Make Ahead

Cheese Ball with Pecans and Dried Cranberries

October  4, 2022
9 Ratings
  • Makes 4 large cheese balls
Author Notes

This isn't a wimpy cheese ball. It has 19 ingredients. And it's a showstopper. In my cheese ball research, I learned that most of the recipes out there include cheddar cheese, cream cheese, butter, and something with a kick. So that was my starting point. But I decided that if I was going through the effort of making such a thing I wanted each bite to be bold. I suggest using very flavorful cheeses so they stand up to the shallots and garlic. You can make it as spicy as you like with Sriracha or Tabasco. I chose to roll mine in pecans and dried cranberries, but feel free to use any kind of nut or dried fruit. Roll right before eating, or the nuts and fruit will get soggy.

This recipe makes an insane amount. I recommend freezing half of it in balls or in logs. Then anytime you want a cheese ball, thaw it for a few hours, roll it in pecans and cranberries, and serve. —Phyllis Grant

What You'll Need
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 to 5 large shallots, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and grated or finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon creamy Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons apricot jam (any large chunks removed or chopped up)
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Champagne vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Sriracha (or Tabasco), more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 5 cups grated cheddar cheddar (I recommend a combination of mellow and sharp)
  • 1/2 cup creamy blue cheese (I use Mountain Gorgonzola)
  • 1/2 cup pecans, chopped
  • 1/3 cup dried sweetened cranberries, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fig jam
  1. Turn heat to medium under a medium-sized frying pan. Add olive oil. When the oil is hot and shimmery, add the shallots. Cook until they soften and just start to get crispy (about 10 minutes). Turn to low heat and add the garlic. Cook for one minute. Turn off the heat and stir in mustard, apricot jam, Worchestershire sauce, lemon zest, lemon juice, Champagne vinegar, hot sauce, and salt. Set aside.
  2. Place butter and cream cheese in a standing mixer bowl. With the paddle attachment, whip until smooth and light (about 2 minutes). Scrape down the sides. Add mayonnaise, cheddar, and blue cheese. Whip again on medium for about 30 seconds. Scrape down the side. Add shallot/garlic mixture. Mix for another 30 seconds. Taste. Adjust. It might need more salt. Add more Sriracha if it doesn't have enough kick. And often, I need to add some acid (more lemon juice or vinegar). Mix well after adjusting the balance.
  3. At this point, you should chill the mixture so it's easier to handle. Or go for it and just brave the sticky mess. The thing to remember is you will be rolling it in nuts and dried fruit so it doesn't have to be perfect looking. After an hour or so in the fridge, use saran wrap to shape the mixture into any size balls and/or logs. Chill in the fridge for a few hours or overnight. Or freeze for a few months.
  4. Take the cheese balls out of the fridge about 30 minutes before serving it (a few hours before if frozen). Place chopped nuts and cranberries on a large plate. Use your hands (fun!) to cover the ball with a thin and even coating of fig jam. Place cheese ball on nut/cranberry plate. Wash your hands. Then go to town rolling the ball in the pecans and cranberries. You might need to use your hands a bit to make sure the goodies stick. Serve immediately with classic round butter crackers.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • HalfPint
  • Phyllis Grant
    Phyllis Grant
  • QueenieAnne
  • wendie morin
    wendie morin
Phyllis Grant is an IACP finalist for Personal Essays/Memoir Writing and a three-time Saveur Food Blog Awards finalist for her blog, Dash and Bella. Her essays and recipes have been published in a dozen anthologies and cookbooks including Best Food Writing 2015 and 2016. Her work has been featured both in print and online for various outlets, including Oprah, The New York Times, Food52, Saveur, The Huffington Post, Time Magazine, The San Francisco Chronicle, Tasting Table and Salon. Her memoir with recipes, Everything Is Out of Control, is coming out April 2020 from Farrar Straus & Giroux. She lives in Berkeley, California with her husband and two children.

11 Reviews

QueenieAnne December 22, 2022
I don't make any of your recipes, because for some unknown reason Food52, never puts any pictures of the inside of the finished product. Why? You have have plenty of worthless, yet "pretty," pictures, but not the most important picture. What does the final product look like inside. The thing that tells me if I want to make that item.
wendie M. December 16, 2020
This is soooo good. I channel my inner “Fargo” every time I serve this. On my 5th year and counting. Make this! Do it! Try serving with Carr’s Rosemary crackers;)
Phyllis G. December 17, 2020
Thanks for the reminder! It's time to clear out the cheese drawer and make a cheeseball! Happy holidays. Rosemary crackers sound wonderful. Thanks for the idea.
wendie M. December 3, 2018
This is the bomb! I was making it ironically, because, you know, cheese ball!!!!
Anyway, this is soooo good! I've made it two holiday seasons in a row.
Do it now, you will be the hit of the party. I'm serious
SJ H. December 10, 2017
I just finished mixing this up. YUM! came together very easily and, except for the cheese and shallots, I had everything on hand. I used the minimum siracha, as we don't love big spice around here. This is smoky, sweet and has just a bit of kick. It's such an odd assortment of ingredients, but really, really works. Can't wait to serve it to guests this holiday season!
Phyllis G. December 10, 2017
so glad to hear this. i have been craving a cheeseball. i will make one this week. and i agree that it's an odd assortment of ingredients. i am always so surprised with how well it works in the end.
Miriamm January 1, 2017
Just made this for New Years Eve! What an amazing appetizer. Everyone gave me great compliments! Selfish!
Miriamm January 1, 2017
I wanted to say Delish!! But silly autocorrect prevailed.
HalfPint December 26, 2016
Made this for dinner party on Xmas eve. Truly showstopping. Extremely addictive. Don't be daunted by the 19 ingredients. It comes together quickly and easily.
Phyllis G. December 28, 2016
wonderful! thanks for reporting back.
Llana December 3, 2015
I made this tonight and can tell it will be amazing even without rolling it in the jam/cranberries/nuts. I can't wait to pull these out of my freezer for various events this month. Thanks for sharing!