These quintessential 1970s appetizers are cheese olive puffs. Some people call them cheese olive balls, but in our neighborhood, puffs won the day.

We grew up eating these guys, and my mom was known for making them and bringing them to almost every neighborhood party they attended, especially during the holidays.

I consider this a family recipe, and it is all the more special because my friend Jennifer shared this recipe at my mom’s funeral. I cannot imagine a more “Jane” funeral than for everyone to leave with a recipe to make.

If you love a good retro appetizer recipe, you will probably also flip for mom’s cream cheese and red sauce. And for ease of browsing, you can find all my appetizer recipes in one place.

Thanks so much for being here!

A blue pottery bowl filled with orange cheese puffs. The bowl is on a cutting board with a cheese puff on it cut in half to reveal a pimento-stuffed green olive inside.

At a Glance

✔️Skill Level: Beginner
✔️Skills: Grating cheese, mixing, wrapping dough around a filling
✔️Type: Individual Appetizer
✔️Number of Ingredients: 6
✔️Prep Time: 10 minutes
✔️Cook Time: 15 minutes
✔️Yield: 40 cheese puffs

Jump Straight to the Recipe

Why Make This Recipe

First and foremost, these little appetizers are delicious.

Salty/briny, crisp on the outside, with a little olive surprise in the middle of each one.

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This recipe, or similar ones, has been around for probably about 60 years or so and was at the height of popularity in the 70s and 80s.

They are very easy to make, and one recipe makes 40 cheese puffs.

The recipe also readily doubles or even triples. And these freeze well, so you can have a stash in the freezer to bake at a moment’s notice.

In Memory of My Mom

A typed recipe for "Janie's Cheese Olive Puffs" typed up on white copy paper.

As you may know, my mom passed away on October 16, 2022.

As part of our celebration of life at her funeral, I asked people to stand and share a story about my mom if they had one.

And boy did they ever. Person after person stood and shared a sweet, funny, or poignant story about my mom, and it was such a lovely time of remembrance.

My dear friend, who has known my mom since I first brought her to my home to visit from college, not only shared the story of how mom emailed her with the recipe for cheese olive puffs, she also found the email (from probably 20 years ago), printed it off, and offered it to everyone in attendance.

So people left mom’s funeral not only with great memories of her, but also with one of her recipes.

Thanks, Jennifer. So perfect.

How to Make Cheese Olive Puffs

As I said at the beginning, these are easy to make, and they have a pretty short list of ingredients.

Here’s what you’ll need:

Ingredients and Substitutions

An overhead shot of all the ingredients needed for making olive cheese balls.
  • butter: There is plenty of salt in both the cheese and the olives, so you can use unsalted butter. If all you have is salted butter, that’ll work just fine, though.
  • cheddar cheese: I like to use extra sharp, but use your favorite
  • flour: regular all-purpose flour gives these cheesy guys some structure and “crumb” as opposed to just unrelenting cheesiness
  • paprika: I used smoked sweet paprika. Feel free to use plain paprika or spice things up with hot smoked paprika
  • black pepper: Not called for in the original recipe, black pepper provides a bit of bite
  • green olives: Mom calls for the small, green variety, so that’s what I used, too


Cheese olive balls are very easy to make. They are a touch tedious to shape, but you can get your kids to help. Or you can just find your Zen place while doing it yourself.

Here’s what you’ll do:

A collage of 4 images showing how to make the dough for olive balls. First shows drained olives and shredded cheese. The second shows a whisk and a bowl of flour. The third shows the ingredients in the mixer bowl, and the last image is of a ball of orange dough.
  1. Grate the cheese and drain the olives.
  2. Whisk paprika and pepper into the flour.
  3. Mix butter and cheese together until well combined and then add the flour mixture.
  4. Gather into a ball.

