Pine Cone Cheese Ball Recipe

Prep 40 mins
Add'l 1 hr
Total 1 hr 40 mins
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This seasonal Pine Cone Cheese Ball Recipe is a yuletide appetizer with tons of flavor and a gorgeous presentation. Cream cheese, Gruyere, bacon, and ranch make it zesty and bold, while whole almonds, fresh herbs, and a touch of scarlet make it a Christmas-worthy treat.

A Festive, Fun, and Easy Holiday Appetizer!

Do you love appetizers? For some people, they’re a very optional part of a holiday celebration, but for others, they just as beloved a tradition as the meal itself. I particularly like cheese balls for Christmas and Thanksgiving (or New Year’s, or honestly anytime – see my Dill Pickle Cheese Ball, Pumpkin Cheese Ball, and Turkey Cheese Ball recipes!). I also usually make a Holiday Cheese Ball Wreath for our Christmas party too!

This particular recipe makes a really beautiful cheese ball, perfect for those holiday parties. With rich cream cheese, shredded Gruyere, ranch seasoning, and bacon, the flavor is out of this world. The presentation is lovely, too. Each cheese ball (the recipe makes two) is shaped into a pine cone, and covered with whole almonds. Decorated with a few sprigs of rosemary, thyme, some cranberries, and a pretty red ribbon, it’ll be the centerpiece of your party.

From top: Whole almonds, dry ranch seasoning, shredded Gruyere, crumbled bacon, mayonnaise, fresh herbs, cream cheese, Worcestershire sauce.

Ingredients

This creamy pine cone cheese ball recipe is made with all kinds of tasty goodies. Gather up the following ingredients, and let’s make a cheese ball!

  • Cream Cheese: You’ll need a couple of blocks of full-fat cream cheese, softened.
  • Gruyere Cheese: Shredded. You could also use smoked Gouda – either would be delicious.
  • Mayonnaise: A little of your favorite mayo adds flavor and helps keep the cheese ball at the right consistency.
  • Ranch Dressing Mix: Use the dry seasoning mix sold in packets – it’s often stocked near the bottled salad dressing.
  • Worcestershire Sauce: So savory, but a little goes a long way. Measure carefully, away from your mixing bowl, or the whole mixture might end up tasting like Worcestershire.
  • Cooked Bacon: Cook a small amount of bacon to a crisp, and then chop it or crumble it up.
  • Almonds: Whole almonds.
  • Rosemary and Thyme: These are optional, for decoration, to make the pine cones look like they have pine twigs and greenery. (They also add a wonderful fragrance!)
  • Cranberries, Faux Berries, Red Ribbon: Also optional, for decoration.
Pine cone cheese balls on a platter, garnished with herbs, ribbons, and cranberries.

How to Make a Pine Cone Cheese Ball

I love making cheese balls, in part because they are so simple and so foolproof. For special events, any dish that combines a) tons of flavor, b) a fabulous presentation, and c) a super easy prep? Golden! And that’s this cheese ball recipe in a nutshell. Here’s how to make it:

  • Make the Cheese Mixture. To start, get out a mixing bowl and combine the cream cheese, gruyere cheese, mayonnaise, ranch dressing, and Worcestershire sauce. Stir these ingredients well until they are fully combined. Finally, fold in the bacon gently, and cover the bowl. Chill it in the fridge for about one hour. 
  • Shape the Pine Cones. Once the cheese mixture is firm and chilled, divide it in half. Shape each half into a pine cone shape, about 4 inches long. This is basically a sort of egg shape, with one blunt end (the top of the pine cone) and one thinner, pointed end (the bottom of the pine cone). Place the two pine cone shapes on a large plate, with the blunt ends nearly touching and the pointed ends angled out. 
  • Add the Almonds. Starting at the bottom, add almonds to the pine cones. You want to insert the rounded end of the almond, leaving the pointed end sticking out. Place the almonds randomly, working your way from the bottom of the pine cone to the top. Press the almonds flat into the tops of the pine cones.

