This Cranberry Pecan Cheese Ball tastes like the holidays in every bite. The cheesy mix whips together in no time before being decorated with cranberries, nuts, and herbs. Bonus: it’s the ultimate make-ahead appetizer and is even freezer-friendly.
Who can say no to a ball of cheese?
There’s no denying that the holidays are a time for fun foods. Take this party-ready Cranberry Pecan Cheese Ball appetizer for instance! Every bite is creamy, comforting, and filled with classic holiday flavors thanks to a simple mix of cream cheese, sharp cheddar, herbs, cranberries, and nuts.
Serve your cheese ball with cranberries and a platter of crackers and veggies for a killer party appetizer. It’s a breeze to make or even freeze ahead of time so there’s no need to get stuck cooking in the kitchen while your guests enjoy the party. Along with my Holiday Prosecco Punch, you can whip up this recipe beforehand and set it out so you can join in on the fun.
What is a cheese ball?
This retro appetizer is exactly how it sounds… it really is cheese rolled into a ball!
Most cheese ball recipes are made by whipping cream cheese, mayonnaise, shredded cheese, and flavor enhancers together. The mixture is rolled into a ball and dipped in nuts, dried fruit, and herbs before being spread onto crackers, bread, and vegetables.
Cheese ball appetizers became popular in the 1940s when the recipe was first published in Food of My Friends, a cookbook by Virginia Safford. You could find cheese balls at most cocktail parties and special events right up until the 2000s. They aren’t as popular nowadays since other party-ready appetizers have been taken up a notch, but there’s no denying the flavors in a ball made of cheese are still delicious and always welcome at get-togethers.
Cranberry cheese ball ingredients
This appetizer belongs at all of your holiday parties. Not only is it easy to make, but the ingredients are ultra-rich and full of festive flavors:
Cream cheese isn’t just for bagels or smoked salmon crostinis anymore! Every great cheese ball starts with soft cheese, like cream cheese or goat’s cheese. I prefer to make them with cream cheese because it’s nice and rich while helping the appetizer turn out super spreadable.
Sharp cheddar cheese
I like to use white sharp cheddar cheese because the sharp flavors help balance the sweetness of the cranberries while keeping the cheese ball one color. Mozzarella, cheddar, or any good shreddable melting cheese will work as well.
This is the real star of this recipe. Finely chopped dried cranberries are used throughout the cheese ball and as decoration on the outside. The little bits of cranberries ensure each bite is sweet and tart while adding the necessary festive flare.
Make sure you toast the pecans beforehand! This helps bring out their natural oils and rich flavors. Plus, the added crunch never hurts.
I recommend using unsalted pecans so the finished cheese ball doesn’t turn out overly salty. You can even use walnuts or any other nut you love instead!
Whipping mayonnaise into the cheesy mixture is what makes it spreadable. If you were to leave it out, the cheese ball would be much too stiff and unable to spread.
Were you hoping for a cheese ball on the firmer side? In that case, feel free to leave the mayonnaise out of this recipe.
Savory flavor boosters
Now that the spread is nice and cheesy, you need a handful of savory seasonings to really make this holiday appetizer special. Green onion, dijon mustard, garlic powder, parsley, and a splash of brandy give the cheese ball extra brightness and balance. Plus, the flavors are amazing!
Feel free to experiment with these flavor boosters. The brandy is optional and there’s lots of room for additional herbs, fresh garlic, citrus zest, and more.
How to make a holiday cheese ball
No special equipment required! The ingredients mix together in one bowl so your cheesy appetizer is ready in no time:
Step 1: Beat the cream cheese until its light and fluffy.
Step 2: Addd all of thee cheese ball ingredients to the cream cheese.
Step 3: Mix everything together!
Step 4: Roll the mixture up into a ball in some parchment and chill.
Step 5: Roll the cheese ball in chopped pecans, dried cranberries and parsley then serve it up!
What to serve with a cranberry cheese ball
For the best presentation, put the cheese ball in the center of a platter and surround it with goodies for dipping and spreading, such as:
- Veggies - Sliced cucumbers, radishes, celery, and carrots.
- Fruit - Sliced apples and pears.
- Crackers - Water crackers, pretzels, or any other firm crackers.
- Bread - Sliced baguette, pita bread, mini bagels, crusty bread, or toasted crostini.
Don’t forget to put out a knife for easy spreading!
Tips and tricks
Save some time or store this appetizer like a pro using these helpful tips:
The finished appetizer will be pretty soft by the time it comes together. Make sure you leave it to chill in the fridge for at least 1 hour so the texture can firm up.
By toasting the pecans up to a week in advance or mixing the cheese ball together 4 to 5 days before serving. Don’t roll the ball in the pecans, cranberries, or parsley until it’s time to eat.
How long can you leave it out?
Your festive cheese ball can be left out at the party for about 2 hours before it should be placed back in the fridge (if you even have any leftovers at that point).
🎉 It's time to cook! 🎉
Alright, friend! It's your turn to make this delish recipe for your next get-together.
When you do, please leave a comment below so we can hear what you think!
Cranberry Pecan Cheese Ball
- 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 1 ½ cups shredded sharp white cheddar cheese
- ½ cup dried cranberries, finely chopped, divided
- ½ cup toasted pecans, finely chopped, divided
- ¼ cup minced green onion
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon brandy optional
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- pinch salt and pepper
- 2 tablespoons parsley
- Using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese until light and fluffy, about 1 minute.
- Add cheese, ¼ cup cranberries, 2 tablespoons pecans, green onion, mayonnaise, dijon mustard, brandy (if using), garlic powder and salt and pepper. Mix together on low speed until uniform.
- Form cheese mixture into a ball and wrap tightly in parchment paper. Chill for at least 1 hour.
- In a shallow dish, mix remaining cranberries, pecans, and parsley together.
- Once chilled, unwrap the cheese ball, reshape if desired, and roll in the cranberry pecan parsley mixture until evenly coated.
- Serve at room temperature with your favorite crackers!
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