I love NPR.  I love their programming, and I love their website.  Last month I was browsing their website and stumbled upon the food section, which I had never seen before.  One of the articles was about cheese balls and I immediately thought, “Ick!  Cheese balls are disgusting.”  But I read it anyway and it turns out, that is exactly what the article was about – the common view of the cheese ball as an over-processed, less than appetizing lump of “cheese” such as Velveeta served at parties and largely ignored.  This totally spoke to me (well, as much as an article about cheese balls can) because it is so true.  The idea of a cheese ball is brilliant.  I mean, who wouldn’t want a giant ball of cheese to spread on crackers?  But every time I’ve tried one, it’s been a big disappointment.

When I read this article and saw these refreshing variations of cheese balls provided, I was excited to try a one for the first time in a long time.  On New Year’s Eve, we decided to have a last minute, low-key get together at home with two of our close friends.  I wanted to make food that would require minimal prep but still taste great, and this lemon cheesecake cheese ball was one of the first things to come to mind.  So I made it – and we loved it!  It really does taste like lemon cheesecake.  It was light and delicious and we were coming back for more all night long.  This would be wonderful as an appetizer before a meal, a light dessert afterwards, or even at a brunch.  I’m so glad I gave the cheese ball a second chance, and I can’t wait to try the other variations as well!


  • 10 oz. cream cheese
  • 2½ tbsp. sugar
  • Zest of 1 large lemon
  • 4 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 3 graham crackers


  • 01

    Combine the cream cheese and sugar in a medium bowl.  Stir together with a spoon or spatula until well combined and smooth.  Mix in the lemon zest and lemon juice until smooth.  Transfer the mixture to a piece of plastic wrap and shape into a ball, wrapped tightly.  Refrigerate until firm, at least 3 hours.  Reshape if necessary once firm.

  • 02

    Coarsely crush the graham crackers and transfer the crumbs to a plate or bowl.  Roll the cheese ball in the crumbs until evenly coated.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.


  • I also love NPR, and their food section! Thanks for posting this; I am throwing a dessert themed wedding shower soon, and this will be perfect!

  • Maybe we need to rename it? Cheese ball doesn’t conjure up a great image, does it? Cheese round, maybe?

    I didn’t realize NPR had a food section. Thanks for the heads-up!


  • wow, what an awesome and different recipe! Cheesecake is my favorite dessert, so this is right up my alley. yum!

  • HB

    Looks so beautiful. I love cheeseballs. I make one that’s savory with pecans and a bit of cayenne and one that is a chocolate chip cheeseball. Both are loved when I serve them. I would love lemon with this. And sooooo easy too. Thanks!

  • What a fresh take on a old classic. I was looking for another simple addition to an upcoming brunch and I think this may be perfect! Thanks. You always have such delicious food.

  • Man, that sounds really good! I’ve never heard of a sweet cheeseball before. What a fantastic idea!

  • RLR

    This looks delicious! I’ve never been a fan of lemon until recently, but who can argue with anything cheesecake?

  • I haven’t tried that but it looks very delicious. Hope to try it.

  • I’ve never heard of cheese balls before, but this definitely looks like a hit at gatherings!

  • Hey, thanks for pasing this along! Like you I’ve never been fond of cheeseballs but will give this baby a try.

  • Man, this looks awesome! Thanks for sharing! I was just like you – I always turned my nose up at the thought of a cheese ball. Ick! Then one day a friend of mine made the ever incredible chocolate chip cheesecake ball! Soooo yummy! There are many variations floating around on the internet… maybe you’ll try one! So good!

  • Teresa

    I love lemon, lemon cake, lemon tarts, lemonaide :)! I have never heard of a sweet cheeseball either. So what are some things you would serve it with?

  • Annie

    As you can see in the picture, I think fruit is best, and something sturdy enough to spread onto or scoop with. Graham crackers or vanilla wafer cookies would also be good.

  • I love NPR too, love it on sundays with ira glass.
    must try this cheeseball, the flavors in it sound soooo good.

  • Mmm this sounds great, and easy too. I definitely want to give this a try for casual get togethers. And I love NPR, too. :)

  • I’ve found that NPR can be a foodie’s best friend…especially on Sunday mornings. Love, love, love them! You learn something new or interesting from them every day.

  • This sounds like a perfect thing to make in advance of a dinner party! I was also hesitant about cheese balls until I went to a holiday party last year… changed my mind about them ever since!

  • So clever, I love this!

  • OMG what a creative idea! I would never have thought of making a sweet “cheesecake” cheese ball….I’ve only made savory ones. I think a lot of people would love this! Would be very easy to make gluten free too, because any GF cookies/crackers in the store would work fine all crushed up like this. Great post!

  • Alexandria

    Mmmm… looks so good. I’d be in danger of eating the whole thing before the party starts. I’m a big NPR fan too, they have a great food podcast that I subscribe to.

  • How creative – and how versatile! I’ve never agreed with the appeal of your traditional appetizer/savory cheese ball but a sweet version has so much potential!

  • Penni

    This sounds great. I will have to give it a try. I’m a fan of a Chocolate Chip cheeseball as well. It tastes just like chocolate chip cookie dough. You serve it with graham crackers. Yummy!

  • aimeewrites

    Mmm, sounds great! I don’t like most cheeseballs, because I don’t like nuts. (Most are rolled in them.) My best friend makes a great one by mixing cream cheese with a packet of ranch dressing and rolling it in real bacon bits. Simple, but yummy!

