Olive Cheese Balls are a delicious, impressive and crowd-pleasing appetizer. Tangy pimiento-stuffed green olives are baked in a cheesy, flaky crust and served hot. The best part? These little bites of heaven can be prepared up to 1 month ahead, frozen and then heated just before serving. Detailed instructions on how to prepare, freeze, and heat are all included, to ensure they come out perfect every time!

Green platter underneath a yellow napkin, martini and small bowl of Olive Cheese Balls

Olive Cheese Balls, also referred to as Baked Cheese Olives, or Hot Cheese Olives, is a classic appetizer recipe dating back to the 1950s – which means it’s been around for close to 70 years! They’re that good. Plus, they go perfectly with another icon of the ’50s – martinis, Robert’s and my favorite cocktail.

Crispy, briny, slightly nutty tasting, pimiento-stuffed green olives are nestled in a scrumptious crust of butter and Cheddar cheese spiked with paprika and cayenne pepper. After baking, these little bites of deliciousness are flaky and cheesy on the outside, juicy and tangy on the inside. Yum!!

Versions of this recipe have been given to me over the years, dating back to the early 1980s when I was living in Minneapolis, and one of my roommates made them for a cocktail party we were hosting. I had forgotten about them, until a few years ago when my cousin Beth Kidwell gave me a slightly different version. The basic ingredients are the same; it’s the method that’s different. And the Olive Cheese Balls recipe I’m sharing today is my adaptation of those two versions.

White rectangular platter filled with Olive Cheese Balls. In front are two cheese balls cut in half, to show olive inside

Tips on Preparing Olive Cheese Balls

These Cheese Olives are easy to prepare, but you do need to pay attention to my directions and ingredient quantities. Here are my tips that ensure they’ll come out perfect, every time:

  • Place the olives on paper towel to dry before wrapping. This is a must! Otherwise, the briny liquid makes the pastry dough too wet.
  • Use an electric mixer. It’s important to make sure that the ingredients are blended together well. Otherwise, the dough can be dry and crumbly, making it difficult to wrap the olives. I’ve never done it, but you could probably use a food processor as well.
  • Don’t add all the flour at once. Too much flour will also make the dough dry. The amount of flour needed depends on the quantity of water in your butter, as well as the humidity levels where you live – and on the day you’re cooking. So, add 1/2 cup flour to start, then add more if the dough is too wet.
  • Refrigerate the pastry-wrapped olives before baking. Having made these balls several times, I find they come out best if prepared and then refrigerated for at least 1 hour before baking. If the dough is too warm, it can spread and they don’t keep a nice rounded shape.
White rectangular platter filled with Olive Cheese Balls. On the right side, two balls are cut in half, showing the olives inside
What are the best olives to use?

The traditional recipes for Cheese Olive Balls call for Manzanilla, or small green pimiento-stuffed olives, usually from Spain. I think their briny, nutty and a bit smoky flavor pairs perfectly with the Cheddar cheese in the crust.

What cheese goes with olives?

With the Manzanilla olives, Cheddar cheese is the perfect flavor match. And, it’s semi-soft texture means it will melt easily. Use a good quality, sharp Cheddar for the most flavor.

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Green platter underneath a yellow napkin, martini and small bowl of Olive Cheese Balls

Other cheesy, one-bite appetizers you might like

Olive Cheese Balls

Olive Cheese Balls are a delicious, impressive and crowd-pleasing appetizer. Tangy pimiento-stuffed green olives are baked in a cheesy, flaky crust and served hot. The best part? These little bites of heaven can be prepared up to 1 month ahead, frozen and then heated just before serving.

  • Author: (By Lee Clayton Roper)
  • Prep Time: 1 hour 10 mins
  • Cook Time: 17 mins
  • Total Time: 1 hour 27 minutes
  • Yield: Around 30 to 36 one-bite balls 1x
  • Category: one-bite appetizers, make ahead
  • Diet: Vegetarian

Ingredients

Scale
  • Around 3 dozen small (Manzanilla) pimiento-stuffed green olives (7 ounce bottle, with leftovers)
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 4 to 5 shakes cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 cup salted butter, softened
  • 1/4 pound sharp Cheddar cheese, grated (around 1 cup packed)

Instructions

  1. Drain liquid from olives and place on paper towel to dry.
  2. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup flour, paprika, salt and cayenne. Set aside.
  3. Using an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until creamy. Beat in the cheese until well blended. Blend in the flour mixture just until combined. Mix in additional flour as needed, to form a soft dough. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  4. Pinch off a piece of dough around the size of a walnut half; flatten into a thin, oval shape and wrap around an olive, enclosing it completely. Place on a cookie sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough and olives. Refrigerate olives for at least 1 hour, up to overnight.
  5. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a rimmed cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  6. Place refrigerated cheese olives on prepared cookie sheet. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until dough is set and they are lightly browned. Cool for a few minutes, then serve.

Notes

Make ahead: cheese olives can be prepared but not baked and frozen on a single cookie sheet (don’t use parchment paper). When frozen, move to a zip top baggie and freeze for up to 1 month. Thaw on paper towel (to absorb moisture) for around 40 to 50 minutes, then bake on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet as above.

Keywords: olives, cheese, one-bite appetizer

Lee Clayton Roper

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I’m Lee Clayton Roper, and I’m passionate about making cooking and entertaining easy, elegant and fun. Here you’ll find scrumptious recipes, helpful tips and seasonal menus that will spark inspiration in your kitchen!
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