These individual bite-size Pepper Jelly Cheese Balls are the perfect party food. Herb cream cheese, filled with sweet and spicy pepper jelly, and coated with nutty toasted almonds, then served with their own fun pretzel handles! Kick your party up a notch with these amazing appetizers!
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I’m very excited to be participating in this winter 2020 edition of Freaky Friday with a wonderful recipe for Pepper Jelly Cheese Balls from Take Two Tapas.
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What is Freaky Friday?
Freaky Friday is an old-fashioned blog hop, where I make another blogger’s recipe. That blogger makes a recipe from someone, and if you clicked through all the way around all of the bloggers who are involved, you’d get back to my blog!
So, if you would be so kind as to hop around and take a look at everyone participating, I promise it’ll be fun, and you’ll get lots of great new recipe ideas!
Scroll down to see all the blogs and the delicious recipes they made.
Previously for Freaky Friday some of the recipes I’ve made are Homemade Onion Soup Mix, Creamy Roasted Red Pepper Feta Dip, Garlic Sesame Noodles, French Onion Tart, No Bake Peanut Butter Cookie Truffles, and the most recent recipe was a beautiful Peanut Butter Coffee Cake.
Take Two Tapas
I’d be willing to guess that you’ve heard of Take Two Tapas before. Jennifer of Take Two Tapas makes delicious and fun party foods. Foods on small plates. Recipes I want to eat.
I’ve made Jennifer’s recipes for Freaky Friday before. Check out my version of her Mexican Cheese Ball with spicy tortilla chips.
Jennifer has the best cheese balls. Hee hee
She and I share a love of fun party food. She has also participated in my month-long Tailgating Snacks in October before as well.
This time around, I looked at so many of Jennifer’s recipes. It was hard to choose when she has delicious options like Caprese Empanadas, Cheesy Alfredo Risotto Balls, or Salted Cracker Toffee Truffles.
My husband actually helped me decide this time around. And, well, it all came down to the Homemade Pepper Jelly!
This past summer we fell in love with some pepper jelly that I bought at the farmer’s market.
It was sweet. Spicy. It was spreadable. We made many a cheese plate with the pepper jelly as one of the fun options on the plate.
So when we saw that Jennifer had a Pepper Jelly recipe we were sold. And the fun presentation of the cheese balls with the surprise pepper jelly inside made these little nibbles irresistible.
The homemade pepper jelly is really easy to make, it just takes some time to cook.
If you can chop and you can boil something, you can make this pepper jelly. And, it’s really budget friendly!
The recipe for the pepper jelly makes more than you’ll need for the 18 bite-sized cheese balls.
Use the extra pepper jelly to make more cheese balls! Serve the pepper jelly on a cheese plate with some crackers and apple slices.
Or, spoon it over chicken or tofu for an easy and impressive dinner.
Try pouring the pepper jelly over a block of softened cream cheese and serving some crackers with it. Easy and delicious appetizer!
Can I use store-bought pepper jelly?
Yes, of course, you can use store-bought or make your own pepper jelly. It’s your choice.
If your jelly is really thick you can thin it for this recipe by adding a tablespoon of water and heat it until it’s thin enough to spread.
Can these be made ahead?
Yes! I love that about this recipe!
Make the filled cheese balls up to 3 days in advance. And when you’re ready to serve them, simply pop in the pretzel handle and place them on a serving tray.
Want to simplify the preparation?
These were so delicious we made a few batches, and played around with them.
If you wanted to simplify the serving and preparation of these cheese balls, you could make the rosemary cream cheese balls, pop in the pretzel serving stick, and then top them with a dollop of pepper jelly.
You won’t get the fun surprise of the filled cheese ball, but it does save a bit of time in preparation, and your guests will know what they are grabbing. Plus it’s still delicious.
Pepper Jelly Cheese Balls are easy to make
These bite sized cheese ball appetizers are easy to make.
Simply mix up the herb cream cheese in a bowl. Mix the toasted almonds and rosemary on a plate. Then roll the cream cheese mixture into balls, and chill them for 5 minutes.
Make a well or indentation in each cheese ball. This is where the pepper jelly will go.
I put the pepper jelly in a zip top bag and cut a small tip off of the bag for piping. Then, stand the bag up in a pint glass for easy use and cleaning.