Decorate. Now add your sprigs of rosemary and thyme between the pine cones, to look like pine twigs, and add your berries and ribbon as well. (Or decorate however you like! See the Tips section for more ideas.)

  • Enjoy! Serve immediately with crackers or toast, or wrap the platter carefully with plastic wrap and store in the fridge.
Close-up shot of a cheese ball decorated with whole almonds.

Why Is My Cheese Ball Runny?

If you use low-fat cream cheese (which I do not recommend, see the Tips section below), then your cheese ball will probably be too soft to hold its shape. For that reason, I only recommend using full-fat cream cheese.

You might also have difficulties if you add too many liquid ingredients (like Worcestershire sauce or hot sauce) and thin the cheese mixture too much. In that case, you will need to add more cream cheese to thicken it back up again, and probably some additional salt to keep it from being bland. 

However, the most likely reason that your cheese ball is too soft is simply that it has gotten too warm! The quickest fix for a soft, runny cheese mixture is usually to chill it. If your recipe is made with full-fat cream cheese, that should do the trick.

Cheese ball mixture with almonds on a cheese knife, held toward the plate.

Tips for the Perfect Cheese Ball

If you’ve never made a cheese ball before (or even if you have!), I hope you’ll check out these helpful tips for success. Each one will help to ensure that your appetizer turns out just right.

  • Cream Cheese: Go with full-fat cream cheese in this recipe. Low-fat cream cheese won’t keep its shape as well. The fat in the cream cheese firms up in your fridge, making the cheese ball firmer. If there’s not enough fat in the recipe, you will end up with more of a runny dip consistency.
  • Seasoning Mix: For a different spin, you can replace the ranch seasoning mix with onion soup mix instead. 
  • Greenery: I love rosemary and thyme sprigs to decorate the pine cones, but you can use any type of non-toxic greenery, even faux sprigs of greenery.
  • Something Crimson: Cranberries, faux holly berries, red ribbon – use whatever you like to add a little touch of red. It really adds a pretty touch to the green, white, and brown of the pine cones and greenery. 
  • Sugared Cranberries: Sugared cranberries are also a beautiful way to decorate this dish, and they’re super easy to make. Just wash and dry a cup of cranberries. Next, combine ¼ cup water and ¼ cup sugar together in a saucepan, and boil for 3 minutes.  Add the cranberries to the saucepan, remove from the heat, and stir for 1 minute. Then take the cranberries out of the saucepan and let them dry for an hour (I put mine on parchment so they don’t stick). Finally, roll the cranberries in sugar to coat.
  • Shaping the Pinecones: To shape the pinecones, make sure the dip is very cold so it is firm and can be molded. If the cheese mixture is too soft, it won’t be very easy to work with! You can use your hands or a spatula to form the pinecones.
Spreading cheese on a cracker.

Serving Suggestions

This cool and creamy cheese ball recipe is great for starting out your holiday meal, or you could serve it as part of a finger food buffet. There are all kinds of other appetizers you could make to create a mouthwatering table of hors d’oeuvres, including…

  • A Crescent Ring: Soft, flaky crescent roll dough is wrapped around savory pulled pork, and then shaped like a wreath, to make this Pulled Pork Crescent Ring. Slice and serve – your guests will be delighted.
  • Deviled Eggs: This recipe is a cherished family favorite, with a tasty Parmesan cheese chip garnish. Fair warning: if you make my Mama’s Deviled eggs with a Parmesan Crisp you might want to make double. They tend to disappear!
  • Ambrosia Salad: When this creamy, fruity salad is around, everyone makes a bee-line for it, and how can you blame them? There’s nothing quite as indulgent and refreshing as this classic mix of pineapple, mandarin orange, cherries, shredded coconut, and nuts, all in a sweet, creamy dressing. This easy Ambrosia Salad recipe will give you all the details on how to make this retro favorite.
A platter with two cheese balls shaped like pinecones, with crackers and a green cloth napkin.

How Long Will a Homemade Cheese Ball Keep?

You can make this up to a week in advance, and store it in the fridge. To keep it as fresh as possible and prevent odor absorption, make sure to store the cheese ball in an airtight container.

