Classic Wisconsin Cheese Ball

Serve up this cheese ball as an appetizer at your next gathering, or mix up a custom spread of your own.

by John D. Ivanko
PHOTO: iStock/Thinkstock

If something has both the word “cheese” and “ball” in the title, it must be a party-starter, right? As we Cheeseheads say in Wisconsin: You betcha! It simply feels wrong to eat a cheese ball by yourself. Cheese balls necessitate a platter and some culinary pomp and circumstance.

The origin of cheese balls remain a culinary mystery. Long associated with holiday party fare, processed and wrapped cheese balls can be found in plenty at the supermarket, but they’re actually quite simple to make. Below is our favorite recipe, which you can hold onto for parties, potlucks and gatherings year-round.

Keep in mind, this recipe is highly adaptable, so experiment with the ingredients you have on hand. One 8-ounce package cream cheese to one cup of shredded cheese is a good proportion to follow, and you can use different cheeses to tweak the flavor. Our go-to shredded cheese is sharp cheddar, but you could try Swiss, goat, havarti or even blue. Likewise, play around with seasonings. For example, if you like spicy, add a dash of hot sauce. While the classic cheese ball is rolled in nuts (we prefer pecans, but any nut will work), crushed pretzels or even tortilla chips work well. Feeling particularly festive? Add in some cooked, chopped bacon.

This recipe makes one ball, but you can easily double or triple it. Store it in the refrigerator tightly sealed in plastic wrap for up to a week.

Recipe: Classic Wisconsin Cheese Ball


  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 package cream cheese (8 ounces), softened
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1 T. any color pepper, diced
  • 1 T. chives, diced
  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • assorted crackers, vegetable slices and pretzels

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Place nuts on cookie sheet, and toast in oven for 10 to 15 minutes, turning once about halfway through cooking. Warning: There’s a fine short time window between perfectly toasted and burned nuts, so keep a close eye to determine when finished. The nuts should have a strong toasted scent.

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Bring the cream cheese to room temperature. (This should take about one hour.)

In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese until fluffy, about five to seven minutes. Mix in cheddar cheese, pepper, chives and Worcestershire sauce. Scoop mixture onto large piece of plastic wrap, and shape into ball. Cover thoroughly and refrigerate for at least two hours.

For maximum crunch, roll ball in toasted pecans right before serving. Place on serving plate and bring to room temperature. Serve with crackers, vegetable slices and pretzels.

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