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What are cheese balls made of?

Cheese balls are a popular appetizer made from cheese that is rolled into bite-sized balls and coated with various ingredients. But what exactly goes into making these tasty morsels? Here is a comprehensive look at the main ingredients that give cheese balls their distinctive flavor and texture.


The key ingredient in any cheese ball is, not surprisingly, cheese. There are many different types of cheese that can be used to make cheese balls, but some of the most common include:

  • Cheddar – One of the most popular cheeses used in cheese balls thanks to its bold, nutty flavor. Aged cheddar provides an extra sharp taste.
  • Cream cheese – Cream cheese gives cheese balls a smooth, creamy texture. It also helps bind the other ingredients together.
  • Blue cheese – Blue cheese delivers a potent, pungent flavor and aroma. It is often combined with milder cheeses in cheese balls.
  • Goat cheese – Goat cheese adds a tangy, tart flavor to cheese balls. It also has a crumbly texture.
  • Gouda – Gouda has a mild, buttery taste that melts nicely in cheese balls.
  • Parmesan – Hard, salty parmesan cheese gives cheese balls a delightful crunch.
  • Monterey Jack – Monterey jack is a melty cheese that brings creaminess and a mild flavor.

The specific cheese or blend of cheeses will determine the overall flavor profile of the cheese ball. Some cheese balls have a sharper, more pronounced cheese taste while others are milder. The cheese choices also affect the texture which can range from soft and creamy to firm and crumbly.


In addition to cheese, cheese balls also contain a binder ingredient that helps hold the ball together and gives it a smooth, malleable texture. Common binders include:

  • Cream cheese – Cream cheese is a popular choice to bind the cheeses and other ingredients together. It also adds tanginess.
  • Sour cream – Sour cream provides a cool, creamy base that prevents crumbling.
  • Mayonnaise – Mayonnaise acts as a binder and adds richness.
  • Greek yogurt – Greek yogurt binds everything together and contributes an extra dose of tanginess.
  • Mascarpone – Mascarpone has a thick, creamy texture that helps form the balls.
  • Ricotta – Ricotta cheese evenly distributes the flavors and produces a light texture.

Experimenting with different binders allows you to achieve different textures ranging from smooth to fluffy.


An assortment of herbs, spices, and other flavorings are often mixed into cheese balls to add extra dimensions of taste. Popular seasonings include:

  • Garlic powder
  • Onion powder
  • Paprika
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Dried parsley
  • Dill
  • Chives
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Hot sauce
  • Pepper
  • Salt

The specific blend of seasonings will determine whether the cheese ball has a spicy, savory, herby, or bold flavor. Start with small amounts of seasonings and adjust to taste.

Nuts and seeds

Finely chopped nuts and seeds are a great way to add crunch and texture to cheese balls. Some nutty options include:

  • Pecans
  • Walnuts
  • Almonds
  • Pistachios
  • Hazelnuts
  • Pine nuts
  • Sesame seeds
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Pumpkin seeds

Nuts and seeds give each bite of cheese ball an enjoyable crispy contrast. Their oils also help everything stick together.


The crowning glory of cheese balls is the outer coating. The coating adds textural contrast and plenty of flavor. Some popular coatings include:

  • Finely chopped nuts – Pecans, walnuts, almonds, and more make an excellent crispy, crunchy coating.
  • Dried herbs – Coatings of dried parsley, basil, oregano, dill, and other herbs encrust the cheese ball with intense herby aroma.
  • Crushed crackers – Crumbled crackers like Ritz or butter crackers add irresistible crunch.
  • Panko breadcrumbs – Japanese breadcrumbs provide crispiness without detracting from the cheese flavor.
  • Toasted coconut – Toasted coconut provides tropical flair with sweetness and crunch.
  • Crushed potato chips – Crushed potato chips, like Lay’s, give you salty, crispy bites in every layer.
  • Sesame seeds – Sesame seeds add nuttiness and delightful texture.
  • Poppy seeds – Tiny poppy seeds provide visual appeal and subtle crunch.
  • Minced bacon – Bits of crispy bacon lend smokiness.
  • Chopped fresh herbs – Finely chopped fresh parsley, chives, dill, etc. finish it off with bright herbiness.

Feel free to get creative with unexpected coatings too, like crushed graham crackers, mini chocolate chips, sliced almonds, and more. Just be sure the coating adequately sticks to the cheese.

Binding Agents

To help the coating adhere to the cheese balls, you’ll need a binding agent. This is typically an egg wash, mayonnaise, soft cheese, or creamy dairy product. Common options include:

  • Egg wash – Whisked eggs work perfectly to “glue” on the coating.
  • Mayonnaise
  • Sour cream
  • Cream cheese
  • Plain Greek yogurt
  • Softened butter

Choose a binding agent that will complement the overall flavors of your cheese ball. The binding agent gets absorbed into the outer layer of the cheese, so it impacts the taste too.

Flavor Mix-Ins

You can also mix in various ingredients to give your cheese balls an extra flavor punch:

  • Sundried tomatoes
  • Minced garlic
  • Chopped olives
  • Roasted red peppers
  • Crumbled bacon
  • Sauteed mushrooms
  • Caramelized onions
  • Jalapenos
  • Pesto
  • Hot sauce
  • BBQ sauce
  • Salsa
  • Chopped chipotle peppers

Get creative and add in mix-ins that will complement the main cheese flavors!

Shaping the Balls

To form the cheese mixture into uniform balls:

  1. Chill the cheese mixture for at least 1 hour so it firms up.
  2. Use a spoon or small ice cream scoop to portion out the cheese.
  3. Gently roll the portions into balls using your hands.
  4. Place the shaped balls on a parchment lined baking sheet.
  5. Chill for at least 30 minutes more so they hold their shape.

