There are few things in life better than this Cranberry Cheese Ball! I'm not even joking. It's that delicious... and so easy to make!
Some might say that the Cheese Ball is "old fashioned," and maybe it is, but there will always be a place on my appetizer table for this Cranberry Cheese Ball! I'll bet once you try it, you'll feel the same way.
It's super easy to make and the flavor combination is truly SPECTACULAR! You can also serve it many different ways, so, if the Cheese Ball isn't your style, I've got you covered!
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It's so funny how this recipe came to be. It was quite by accident, as are many of my recipes. It started with me being hungry and ended with me using various ingredients I had on hand. I never know how these "accidents" will turn out, but this one was PERFECT right from the beginning and I just fancied it up a little for this recipe.
Various Ways to serve this Cranberry Cheese Ball
However, there are other ways that are just as good if you didn't want to make a cheese ball.
Serve as a hot dip: Originally, when I made this recipe up, it was a hot cheese dip for crackers. To do that, simply warm up your cream cheese and mix in the cranberry mixture. Serve warm with crackers.
Serve as a cold cheese spread: Follow the recipe as written, but you don't have to form the cheese ball. Just put it in a container in the fridge until chilled. Serve with crackers or even a crusty warm loaf of bread.
Serve as a salsa: This one was my husband's idea and it's genius! Simply skip the cream cheese and pistachios. Mix up the cranberries with the green onions, cilantro, chipotle, salt, and decrease the sugar to 2 Tablespoons. Serve with tortilla chips. It is so wonderful this way, I will be making this often!
Do I need any special equipment to make this recipe?
Nope! There are a few appliances and gadgets that I use to make it a little easier, but you can make this Cranberry Cheese Ball with ordinary kitchen tools, like a knife, a small bowl, and a microwave.
I used my Ninja Foodi in this recipe because my cream cheese was straight out of the fridge and I needed to soften it so it was spreadable. To do this, you would place the cream cheese into a covered container. Add 2 cups of water to the inner pot and steam for 5 minutes. Make sure your vent is open to prevent going under pressure. This 5 minutes of steaming will warm the cream cheese, but won't heat it too much.
You can also warm it in the microwave for 5-10 seconds, but be careful that it doesn't get too hot. Another way to get it softened is to beat it with a hand mixer or in a stand mixer, but I think that is too messy and I prefer the gentle warming by using the steam function in the Foodi.
However you choose to soften the cream cheese is fine, just make sure it's spreadable and easily mixed into the cold ingredients. Room temperature cream cheese is still a little to stiff, in my opinion.
For the cranberry mixture, I used my manual food processor from Pampered Chef. I like the way I have control over the size of my ingredients and can chop them to the desired texture without over-processing. However, you can process your cold ingredients using any food processor just by hitting the pulse button a few times until the ingredients are to the desired texture.
You can also cut everything up with a kitchen knife, but if you have ever cut cranberries, you will know this is time consuming and quite a pain. A food chopper will work, too!
So, basically, anyone can make this Cranberry Cheese Ball and you can use what you have in your kitchen!
Is this Cheese Ball Spicy?
No, I would not consider this cheese ball spicy at all. The chipotle powder adds a hint of smokiness that pairs wonderfully with the fresh cranberries and the rich cream cheese, but doesn't make the cheese ball spicy.
Of course, you can omit it or use cayenne pepper instead. I do hope you give this recipe a try as written, though. I think you will find it is the perfect balance of flavors.
Do I have to use Pistachios?
No, of course not. You can use any nut you want or a combination of nuts. I really love the color and flavor of the pistachios with this cranberry cheese ball -- the nuts do not compete with the fresh and vibrant flavors of the cheese ball -- but, you can use whatever you prefer.
You can even skip the nuts all together! The cheese ball is beautiful without the nuts and it still tastes great.
Can I make this Cheese Ball ahead of time?
Yes, you can. The cheese ball will last in the fridge, wrapped in seran wrap for several days. I would not coat with the crushed nuts until just before serving though. The moisture from the cheese ball will soften the nuts. The crunch on the outside is delightful.
Also, keep in mind that, the longer the cheese ball is in the fridge, the more moisture will be extracted from the cranberries. This can make your cheese ball very soft, so, unless you are planning on serving this as a warm or cold dip, I wouldn't keep it in the fridge much longer than 24 hours.
You can make the cranberry mixture up ahead of time and just drain the juices before combining with the cream cheese.
