Good old-fashioned homestyle sausage balls are delicious little bites of heaven made with 3 simple ingredients.
Sausage Balls seem to be a requirement for all holiday gatherings at all homes in the south. Well, maybe not ALL, but a good majority of them.
Every southern family has their own recipe and method for mixing these up. We prefer ours with a bit more meat than biscuit mix.
That’s probably our northern influence. Meat, meat, and more meat!
Whenever one of our friends ate one of my sausage balls, he was amazed. He said he had tried making them before but was never able to get them crispy like mine.
He said they were always dry and kind of crumbly. I suspect whatever recipe he was using used too much baking mix or flour.
We actually use just enough baking mix to hold it all together.
If it weren’t for the few small lumps that came off the side of the bowl, you might not even realize there is any baking mix in there.
But I promise it is in there!
I even left this photo here so you can see what it looked like before I mixed it up by hand.
Do not cook the sausage, it needs to be raw.
The first time I ever tried making these they were dry and crumbly and just kind of gross.
Cooked sausage will not come together easily with the ingredients and will leave dry pockets of baking mix everywhere.
It was not a beginner’s mistake either, the recipe was not clear. It just said to mix the sausage, cheese, and baking mix together.
They were terrible! It took me several years to make another run at sausage balls.
Sam is the one that told me the secret, don’t cook the sausage and use more sausage than flour or baking mix!
Now, I make them almost as much as she does, and she is a true Southerner! Once you use this recipe, I bet you make them often too!
Rule number one: Let the sausage come to room temperature for easier mixing. This will take a minimum of 15 minutes.
No matter the recipe used, I seem to have better luck with the cheaper sausages on the market. My guess is it has more fat in it.
There are usually kids and picky eaters at my holiday gatherings so I stick with a standard breakfast sausage. Spicy sausage can be used for more bite.
If you choose to use this recipe, and we hope you do, you may see some grease left on the pan.
Grease remains on the pan because there just is not enough dry ingredients to absorb every bit of grease that comes out of the sausage and cheese.
The fat melting during baking is what keeps these sausage balls from drying out.
I use pre-shredded sharp cheddar cheese.
One, it is less work. Two, it seems to hold up better when mixing it all together.
If you really don’t like the pre-shredded cheese, go ahead and shred your own. The cheese may disappear but the flavor will still be there.
Leave the cheese in the refrigerator until it’s time to mix the ingredients unless smaller cheese pieces are desired.
In that case, room temperature cheese will break apart into smaller pieces in the mix. I like to see the cheese, so I add it at the end.
As with the sausage, a spicier cheese can be substituted.
The Baking Mix
I have used Bisquick, Bisquick Heart Healthy, and Jiffy, all without issue.
Using a gluten-free baking mix is an acceptable substitution and I suspect with all of the flavors going on no one will notice a difference.
I do not use the gluten-free version very often, only when necessary to meet dietary restrictions of guests. It’s just a matter of price.
I go with the rustic look because I don’t like doing extra dishes.
Mixing the Dough
For a rustic looking ball with all the lumps and bumps you might remember from childhood, go ahead and get at it with a set of impeccably clean hands and mix it all up.
A dough hook on a stand mixer works great and is quick, but the balls will have a smoother texture.
I like these either way, but the rustic version is less clean up for me, and we all know I can be a bit lazy in the kitchen.
I add my cheese at the very end of the mixing. Waiting until the end allows more of the cheese to stay together, which leaves nice cheesy pockets in the cooked sausage balls.
Forming the Sausage Balls
I find it easiest to make all the sausage balls the same by using my medium number 40 cookie scoop and then splitting that in half.
I don’t use a smaller scoop because this mixture tends to be, for lack of a better word, stringy, and it seems to get stuck.
Stringiness comes from the nature of raw ground meat. With this texture and the shape of the cheese shreds, a small scoop seems like more work to me than pulling it into 2 pieces.
Once you have uniform sizes, just roll them gently between your hands.
What to Serve with Sausage Balls
You can serve these plain or with some dipping sauces. Maple syrup as a dipping sauce is perfect for breakfast or brunch.
Frito Lay makes a great cheddar cheese dip that would pair nicely with these.
Sour cream is always good, especially if you have used a hot sausage or added cayenne pepper for heat.
