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Cue the carols, because nothing screams “it’s the holiday season!!” quite like making a cheese ball that looks like a pinecone. And I’m here for it.
This stunning appetizer will surely put you and your guests in a festive mood. It’s tasty, it’s easy to make (you can make it a day in advance, just do the nuts day-of), and it makes for an excellent centerpiece to any holiday snack spread.
If you are in the mood for smaller cheese balls, for single servings or easy social distancing snacks, head over to my bite-sized cheese balls shaped like a turkey (you could easily shape them into a tree too).
How to Make a Pinecone Shaped Cheese Ball
Cheese balls are so simple to make, they are delicious, and this pinecone-shaped one is out-of-this-world festive. I used this delicious recipe from SnackWorks. Here are some tips for making this particular cheese ball.
Ingredient list and recipe below.
- I used Neufchatel cheese for this but you can use cream cheese. They are very similar in flavor and texture. More on the differences below!
- Make sure your cheese (whichever you choose) is softened before mixing. It will make your life a lot easier and the mixing much faster.
- Pro tip, I used gruyere like the recipe called for here. It’s so rich in flavor and tasty! Any shredded cheese will do okay, but I highly recommend the gruyere.
- To shape this beauty, I just used my hands. It can get a little sticky but it worked okay. I’m sure an offset spatula, or large flat spoon could work too. I’ve heard that allowing the cheese mixture to harden up in the fridge a bit first can help make the shaping easier.
- When you go to serve it, it’s best to let the pinecones stand at room temperature for 15 minutes (so that it can soften just a bit) before trying to stick a cracker into it.
Two Versions Using Two Different Nuts
I made two different versions of the pinecone using two different kinds of almonds, whole and sliced. They actually look wildly different! Apparently your nut choice can give your cheese ball a different personality all together. Play around and find which one you like best. Here are some options:
- Regular almonds: The ones I use are plain, unsalted, roasted almonds. Depending on the flavors in your cheese ball you could try flavored almonds as well. Using whole almonds will give your pinecone cheese ball more of a classic pinecone look.
- Slivered almonds: I usually reserve these for salads and baking projects, but they look so cool next to the whole almonds. The color variation on each one, white inside and dark brown outside, lends an interesting depth and design element. Plus they’re a bit easier to eat.
- Pecans: These will give your pinecone more visual texture. Pecans are softer nuts than almonds, but they have a great flavor.
How to Garnish Your Pinecone Cheese Platter
The pinecone really doesn’t need much around it, it’s such a show stopper! But adding in a bit of greenery can make it look less like a porcupine and more like an actual pinecone. To add some holiday flair to your board or platter, here are few things to help make it a real centerpiece.
- Sugared cranberries, so tart, sweet and delicious, not to mention beautiful.
- Greenery, any herbs like rosemary or sage look so festive, just make sure guests know not to eat them.
- Edible flowers, if you want to add a pop of color and really play up the nature theme.
- Crackers or baguette slices, tastefully surrounding your cheese ball with a beautiful array of dipping vessels.
Cream Cheese vs. Neufchatel
They are so similar in taste, it’s really hard to tell them apart. But, they do actually have very distinct differences.
Neufchatel Cheese is French, and it is thought to be the oldest cheese from that region. It is name-protected, meaning that only cheese made in that specific region can be labeled Neufchatel. (Just like Parmigiano Reggiano!)
The only ingredient difference is Neufchatel is made from milk, rather than cream cheese which is made with milk and cream—this creates a slightly higher fat content in cream cheese, but slightly higher moisture content in Neufchatel. Which one do you like better?
Here’s an instagram REEL I posted of the making-of the pine cone cheese balls.
Show Me Your Cheese Balls
I want to see the pinecone cheese balls that you make! Nothing makes me happier than seeing cheese boards inspired by my posts. If you make a pinecone cheese ball, please tag @ainttoooproudtomeg and #AintTooProudToCheese so I can see and share!
And, If you liked this recipe, please rate and review.
Pinecone Shaped Cheese Ball
- 2 pkg. 8oz each Neufchatel cheese, softened
- 1 env. 1 oz. Dry onion soup mix
- 4 oz. Gruyere cheese, shredded
- 1 cup Almonds, toasted
- 1/4 cup Sliced Almonds, Toasted
- 6 Sprigs 5 inches Fresh Rosemary
- Wheat Thins
- Beat Neufchatel cheese and dry soup mix in medium bowl until blended.
- Add shredded cheese; mix well.
- Divide cheese mixture in half.
- Shape each half into 5×2-1/2-inch oval that is slightly pointed at one end to resemble a pinecone.
- Place on serving plate, leaving spaces around sides of both pinecones.
- Insert nuts, at a slight angle and in horizontal rows, into cheese mixture as shown in photo
- Tuck rosemary sprigs around pinecones to resemble tree branches.
- Refrigerate 2 hours. Let pinecones stand at room temperature 15 min. before serving to soften slightly.
- Serve with Wheat Thins