Cheese balls go by many different names and come in various shapes, textures, and flavors. Some of the most common names for cheese balls include: cheese puffs, cheese curls, cheese poofs, cheese doodles, cheese balls, cheesy poofs, cheese curls, cheetos, cheese straws, cheese crackers, cheese crisps, cheese nips, and cheese snacks.
Common Cheese Ball Shapes and Textures
The shape and texture of cheese balls can vary widely between brands and styles. Some of the most common cheese ball shapes are:
- Balls – Small, rounded pieces often about the size of a marble.
- Puffs – Light, airy pieces that are pillow-shaped.
- Curls – Springy, crimped strips that form spiral or corkscrew shapes.
- Tubes – Long, hollow cylindrical sticks.
- Wheels – Flat, circular slices rolled into a wheel shape.
- Strings – Long, thin strands stretched into string-like pieces.
- Pellets – Tiny round or oblong-shaped morsels.
The texture of cheese balls also varies between crunchy and crispy styles to chewy and melty varieties:
- Crunchy – Hard, crispy texture that crunches when bitten into.
- Chewy – Dense, chewy texture that takes time to chew.
- Melty – Soft, smooth interior that melts in the mouth.
- Light – Airy, pillow-like interior that quickly dissolve.
- Crumbly – Brittle texture that crumbs when bitten or squeezed.
Popular Cheese Ball Brands
Some of the most popular mass-produced cheese ball brands include:
- Cheetos – Owned by Frito-Lay, Cheetos are perhaps the most iconic and widely recognized cheese snack. Known for their bright orange puffs and cheesy flavor.
- Cheez Doodles – Made by Wise Foods, these puffed corn and rice cheese snacks come in a variety of shapes like balls, wheels, and tubes.
- Cheez Balls – circular cheese crackers made by Planters that were extremely popular in the 80s and 90s before being discontinued. Recently brought back due to consumer demand.
- Cheez-It – A rectangular cheesy cracker made by Kellogg’s available in various flavors like white cheddar and hot & spicy.
- Goldfish – Cheddar cheese crackers made by Pepperidge Farm that are shaped like little fish.
- Annie’s Cheddar Bunnies – Organic cheddar cheese crackers made by Annie’s Homegrown.
- Pirate’s Booty– Puffed rice and corn cheese snacks with a melted white cheddar flavor. Made by Robert’s American Gourmet Food.
- Cheese Twist – Twirly puffed corn and rice cheese sticks with a nacho cheese flavor by Wise Foods.
- Cheese Nips – Nip-shaped cheese crackers made by Mondelez International, sister brand of Ritz crackers.
There are also many smaller, niche cheese puff brands producing artisanal or specialty flavors, like Spudsy Sweet Potato Puffs and The Good Crisp Company’s Cheesy Turmeric Chickpea Puffs.
Common Cheese Ball Flavors
There is a huge variety of cheese ball flavors on the market. Some of the most popular flavors include:
- Cheddar – Sharp, tangy cheddar is one of the most popular cheese snack flavors.
- Nacho Cheese – Nacho or Mexican-style spiced cheese flavor.
- White Cheddar – Milder, creamy white cheddar flavor.
- Parmesan – Nutty, salty parmesan flavor.
- Pizza – Pizza or tomato sauce and cheese flavors.
- Jalapeño – Spicy cheddar and jalapeño.
- Sour Cream and Onion – Tangy, oniony flavor.
- Barbecue – Smoky barbecue flavor, sometimes with a hint of cheese.
- Ranch – Cool, creamy ranch dressing flavor.
- Bacon Cheddar – Smokey bacon and sharp cheddar flavor.
There are also unique flavors like mac and cheese, grilled cheese, and loaded baked potato. Flavor varieties continue expanding as brands compete to create new flavor experiences. Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, for example, ignited a spicy snacks craze.
Cheese Powder vs Real Cheese
The cheese flavor in most mass produced cheese balls and puffs comes from powdered cheese rather than real cheese. The powdered cheese coating provides an intense flavor that adheres well to the snack’s surface. To make powdered cheese:
- Cheese is shredded and processed into fine particles.
- Additional dairy ingredients like whey protein and milk solids are added.
- Vegetable oil is mixed in to reduce clumping and dusting.
- Anti-caking agents are added.
- The mixture is spray dried at high heat into a fine orange powder.
Some benefits of powdered cheese include:
- Much lower cost compared to real cheese.
- Long shelf life of 1-2 years.