Once you have the dough, it’s a simple matter of shaping the puffs:

A collage of 4 images showing how to stuff cheese dough with an olive then cover it up and roll it into a ball.
  1. Make an indentation with your thumb in your piece of dough.
  2. Stick an olive in there.
  3. Shape the dough up and around the olive, and then pinch it shut.
  4. Roll the dough into a neat ball.
  5. Repeat 39 times!

Equipment You May Need

Aside from a couple of half-sheet pans, parchment paper, and a cooling rack, you don’t need a ton of specialized equipment.

If you don’t have a stand mixer or a hand mixer, you can always wait until the butter and cheese are very soft and then mix everything together with a wooden spoon.

If you don’t have a scale, you may also want to use a small portion scoop for the dough so your olive balls are all the same size.

If you do a lot of baking, don’t miss my list of essential tools for serious bakers.


A square image of a blue bowl filled with baked cheese puffs with one cut open on a cutting board showing the olive inside.

Yes, my first love will always be my mom’s version, but this is such an easy recipe to vary, I think you should go for it.

Swap out the cheddar for pretty much any grating cheese you can think of and stuff the dough with anything that would be tasty surrounded by cheese.

Here are a couple of ideas to get you started:

  • Spicy Jalapeno Puffs: Trade the cheddar for pepper jack or habanero jack, add a touch of cumin and/or ground chipotle powder, and wrap your dough around either pickled jalapeno slices or spicy pepper-stuffed olives
  • Ham and Swiss Puffs: Trade the cheddar for shredded Gruyere or Swiss cheese and wrap your dough around a cube of ham
  • Southern Cheese Crackers: Trade the paprika for cayenne pepper (more or less than the 1/2 teaspoon called for, to taste). Instead of stuffing the dough, shape the dough into a log and refrigerate until firm. Slice into 1/4″ slices and place a pecan half in the center of each round. Bake at 400F for 10-12 minutes

Tips for Success

Do not use pre-shredded cheese in this recipe. You want the cheese to blend in with the rest of the ingredients, and the coating on pre-shredded will keep it from doing so.

For nice, round, cheese puffs without too much spread or a “hump” where the olive is, refrigerate the balls of dough while the oven preheats, around 20 minutes.

Baked cheese olive balls on a white paper towel.  There is a little bit of fat soaked into the towel around each puff.

To minimize greasiness, remove the baked puffs to a paper towel for a minute before transferring to a cooling rack. The paper will absorb a little of the excess fat.

Cheese Puffs Q & A

An overhead shot of orange cheese balls
How long do these keep?

Store, tightly covered, in the fridge for 4-5 days. Reheat for 5 minutes at 325F or for a few seconds in the microwave. Note, they will be less crisp if you microwave them.

These are a little greasy…?

That’s part of their charm, but if you’d like them to be a bit less greasy, you can either increase the flour to 6 oz/1 1/2 cups or keep the flour as is and reduce the amount of butter to 3 oz/6 Tablespoons/ 3/4 stick

Can I make these gluten-free?

Absolutely. Substitute your favorite cup for cup gluten-free flour blend for the all-purpose flour.

Can I freeze these?

Yes. Place the olive-stuffed dough balls on a parchment-lined sheet pan. Freeze for two hours or until firm, and then transfer to a zip-top freezer bag, pressing out as much air as you can before sealing. These will keep just fine for up to 3 months. Bake from frozen in a 400F preheated oven. Let the puffs sit out while the oven preheats and then bake for 15-16 minutes, until set and golden brown.

More Retro Appetizers to Enjoy

Why not put on a whole retro-appetizer spread?

Go all-in with sausage-stuffed mushrooms (this version happens to be gluten-free). Don’t forget the classic that is the port wine cheese ball, and it’s not a party without some smoky bacon guacamole.

And, as far as I’m concerned, you haven’t gone all-in for all the retro goodness if you don’t make some poppy seed party ham biscuits.

A Note About Measurements

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03/07/2024 05:03 pm GMT


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A square image of a blue bowl filled with baked cheese puffs with one cut open on a cutting board showing the olive inside.

