The Embarrassingly Easy 4-Ingredient Appetizer I Must Bring To Every Party

It'll disappear quickly.

4-ingredient cheese ball

Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Torie Cox

Variety is the spice of life—except when it’s not. Have you ever noticed that once you become known for bringing a popular dish to a party, it’s almost an unwritten rule that you’re expected to bring it to every gathering thereafter? It doesn’t matter if you’re looking forward to wowing your fellow partygoers with a new creation, because you’ll never hear the end of showing up without your tried-and-true recipe they’ve been craving all year.

Thankfully, the dish I’ve become known for at each party—from neighborhood block parties to office potlucks—isn’t complex and doesn’t rely on seasonal ingredients, which means I can bring this crowd pleaser to any function. Plus, it’s something I can make a day ahead of time or whip up at the last minute, and the results are absolutely identical. 

Nearly two decades ago, as I was frantically trying to come up with a quick dish to bring to a last-minute party, I discovered a four-ingredient appetizer recipe that just so happened to parallel the same few ingredients I had on hand. I was skeptical that something so simple would be well-received and certainly didn’t expect it to be memorable. And yet, this unexpectedly addicting appetizer disappeared quickly from the buffet table, and everyone was bestowing compliments on me. I’d found a winner, and it was such a relief!

When friends and family have asked for the recipe over the years, I’m literally too embarrassed to share it with them—because then they’ll know just how little effort I really put in and how easily they could make it themselves at home! But, I also feel guilty denying anyone access to this near-effortless appetizer. 

So I’m ready to divulge the big secret: You simply take 2 softened blocks of cream cheese and mix in a packet of ranch seasoning and a drained can of chicken. Once they are thoroughly combined, form the mixture into a ball and then roll it in some chopped pecans until it’s covered. That’s it.

The chicken cheese ball is creamy, perfectly seasoned, has a nice pop of protein, and the pecans add a little texture. I like to serve this appetizer with a few different types of hearty crackers, but it also pairs nicely with celery and carrot sticks and halved sweet mini peppers for a lighter dish.

And when making this for Thanksgiving or the winter holidays, try adding some dried cranberries alongside the pecans (or fold them in) for a pop of color and a sweet twist to help balance out the saltiness from the ranch seasoning.

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