These bite-size pepper jelly mini cheese balls are the perfect finger food for your party! Creamy, with a burst of sweet and spicy jelly in the middle, they are a portable snack with an edible handle.
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Mini Cheese Balls
The holiday season is right around the corner and that means party foods! When planning a party I want to make sure that my menu includes lots of finger foods.
Unless it’s an actual dinner party, having a variety of dishes to choose from that are easy to eat keeps all your guests happy.
Just about everybody loves cheese. At least everyone I know loves cheese, but that’s probably because I can be friends with people who don’t like cheese.
Which is why I always serve cheese at a party.
Aside from cheese slices and cheese boards, cheese balls are the perfect cheese appetizer to make. I have made plenty of cheese balls, both sweet and savory, but my favorite ones are mini cheeseballs.
I mean, who doesn’t love a bite-size treat you can just pop in your mouth? You can even call these cheese truffles if you are so inclined, but someone might think they are sweet and for dessert.
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Best Mini Cheese Balls
Not that there is anything wrong with a sweet cheese ball, I just prefer a savory one. The best cheeseballs are the ones that pack a punch in a small bite.
If you use cream cheese or goat cheese as a base, you really need strong flavors with it to cut through the richness. Much like my Wasabi Ginger Cheese Ball, a sweet and spicy cheese ball does just this!
A great way to get sweet and spicy flavors is with a pepper jelly. In the south, lots of people make their own jams and jellies. Much like canning or pickling, making homemade jelly allows you to save all the fresh summer fruits and enjoy their flavors all year long.
But jellies are not just limited to fruits. The best ones combine fruits along with a hot pepper or spice, which is perfect for these Hot Pepper Jelly Cheese Ball Bombs!
Hot Pepper Jelly is a staple of the southern woman’s kitchen so imagine my surprise when I couldn’t find any in Arizona.
Lots of strawberry and grape jelly but no hot pepper jelly. When I traveled back to the East coast last month, I grabbed a few jars and brought them back.
Of course, you can always make your own. In doing that, you can control the level of heat and the level of sweet. I make a 4 pepper jelly sauce that is pretty tasty, just watch out for your crockpot!
Finger Food for a Crowd
When making food for a crowd, I am always looking for something tasty, inexpensive, easy to make, possibly a make-ahead recipe, that uses ingredients I can “stretch” to make a large batch.
Dips and Chips, or Cheese and Crackers are great for this reason so the first ingredient I reach for is cream cheese.
Cream cheese is a pretty neutral base and can be sweet or savory and is best to start any cheese mixture. Plus it is usually on sale around holiday times, lasts a while in the refrigerator, and is easy to work with.
And because of its rich flavor, it pairs perfectly with hot, spicy, strong flavors.
Every party I went to growing up had a tray of crackers with a block of cream cheese covered in a jam, jelly, or sauce. Hot pepper jelly is my favorite but I have also tried sweet jelly, chili sauce and crab meat, shrimp and cocktail sauce, and wasabi and soy.
All great combinations!
How to make mini cheese balls
These Hot Pepper Jelly Cheese Ball Bombs are easy appetizers and fun to make but do require a little time and patience. Start with softened cream cheese, add some fresh rosemary, salt, and pepper.
Form into bite-size balls. I use these ice cream scoops to make them uniform in size (about 2 teaspoons) and roll them into balls. Chill them for 5 mins while you are warming up the hot pepper jelly.
The store-bought jelly needs a little loosening up to be able to pipe it. Once it is cool enough to handle, add it to a piping bag.
After that, use a small spoon handle or your finger and form a well or hole in the cheese ball. Using a zip-top bag or frosting piping bag and tip, pipe the hot pepper jelly into the well.
Gently use your fingers to pinch the opening together or rub the sides of the cheese ball to seal up the opening.
Roll the sealed Hot Pepper Jelly Cheese Ball Bombs in sliced almonds that have been toasted and chopped fine. Rolling in chopped pecans are preferable to!
I prefer the sliced almonds as they are smaller and less jagged when you chop them. They are also easier to chop when they are sliced.
Slivered almonds will work too but I like the contrast of the skins on the outside of the almonds when the cheese balls are rolled in them.
How far in advance can I make these?
You can make most cheese balls a day ahead but more than that and the hot pepper jelly will start to ooze out of the cheese balls.
Can you freeze them?
Because of the jelly in the middle I would not recommend this. Plus the cream cheese will turn grainy.
How do you get the cheese balls all the same size?
The best way to keep the size consistent is to use an ice cream scooper.
What do you serve with mini cheese balls?
Mini cheese balls with pretzel sticks
Now you can leave the Hot Pepper Jelly Cheese Ball Bombs as they are and serve them with some crackers and small forks or you can make them portable with a handle of sorts.
The best handle for a mini cheese ball bites is an edible one, so I reach for pretzel sticks! Be careful when inserting the pretzel stick as the pepper jelly might leak out of the top, or the other side if you insert the pretzel stick too far.
If you are making these ahead of time, wait to insert the pretzel stick handles just prior to serving so they don’t get soggy in the jelly and break off during the party.
Keep them stored in the refrigerator, in an air-tight container for up to 3 days.
If you love this recipe as much as I do, please write a five-star review in the comment section below (or on Pinterest with the “tried it” button – you can now add pictures into reviews, too!), and be sure to help me share on facebook!
Looking for a cheese ball to take to a party you’ve been invited to? How about a quick appetizer you can make ahead of time for a get-together that you are hosting and are already stressed to the max? Check out all my cheese ball recipes, both sweet and savory, to fit your special occasion!
PERFECT PARTY FOODS TO MAKE
- naan pizza dippers
- steak and ale hand pies
- crack dip crescent pockets
- grown up peanut butter and jelly
- marshmallow crescents
- pepper jelly chicken wings
For the Cheese Balls
- 8 ounces cream cheese (softened)
- 1 tablespoon rosemary (fresh, chopped)
- salt and pepper to taste
Cheese Ball Coating
- 1/2 cup almonds (toasted, sliced)
- 1 teaspoon rosemary (fresh, chopped)
- 4 ounces hot pepper jelly (store-bought or homemade)
- pretzel sticks
Prepare the cheese ball mixture
- Combine the cream cheese, rosemary, salt, and pepper.
- Scoop or spoon the mixture into balls about 2 teaspoons worth.
- Roll to smooth out.
- Using a finger or a small spoon, make a well or depression in the middle of the cheese balls.
Chill while you prepare the pepper jelly.
- If your jelly is thick, add a tablespoon of water and heat to combine until thin enough to spread.
- Pipe or spoon the jelly into the cheese balls.
- Gently pinch and seal the opening closed and smooth back into a ball shape.
Coat the pepper jelly bombs.
- Roll the cheese ball bombs in chopped almonds combined with a little rosemary until covered.
- Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve (up to 3 days).
- When ready to serve, insert a pretzel stick and place on a platter, or serve with crackers.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 18 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 89Total Fat: 6gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 13mgSodium: 96mgCarbohydrates: 7gFiber: 1gSugar: 4gProtein: 2g
This nutrition information was generated via a third party, Nutritionix, and can not be held liable for any discrepancies in the information provided.
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