Keep your hands lightly coated in oil to prevent the cheese from sticking as you shape it. Cheese balls can range in size from bite-size poppers to larger 2-3 inch diameters.


To coat the cheese balls:

  1. Place the coating ingredients in a shallow bowl or dish.
  2. Brush or roll the cheese balls lightly in the binding agent.
  3. Drop the balls directly into the coating and turn to coat completely.
  4. Lift out the balls, letting any excess coating fall off.
  5. Place back on the baking sheet.

Some coatings may benefit from a very quick chill to help them set before serving.


Cheese balls make a fabulous addition to any appetizer spread or cheese board. Here are some serving tips:

  • Let the cheese balls sit at room temperature for 10-15 minutes before serving so they soften slightly.
  • Pair them with crackers, bread slices, vegetables, chips or other dippers.
  • Arrange them artfully on a platter surrounded by fresh herbs, nuts, dried fruits, olives, etc.
  • Insert toothpicks into the balls for easier grabbing.
  • Offer a cheese knife for slicing larger balls.
  • Provide small plates and napkins for neatness.
  • Keep leftovers refrigerated for up to a week.

With an endless variety of cheese, flavoring, and coating options, cheese balls make the perfect addition to any party or gathering. Have fun getting creative with different ingredient combinations!


To store cheese balls:

  • Keep cheese balls refrigerated until ready to serve.
  • Place in an airtight container between layers of parchment paper.
  • Consume within 5 days for best quality and freshness.
  • Let sit at room temperature for 10-15 minutes before serving to soften.
  • Coated cheese balls freeze well for longer term storage. Freeze for up to 3 months.
  • Thaw frozen cheese balls overnight in the refrigerator before serving.

Properly stored cheese balls will maintain their flavor and texture for several days to weeks. Freeze any longer term extras so you can enjoy them again down the road.

Tips for the Best Cheese Balls

Here are some helpful tips for achieving cheese ball success:

  • Use room temperature cream cheese or cheese so it blends smoothly.
  • Avoid over-mixing the ingredients which can make the texture dense or greasy.
  • Chill the cheese mixture thoroughly before shaping for easy forming.
  • Keep your hands lightly oiled while shaping the balls.
  • Brush off any loose exterior coating before serving.
  • Pair stronger cheeses with milder ones for balance.
  • Add seasonings gradually until desired taste is reached.
  • Consider flavor pairings like goat cheese with red pepper flakes or cheddar with bacon.
  • Refrigerate for up to a week or freeze for longer storage.

Making incredible cheese balls is easy with the right techniques and a little creativity. Now you have all the secrets for crafting the perfect cheese balls!

Common Cheese Ball Recipes

While the possibilities are endless, here are some classic cheese ball combinations to inspire you:

Classic Cheddar Cheese Ball

  • 8 oz. sharp cheddar, grated
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1⁄4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1⁄2 tsp paprika
  • 1⁄4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup finely chopped pecans

Blue Cheese and Walnut Ball

  • 4 oz. blue cheese, crumbled
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 2 oz. goat cheese, softened
  • 2 Tbsp milk or cream
  • 1⁄4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 2 Tbsp minced chives

Jalapeno Popper Cheese Ball

  • 16 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar
  • 3 Tbsp chopped jalapenos
  • 3 Tbsp minced onion
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1⁄4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup crushed crackers

Sundried Tomato and Pesto Cheese Ball

  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1⁄2 cup pesto
  • 1⁄4 cup oil-packed sundried tomatoes, chopped
  • 1⁄4 cup parsley, chopped
  • 1⁄4 cup pine nuts
  • 1⁄4 cup grated Parmesan

Get inspired by classic recipes but don’t be afraid to put your own spin for unique cheese ball creations!


Are cheese balls baked?

No, cheese balls are not baked. They are typically assembled by mixing the ingredients together and hand shaping them. The coating is applied without heat as well. Some recipes call for brief chilling or setting stages but cheese balls do not require baking.

Can you freeze cheese balls?

Yes, cheese balls can be frozen successfully for longer term storage. Make sure the cheese balls are completely cooled first. Place them in a single layer on a parchment lined baking sheet and freeze until solid. Transfer to an airtight container or freezer bag. Properly frozen cheese balls will keep for 2-3 months.

How long do cheese balls last?

Cheese balls last 5-7 days refrigerated. Freeze for longer storage. Properly frozen cheese balls will last for 2-3 months before quality is compromised. Thaw frozen cheese balls overnight in the refrigerator before serving.

Should you serve cheese balls cold or room temperature?

Cheese balls are best served at room temperature. The flavors and textures shine when the cheese has had a chance to soften from fridge temperatures. Take cheese balls out of the refrigerator at least 15-20 minutes before serving time so they can warm up.

What goes well with cheese balls?

There are many delicious things that pair nicely with cheese balls: Crackers, breads, and baguette slices, vegetables like carrots and celery sticks, chips, pretzels, apple and pear slices, figs, olives, pickles, jams, nuts, and dried fruits all make excellent accompaniments for cheese balls.


Cheese balls are a festive, versatile, and delicious addition to any party or gathering. While made primarily with cheese, ingredients like seasonings, nuts, seeds, herbs, and coatings can be mixed and matched to create endless flavor combinations. Binding agents help hold the balls together while coatings add crispy contrast. Follow proper shaping, coating, and storage methods for cheese ball success. With so many varieties, cheese balls can be tailored to suit any taste or occasion.