The beauty of including cheese balls in your appetizer spread is their simplicity and ease of preparation. In fact, cheese balls don't require a recipe so much as they do some good ingredient inspiration, while following a four-step assembly process. Even so, there are a few missteps that have the potential to stand in the way of making a cheese ball that's a total win.
1. Starting with cold ingredients.
Not only does cold cheese prove tough to work with (especially that firm block of cream cheese), but starting with cold ingredients is also more likely to produce a lumpy cheese ball than one that's well-blended and smooth.
Follow this tip: This is a super-easy appetizer to pull together — especially when you start with soft, room-temperature ingredients. Pull the cheeses out of the fridge about an hour before you get started. The room-temperature ingredients will be easier to work with and will easily blend into a smooth cheese ball.
2. Using very firm or crumbly cheese.
When making cheese balls, not all cheeses are created equal. It's best to skip those very firm cheeses that require grating, like Parmesan, or others with dry, crumbly texture, like cotija. Because of their texture, these types of cheese don't blend as well to yield a smooth cheese ball.
Follow this tip: In addition to the cream cheese base, stick with semi-soft to semi-firm cheeses, like goat or blue cheese, cheddar, Swiss, and fontina, for the best results. They blend well and are easy to spread.
Get inspired: The 5 Best Cheeses to Use for a Cheese Ball
3. Adding too many mix-ins to a cheese ball.
In addition to its namesake ingredient, the cheese ball also benefits from flavorful additions like lemon juice, port, toasted nuts, cured meat, and dried fruit. But add these in moderation. When there are too many add-ins — liquid or solid — this spreadable snack is harder to form and shape.
Follow this tip: We're all in favor of including extra ingredients for more flavor and texture when making cheese balls, but remember that the cheese is always the main ingredient. As a rule of thumb, blend in no more than about 1/4 cup each of liquid and solid ingredients.
4. Not giving the cheese ball time to chill in the fridge.
Time is a crucial ingredient when making cheese balls, specifically ample time to chill after being shaped. Rush this step and the cheese ball can lose its shape when rolled in the outer toppings or after it's served.
Follow this tip: After forming the cheese ball, plan to chill it in the fridge for at least several hours (up to six days). This will give it plenty of time to firm up so it's guaranteed to hold its shape.
5. Adding outer toppings to the cheese ball too soon before serving.
One of the many reasons cheese balls get big points in our book is that they really benefit from being made ahead of time. Just be sure to stop short of adding the outside coating of nuts, herbs, crumbled meat, or any other favorite additions. When added too soon, the coating ingredients can become soft and soggy from refrigeration.
Follow this tip: Wait to roll the cheese ball in the outer topping until just before you're ready to serve. This will keep the herbs fresh and vibrant, the nuts crunchy, and the crushed pretzels or chips crispy.