  • I’ve never read NPR’s website, but this cheese ball is sheer genius! I can’t wait for an excuse to whip one up!

  • I have made a key lime cheese ball and it was delish. As I’m sure yours is!

  • What a great idea! I had the same misconception about cheese balls, good to know there’s more to it than disgusting orangeness. If you’re an NPR fan, you should take a look at the cookbook All Cakes Considered. I just got it, and it’s adorable.. written by a producer at All Things Considered who brought in a cake per week for a year to the staff there.

  • Pingback: Lemon Cheesecake Cheese Ball – Annie’s Eats | Happy Happy Joy Joy()

  • Annie

    Yes, I heard the segment they did about that book on the show. I’ve definitely added it to my (long) list of books I’d like to check out!

  • jan

    I hate so sound like a total idiot… BUT :) what is NPR?

  • Mahvish

    Mmmmm – this looks great!! I am thinking of making smaller versions of this soon, something you can just pop into your mouth. What do you think?

  • Erica B.

    Love your site! Mom made cheeseballs every Christmas and well (sorry Mom) I hated them…

    Last New Year’s Eve made goat cheese truffles by rolling herbed goat cheese in crushed pecans and paired them wth fig truffles from another favorite blogger: http://theendivechronicles.com/2008/12/04/fig-truffles/#more-187 they made an excellent addition to the cheese plate. The next time we have guests I’m definitely doing this lemon cheese ball with fruit.


  • Annie

    National Public Radio.

  • Yummy ! Can I have one ? I’ve never made or tasted cheese balls but I think that thanks to you I’m gonna love that !

  • Lorie

    Annie, this was a big hit at my party this past weekend! Of course, mine did not look as pretty as yours, but it was delish nonetheless. How do you keep the apples from turning brown? I wanted to serve this w/ apples, but I know they brown quickly.


  • Annie

    Hi Lorie,
    I just cut the apples immediately before serving to prevent over browning. You could probably brush them with water mixed with lemon juice (the citric acid prevents browning), but I personally wouldn’t bother.

  • I shaped it into a pear and put mint leaves at the top. Pretty and you can call it dessert pear.

  • Danielle

    Made this the other day and it was so good. I didn’t make it into a ball. I didn’t have the patience. :-) I just used graham crackers to serve it with.

  • Theresa

    I just made this for a girls’ night tonight-everyone loved it! I served it with Nilla Wafers. Mmmmmmmmm!

  • Amy

    I made this the other night for our book club and it was a success. I served it with sliced apples and Scooby Snacks. The regular graham cracker sticks are no longer being made :o( Very light and summery tasting!

  • Pauline

    I love anything with lemon. This looks and sounds amazing. Definitely on my menu for our next family get-together. Thanks so much for sharing.

  • Cate

    I made this for my New Year’s Eve party and it was a hit! Most everyone asked for the recipe. In fact, I made your pizza bites as well and all night we talked about your site!

  • Beth

    I made this today for an office party. For some reason, a lot of folks didn’t try either of the two sweet cheeseballs I made (the chocolate chip cheesecake cheeseball and this one) – I think they were kind of perplexed by them, and PLUS, there was actual cheesecake at the party, so that was tough to compete with.

    BUT, the folks who tried it, LOVED it, including me. Honestly, I liked this version better than the chocolate chip one. I love the fact that there is very little sugar involved in this recipe.

    Mine didn’t firm-up quite as well as your’s – I didn’t exactly measure the lemon juice, so maybe I added a bit much. Plus, I threw it together this morning, at the last minute, so it wasn’t shaped for a full 3 hours. At any rate, it did maintain an OK shape – not exactly a dip, but not as pretty of a sphere as your’s, but it really tasted amazing!!

    Thank you so much for the great recipe – SO simple, SO quick, and utterly delish!!

  • Ashley

    I made this yesterday for a baby shower app and OMG was it amazing!!! I served it with green apples, strawberries, graham crackers and Nilla wafers! Everyone loved it, including me and at 7 months prego, I have been craving it all day today and have seriously considered making one for myself! Ha! Thanks again for another awesome recipe! This will be one of my go to apps from now on! :)

  • Cherri

    looks delish! Thinking of making it for my daughters bridal shower. Wonder if I could change it to strawberry?

  • Oh I agree, this sounds very refreshing! I love anything lemons, I bet the addition of lemon curd to the cheese ball would be delicious:-) So happy to find you on Pinterest! Take care, Terra

  • Barb

    Mix a couple of tablespoons of lemond juice with an equal amount of water and about a teaspoon of sugar. Put this mixture and the apple slices into a baggie and slosh around until all the apple slices are coated. Drain and serve the apples. Refrigerate leftover apples and any other leftover fruit in a new baggie, and they will stay relatively un-brown for a couple of days.

  • barb whitla

    I have always felt the same way about cheese balls………..oh please not another lumpy, tasteless cheese ball. But I must admit the lemon got my attention. Thanks for Pinterest!!

  • PJLEE1117


  • Wendyk Wilfong

    Love this, I don’t even make it in a ball. Just mix and store in a plastic container and then spread on graham crackers or fruit slices. Yum! Thanks for the recipe.

  • Bernadette Zoerb

    this is amazing, a must to try. what a hit at a family picnic

  • Debbie

    I just made this and it is yummy. It is in the fridge hardening. I am going to roll in the graham crackers then put a lemon powdered sugar frosting that will harden over the crackers. Can you tell I like lemon?

  • Tori

    Made this for Christmas as a sweet side, and the family loved it! Will be a tradition in our household festivities now!