Mini Cheese Balls

Mini Cheese Balls are the adorable, bite-size appetizer for your next party served with crackers, crostini or veggies!

These Mini Cheese Balls are always a hit at every potluck, holiday party, Game Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years!  They are quick and easy to whip up and can be made days in advance for stress-free entertaining. Best of all, these tasty little cheese ball bites are loaded with the ingredients of antipasto/Italian cheese board!  Cream cheese, mozzarella, Parmesan, sun-dried tomatoes, Kalamata olives and peppered salami are rolled together into mini balls then coated in pistachios and pecans then finished off with a pretzel stick for easy single-serving. Enjoy the cheese balls with crackers, crostini or veggies!

We love a good cheese ball for an easy party appetizer!  Don’t miss Bruschetta Cheese Ball, Bacon Ranch Cheese Ball, Hawaiian Cheese Ball, Cranberry Pistachio Cheese Log and Garlic Herb Goat Cheese Log

How to Make Mini Cheese Balls Video

 
up close of mini cheese balls with a bite taken out showing the cream cheese mixture
a platter of mini cheese balls with pretzel sticks

Ingredients in this cheese ball recipe

These Mini Cheese Balls have an irresistible Italian flair to them thanks to the antipasto-inspired ingredients mixed into the filling.  Here are the easy-to-find ingredients you’ll need (full measurements in the printable recipe card at the bottom of the post): 

for the cheese ball mixture

  • Cream cheese: Full-fat cream cheese delivers the richest flavor, but low-fat will also work, provided it’s still brick-style cream cheese. Do NOT use non-fat cream cheese or cream cheese spread to make this recipe or the cheese ball bites will not hold their shape. 
  • Sour cream: Just 3 tablespoons of sour cream keeps the cream cheese mixture moist, pliable, and easy to shape, with a subtle tang to cut through the richness. 
  • Shredded mozzarella: It’s creamy, buttery and offsets the tangy, briny ingredients.
  • Peppered salami: Look for peppered Genoa Salami (or Peppered Traditional Salami) at the deli counter, or they often have it pre-packaged with the specialty deli meats. Peppered salami has 1000X times more flavor than regular, in my opinion.  If you can’t find peppered, season the cream cheese mixture with additional pepper to taste.  
  • Kalamata olives: Please use Kalamata olives and not just black olives for their dark, rich intensely fruity flavor.
  • Sun-dried tomatoes: Use sun-dried tomatoes that have been packed in oil.  You’ll want to rinse and pat them dry before chopping.  
  • Bell pepper: Finely diced red bell pepper adds texture and sweetness to the cheese ball bites. 
  • Fresh herbs: Fresh basil, parsley and chives cut through the rich cream cheese mixture and complement the antipasto ingredients.  You may substitute with dried if needed.
  • Spices: Dried oregano, garlic powder and onion powder finish off the recipe. 

For the coating

  • Chopped nuts: The Mini Cheese Balls are rolled in a mixture of chopped pecans and pistachios for added flavor and nutty CRUNCH.  I recommend shelled dry roasted, sea salted pistachios for flavor and ease.
  • Parsley: One tablespoon minced parsley adds beautiful color to the coating.
showing how to serve mini cheese balls by spreading on crostini

HOW TO MAKE mini cheese Balls

Mini Cheese Balls are one of the easiest appetizers you can prepare for parties, family gatherings, and potlucks! Here’s an overview of how the cheese ball bites are made (full printable recipe card at the bottom of the post): 

