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!

  • Yield 1 ball


  • 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.