There's a reason cheese balls are so popular, and have been for aeons and it's because they are delicious! Vegans and anyone who avoids dairy don't have to miss out with this vegan cheese ball recipe. It is made with simple whole-food ingredients that can be easily customized according to the season or occasion. They're utterly delicious, creamy, cheesy and above all, easy to make, and even easier to eat.
Choose to make these vegan cheese balls with festive flavours such as cranberry and pecans for a Christmas or New Years' party, or head in a Scandi direction with dill and chives. Once you have the template for the cheese balls, you can get creative, or even re-purpose your old favourite cheese ball recipe, but make it vegan!
I love making dips and cheesy snacks, especially at Christmas and New Year, but also at any time throughout the year, when there is a party or gathering. For lots of ideas for canapés and appetizers, head to my full vegan canapé section of the website.
The base for these vegan cheese balls is actually a variation on my essential Easy Vegan Cashew Cream Cheese which is great just on crackers, or on a bagel, perhaps with some Vegan Smoked Salmon Carrot Lox. Make sure to serve some Seed Crackers to pile the cheesy goodness on.
On the left are the basic cheese ball ingredients, with a festive combination of flavours to roll it in on the right.
Basic Cheese Ball
- Soaked Cashew Nuts-- I buy broken cashew nut pieces in bulk for cheeses and sauces as they're cheaper. Soak the nuts in hot water for an hour, or boil for 10 minutes (if you're in a hurry!)
- White Miso- White miso gives a tangy, umami flavour that mimics cheese.
- Dijon Mustard- for tangyness. Adds a bright note to the cheese flavour.
- Lemon Juice- Essential for balancing the flavours and adding acidity.
- Nutritional Yeast- for the rounded, slightly nutty cheesy flavour. (also a good source of B12 if you choose the type that has B12 added!)
- Salt- I like flakey sea salt.
Festive Cheese Ball
For a festive cheese ball as pictured, you will need the following:
- Dried Cranberries- also known as craisins. Perfect for adding that festive sweet tangy flavour.
- Fresh Chives- Chives and Cheese are a pairing made in heaven.
- Pecan Nuts- again broken pecans are fine. Toast the pecans first to bring out their flavour.
For other flavour variations, see below!
This recipe requires you to make up a fairly stiff basic cashew cheese, so a good blender is needed!
- First, soak your cashews in boiling water for an hour, or gently simmer for 10-15 minutes. You want the cashews to be really soft and without a hard centre.
2. Add the cashews, miso, dijon mustard, salt and lemon juice to the blender and blend.
3. Blend until creamy. You will need to scrape the sides down and wiggle it around a bit. Taste and add more lemon/salt/other flavours as needed.
4. Finely chop the ingredients you are using to cover the balls in. If using pecans or other nuts or seeds, gently toast them first in a hot, non-oiled pan.
5. Roll large walnut size scoops of the cheese mixture in the coating ingredients and leave in the fridge to firm up.
Hint: To make one large cheese ball, line a bowl with clingfilm/saran wrap and put the cheese in it and put into the fridge for an hour to firm up. Flip the bowl upside down, remove the cling film, then press on your flavourings.
Once you have the basic cheese ball recipe and method, it's super easy to make loads of fun variations. I've listed a few of my favourite combinations, but please pop a message below if you have any other favourites!.
You can also mix flavours in with the basic cheese, as well as have them layered on the outside. This is particularly nice if you decide to make a larger cheese ball.
- Dried Apricots and Toasted Walnuts
- Vegan Smoked Salmon Carrot Lox mixed into the recipe, with dill and chives on the outside
- Smoked Paprika with chilli flakes and toasted sesame seeds.
- "Greek" style with minced green olives, dill and add in some vegan feta cheese to the main cheese mixture.
- Pimiento Cheese Ball: Add roasted bell peppers or pimientos, and a little chilli to the main cheese. Then roll in mild red pepper flakes.
For the best result to make the vegan cheese you will need a good, sturdy blender. I love my Magimix jug blender because it's sturdy and quiet.
You'll also need a good knife to finely chop any nuts and herbs.
You can make the vegan cheese component of the cheese balls ahead of time and pop in the fridge for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 3 months. The balls themselves are best made the day you need them (or up to 24 hours before)
Make sure the cashews are really well-soaked and soft all the way through before blending. This makes for the creamiest texture without any gritty bits.
Cashews are great for making vegan cream cheese beacuse they have a high fat content and when soaked and blended a very creamy texture. They also have a neutral flavour, allowing them to take on savoury or sweet flavours, just like cream cheese.
My trick for making vegan cheese taste like cheese is to use a combination of white miso, dijon mustard, garlic and nutritional yeast with a little lemon juice or vinegar. This combination creates a delicious cheese-like flavour.
Soaking the cashews adds water content, which softens the nut, allowing it to be blended into a creamy, cream cheese-like texture.
Vegan Cheese Balls
For accuracy, I measure all ingredients in metric as standard, then convert and test the recipe for American cup measurements etc.
(Heads up Aussie and UK readers- your measurements in cups are sometimes different, so please use metric or check you have the correct cup and spoon type!!)
For the outer crust flavouring
- 50 g dried cranberries
- 50 g chives
- 100 g pecan nuts
For the Cashew Cheese
- Soak cashews in water for 6 hours, or boil for 10-15 minutes until softened.
- Add all ingredients into a blender and blend. Keep pushing down the sides to ensure all is blended up well
- You might need to blend 3-4 times depending on the strength of your blender.
- When you are happy with the consistency, taste the vegan cream cheese and adjust the seasonings (add extra lemon juice or salt, or add in extra miso or nutritional yeast. It's up to you!)
To make mini cheese balls for canapes
- Toast the pecans (or other nuts or seeds)
- Finely chop all the outer ingredients and mix together.
- Using a mini icecream scoop or two teaspoons, make balls out of the cream cheese.
- Roll in the cheese crust ingredients, then use your hands to 'pat' them in, ensuring even coverage.
- To firm up the cheese balls, pop them in the fridge for an hour or tow.
To make one large cheese ball.
- Line a small, deep bowl with clingfilm (saran wrap/glad wrap)
- Add the vegan cream cheese to the lined bowl and push it in so it is even.
- Chill for 25mins- 1 hour to firm up.
- Turn out the cheese ball and press the flavourings of choice into the outside.
- Serve with lots of crackers!
- Keep in the fridge for up to a week
- Add other flavours such as herbs or smoked paprika for a different flavoured cheese.
- Get creative with the flavours!