Lil' Pumpkin Patch Cheese Balls
There's no actual pumpkin (or pumpkin spice) in these cheese balls, they're just shaped into adorable little pumpkins and bursting with cheesy goodness! Super cute and super easy to make, too.
- 8 ounces cream cheese softened
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
- ¼ cup finely chopped roasted red peppers
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 pinch cayenne pepper or more for extra spice
- 1 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
- 3 cups cheese-flavored cheese balls or cheese puffs
- 12 pretzel sticks broken in half
- 24 Triscuit crackers
- 24 flat-leaf parsley leaves washed and dried
Beat the softened cream cheese, mayonnaise, red peppers, garlic and cayenne until well blended.
Stir in Cheddar cheese. Refrigerate 2 hours or until firm enough to handle
Using a food processor, pulverize the cheese balls or cheese puffs into a coarse meal.
Roll the cheese mixture into 1” balls and evenly coat each one in the ground cheese balls or puffs.
Just before serving, place one cheese ball on top of one Triscuit cracker. Insert half a pretzel stick and one leaf of flat-leaf parsley into center of each “pumpkin”. Serve immediately.
KISS TIP: The cheese mixture can be made up to 4 days before serving. To reduce prep work on day of serving, roll the cheese mixture into 1” balls and store in an airtight container lined with parchment paper or wax paper. Refrigerate. When ready to serve, roll the mini cheese balls in the ground cheese balls or puffs and assemble.
What are Lil' Pumpkin Cheese Balls?
Well, despite the name there is no pumpkin in these cute little pumpkin-shaped cheese balls and definitely no pumpkin spice. Think of a really tasty traditional cheese ball in a miniature one-bite size. This recipe then takes that tiny cheese ball and rolls it in more cheese in the form of crushed cheese ball snacks. Add a pretzel stick and a parsley leaf and this amazing cheese ball becomes a pumpkin. Prop it on top of a Triscuit-type cracker and it looks like a little pumpkin in a pumpkin patch. Talk about great presentation for a tea party and game day.
This recipe makes about two dozen Lil' Pumpkin Cheese Balls, but it could be easily doubled or reduced to half to meet your needs. For convenience, the cheese ball mixture can be made ahead of time. To save even more time, the mixture can be rolled and stored in a parchment lined airtight container for up to four days. For quality, I would not roll the cheese balls in the "cheese dust" until the day they are to be served, though.
I love a tasty and easy recipe like this. The cheese ball mixture comes together super quickly if you've allowed the cream cheese to come up to room temperature. It's important to always follow food safety guidelines, so don't let the cream cheese sit out of the fridge for more than one hour. After the cream cheese has softened, it's basically combining the mayonnaise, finely chopped roasted red peppers, garlic powder, cayenne pepper and shredded Cheddar together in a mixing bowl. You can do this by hand, but I find it much easier to mix everything but the Cheddar together in my stand mixer and then stir in the shredded cheese on a low speed. No right or wrong way here.
One note on the roasted red peppers. If roasted red peppers aren't your thing, you could easily leave those out of this recipe. I have a sister who loves roasted red peppers, but they do not return that love to her. Leaving the roasted red peppers out won't make much of a difference in the consistency of the mixture, just the final flavor of the cheese balls. I happen to love roasted red peppers and can happily eat them, but if you can't then try swapping them with some chopped onion or sliced green onion. No substitutions are required, though. It's really personal preference.
Once the mixture is prepared, you will need to let it chill--covered--for at least two hours in the refrigerator. You can also let it sit in the fridge for up to four days if you are making this ahead of time for convenience. The amount of time is up to you, it's just easier to roll the mixture if it has been chilled first.
Next, is one of the fun parts--making the cheese dust. Those yummy cheese ball or cheese puff snacks need to go into a food processor or blender to make some incredible cheese dust for rolling. I use cheese balls and usually have to hide the container from my family whenever I plan to make these. Cheese ball snacks aren't something I keep in our pantry on a regular basis, but everyone loves them hence the hiding with a sticky note that says "Hands off, please, until further notice!"
This cheese dust is what takes these little pumpkin-shaped cheese balls over the top and brings the cheesiness up to the next level. It's genius. I can't really track back to when and where I got this idea (wish it was me, but it wasn't), but whoever it was deserves a gold star! It is the absolute perfect covering for flavor, texture and appearance. For those aghast right now at the thought of using such junk food, take into consideration this recipe is not part of a daily meal plan. At the most you might be consuming the equivalent of two or three cheese ball snacks in each Lil' Pumpkin Cheese Ball. (I can honestly say I've never typed the word cheese ball so many times!)
