fat), 650 mg sodium, 23 g carbs (1 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 12 g protein

FarmRich holds a large chunk of the frozen mozzarella stick market, with products in nearly every major grocery store. Its classic Breaded Mozzarella Sticks are made with 100% real mozzarella cheese and also claim to be a great source of calcium. The large green and white box, which contains 21 sticks for $7.99, also invites you to try dipping the snack in marinara sauce—yet, it fails to provide you with any.

farm rich mozzarella sticks
Megan Hageman

The Look: Stubby and thick—which just means more cheese. The sticks achieved a toasty color in the oven but did start to burst open to reveal their cheesy insides during the process.

The Taste: Despite being low-moisture part-skim mozzarella, the cheese is fairly moist and pulls apart into a satisfying web. But, it's enveloped by a stale and bland coating. The salt, spices, dehydrated onions, and garlic are all masked by an artificial flavor that lingers in your mouth. And despite its crunchiness on the outside, the breading closest to the cheese is soggy and off-putting.

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Kroger Breaded Cheese Sticks

Kroger brand frozen mozzarella sticks
Megan Hageman for Eat This, Not That!
PER 3 STICKS: 280 calories, 16 g fat (6 g saturated fat), 610 mg sodium, 21 g carbs (1 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 12 g protein

On the packaging, Kroger says its Breaded Cheese Sticks are "too good not to share." Well, I'll be the judge of that! The store brand uses real mozzarella cheese in a crispy coating of seasoned bread crumbs. Standard spices and seasonings are also included in the coating recipe, as well as a few supplemental dairy-based ingredients—double trouble for anyone who is lactose intolerant. These include butter, a nonfat milk blend, and a natural cream cheese-type flavor.

kroger mozzerella sticks
Megan Hageman

The Look: Classic, thin, and delicately breaded. It's almost a dead ringer for the Market Pantry sticks, sans the parsley bits. I had to keep a close eye on both to prevent mixing them up.

The Taste: Well-baked to a crisp with soft yet dense cheese, but lacking character. All the bones of a good cheese stick are there, the breading just needs an extra dose of flavor. Without a whole lot of seasoning—even the cream cheese type flavor can't be found!—it reads a little bit like cardboard. The good news is, these sticks pair splendidly with marinara sauce, though you will have to provide it yourself.

TGI Fridays Mozzarella Sticks with Marinara Sauce

TGi Fridays brand frozen mozzarella sticks
Megan Hageman for Eat This, Not That!
PER 3 PIECES: 290 calories, 15 g fat (6 g saturated fat), 640 mg sodium, 30 g carbs (1 fiber, <1 g sugar), 10 g protein

The casual dining chain TGI Fridays has struggled over the past several years–closing hundreds of locations–yet its appetizers remain famous. Back in the day, patrons could purchase endless apps such as wings and the renowned loaded potato skins for just $10 in the restaurant. And, a few of these yummy starters even trickled down to grocery stores where they can still be found today in the frozen section. One of these not-so-hidden freezer aisle gems is the brand's Mozzarella Sticks.

TGI's take on the classic munchie consists of real part-skim mozzarella cheese, covered in a garlic-seasoned panko breading. It's also only one of two options here which comes with its own marinara dipping sauce. The box rang up at $7.99 for over a dozen pieces.

tgi fridays mozzerella sticks
Megan Hageman

The Look: Flat and rectangular–almost like a fish stick. The panko crust is not too heavy, albeit a little bumpy. It also shows some semblance of spices throughout, and is browner than most. The cheese is standard white and a tad glossy. Meanwhile, the sauce rocks a color of deep maroon and the consistency reminds me more of ketchup or even cocktail sauce.

The Taste: Tame but chock full of cheese. I appreciate the fact that these sticks are cheese-forward with more of a downplayed outer layer–and the cheese does taste real and spongy. But, the flavor stops there. I couldn't pick up on any garlic or seasonings in the crunchy coating. For more zest, I gave them a dunk in the marinara, and found that the magic is in the sauce. It's on the sweeter side and unmistakably tomato paste-based, but it offsets the muted flavors of the breading and mild cheese quite well. This included sauce packet, paired with a generous helping of cheese, are the distinguishing factors here and what pulled TGI up in the rankings.

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Budweiser Beer Battered Cheese Sticks

Budweiser brand frozen mozzarella sticks
Megan Hageman for Eat This, Not That!
PER 4 STICKS: 280 calories, 18 g fat (7 g saturated fat), 570 mg sodium, 20 g carbs (0 fiber, 2 g sugar), 10 g protein

Is the King of Beers also the king of apps? I grabbed a box of Budweiser's Beer Battered Cheese Sticks to find out. For $7.49, I received 24 sticks, each made with 100% real white cheddar and low-moisture part skim mozzarella cheeses. And, for the pièce de résistance, the crispy batter is infused with Budweiser's lager beer.

budweiser mozzarella sticks
Megan Hageman

The Look: Pale, and the beer batter coat stands out, giving off a less crumby appearance which also lacks uniformity. The sticks are medium-sized in terms of both length and width. When split apart from the center, a really nice and stretchy cheese pull emerges. But, the cheese could be more plentiful, as it only accounts for about half the size of its beer battered cave.

The Taste: Rich and cheese curd-esque. The white cheddar is more pronounced than the mozzarella, giving the sticks a buttery taste. But, the beer batter is the true star of the show here. The breading is a balanced combination of puffy, oily, and savory. It also has a cheesy flavor in and of itself which I mistakenly pinpointed as asiago. But, upon further inspection of the box, I realized it was likely the added natural cheddar cheese flavoring.

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Wholly Veggie! Mozzarella Style Sticks

Wholly Veggie Mozzarella Style Sticks
Megan Hageman for Eat This, Not That!
PER 5 STICKS: 260 calories, 16 g fat (12 g saturated fat), 680 mg sodium, 28 g carbs (1 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 2 g protein

The name "Mozzarella Style Sticks" is concerning. But, I decided to give the Wholly Veggie brand a shot, anyway. These sticks are gluten-free and vegan, which means they are not made with real cheese, but a plant-based style mozzarella instead consisting of ingredients like potato starch, modified starch, chickpea protein, potato protein, and beta carotene for coloring. This creation is then swathed in a cauliflower crust and served with a marinara sauce packet, all for a cost of $6.69 for about 13 sticks at Target.

wholly mozzerella sticks
Megan Hageman

The Look: Bite-sized and resembling a tater tot. Once cooked, the sizzling cauliflower crust looks almost fried even though it was baked in the oven. Inside, the cheese is more of a liquid than a solid, like a baked brie. As for the sauce, it's remarkably similar to TGI Fridays' in a dark shade and with a paste-like texture.

The Taste: Wholly moly, these are so creamy and melty! Admittedly, they're not your traditional mozzarella sticks—they're better. The plant-based concoction is mild, doesn't give away that it's not dairy-based, and melts in your mouth in pure cheesy bliss. The shell contains it pretty well, with just slight leakage in spots. The cauliflower flavor in the coating is hardly detectable, leaving behind a welcome combination of both salt and garlic notes. The snack altogether is similar to a mac and cheese bite, just without the noodles.

The sauce is too sweet and vinegary for my liking, and it's so dark and sticky that it left a residue on my finger when I went in for a taste. But, honestly, you don't even need the sauce given how mouthwateringly good the poppable bites are all by themselves.

Megan Hageman
Megan is a freelance writer based in Columbus, Ohio. Read more about Megan