This Marinated Cheese is a rich and delicious, easy, make-ahead appetizer that is perfect for parties and holiday get-togethers! Also, it's a 'pretty' appetizer that will brighten up your table and make everything look so festive! Serve it with your favorite crackers or celery!
Originally published December 2015, updated August 2023
This Marinated Cheese recipe is great any time of year! I recently made it for a gender reveal party we hosted at our home and someone asked, "You can marinate cheese?" Yes, you can!
And you will love it! No one at our recent party had ever had a marinated cheese appetizer but they all immediately loved it and asked for the recipe! If you're looking for an easy no cook finger foods for a party... this is it! This is the BEST Marinated Cheese recipe!
Why You’ll Love Marinated Cheese
Other than the reasons already stated, and the fact that I just love recipes with cheese (in every form imaginable), I love this recipe because it's tangy and bright - and it's made at least a day ahead of time so no worries about last minute preparations if you're making it for a party!
If you're looking for no bake appetizers, this one is perfect.
Marinated Cheese Southern Living
So what is Marinated Cheese and where did it come from? As far as I can tell, this marinated cheese appetizer came from Southern Living Magazine and it's been around for ages. I know my friend shared it with me in the 1990's so it's at least 30 years old (gaaah - I feel old!). It's so well-known!
As far as what it is - it's quite literally two or three kinds of cheese cut up (or you can even do marinated cheese cubes), then covered with a homemade marinade that soaks into the cheese and gives it loads of flavor!
Another popular name for this recipe is Marinated Christmas Cheese and it's so fitting. I really love to make it during the holiday season because it's so bright and festive with the red pimentos & green onions on top!
And it's easy! Like EASY easy!! As stated above, you literally take two kinds of cheese, alternate and stack them, then mix up the marinade and pour it over the top. Cover with plastic wrap and let it sit for at least 8 hours to marinate then ENJOY!
There are no really special ingredients in this recipe but the combination of basic ingredients creates an incredible, easy cheese appetizer that bursts with flavor!
- Colby Jack or Cheddar Cheese
- Cream Cheese
- Diced Pimentos (do not drain!)
- White Vinegar
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Green Onions
- Basil (fresh or dried)
- Black Pepper
- Crackers, for serving
Hard Cheeses: We prefer Sharp Cheddar cheese or Colby Jack cheese, but there are several varieties that would work in this recipe. You could even alternate 3 or 4 cheeses instead of just two if you like. I'd recommend cheddar (mild, medium or sharp), Colby Jack cheese, Monterey Jack cheese, Pepper Jack cheese, or Mozzarella cheese.
Soft Cheeses: I've only ever used full-fat cream cheese, but you could also use Neufchâtel cheese or even goat cheese for this easy cheese appetizer.
Fresh or Dried Herbs: Almost every time I've made this, I've used dried basil because I never have fresh, but you could easily use fresh basil and add other fresh herbs if you like, such as fresh parsley, fresh garlic, fresh oregano, rosemary, thyme, etc.
Make it Spicy: My husband is not a fan of spicy foods so I generally minimalize or totally skip extra spice in recipes but if you like spicy, add some red pepper flakes to your marinade to amp it up!
How to Make Marinated Cheese
When I say this is easy, it truly is an easy appetizer!
Preparing the Cheese
- Grab your cutting board, a pretty platter, and begin slicing up the cheeses. Cut an 8-ounce brick of cream cheese and an 8-ounce block of Colby Jack or Cheddar Cheese in half lengthwise. Then cut each half into ¼-inch thick slices.
- To make the log of cheese, begin stacking the cheese slices, alternating between the hard cheese and the soft cream cheese on a platter. (See tips below!!). The slices will not all be the same size and that's okay - the marinade will cover the cheese and it will be beautiful! If you don't have a long platter, you could make two or three logs on a square platter or in a rectangular dish.
Tip: Since cream cheese is so soft, place it in the freezer for 20-30 minutes before cutting so it will hold its shape! You can also use dental floss to slice it to prevent squishing it!
Making the Marinade
- Now you need to make up the marinade! Grab a small bowl or I used a large glass measuring cup and begin adding in all of the remaining ingredients. First I poured in the pimentos (juice and all!), the olive oil, and the white vinegar. I also went ahead and chopped up the green onions and added them.
- Grab the spices and garlic and add those.
- Using a whisk or fork, mix up the marinade thoroughly.
- As soon as it's mixed up, go ahead and pour marinade over the cheese.
And that's it - the Marinated Cheese is done! Well... except for the marinating. 😉
- Tightly cover your platter with plastic wrap and stick it in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours or overnight to let the marinate really soak into the cheese.
- When you're ready to serve it, remove it from the refrigerator and remove the plastic wrap at least half an hour ahead of time so the oil will soften and not be solidified.
- Serve with a variety of crackers!
Recipe Pro Tips
- Putting the cream cheese in the freezer for about 30 minutes helps it hold its shape when you go to slice it.
- To save time - buy pre-sliced cheese!
- If you have trouble getting the cheeses to stick lying down, lay a slice flat and stack them up in a tower, then lay them down.
- Don't worry if the cheese shapes aren't all the same - the marinade will cover any and all imperfections!
- Make the marinade in a liquid measuring cup with a spout for easier pouring (I forgot to do this when I took pics!)
- Allow the cheese to sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes for the best flavor and so the oil will soften. You can see in the photo below (just after I removed it from the fridge) that the oil is solidified. It gradually softened up before serving. Tip - in a pinch - use a hair dryer to warm it up. Don't ask me how I know it works! 😉
Because the olive oil solidifies in the refrigerator, be sure to set it out and uncover it at least half an hour before servings.
Our favorite way to serve this Marinated Cheese Appetizer is a variety of crackers including Ritz Crackers, Wheat Thins, Triscuits, and Toasteds.
To serve alone - have a jar of toothpicks or cocktail forks nearby.
This appetizer is perfect for holidays, wedding or baby showers, parties, and more!
- Storage/refrigerating: Keep it covered tightly with plastic wrap or in a container with an airtight lid. It must be refrigerated.
- Freezing: this recipe cannot be frozen.
This recipe can marinate in the fridge for up to two weeks before serving!
Marinated cheese typically refers to cheese that has been soaked or infused with various flavorful liquids and seasonings to enhance its taste and texture. The cheese is often cut into cubes, slices, or other bite-sized pieces before having a marinade poured over it.
The marinating process allows the cheese to absorb the flavors of the marinade over time. Marinated cheese is often served as an appetizer, on cheese platters, in salads, or as a topping for bread or crackers.