Can I Freeze This?

If you would like to make the cheese ball more than one week in advance and freeze it, that will work too. Just make the cheese ball without almonds, and wrap it in plastic wrap. Seal in a freezer bag and store in your freezer for up to one month. 

Thaw overnight in the refrigerator the night before you want to serve the cheese ball. Then on the day of, take the cheese ball out of the refrigerator about 30 minutes in advance, to soften up. Add the almonds and decorations before serving.

Yield: 2 Large Cheese Balls

Pine Cone Cheese Ball Recipe

Pine cone cheese ball recipe, made with whole almonds and herbs.

This seasonal Pine Cone Cheese Ball is made with cream cheese, Gruyere, bacon, and ranch for a zesty and bold flavor. Whole almonds, fresh herbs, and a touch of scarlet make it a Christmas-worthy treat.

Prep Time 40 minutes
Additional Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 40 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 (8 oz.) blocks cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup shredded Gruyere or smoked Gouda cheese
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 oz package ranch dressing mix
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup cooked bacon, diced
  • 1 1/2 cups whole almonds

Optional Decorations:

  • 6-8 fresh sprigs rosemary and thyme
  • Cranberries
  • Fake berries
  • Red ribbon

Instructions

  1. Combine the cream cheese, gruyere cheese, mayonnaise, ranch dressing and Worcestershire sauce. Stir well till combine, then add the bacon and fold to combine. Place in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
  2. Divide the cheese ball mixture into two pieces and form each half into a pine cone shape (about 4 inches long). One end is then shaped into a thinner rounded point. Place on a large plate, tops nearly touching and the bottom ends angled out.
  3. Begin at the bottom point and start adding the almonds, pointed side out. Keep the almonds at an angle pointing toward the pointed end. Randomly place the almonds around until you get to the other end then press them flat into the top. (Check the step by step photos for guidance.)
  4. Add the sprigs of rosemary and thyme between the pinecones (feel free to decorate any way you want.)  Add the berries and a ribbon if desired.
  5. Serve immediately with crackers or toast, or wrap cheese balls with saran warp and store in the fridge.

Notes

  • Storage: Cover tightly and store in the refrigerator for up to 7 days.
  • Cream Cheese: Go with full-fat cream cheese in this recipe. Low-fat cream cheese won’t keep its shape as well. The fat in the cream cheese firms up in your fridge, making the cheese ball firmer. If there’s not enough fat in the recipe, you will end up with more of a runny dip consistency.
  • Seasoning Mix: For a different spin, you can replace the ranch seasoning mix with onion soup mix instead. 
  • Greenery: I love rosemary and thyme sprigs to decorate the pine cones, but you can use any type of non-toxic greenery, even faux sprigs of greenery.
  • Something Crimson: Cranberries, faux holly berries, red ribbon - use whatever you like to add a little touch of red. It really adds a pretty touch to the green, white, and brown of the pine cones and greenery. 
  • Sugared Cranberries: Sugared cranberries are also a beautiful way to decorate this dish, and they’re super easy to make. Just wash and dry a cup of cranberries. Next, combine ¼ cup water and ¼ cup sugar together in a saucepan, and boil for 3 minutes.  Add the cranberries to the saucepan, remove from the heat, and stir for 1 minute. Then take the cranberries out of the saucepan and let them dry for an hour (I put mine on parchment so they don’t stick). Finally, roll the cranberries in sugar to coat.
  • Shaping the Pinecones: To shape the pinecones, make sure the dip is very cold so it is firm and can be molded. If the cheese mixture is too soft, it won’t be very easy to work with! You can use your hands or a spatula to form the pinecones.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

24

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 113Total Fat: 9gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 10mgSodium: 231mgCarbohydrates: 4gFiber: 2gSugar: 1gProtein: 4g

Categories

More Holiday Appetizers

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy.

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Welcome!

Jessica
I'm a trial & error, self taught, sugar addict who thankfully learned how to survive in the kitchen! I am also a wife, mama of 3.
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