This Cheese Ball Recipe is the Perfect Appetizer

There are certain guilty pleasures that stick with us from childhood and should be enjoyed and repeated whenever possible. You may be thinking about sleeping in past 8 a.m., splashing barefoot in rain puddles, or licking the batter from mom’s cake bowl. While these are all fabulous, my favorite guilty pleasure is the simple, indulgent flavors of a cheese ball made for a holiday party. Some version of this cheese ball recipe has always appeared at our holiday gatherings, though I never remember these gracing the table at any other time of the year. It’s as if they suddenly appeared right after Halloween, made of delicious cheddar or cream cheese with pineapple and occasionally even blended with port wine, then disappeared after New Year’s.

Cheese Ball Recipe Ingredients

The biggest change I’ve made to my holiday cheese ball recipe in recent years is that it has now morphed into a sweet pepper cheese ball. Not only do I love the sweet and spicy addition to the cheese, it also instantly looks festive and colorful with a layer of pepper jelly glazing the surface. When it comes to choosing a pepper jelly, it really will be up to your taste preferences and what’s available in your area.

Cheese Ball Recipe Mixed

I’ve always considered a simple version like Braswell’s Red Pepper Jelly to be a nice flavor complement with just a touch of heat that isn’t too strong for most crowds. However, it’s fairly easy to find a variety of brands and heat levels available. Choose one you like and try different varieties throughout the holiday season.

Cheese Ball Recipe Pictures

If you’ll have a crowd, I recommend doubling the recipe to make two logs. Then use a different pepper jelly on each, such as a sweet red for one log and a spicy green jalapeno on the other. This cheese ball recipe will last in the fridge for about 2 weeks if you keep it wrapped well and stored in an airtight container. I generally make several batches at a time to keep on hand, so I’m always ready for a last-minute gathering or unexpected guests.

How to Make This Cheese Ball Appetizer

Cheese Ball Recipe Plated

By Marie Powell

I like to serve this on a small glass or decorative platter with baked pita chips or a crispy, nutty cracker like Wheat Thins. You can also change the shape of this cheese ball recipe to whatever suits your serving style. I’ve realized I prefer a log shape rather than the classic ball, since it achieves a consistent pepper jelly-to-cheese flavor ratio, but you can even press it into a mold if you want your cheese ball to have a festive shape. No matter how you shape it or top it, this sweet pepper cheese ball will be delicious, so relax and enjoy the party!

Yields: 10-15 servings

Prep time: 15 minutes, plus 1 hour to chill


  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 8 oz. cheddar, finely shredded
  • 14 cup green onion, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 14 cup cooked bacon, finely chopped (optional)
  • 12 cup chopped pretzels
  • 8 oz. jar sweet pepper jelly


  1. Combine cheeses, spices, green onion, and bacon in a mixing bowl. Combine with an electric mixer until smooth.
  2. Place the mixture on a sheet of plastic wrap. Cover, then shape into a log or ball as preferred.
  3. Wrap tightly and place in the refrigerator.
  4. Chill 1 hour until firm.
  5. Roll cheese ball or log into the chopped pretzels until coated.
  6. Place cheese ball or log a serving plate and top with pepper jelly.
  7. Serve with crackers and enjoy!
Marie Powell
Marie Powell

Marie Powell grew up eating pecans, fresh fruits and vegetables, and homemade meals in rural southern Georgia. Thanks to her family's tradition of military service and the generosity and diversity of her friends, her culinary influences also come from Taiwan, Greece, and the Middle East. A graduate of the University of Georgia, she learned about food prep, storage, and presentation during her time as UGA's catering manager. Marie now lives in Phoenix with her daughter, Sophie, who has inspired her to learn more about adapting recipes for food allergies and intolerances, and their tortoise, Elizabeth, whose favorite food is dandelion greens.