When it comes to party food, the cheese ball is a total classic that delivers on flair and flavor. Plus, they’re simple to whip up ahead of time and enjoy later on. And while they have tons of retro appeal, the Woman’s World test kitchen has come up with a modern twist that’s so easy yet totally elegant. So whether you’re hosting friend and family or are looking for a make-and-take dish, keep reading for our best-ever cheese ball recipes plus tips and tricks that make it so simple to earn rave reviews.
What is a classic cheese ball?
Typically, cheese balls are made with cream cheese, shredded cheddar, scallions, herbs and spices before being shaped, chilled and coated with chopped nuts. It’s most often served with crackers for spreading. This classic version will always have our heart, but what we also love about a cheese ball is how easy it is to customize with a few quick tweaks. Not sure where to start with customizing a cheese ball? Keep reading for our fun ideas!
Why cheese balls are the perfect party food
One of the reasons cheese balls are so fun: “They can be simple or very creative in their shape,” says Woman’s World Test Kitchen Director Susan Chiusano. “You can shape cheese balls freeform on a plate, in a festive mold or by lining a bowl with plastic wrap and pressing the mixture into it.” We also love shaping them into mini balls, then inserting a pretzel stick for a tasty one-bite finger food.
In addition to the fun shapes, cheese balls are blank canvas to showcase your favorite flavors. Here are five easy to create an even more delicious cheese ball.
- Looking for something sweet? Add ¼ cup of dried fruit like cranberries or chopped apricots to the mixture. You can also mix the dried fruit with chopped nuts, then coat the outside of the ball
- Craving a spicy kick? Mix some Buffalo sauce and ranch dressing into the base to taste.
- Love briny foods? Chop a handful of drained pitted olives (any kind) and mix with the other ingredients.
- Want a complex cheesy flavor? Use a variety of shredded cheeses beyond cheddar like Pepper jack and muenster for a more intense cheesy taste.
- Like fresh flavors? Stirring in chopped herbs like dill and parsley gives the cheese ball a hint of brightness.
You can also experiment with the coating by mixing the crushed nuts with finely chopped crispy fried onions or everything bagel seasoning for a zesty taste. Regardless of how you spice up your cheese ball, you and your guests are in for a deliciously cheesy treat!
The secret to a firm yet spreadable cheese ball
When making a cheese ball, plastic wrap is your friend. It helps the cheese ball retain its shape in the fridge, creating a solid yet spreadable texture. You can line a bowl with plastic wrap as Susan suggests to create a half mound shape. But for a true ball, here’s our favorite trick: Scoop your cheese mixture in the center of a large sheet of plastic wrap. Gather all four corners in toward the center, then use your hands on the outside of the plastic to shape into a ball. When finished, twist all the plastic ends together. Reshape if needed, then cover the plastic-wrapped cheese ball in aluminum foil and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
2 yummy cheese ball recipes worth trying
With these tips in mind, making a cheese ball for your next gathering will be a breeze, and here are our two favorite cheese ball recipes that are set for rave reviews. One is a classic cheese ball that’s easy to customize however you wish. The other is more experimental as it’s topped with vegetable chips, which serve as a garnish and dippers for the spread.
Both of these recipes require less than 20 minutes of work and can be chilled for up to 2 days in the fridge, making them ideal make-ahead appetizers!
Classic Nutty Cheese Ball
- 1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese, room temperature
- 1 (4 oz.) package goat cheese, room temperature
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- ½ tsp. garlic powder
- ¼ tsp. pepper
- ½ cup finely chopped pecan or walnut pieces
- Buttery crackers, for serving
- Active: 10 mins
- Total time: 4 hrs, 10 mins
- Yield: 8 servings
- In large bowl, blend together cheeses, garlic powder and pepper. Spoon mixture onto a piece of plastic wrap and tightly gather ends together.
- Shape into a ball; chill at least 4 hours until fairly firm, or up to 2 days in advance. Spread chopped walnuts on cutting board. Unwrap cheese ball and discard plastic; roll ball in chopped nuts to coat.
- Serve with crackers.
Cheddar Cheese Ball Blossom
- 12 oz. extra sharp cheddar cheese, room temperature
- 1 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese, room temperature
- ¾ tsp. Greek seasoning, Morton and Bassett Greek Seasoning (Buy from Walmart, $6.49)
- 1 clove garlic, mashed
- 2 tsp. minced fresh thyme
- 1 small scallion, minced
- 1 (6 oz.) bag vegetable chips, like Terra Sweets & Beets (Buy from Walmart, $4.36)
- Active: 20 mins
- Total time: 20 mins
- Yield: 12 servings
- In processor, combine cheddar, cream cheese, Greek seasoning and garlic. Purée 2 min. or until smooth. Pulse in thyme and scallions. Transfer mixture to serving plate; shape into 1-inch thick disk.
- Just before serving, starting in center of disk, arrange vegetable chips in decorative pattern. Serve with remaining chips. Cheese spread can be made up to 2 days in advance.
Easy garnish idea: The vibrant colors of vegetable chips make it a cinch to elevate this cheese spread from scrumptious starter to stunning focal point (while it lasts, that is!). To create our “Terra flower:” Using the recipe photo above as a guide, arrange chips in a circular pattern of “petals” inserted into the cheese.
Keep reading for simple snack recipes that are sure to impress!
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