At this point, it's time to scoop the cheese mixture. I use a 3/4 ounce scoop that is equivalent to 1 1/2 tablespoons which is also about the size of an average cookie scoop. I happen to have a great collection of scoops! The tiniest one is like a teaspoon and it makes me giggle a little. It's not necessary to have scoops in every color of the rainbow, but I find some funny joy in it! The scoop I use with this recipe yields about 24 cheese balls. You'll see two missing in an upcoming image, because little hands (actually very large hands) swiped two of the 24 when I wasn't looking. Quality control was the given reason. Well, thanks, I appreciate you looking out for me. Have I every mentioned I have sons? You use whatever size your scoop is. I probably wouldn't go too much larger than the size of an average cookie scoop. Keep these one or two bites.
Before you begin scooping, transfer the cheese dust to some type of shallow container. I prefer a shallow container over a plate for one simple reason. When I'm scooping anything that's going to be rolled in some sort of coating, I always scoop multiples then give the dish a jiggle. The balls of whatever roll around in the coating of whatever and basically cover themselves. This speeds up the process...a lot...and helps prevent messy fingers. The sides of the dish prevent the coating from spilling over the sides. Work smarter not harder, you know.
Scoop until you've used all the cheese mixture. Depending on the actual size of your particular cheese balls, you may have some cheese dust left. I did for this session. My daughter sprinkled what was left over a bowl of popcorn. Smart girl--it was pretty yummy.
As I rolled the naked cheese balls in the cheese dust, I placed them in a 9x13 dish lined with parchment paper for easy storage. Then, I popped them in the fridge until I was ready to complete their assembly.
Here's where they really come together and it's my favorite part. Just before serving, gather the pretzel sticks, parsley and crackers. If you're making these ahead of time, save this step until the day they are to be served. The moisture in the cheese ball causes the pretzel stick and cracker to get a little soggy if given too much time. Assembly is easy and rather quick so no worries in waiting closer to serving time.
I find it really satisfying to watch my little patch of pumpkins grow. Here's how it goes:
Take one cheese dust covered cheese ball, one Triscuit cracker, 1/2 pretzel stick and one parsley leaf. Place the cheese ball on top of the cracker. Place the parsley leaf on top of the cheese ball off-center just a little so that the tiny stem is over the very center. Insert the 1/2 pretzel stick into the center of the cheese ball plunging the stem of the parsley leaf along with it. This will cause the parsley to stand up and help secure it to the cheese ball.
Now you have an adorable and completely edible Lil' Pumpkin!
Why You'll Want to Make These
These are perfect for an autumn themed tea party since they are small and just so cute! We served these as part of our October afternoon tea menu in the tea parlor and they added so much joy to our tea trays. Even though our tea parlor is no longer open, you can still enjoy these little gems at home and share them, too.
Also, don't think these are just for frou-frou tea parties. Everyone will love these as an appetizer or snack. I mean, who wouldn't smile at these little cuties?
Just like their larger cousin, these little cheese balls are great for parties and get togethers. My family loves to snack on cheese and crackers. You'll always find a few bars of different types of Cheddar in my fridge, but I also like to mix it up for them with a good cheese ball every now and then. These little pumpkins make fun--and tasty--snacking.
Other great occasions for making these include:
- cream cheese
- shredded Cheddar cheese
- roasted red peppers
- garlic powder
- cayenne pepper (totally optional)
- cheese ball or puff snacks
- pretzel sticks
- parsley leaves
- Triscuit crackers
- adorable appetizer for holiday dinners
- a fun themed-food for autumn get togethers
- savory treats for kid parties (read--no sugar in these!)
- Game Day snacks for every season of sport, and boy, do they overlap (TIP: Leave off the pretzel and parsley and they look like little basketballs!)
- a colorful bite on an afternoon tea tray (of course!)
How useful is this recipe?
For me, this recipe is more than just Lil' Pumpkin Cheese Balls. The cheese mixture can be left as is and served from a bowl with crackers on the side. It's really up to you how you use it. No matter how you assemble or don't assemble the little pumpkins, this cheese ball mixture tastes great even without the cheese dust. Here are some other ways to serve the basic recipe:
I love to share the recipes from our tea parlor, but they are so much more than menu items for afternoon tea. All my recipes can be made to serve a variety of occasions not just tea parties. I’m a mom and a wife with a family a family to feed. I need all my recipes like this one to be versatile enough for both the tea table and the dinner table.
I hope you enjoy these recipes. Please let me know what you think of them. I love to hear from you.
I recommend these tea flavors to serve with these Lil' Pumpkin Cheese Balls:
- don't scoop and roll, just transfer the cheese mixture to a bowl and serve with a variety of crackers and pretzels
- chop the parsley and add in the first step, complete the cheese mixture and then scoop into mini balls and roll in crushed pretzels or crushed nuts
- transfer the cheese mixture to a large piping bag fitted with a large round tip and pipe the filling into purchased phyllo cups. Sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley
"Don't allow yourselves to be weary in planting good seeds, for the season of reaping the wonderful harvest you've planted is coming! Take advantage of every opportunity to be a blessing to others, especially to our brothers and sisters in the family of faith!"
Galatians 6:9-10 TPT