What to serve with a Cranberry Cheese Ball
My favorite is Ritz crackers, but any crackers go nicely with this cheese ball. You can even serve a loaf of crusty bread with it, or melba rounds would be great, too!
If you decide to keep it as a warm dip instead of a cheese ball, tortilla chips or pretzels would be great for dipping.
I even think apple wedges would be great with this cheese ball or if it's served as a warm dip.
How to make a Cranberry Cheese Ball
The first thing you want to do is get your cranberry mixture mixed up and in the fridge for an hour. Like I said earlier, I used a manual food processor, but you can use an electric one or even a food chopper or a kitchen knife.
Combine the cranberries, cilantro leaves, chopped green onions, salt, chipotle powder, and sugar in the bowl of your food processor and process (pulse for an electric processor) just until the cranberries are chopped into about a quarter of their original size. You do not have to be exact about this, but try not to pulverize the mixture or it will become very wet and you will have to drain the liquid before combining with the cream cheese.
Place the mixture into the refrigerator for at least 1 hour. You can refrigerate longer, but the longer the mixture is in the fridge, the more liquid it will give off. If you have more than a Tablespoon or 2 of liquid when you go to mix it with the cream cheese, drain the excess so your cheese ball holds together.
Warm the cream cheese slightly. You don't want it hot and melted, just slightly warm so it combines with the cranberry mixture easily. I used the Ninja Foodi on steam for 5 minutes, but you can use the microwave for a few seconds.
Fold the cranberry mixture into the cream cheese. Line a round bowl with plastic wrap and fill the bowl with the cream cheese and cranberry mixture. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or until firm to touch. You can even place it in the freezer for 30-60 minutes to speed up the process. Just don't forget about it because you don't want the cheese ball to freeze.
Crush the shelled pistachios, using a food processor, blender, or by hand. To crush the pistachios by hand, put them in a sealable bag and use a rolling pin or other heavy object until they are crushed up into small pieces. You don't want them to be powder, so don't over-process them.
I used my Ninja Foodi Hot Cold blender and even with just 2 pulses I had quite a bit of powder. That's okay with me, though. I'm going to coat some pork chops with the finely crushed pistachios and cook them up in my Ninja Foodi later!
Dump the crushed pistachios into a bowl or shallow dish. Place the cheese ball into the nuts and cover with the crushed pistachios. Focus on the top and sides, but if you have enough nuts, go ahead and cover the bottom. The pistachios really hold everything together and they are beautiful!
Serve with crackers or a loaf of crusty bread and enjoy!
Cranberry Cheese Ball
- manual or electric food processor
- 1 cup cranberries
- ¼ cup cilantro leaves
- ½ cup green onions about 3 stems, chopped
- ¼ tsp chipotle powder
- ½ tsp salt
- ¼ cup sugar
- 8 ounces cream cheese
- ½ cup pistachios shelled and crushed
- Add 1 cup of cranberries, sugar, cilantro, chopped green onions, chipotle, and salt into the bowl of a manual or electric food processor and process until the mixture is in small pieces, like the size of a quartered cranberry. If using an electric food processor just pulse a few times, you don't want the mixture to be too pulverized. Refrigerate mixture for 1 hour to allow the flavors to combine.
- Warm the cream cheese just slightly. You only want it softened, not melted. I used the Ninja Foodi's steam function to gently warm my cream cheese, but any method is fine. See post for more details on other options.
- Fold the cranberry mixture into the cream cheese. Line a round bowl with plastic wrap and fill the bowl with the cream cheese & cranberry mixture. Place the bowl in the refrigerator or even the freezer for 1-2 hours to set up.
- Crush the pistachios in a food processor or by hand. Dump into a bowl and place your cheese ball in the crushed nuts to cover the top and sides. You can also cover the bottom if you'd like.
- Serve with crackers or toasted bread. Enjoy!
ABOUT THE RECIPE AUTHOR, LOUISE LONG
Louise is a full-time recipe creator and food blogger @ The Salted Pepper. She has over 30 years of experience with cooking and recipe development. She owned a restaurant for several years and was a full-time RN until retiring to blog full-time.
Louise has several very active Facebook groups that help people with the basics of cooking and getting the most out of the Ninja Foodi.
Seeing the need for easy, delicious, and high quality recipes, she is focusing all of her efforts creating recipes specifically for the Ninja Foodi. Her recipes are easy for the home cook to follow and provide step-by-step instructions.
Louise is also a YouTube creator and you can find most of her recipes in video format on The Salted Pepper YouTube channel.
She is very responsive to messages and eager to help in any way she can.