Want even more heat? No problem, add some sriracha sauce to your sour cream like we do our Bacon Wrapped Baby Potato Bites.
I have served with honey mustard, plain mustard, mustard mixed with mayonnaise for a “creamy” mustard dip.
Grape jelly mixed with chili sauce would also be a great sauce to serve on the side. But I have to admit, I prefer mine plain.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can Sausage Balls Be Made In Advance?
Yes, sausage balls can be made in advance. In fact, there are are two solutions for making them in advance.
The balls can be prepared in advance and cooked just before company arrives to serve them hot.
They are equally good at room temperature so they can also be baked earlier in the day.
Why are My Sausage Balls Dry?
Your sausage balls are probably dry because they probably have too much baking mix in them.
The other reason your sausage balls might have dry pockets is that they were not mixed well enough. You really need to get your hands in there and mix it all up.
Why are my sausage balls burned on the bottom?
You may have your oven set too high or the pan may be too close to the burner if you have an electric stove.
The bottom of the sausage ball will be darker than the top no matter where you put the baking sheet in the oven.
The bottoms are right on the baking sheet and are gathering more heat from the metal than the tops of the sausage balls that are surrounded by just hot air.
The cheese may even ooze out and brown on the bottom. Once the cheese has set, you can easily break it off.
I kind of like the flavor of the browned cheese, so I tend to leave it.
Can I use a Different Kind of Sausage?
Any kind of sausage that is raw can be substituted. If I were using Italian sausage, I would probably change my cheese to mozzarella though and serve with a marinara sauce rather than sour cream.
What About the Cheese? Can I make my sausage balls without cheese or with a different cheese?
The cheese can be omitted. I have made these without cheese and they are still good. Cheese just makes everything great!
Different cheese can be used according to your taste. If you want to grate your own cheese, that’s perfectly fine too.
I think the pre-shredded cheese saves me some time and I find that it holds up better when being mixed into the sausage ball mix.
Spicy cheese would be great mixed with a spicy sausage. Just keep the heat level in mind if there will be kids eating these.
Can Sausage Balls be Made Without Bisquick or Baking Mix?
For this recipe, you can substitute 1 1/2 cups of flour and 1 teaspoon of baking soda for the baking mix.
If you need gluten-free sausage balls, you can certainly use the gluten-free baking mixes, or you can try using 1 1/2 cups of Rice Chex crumbs.
I process Rice Chex cereal into a fine crumb and use it as a substitute in my meatballs any time I am cooking gluten free.
Rice Chex are cheaper than gluten-free bread crumbs, gluten-free flour mixes, and gluten-free Bisquick. although, all are options here.
I suspect that Bisquick was just used as a filler when sausage balls first turned up on the appetizer scene. Just a way to make some sausage and cheese for further.
With that being said, you could even leave out all the filler and just make sausage and cheese meatballs.
How Do I Store and Serve Leftovers?
Leftovers can be refrigerated for up to 4 days, I say 4 days because that is the longest time it has taken us to devour them.
Just pop the sausage balls into the microwave for 15 to 30 seconds and they will be almost as fresh as the day you made them.
- Prep Time: 5 minutes
- Cook Time: 20 minutes
- Total Time: 25 minutes
- Yield: 72 Sausage Balls
- Category: Appetizer
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: American
- 2 pounds ground breakfast sausage, mild or hot, room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups baking mix
- 3 cups shredded cheddar cheese, mild, medium, or sharp
- If sausage is not room temperature, allow it to come to room temperature before beginning.
- Preheat oven to 375 Degrees F.
- Line a baking sheet with sides with parchment paper and set aside.
- Mix sausage and baking mix until all baking mix has been incorporated.
- Add cheese and mix well.
- Form into 1 inch balls.
- Place onto parchment lined baking sheet. The baking sheet needs sides to keep grease from spilling onto the oven floor.
- Place the baking sheet into 375 Degree F oven.
- Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until lightly browned.
- Remove from oven, allow to cool for a few minutes and serve.
- Serving Size: 2 Sausage Balls
- Calories: 134
- Sugar: 0.1 g
- Sodium: 248 mg
- Fat: 11.4 g
- Saturated Fat: 5.2 g
- Carbohydrates: 3.25 g
- Fiber: 0 g
- Protein: 7.3 g
- Cholesterol: 33 mg
Keywords: moist sausage balls, holiday appetizer idea
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