Impress your guests and serve a Port Wine Cheese Ball at your next party. A refined version of the retro cheeseball made with a port wine reduction and cheese, then rolled with toasted almonds.
Who doesn’t like a port wine cheese ball? A ball of cheese rolled in nuts, revealing swirls of dark purple and orange cheese when sliced. I used to wonder how it was made and thought it would be too intimidating to make on my own. Guess what? It’s not.
What sets this port wine cheese ball from the rest? It’s homemade without all the artificial colors and flavoring. There’s no Blue 2 and Red 40 in this cheese ball. Just cheddar cheese, cream cheese, heavy cream, spices, and a reduction of port wine. Using orange cheddar recreates the look of a port wine cheese ball from the market.
It’s easy to prepare, requiring two simple steps to make it go from ho hum to phenomenal.
First step is to reduce the port wine. You don’t want to add the wine as is because it will be too runny and the alcohol flavor will be too strong. Instead, boil the wine in a small saucepan for about 5 minutes over medium heat. The wine will reduce by half leaving a thicker, sweeter result. Boiling the wine will cause the alcohol to evaporate, along with the harsh taste.
Second, toast the almonds. Melt a little butter in a skillet then add the almonds with a pinch of salt, then toss until golden. Toasting makes a difference because you don’t want soggy nuts. Did you ever hear anyone preferring soggy nuts over toasty crunchy nuts? Want to read more about nuts? Check out my post on how to store nuts here.
As for the spices, adding a little salt and a pinch of cayenne pepper brightens the flavor of the cheese without overpowering it. You won’t taste the heat from the cayenne because the cheese and cream mellows the intensity. Besides, we are only adding ⅛ teaspoon. You can add ¼ teaspoon if you like.
After processing the cheeses with the cream and spices, remove ¾ of the mixture and place in a bowl.
In a food processor, process remaining cheese with the port wine reduction. Then swirl together with the cheese mixture.
Wrap in plastic and chill for about 2 hours or until firm.
Roll chilled cheese ball onto toasted almonds.
Serve with your favorite crackers.
This port wine cheese ball will be a crowd-pleasing appetizer and a party favorite. Serve with your favorite crackers and enjoy.
Note: Can’t have nuts? Make a spread. Just eliminate the toasted almonds and serve the cheese in bowl along with your favorite crackers.
- ¼ cup port wine
- 8 ounces 2 cups extra sharp cheddar cheese at room temperature
- 4 ounces cream cheese
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper optional
- 1 cup sliced almonds
- 1 tablespoon butter
- Pinch of kosher salt
In a small saucepan over low heat, simmer port until reduced by half - about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, and let cool.
Meanwhile, melt butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add almonds and salt. Shake skillet to spread out almonds in a single layer. Just when the almonds become fragrant, toss the almonds to continue toasting. As soon as they are mostly golden, remove from heat onto a plate lined with a paper towel. Spread them out to cool.
Pulse cream cheese, cheddar, heavy cream, salt, and cayenne in a food processor until smooth. Transfer ¾ of the mixture into a bowl. Pulse remaining cheese mixture with the reduced port until smooth.
Gently fold the port mixture into cheddar mixture to create large swirls. Be careful not to over mix or you won't have the swirling effect. It doesn’t hurt the end result if overmixed. It just won’t have swirls.
Transfer the cheese mixture onto the center of a large sheet of plastic wrap. Gather the wrap around the cheese to create a softball sized ball. Twist to close. The mixture will be soft.
Refrigerate until firm, about 1 - 2 hours.
Once the cheese ball is firm, shape into a smooth ball while still wrapped in plastic. Unwrap and roll in the toasted sliced almonds, pressing with your hands to create a thorough and even coating.
Let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes before serving for best texture. Serve and enjoy with your favorite crackers.