You could also use a pastry bag and piping tip. Or, simply spoon the pepper jelly into the well.
Fill the well with pepper jelly. How much jelly will depend on how big the well is, but don’t fill it too full, or you won’t be able to close up the well. Start with about 1/2 teaspoon pepper jelly in each hole and see how that works. Pinch up the cheese around the jelly. Roll the cheese ball in toasted almonds, and insert the pretzel stick.
Chop the peppers into fairly small pieces. You want to stuff the cheese balls with the jelly, so smaller and more pieces of peppers are better. Take you time on this step, don’t rush.
And, try to cut off all the white-ish ribs of the peppers. They just aren’t that pretty, and won’t add anything to the jelly.
Clean hands make it much easier to shape the cheese balls and make the indentation in them. Wash your hands after every few cheese balls so that they don’t stick to you while you are making them.
How to toast almonds
Preheat oven to 350° F. Spread the sliced almonds in a single layer on cookie sheet. Bake for 3-4 minutes, then shake pan to stir almonds. Continue to bake until they’ve reached the browning you’d like, checking them every minute or so until they’re done.
Remove the toasted almonds from oven and immediately pour onto a plate where they can cool in a single layer. If left on the cookie sheet or in a pile, the almonds will continue to cook.
Take a look at all of our 2020 Freaky Friday Winter Edition Recipes:
An Affair from the Heart – Braised Beef Short Ribs with Red-Eye Gravy
Aunt Bee’s Recipes – Slow Cooker Ranch Chicken Tacos
Bowl Me Over – Honey Sriracha Chicken
Hostess at Heart – Chicken Marsala
House of Nash Eats – Broccoli Cheese Soup
Lemoine Family Kitchen – Vegetarian Pot Pie Soup
Soulfully Made – Alice Springs Chicken (Outback Copy Cat Recipe)
Take Two Tapas – Chocolate Spoons
The Fresh Cooky – Sweet Molasses Brown Bread Rolls
The Speckled Palate – Valentine’s Day Dessert Board
West Via Midwest – Grasshopper Pie
Who Needs a Cape? – Air Fryer Loaded Mini Meatloaf
Kitchen items you may need for this recipe
Note: these are Amazon affiliate links
Heavy bottomed saucepan
Mason jars for storage of the pepper jelly
Cookie trays for toasting the almonds
Small ice cream scoop for scooping out cream cheese mixture
Piping bag & tips
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Pepper Jelly Cheese Balls Recipe
Pepper Jelly Cheese Balls
- 2 cups white vinegar
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 red bell pepper finely chopped
- 1 green bell pepper finely chopped
- 2 jalapenos seeded, ribs removed, and finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon Kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper ground
- 8 ounces cream cheese softened
- 1 tablespoon fresh chopped rosemary
- A couple grinds of fresh black pepper
- ½ cup sliced almonds toasted and chopped
- 1 teaspoon fresh chopped rosemary
- 18 pretzel sticks
Make the pepper jelly:
- Mix all pepper jelly ingredients (vinegar, sugar, chopped peppers, salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper in a heavy-bottomed saucepan, and bring to a boil over medium heat.
- Reduce to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 2 hours or until reduced by a little more than ½, making about 2 cups of pepper jelly.
- Allow jelly to cool completely before using it in the cheese balls. It will thicken as it cools.
Prepare the cheese mixture
- Combine the softened cream cheese, rosemary, and pepper.
- Spoon the mixture into balls, about 2 teaspoons worth, and roll to smooth out. Chill them for 5 minutes.
- Using your finger or a small spoon, make a well or indentation in the middle of the cheese balls.
Prepare the cheese balls
- On a small plate, combine the chopped toasted almonds and 1 teaspoon chopped rosemary.
- Pipe or spoon the pepper jelly into the well in the cheese balls. Don't put too much pepper jelly into the hole or you won't be able to close it up. How much to use will depend on how big the hole is. Start small and work your way up. Try starting with just about 1/2 teaspoon of jelly and see how it looks. Once you have a good amount of jelly inside the cheese, gently pinch and seal the opening closed and smooth back into a ball shape.
- Roll the cheese balls in the chopped almond mixture.
- Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve (up to 3 days).
- When ready to serve, insert a pretzel stick into each cheese ball, and place on a serving platter.