Looking for a popular and simple dish to bring to holiday gatherings, parties, and other events? A homemade cheese ball is simple, delicious, and easy for even beginner cooks to assemble in minutes. Plus, it's almost guaranteed that your friends will love it. The average American eats some 23 pounds of cheese each year, which journalist Sarah Laskow jokes is basically a "corgi" worth of cheese.
Honestly? There's a lot to love about cheese aside from the fact that it's seriously delicious. While nutritionists recommend eating it in moderation since it's very calorie-dense, cheese is packed with protein and healthy fats. Research even indicates that it contains a fatty acid that has a healthy impact on metabolism and diabetes-prevention. Homemade cheese balls are the perfect holiday indulgence. Join us as we share five mouthwateringly delicious recipe concepts, and some tips for DIY assembly and presentation at home.
1. Cranberry and Pecan
The subtle tartness of dried cranberries and the rich crunch of pecans transform goat cheese from delicious to absolutely mind- blowing. To create this homemade cheese ball, blend 8 ounces of cream cheese and 8 ounces of plain goat cheese. Mix 1/4 cup of finely chopped dried cranberries to your cheese ball base. After forming into the shape you want, roll the ball in chopped pecans.
If you prefer a slight sharpness, consider adding a tablespoon of ground Romano or Pecorino to the cheese ball base. Lightly toast your pecans for a bit crunchier texture. If you're feeling truly adventurous, using candied pecans can allow you to achieve the perfect balance of sweet and salty.
2. Spinach, Gruyere, and Mushrooms
Gruyere has a rich, slightly nutty taste. When paired with spinach and mushrooms, it makes a downright earthy and rich combination. Mix two cups of finely grated Gruyère, 8 ounces of cream cheese, and 1/2 cup of finely chopped, sautéed spinach and mushrooms. Roll the ball in sunflower seeds to serve.
3. Basil and Olives
Olives are so flavor-dense and rich that they require almost no flavor enhancements. Mild cream cheese pairs well with the Mediterranean-inspired dynamic duo of chopped basil and onions. Simply mix 16 ounces of cream cheese with 1/2 cup of pitted, chopped Kalamata olives. Roll the ball until fully coated in 4 tablespoons of minced, fresh basil. Alternatively, you can mix the basil into the ball and roll in chopped walnuts.
While it may seem tempting to substitute dried basil for fresh, avoid this recipe hack as much as possible. Dried basil can't compete with the flavor of fresh, and the texture of dried can be off-putting. Adding 1/4 cup of diced, caramelized onions and reducing the olives to 1/4 cup can be another fun way to modify this recipe.
4. Pomegranate and Mascarpone
Pomegranates aren't just one of the most beautiful fruits; they're also among the sweetest and most flavor-packed. When paired with the sweet dessert cheese mascarpone, the result is a sweet-and-savory snack that's visually stimulating and perfectly executed. To avoid too much sweetness, introducing some sharp cheddar into the mix adds some balance. Mix eight ounces of cream cheese, 4 ounces of softened mascarpone, and 4 ounces of grated, aged sharp white cheddar. Roll in a cup of pomegranate seeds before serving.
If you're a fan of nuttier tastes, grated Pecorino cheese can balance the mascarpone just as well as sharp cheddar. It's a simple substitution.
5. Bacon and Parmesan
Almost everyone loves bacon in a big way. Also, the rich, nutty, and salty taste of Parmesan has made it one of the most popular cheese options. When paired with green onions, bacon and Parmesan create a flavor profile that's sure to please almost everyone. To create this homemade cheese ball, mix 16 ounces of cream cheese with 1/2 cup grated Parmesan, 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper, and 8 slices of crispy, crumbled bacon. Coat the ball in 4 tablespoons of chopped green onion to serve.
Assembling Your Own Homemade Cheese Ball
Every cheese ball starts with a base that's approximately the texture of cream cheese. Some cheeses, like goat cheese, lend themselves perfectly to quick ball assembly. Other recipes may combine a number of cheeses that require blending or the addition of butter to get the texture just right. For DIY assembly, simply blend the cheese base and any mix-ins in a stand mixer or food processor until ingredients are uniformly combined.
Once you've combined the ingredients of your cheese ball base, wrap the mixture in plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes in the refrigerator. Once the cheese mixture has cooled, it will be easier to form into a perfect ball or log shape. After you've perfected the cheese ball's shape, place your coatings on a large tray, cutting board, or baking sheet and gently roll the ball until the exterior is uniformly coated.
Simply buying some good-quality crackers is typically enough to wow other party guests, who will probably be beyond impressed that you've gone to the trouble of making a homemade cheese ball. However, if you're in the mood to kick up your presentation, consider offering up one or more of the following options:
- Sliced pita or naan bread
- Baguette slices or crostini
- Thin crackers, like crispbreads
- Apple, pear, or celery slices
Food writer Anna Monette Roberts recommends asking the cheese monger at your local grocery for tips on pairings or a complementary wine if you're in the mood to go all out. Candied pecans, Marcona almonds, tart cherry preserves, figs, and grapes are all gorgeous ways to add a little something extra to your cheese ball plate. When in doubt, adding a semisweet fruit and something decadent like chocolate will almost certainly make you the most popular party guest.
Have you ever attempted a homemade cheese ball? What are your favorite flavor combinations?