Fried almond cheese balls are an irresistible appetizer for a dinner party or holiday get-together.
They’re crispy on the outside, beautifully light & creamy on the inside. Enjoy them with marinara for dipping.
Nothing says decadent quite like fried cheese.
It’s downright addictive with a crisp breadcrumb coating and soft interior.
Unlike mozzarella sticks, which are gooey inside, fried almond cheese balls are velvety & smooth on the tongue.
Dunk them into warmed marinara for an appetizer that feels like a relative of arancini.
This recipe is a riff off of one of my favorite dishes, vegan feta cheese.
In the original feta recipe, the almond mixture is poured out of a blender and baked into a thick & crumbly cheese.
This time around, the blender mixture cools in the refrigerator until it condenses.
Then it’s rolled into balls, coated in seasoned breadcrumbs, and fried.
Blanched almonds are key
For the optimum texture and bright white filling, blanched almonds are a must for this recipe.
You can find them in grocery stores with other nuts. I usually buy mine at Natural Grocers.
Or you can hand-skin them yourself using any raw almonds. It’s not hard to do but takes a little bit of time on task.
Get all of the directions in this post on how to blanch almonds.
Olive brine adds tang
For added cheesiness and tang, I use olive brine in almond cheese.
Most often, I use the brine from jars of Castelvetrano olives.
Castelvetrano olives are mild & buttery in flavor, and the brine is light in color.
However, any olive brine will work.
If you don’t have olives around, you can use the brine from pepperoncini peppers (not hot peppers) or sauerkraut juice.
Any of these options work equally well.
Step by step instructions
Put the following into a high-speed blender:
- Blanched almonds (store-bought or skinned by hand)
- Lemon juice
- Olive brine
- Extra virgin olive oil
Blend until smooth.
Put the lid on the blender. Move it to the refrigerator, so that the almond mixture can cool & thicken.
You can refrigerate it for as few as three hours or up to four or five days.
When you are ready to fry the cheese balls, make a breading station.
Put the following on a plate:
- Panko breadcrumbs
- Dried oregano
- Dried basil
- Granulated garlic
Use a Tablespoon to measure out almond cheese from the blender.
Roll it into a ball with your hands.
Roll the ball in seasoned breadcrumbs.
Keep going until all of the balls are coated.
Fry in a non-stick skillet with oil.
As they brown, rotate the cheese balls, so that they are evenly fried all over.
Once they are totally browned, move them to a towel lined plate to drain.
Make it your own
You can make this appetizer your own by varying the ingredients, cheese shape, and size.
- Instead of olive brine, use the juice from a jar of sauerkraut or pepperoncini peppers.
- Vary the shape of the cheese ball. Roll it into a larger ball, form it into a pyramid shape, or smash it into a patty.
- To make the appetizer gluten-free, use gluten-free breadcrumbs.
- Instead of using dried oregano, dried basil, and granulated garlic, buy seasoned breadcrumbs or use an Italian seasoning mix.
- For a holiday appetizer, leave the breadcrumbs off & form it into a snowman cheese ball
Dipping sauce ideas
While you can certainly enjoy this appetizer all on its own, it’s even nicer with a dipping sauce!
Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Marinara (Truff pasta sauce is an especially delicious splurge here!)
- Cocktail sauce
- Cilantro basil pistachio pesto
- Vegan sriracha mayonnaise
What to serve with them
Make a meal out of fried almond cheese balls by serving them with any of the following complementary dishes.
- Air fryer stuffed peppers
- Creamy gnocchi soup
- Roasted gnocchi with vegan almond pesto
- Buttery garlic noodles
- Vegan pesto pasta with artichokes
- Vegan zucchini lasagna
Fried almond cheese balls
- Put blanched almonds, lemon juice, olive brine, extra virgin olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, water, and garlic cloves into a high-speed blender. (If you don't have a high-speed blender, see the workaround tips in the notes section.)Blend until smooth, stopping once or twice to scrape down the sides for even blending, if necessary.
- Once fully blended, put the lid on the blender jar (or move it to a separate container if necessary) and put it into the refrigerator. Allow it to cool for several hours.While it cools, it will continue to thicken. You can refrigerate it for as few as three hours or as much as 4 or 5 days.
- Once you are ready to finish the recipe & the almond mixture has firmed enough that you can form it into balls, continue with the rest of the steps. Start by making a breading station. On a dinner plate, combine panko breadcrumbs with dried oregano, dried basil, granulated garlic, salt, and pepper. Put out another empty plate to hold the breaded balls before frying.
- Use a heaping Tablespoon to measure the almond cheese out of the blender. Then roll it into a ball with your hands. Roll it in the seasoned breadcrumb mixture. Then put it on the empty plate. Continue until all of the cheese balls are breaded.(If you run out of breadcrumb mixture, add more breadcrumbs & seasonings to the plate.)
- Fill a non-stick skillet with about an inch of organic canola oil. Bring it to a medium high heat. Drop a breadcrumb into the skillet. If oil immediately bubbles around it, it's ready to use.
- Put several of the breaded almond cheese balls into the oil. Be careful not to overcrowd, and work in batches, if necessary. As the balls brown, rotate them, so that they are evenly cooked on all sides. Then move them to a towel lined plate to drain. Continue until all of the cheese balls are fried.
- Once all of the balls are evenly fried, top them with another pinch of salt. Serve them on their own, with marinara, or your choice of dipping sauce.