When I was a kid my mom used to keep a few homemade cheese balls wrapped up in the fridge to hand out to neighbors during Christmas instead of the usual cookie plate. It might seem a little unusual, but not everyone has a sweet tooth, and they appreciated having a savory snack alternative.
Now that I’m an adult, I love having a cheese ball on the table during the holidays (and a spare in the fridge). It’s an easy appetizer to make, and the finished version tastes better than the sum of its parts!
What Is the Best Cheese for a Cheese Ball?
I like to start a cheese ball with some basics—cream cheese, a good sharp cheddar, and some crunchy veggies, but after that, it’s kind of dealer’s choice! I encourage you to branch out! Make this your own and use flavors that you love.
- Cheeses to consider: Sharp cheddar, Gouda (smoked or normal), pepper jack, or a mixture.
- Cheeses to avoid: Super-dry cheeses like Parmesan or Cotija cheese, as they won’t be as spreadable.
Tips and Tricks for Making the Best Cheese Ball
A good cheese ball is all about mixing different flavors and textures to create the ultimate flavor experience.
My base recipe is made of sharp cheddar and cream cheese. I add some minced bell pepper and scallions to balance the richness of the cheese, a kick of garlic powder, Worcestershire, and lemon juice to boost the flavor, then I roll it in pecans for texture and just a hint of sweetness.
You can mix up the ingredients however you see fit, but keep a few things in mind:
- Don’t skip the crunchy bits, otherwise, the cheese ball is just a creamy spread.
- You probably don’t need to add much salt.
- Acidic flavors like lemon, hot sauce, or Worcestershire help cut the richness of the cheese. (I don’t use hot sauce in my base recipe, but a dash or two works well.)
- Most importantly: Roll your cheese ball in something that will help it keep its shape! Pecans are a classic option, but any nut or seed will work.
If you need some alternative ingredient ideas, look no further. I could go on for days! Here’s a short list of some cheese ball variations:
- Roasted jalapenos instead of bell peppers for a spicy kick
- Sun-dried tomato and basil
- Minced artichokes and feta
- Bacon and scallions
- Minced dried cranberries and Fontina
- Rolled in Everything Seasoning instead of pecans
What to Serve With Cheese Balls
I like serving my cheese balls with buttery crackers like Ritz, but you can use any cracker. Vegetables like celery sticks or thick radish slices would work well too. The spread is also good smeared on a crusty baguette or served on a tortilla in a wrap!
How to Store a Cheese Ball
The best thing about cheese balls is you can make a few and keep them in the fridge for up to a week for easy snacking. Just roll them in nuts (or your coating of choice) and wrap them tightly in plastic wrap.
I wouldn’t freeze the cheese balls. In theory, it could work, but I think the texture loses something when frozen then thawed.
More Holiday Snack Ideas
How to Make the Perfect Cheese Ball Tray
- Go for the simple approach, letting your cheese ball take center stage, flanked by crackers and/or veggies.
- Use your cheese ball to anchor a more elaborate charcuterie board alongside other tasty party treats, such as cured meats, fruit, pickles, olives, and nuts.
- Be sure to provide small spreaders or other cheese knives so your guests can easily dive right in.
- Crackers, crackers, crackers! Get a variety box of crackers for an appealing presentation, plus the fun opportunity for guests to pick out their favorites.
Classic Cheese Ball
1 pound (2 blocks) cream cheese, softened
8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 cup minced green bell pepper
4 scallions, minced
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (about 1 small lemon)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 cup chopped pecans, for rolling
Fresh vegetables, such as celery sticks or radishes
Make the cheese ball:
In a large bowl, add the cream cheese, cheddar cheese, bell pepper, scallions, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, and garlic powder. Mash the ingredients together using a big fork. Taste and adjust flavors to your liking.
Prepare the pecans:
Onto a clean surface or cutting board, spread your pecans into an even layer.
Roll the cheese ball:
Roughly separate the cheese ball mixture into two halves. Using a large spatula or your clean hands, scoop one half out and form into a ball.
Place the cheese ball onto the chopped pecans. Use your hands (or some plastic wrap) to gently roll the cheese ball around in the pecans, coating it completely.
Repeat with second cheese ball.
Serve or refrigerate:
You can serve the cheese ball immediately or wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and keep in the fridge for up to a week. Serve with crackers or chips.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 13g||17%|
|Saturated Fat 6g||29%|
|Total Carbohydrate 3g||1%|
|Dietary Fiber 1g||2%|
|Total Sugars 1g|
|Vitamin C 3mg||16%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|