  • Step 1: Mix.  Stir all of the ingredients together in a large bowl except the nuts.
a collage showing how to make mini cheese balls by adding the cream cheese, tomatoes and herbs to a bowl and mixing to combine
  • Step 2:  Chill.  Cover and chill for 30 minutes. Do not skip this step! The ingredients need time for their flavors to meld.  Most importantly, the cream cheese has to firm up so you can easily form balls from the mixture.
  • Step 3:  Make balls. Once the cheese mixture has chilled, use a 1 ½ tablespoon cookie scoop to roll the mixture into balls. 
showing how to make mini cheese balls by rolling into balls using a cookie scoop
  • Step 4: Coat.  Roll the balls in the chopped nut mixture to coat, pressing firmly so the nuts adhere.
showing how to make mini cheese balls by rolling in pecans and pistachios
  • Step 5:  Add pretzels.  Place a pretzel stick into each cheese ball and then chill on a tray until ready to serve.  The pretzel sticks makes it easy for individuals to pick up their own bite-size serving.
up close of mini cheese balls with pecan coating served on a platter
  • Use room temperature cream cheese: You want the cream cheese soft enough to easily mix with the other ingredients, about room temperature, but not too soft or it will take a while to firm up.
  • Drain everything very well: The olives and sun-dried tomatoes should be drained well and patted dry. The bell peppers should be patted dry. Any excess moisture will make the cheese ball mixture runnier and harder to shape. 
  • Chop the mix-ins finely: Because the cheese ball bites will be just 1 ½ tablespoons each, you want the mix-ins to all be chopped about ¼-inch. 
  • Shred the cheese yourself: You can buy pre-shredded mozzarella at the store, and while it will certainly work for this recipe, buying a block and shredding it yourself will deliver superior flavor and texture.  Shred the mozzarella on the small holes and grate the Parmesan so it resembles powder.
  • To easily chop nuts: Instead of using a knife, place them in a sealed plastic bag and use a meat mallet.
  • Mix and match the ingredients: Feel free to customize this recipe based on what you have on hand and what your personal preferences are. See my suggestions on flavor variations below. 
  • Don’t add the pretzel sticks if storing:  The pretzel sticks will become soggy if left in the cheeseballs longer than a few hours. 
  • Leftovers: Leftover cheese ball bites are delicious as a sandwich or burger spread spread, or added to a cheese sauce for pasta.
mini cheese balls recipe on a platter with a bite taken out showing the cream cheese mixture
  • Make one big cheese ball: use any cheese ball recipe and make them minis! You will likely need to increase the coating. Try Bruschetta Cheese Ball, Bacon Ranch Cheese Ball, Hawaiian Cheese Ball, Cranberry Pistachio Cheese Log and Garlic Herb Goat Cheese Log
  • Pepperoni: a great substitute for salami. 
  • Bacon: can be substituted for the salami. Make sure to use thick-cut bacon so it doesn’t get soggy immediately.
  • Bell pepper: I recommend red, orange or yellow because they are sweeter than green. 
  • Roasted red peppers: pick up jarred roasted bell peppers found next to the pickles at the grocery store or roast your own. Make sure you pat the jarred bell peppers dry so they don’t make the cream cheese mixture runny. 
  • Artichoke hearts: are tender and slightly sweet. Purchase marinated artichoke hearts and drain them thoroughly before chopping up. 
  • Pepperoncini: are slightly sweet but mostly tangy with a slight zip of heat.  Pepperoncini typically come in a glass jar and are easy to find at your grocery store next to the sandwich condiments.  Make sure to pat dry before adding to the mixture.
  • Feta cheese: is rich, creamy, salty, tangy cheese adds SO much flavor!  It is sold by the block or in crumbles. Can be used instead of the Parmesan. 
  • Use a different coating: swap the pistachios and pecans with chopped almonds, pine nuts, toasted sesame seeds, crushed crackers, crushed pretzels, toasted panko or crushed potato chips – or a combo.  I recommend adding these coating options last minute so that they stay crunchy. 
  • Make them spicy: add some red pepper flakes to the mix!
up close of mini cheese balls on a stick
  • Crostini (brush French baguette slices with olive oil and bake at 450 degrees for 6-9 minutes until crispy)
  • Crudite (carrot sticks, celery sticks, etc.) 
  • Pita chips
  • Bagel chips
  • Crackers 
  • Pretzel thins

showing how to serve mini cheese balls by spreading onto a crostini

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Mini Cheese Balls

These Mini Cheese Balls are always a hit at every potluck, holiday party, Game Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years!  They are quick and easy to whip up and can be made days in advance for stress-free entertaining. Best of all, these tasty little cheese ball bites are loaded with the ingredients of antipasto/Italian cheese board!  Cream cheese, mozzarella, Parmesan, sun-dried tomatoes, Kalamata olives and peppered salami are rolled together into mini balls then coated in pistachios and pecans then finished off with a pretzel stick for easy single-serving. Enjoy the cheese balls with crackers, crostini or veggies!
Servings: 24 balls
Total Time: 59 mins
Prep Time: 29 mins

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Ingredients

CHEESE BALLS MIXTURE

  • 12 ounces cream cheese (1 ½ blocks), softened to room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons sour cream
  • 1 cup finely freshly shredded mozzarella
  • 1/4 cup finely freshly grated Parmesan
  • 15 thin slices peppered salami, chopped (about 2 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup pitted Kalamata olives, dried, chopped
  • 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, rinsed, dried, chopped
  • 1/4 cup diced red bell pepper
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons chopped chives
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley (or 1 ½ tsp dried)
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh basil (or 1 ½ tsp dried)
  • 1 tsp EACH onion powder, garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste (at least ⅛ tsp each)

COATING

  • 1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped pistachios (I use shelled, roasted with sea salt)
  • 1 tablespoon freshly minced parsley

FOR SERVING

  • 24 pretzel sticks

Serving Suggestions

  • crostini
  • crackers
  • pita chips
  • bagel chips
  • crudite (carrots, celery, bell peppers, etc.)

Instructions

  • Mix all of the Cheese Ball Mixture ingredients together in a large bowl until evenly combined (except coating/nuts). Cover and chill for 30 minutes, up to 1 day,
  • Combine the Coating ingrdients together in a shallow dish. Once chilled, use a 1 ½ tablespoon cookie scoop to roll the cream cheese mixture into mini balls, then roll in the nut/parsley mixture to coat, pressing to adhere.
  • If serving within 2 hours, insert a pretzel stick into each mini cheese ball, then chill on a tray until ready to serve. If not serving within a couple hours, wait to add the pretzel sticks, otherwise they will become soggy.
  • Serve alongside your choice of crostini, crackers, crudite, pita chips, bagel chips, etc.

Video

Notes

  • Make ahead:  You can prep the mini cheese ball recipe entirely in advance, except for adding the pretzel sticks. Place them on a serving tray, and tightly cover with plastic wrap, refrigerate up to 24 hours in advance, then add the pretzel stick just before serving.  If serving within a few hours, the nuts will remain top notch crunchy. If serving the next day, they won’t be quite as crunchy, but still close. For a crunchier coating, omit the nuts, and chill until ready to serve, then let the cheese balls sit for 10 minutes or so at room temperature to soften then roll in the nuts.
  • Storage:  Remove the pretzel sticks before storing, because they will get soggy.  Wrap the tray of cheese balls tightly in plastic wrap or store in an airtight container. They’ll last up to 4 days, noting that the nuts will lose some of their crunch. 

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2 Comments

  1. Alyse says

    We made these delicious mini cheese balls and everyone loved them!

    • Jen says

      I love hearing that, thanks Alyse!

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