- Doesn’t require refrigeration.
- Bright orange color is visually appealing.
- Adheres and coats snacks evenly.
- Adds concentrated, sharp cheese flavor.
A few premium cheese snack brands use real cheese made from cheese curds, milk, cream, and salt. The real cheese provides a more authentic, buttery flavor and aroma. However, the snacks must be kept refrigerated and have a shorter shelf life compared to powdered cheese versions.
Since powdered cheese contains more additives than real cheese, there are some nutritional differences:
|Nutrient||Powdered Cheese (Per 1 oz)||Real Cheese (Per 1 oz)|
As shown above, powdered cheese is slightly higher in calories, fat, and sodium compared to real cheese. Real cheese contains more protein and calcium. Overall the nutritional differences are relatively small.
How Cheese Balls Are Made
The production process for cheese balls includes:
- Mixing – The flour, cornmeal, and other dry ingredients are combined in a large mixer.
- Extruding – The dough mixture is fed into an extruder machine that presses the dough out into fun shapes.
- Frying – The extruded pieces pass through a frying oil bath to cook and puff up the snacks.
- Seasoning – The puffed snacks are tumbled in drums with powdered cheese and seasoning blend.
- Cooling – The seasoned cheese balls pass through cooling tubes to solidify the coating.
- Packaging – The cooled cheese balls are packed into bags or canisters, then boxed.
The ingredients start out in powder form stored in large silos. They are precisely measured and mixed together to create the dough. The extruder shapes the dough into consistent, fun shapes and the fryer puffs up the snacks. Tumbling drums evenly coat the puffs in cheese powder and seasoning before cooling and packaging.
Throughout the manufacturing process, samples are pulled and tested to ensure quality control. Testing includes:
- Moisture analysis – Samples are dried and weighed to determine moisture content.
- Color analysis – Computer vision systems check product colors match specifications.
- Image analysis – Cameras inspect for defects in shapes or coating.
- Weight checking – Individual pieces are weighed to ensure consistency.
- Microbial testing – Samples are tested for bacterial contamination.
- Shelf life testing – Bags are aged to confirm shelf life expectations.
Every batch is also taste tested by technicians to verify flavor and texture meet benchmarks. Batches that fail to meet any testing standards are rejected.
Popular Uses for Cheese Balls
People enjoy snacking on cheese balls in many ways, including:
- Straight from the bag – Eaten as a convenient finger food.
- With dip – Dunked into salsa, guacamole, or other dips for added flavor.
- On sandwiches – Added crunch to burgers, subs, and grilled cheese.
- In salads – Crunchy topping on taco salads and chef salads.
- In trail mixes – Combined with nuts, cereal, pretzels for hearty snack mix.
- On pizzas – Sprinkled over pizza instead of standard cheese.
- In tacos – Added for a crispy top layer on tacos.
- On nachos – Scattered over layered tortilla chips.
- On casseroles – Topping for tuna casserole, mac and cheese casserole.
- In cookies – Mixed into cookie dough for added crunch.
Crushed cheese balls can also be used for breading chicken, thickening stews, or breading fish for a cheesy crunch coating. Cheese balls pair well with foods like burgers, tacos, salads, and dips that all benefit from some extra cheesy flavor.
Storage and Food Safety
To maintain freshness and prevent spoilage, properly store cheese balls in a sealed container in a cool, dry, pantry. Avoid humidity or heat. Unopened bags have a shelf life around 2-3 months. Once opened, reseal tightly and consume within 1-2 weeks.
Avoid eating cheese balls past their expiry date printed on the packaging. Look for signs of stale snacks like soft texture, off odors, rancid smell, or loss of crunchy texture. Discard any spoiled product.
As with any food product, proper handling is important for food safety:
- Wash hands before handling.
- Use clean utensils for dipping to avoid cross-contamination.
- Store any leftovers in sealed containers.
- Avoid ingredients sitting at room temperature over 2 hours.
- Discard snacks that smell unpleasant or are past expiry.
By following basic food safety practices, cheese ball lovers can safely enjoy these tasty snacks!
Cheese balls go by many crafty names and come in endless varieties. While American classics like Cheetos and Goldfish remain go-to favorites, food innovators continue pushing boundaries to create novel flavors, shapes, and styles. The growing artisanal snack market uses real cheese and creative ingredients for new gourmet experiences. However they are crafted, these cheesy, crunchy snacks satisfy cravings in a bold, fun way.