Cheese Olive Puffs Recipe

Jennifer Field
Cheese olive puffs are an easy appetizer recipe you'll love to make for parties. A short list of ingredients that come together with lots of big flavor, this retro cheese appetizer is a real crowd-pleaser.
5 from 2 votes
Tried this recipe?Please give it a star rating!
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Course Appetizers
Cuisine American
Servings 40
Calories 110 kcal


  • 126 grams all-purpose flour 4.5 oz or about 1 cup
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika or plain paprika
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 112 grams salted or unsalted butter, softened 4 oz or 1 stick
  • 196 grams extra sharp cheddar cheese 7 oz or about 2 cups
  • 40 small, green, pimento-stuffed olives


  • Whisk together the flour, paprika, and pepper.
  • Set aside.
  • Using a box grater, shred the cheddar cheese. Set aside.
  • Drain the olives on paper towels and blot well them until they are dry.
  • In a large bowl using a hand mixer or in the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until creamy.
  • Add the shredded cheese to the butter and beat until fairly well-combined.
  • With the mixer off, dump in the flour mixture, and mix on low speed until you get a uniformly orange dough. This will take about 1-2 minutes. Scrape the bowl as necessary.
  • If baking all the puffs at once, line 2 half-sheet pans with parchment paper. If making to freeze for later, you'll only need one lined baking sheet. (See Notes below)
  • Pinch off a piece of dough that's about 2 teaspoons. If weighing, shoot for 9.8-10 grams or .35-.40 ounces.
  • Holding the piece of dough in the palm of your hand, make an indention in the center with your finger.
  • Place an olive in the indention and then wrap the dough around it, pinching it shut. Then roll the ball into a nice round and place on the baking sheet. Continue until you've used all the dough.
  • Refrigerate the puffs while you preheat your oven to 400F. Place oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven.
  • When your oven is hot, bake the trays for 15 minutes, rotating the pans and swapping racks after about 10 minutes.
  • Remove to paper towels to drain for a minute and then serve hot. You can also allow them to come to room temperature and reheat later to serve.

Did You Make Any Changes?


To Freeze

  • If you are freezing the dough, place the filled puffs close together on one baking sheet. Freeze for 2 hours, and then place in zip-top freezer bags.
  • Press out all the air before freezing for up to three months.
  • To Bake From Frozen

  • Remove the dough from the freezer and place about 2" apart on a parchment-lined sheet.
  • Let the dough sit at room temperature while you heat the oven to 400F, and then bake for 15-16 minutes until set and golden brown.
  • If only baking 1 sheet, bake on the middle rack.
  • Storing

    Store in the fridge, tightly covered, for 4-5 days. Reheat at 325F for 5 minutes.
    You can also heat in the microwave for a few seconds, but note they will be less crisp.


    Serving: 2puffsCalories: 110kcalCarbohydrates: 5.4gProtein: 3.2gFat: 8.5gSaturated Fat: 5.1gCholesterol: 22mgSodium: 149mgFiber: 0.4gSugar: 0.1g
    Keyword appetizer recipe, baked appetizers, cheese olive puffs, olive cheese balls
    Did you make this recipe?Please tell us what you loved!

    I hope you love these cheese olive puffs. It really is a treasured recipe, and even more so now that mom is gone.

    Thanks so much for spending some time with me today. Take care, and have a lovely day.

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    1. 5 stars
      I also made these for a neighborhood Christmas party. I made them two days before and cooked some to try and froze the rest. I don’t like green olives so just did little balls and took them hot with a dip and I love them. Even cold they are yummy. So many options with spices and herbs that could be added!!!

      I also tried the choux pastry kind. I liked them better hot. And they were waaaaay easier than I thought they would be even by hand.

      Thanks again for a great site. And such a wonderful story about your mom and this recipe.

      1. I don’t like the olives either! lol I never have. I always gave them to mom, my brother, or later, to Jeffrey. But having that recipe shared with folks who attended mom’s memorial was just so special and so very *mom.* 🙂

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