Mini Cheeseball Appetizers with Maxi Taste

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So I’ve been looking for a make-ahead appetizer for Thanksgiving day, and keep running across these mini cheeseballs on Pinterest.  Regular, baseball-sized cheeseballs are fun but I rarely make them, since there is usually so much left over. No-one ever wants to be the first to cut into a large cheeseball.  But in MINI size, with pretzel handles? I have to give it a go.

There are so many variations on these cuties.  A few things are universal: cream cheese as a binder, a coating, and pretzel sticks as handles. But I had trouble finding a cheeseball recipe that I liked. So I just made my own.

My coating calls for chopped pecans and cranberries, along with freshly chopped parsley and a dash of salt. But I have to tell you, those cranberries were tough to chop. Even my food processor just whirled them around, without doing much. I tried making a few balls with the half-diced cranberries, but didn’t like the way that they looked (you’ll see a few larger cranberry pieces above, if you look closely). I wound up incorporating the diced, dried cranberries into the cheese mixture, which worked just fine. The cranberries add a sweet-tart counterbalance to the saltier cheese mixture.

It helps to chill the cheese mixture before forming it into balls at least an hour. Otherwise it just becomes a gooey cheese mess. That isn’t necessarily bad, but it doesn’t lend itself well to the formation of cheese balls. Other than tracking down the pretzel thief (I’m looking at you, Tom Sayor), these came together quickly and easily.

One quick note: If you’re planning to eat these right away, go ahead and insert the pretzel sticks. If storing for later use, just refrigerate or freeze the mini cheeseballs, and insert the pretzel sticks just before serving. otherwise the pretzel sticks will absorb mixture from the cheeseballs and get soft — hardly the effect that you’re going for!

I hope you like this tasty make-ahead recipe, and that it’s the hit of your next party.  I used pecans, though could easily see chopped pistachios as a substitution to make them even more festive. Or heck, use both!

RECIPE

Mini Cheese Balls
Yield:  About 48 appetizers (including a couple of samples for the cook)
Time: About 45-minutes in total, plus 1 hour of chilling time for the cheese mixture

Coating
1 C finely chopped pecans (by hand or pulse in food processor)
1/2 C diced dried cranberries (reduced sugar)*
1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Dash of salt

Ingredients
8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
2 Tbsp butter, room temperature
2 Tbsp Mayonnaise
1/4 Tsp garlic powder
Dash of Sriracha sauce (or other chili sauce)
Dash of Worcestershire sauce
10 oz sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
8 oz pretzel sticks

Method

  1. Mix coating ingredients together. Set aside.
  2. With an electric or stand mixer, mix the cream cheese, butter, mayonnaise together until well blended. Add in the Sriracha sauce, Worcestershire sauce and garlic powder.
  3. Mix in the shredded cheddar cheese.
  4. Refrigerate cheese mixture at least one hour.
  5. With a melon baller or teaspoon, form the cheese mixture into 3/4″ balls. Roll in coating mixture. Set on a tray.
  6. If serving right away, gently press a pretzel stick into the center of each cheese ball. Otherwise wait until easy to serve.
  7. Enjoy!

*Note: If your cranberries won’t dice easily, incorporate them into the cheese mixture at Step 3, along with the cheddar cheese.

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