This easy cheese ball recipe is perfect for holiday gatherings or even a special treat at home. The creamy interior is packed with rich cheese and savory bacon flavor while the outside is full of fantastic crunch from pecans and our delicious nut-based granola. This cheese ball recipe uses ranch-inspired spices for a cheddar, bacon, ranch appetizer that’s loaded with irresistible flavor.
NuTrail Granola is the perfect addition to this cheese ball because it provides the perfect mix of nuts and seeds to coat the entire sphere. The granola’s subtle sweetness serves as the perfect counterpoint to the more savory elements to create a well-balanced appetizer that appeals to all palates. You can whip up this dish in just ten minutes of hands-on time and enjoy it after just an hour of chilling. Pair it with fresh veggies, flax crackers and your favorite low carb dippers for a satisfying snack that’s sure to impress.
What is a cheese ball?
The recipe is as simple as the name sounds. The base is a ball of cheese, but it has a handful of complementary mix-ins and it’s finished with a quick roll in chopped nuts for a delicious crunch. Where the recipe really stands out is the irresistible combination of tastes and textures that you experience in each bite. Cream cheese is a staple for entertaining because it’s easy to serve and easily adaptable to both sweet and savory ingredients. A cheese ball is one of the simplest ways to elevate cream cheese into a crowd pleasing appetizer. From casual gatherings to festive celebrations, cheese balls are a versatile and easy-to-make must-have item on your party table.
Why You’ll Love It
Easy to prepare - This no bake recipe can be prepped in just ten minutes. It’s perfect as a last minute party addition or a quick appetizer plate to enjoy while watching a movie. This stress-free appetizer is filling and satisfying without requiring extensive cooking.
Make ahead - You can prepare this cheese ball ahead of time to make celebration days easier than ever. As flavors meld together, this recipe actually improves over time meaning it tastes even better the next day.
Easy to customize - If you don’t like bacon or prefer mini cheese balls, this recipe is incredibly adaptable. As long as you don’t add any ingredients with excess moisture, you can easily customize this dish to your liking. Feel free to experiment with other granola flavors or additional mix-ins such as sauteed onions to make this recipe your own.
NuTrail Granola - NuTrail granola coats the cheese ball and provides an amazing crunch. The nuts and seeds make the cheese ball look delicious and once your guests dig in, it’ll be love at first bite. This recipe uses our Honey Nut variety but feel free to try other flavors to find your favorite combination.
Cream Cheese - Cream cheese makes up the base for the cheese ball. It’s important that it’s softened sufficiently before you start working with it, which takes 30-45 minutes on the counter. Just be sure to not leave it out for more than two hours as the risk of foodborne illness increases if the cheese becomes warm.
Bacon - Cooked bacon adds salt and a delicious smoky flavor to the cheese ball. You can fry bacon and crumble it yourself or use pre-cooked 100% bacon crumbles to save time.
Cheddar - Shredded cheddar adds a bold, robust flavor to the cheese ball that contrasts with the cream cheese for a delightful bite throughout. Mild cheddar and sharp cheddar both work great. Alternatively, you can use pepper jack cheese if you’d like to add a little spice.
Green Onions - Chopped green onions offer a peppery, herb taste and a gorgeous pop of color. The fresh onion flavor brightens up this easy appetizer and also adds an inviting aroma.
Seasoning Blend - Ranch seasoning powder is a simple way to pack a big punch of flavor. Rather than use the premade ranch powder, this recipe achieves a similar flavor with just a few pantry items. Garlic powder, onion powder, dried dill and Italian seasoning come together to add a subtle tang.
Pecans - Finely chopped pecans are mixed with the Nutrail granola for a punch of salt and to provide a more full coating of the cheese ball. Chopping some of the pecans very finely while leaving others roughly chopped allows for more coverage and a better overall final texture.
What to serve with a cheese ball?
There are many great options to round out your plate when serving a classic cheese ball. From fresh vegetables to crackers and pretzels, there’s something that everyone can enjoy. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Celery, carrots, cucumber slices and bell pepper slices
- Wheat and multi-grain crackers and pretzels
- If you’re gluten-free, flax crackers and almond flour-based crackers
- While not for dipping, adding charcuterie meat and cheese alongside briny extras like olives and pickles creates a diverse and balanced cheeseboard that complements the cheese ball.
How to store the assembled cheese ball?
Once the cheese ball is assembled, it’s important to store it properly to avoid the cheese drying out. Wrap the cheese ball tightly in plastic wrap and store it in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. The granola and nuts will soften the longer it’s refrigerated, so if you’re prepping for a party a few days in advance, it’s a good idea to wait to roll it in the nuts until 12 hours before the event to ensure the outside remains extra crunchy.
Tips and Substitutions
- For a sweet version, use the cream cheese base and add 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and 1/4 cup of powdered (confectioner’s) sweetener. Our Vanilla Strawberry and Blueberry Cinnamon granola are both perfect for rolling your sweet cheese ball. You can also add low carb mini chocolate chips to the inside for an added dash of decadence.
- Use reduced-fat cream cheese if you prefer a lighter cheese ball. It will taste less rich than full-fat but still make for a delicious dish. Just be sure to avoid whipped cream cheese and cream cheese spread because those are much softer and won’t be able to form into a ball.
- Switch up the seasoning to fit your tastes. If you’re not into dill, you can leave it out and just use Italian seasoning. For a spicy cheese ball, add 1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes to the mixture.
- When forming the cheese ball, spray your hands with cooking spray. If the cream cheese is too soft or sticky, cooking spray on your hands can help you form the shape. If it’s excessively soft, try popping it into the freezer for 10 minutes to firm up.
- Use a mixer. While mixing it up by hand is quick and convenient, you may prefer to use a stand mixer. This is especially helpful if you’re doubling the recipe for a crowd. Just be sure to keep the speed on low and scrape down the sides as needed. Don’t overmix as it will add air to the cream cheese and make it less firm.
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Classic Cheese ball
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: N/A
Yield: Serves 16, about 2 ounces per serving
16 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup cooked crumbled bacon
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar
1 green onion, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon dried dill weed
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon Italian blend seasoning
Pinch of ground black pepper
1/2 cup Nutrail Honey Nut Granola
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
1. Place the cream cheese in a large mixing bowl. Add the bacon, cheddar, green onion, dill, onion powder Italian seasoning, garlic, and pepper to the bowl and mix until very well combined. When done, the cream cheese mixture will be very thick and will hold its shape.
2. Scrape the sides of the bowl down and begin forming the cream cheese mixture into a ball. Spray your hands lightly with cooking spray and continue shaping the ball by hand.
3. In a shallow bowl or on a plate, mix the granola with the pecans.
4. Roll the cream cheese ball in the nut mixture on all sides, gently pressing down so that the nuts and seeds stick to the ball. Use your hands to press the nuts into the ball as needed so that it’s well coated.
5. Tightly wrap the cheese ball in plastic wrap and place it into the refrigerator for at least 1 hour to firm up.
6. When ready to serve, allow 15-20 minutes to soften at room temperature. To serve, cut or spoon portions onto appetizer plates. Store leftovers in plastic wrap in the refrigerator for up to 5 days for the best freshness.