The cheese ball is a throwback to cocktail parties from the days of yore, where it was the star of many a Midwestern snack table. With any good trend (we're looking at you, neon), the cheese ball is in the middle of a resurgence into the culinary mainstream. Like sheet pan dinners, you know something is back when there's an entire cookbook dedicated to it. In addition to being the life of any party, the cheese ball is the perfect make-ahead appetizer—there's little to no cooking depending on the recipe, and the ingredients can be mixed well ahead of time (just make sure to refrigerate until ready to serve).
Most cheese balls usually start with a base of cream cheese to glue everything together, but from there, the options are endless. (You can substitute Neufchâtel cheese for a slightly healthier version.) This recipe combines some of our favorite ingredients: cheddar, bacon and ranch dressing. We also throw in chopped chives for freshness and hot sauce to cut through the richness. Form the mixture into any shape you wish, such as a football, depending on the occasion. Serve with vegetables, chips or crackers.
Cheddar Bacon Ranch Cheese Ball
Recipe from the Tasting Table Test Kitchen
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes, plus cooling time
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes, plus cooling time
12 slices thick-cut bacon
Two 8-ounce packages room-temperature cream cheese
8 ounces finely shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup sour cream
¼ cup chives, minced
3 tablespoons hot sauce
One 1-ounce package ranch dressing seasoning mix
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Crackers or crudités, for serving
1. In a large skillet, cook the bacon over medium heat until crispy, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer the cooked bacon to a paper towel-lined plate and allow to cool completely. Once cool, roughly chop the bacon and set aside.
2. In a large mixing bowl, mix half of the chopped bacon with the rest of the ingredients (except the crackers/crudités). Form the cheese mixture into a ball and cover with the remaining bacon. Serve with crackers and crudités.