These marinated mozzarella balls are the perfect make-ahead appetizer or party snack! They are full of flavor from fresh garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, and herbs.
Note: this post was originally published in 2021, and updated in 2022 with improved instructions.
If you need a quick make-ahead appetizer or party snack, this flavorful recipe for marinated mozzarella balls is just what you need! You can let the mozzarella balls marinate up to one day ahead in the fridge, so you don't need to stress in the kitchen right before your guests arrive.
Even though the marinade for the mozzarella balls is simple to make, it's super flavorful, thanks to extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, and herbs.
And, the sun-dried tomatoes and herbs give this appetizer a pretty red and green look, perfect to add a festive touch to your holiday table. (These marinated mozzarella balls would go great alongside my recipe for ricotta mushroom crostini!)
- Fresh mozzarella balls: I chose ciliegine mozzarella (aka "cherry size") for this recipe because they are the perfect one-bite size. But, if you can't find ciliegine, you could use the slightly larger bocconcini. Here is a great primer on the different sizes available for fresh mozzarella balls!
- Sun-dried tomatoes: you need sun-dried tomatoes that are packed in oil, since they are softer and more pliable than dry sun-dried tomatoes.
- Extra-virgin olive oil: since the oil is a major component of the mozzarella ball marinade, I prefer to use extra-virgin olive oil, which has a much stronger flavor than regular olive oil. And because this is a major ingredient, use an extra-virgin olive oil that you really enjoy!
Step by step photos
Here is a step by step breakdown on how to marinate mozzarella. For the full instructions and ingredient amounts, please see the recipe card down below!
1. The first step is to prepare the produce. Finely chop the rosemary and sun-dried tomatoes. Chop the basil, and mince the garlic. Set these aside for now.
2. Next, add the extra-virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes (if using) to a large bowl. Whisk these together until well combined.
3. Now, add in the ingredients you prepared earlier - the herbs, garlic, and sun-dried tomatoes. Stir together to combine.
4. Now you are ready to add the mozzarella balls to the marinade. Drain them well first, then add them to the bowl. Gently mix everything together. Stir gently so as not to break up the soft mozzarella balls.
5. Once everything is mixed together, smooth out the balls so most of them are submerged in the liquid. Cover the bowl and place it in the fridge to marinate for at least one hour.
Tips and tricks
- When you are done making the marinated mozzarella balls, you can either leave them in the bowl, or transfer them to glass jars before placing them in the fridge. The benefit of glass jars is that more of the mozzarella balls will be fully submerged in the marinade.
- If you are going to keep them in the bowl, just distribute the balls evenly in the bowl so as many are submerged in the marinade as possible.
- And, if you think of it, you can give the mozzarella a gentle stir every once in a while while they are marinating in the fridge.
There are so many delicious ways to serve these marinated mozzarella balls! Here are a few serving ideas:
- You can serve the mozzarella balls as is, with toothpicks for serving. Or, you can pair them with crackers, small bread slices, or crostini.
- These flavorful mozzarella balls would make an excellent addition to an antipasto platter or salad.
- For an easy, one-bite appetizer, spear one mozzarella ball with a decorative toothpick, followed with a cube of salami or pepperoni. For even more flair, add a rolled fresh basil leaf in between the cheese and meat!
Variations and substitutions
If you don't have all the listed ingredients for the marinated mozzarella balls, or if you want to mix up the recipe a bit, try one of these ideas:
- Instead of red wine vinegar, try using white balsamic vinegar, champagne vinegar, or even a flavored vinegar that you enjoy. (You can also use regular balsamic vinegar, but it may give a slightly dark cast to the marinade.)
- If you don't like the sometimes intense bite you get from fresh garlic, leave the garlic out of the recipe. Or, you can use only half a clove.
- If you don't have access to the fresh herbs, you can experiment with using the dried versions. But, you will need to reduce the amounts; use only 1 ½ - 2 tablespoons of dried basil, and 2 teaspoons of dried rosemary.
- Rather than using fresh mozzarella balls, you can switch up the recipe by using cubes of low-moisture mozzarella, or even smoked mozzarella!
- For even more flavor, try adding in some olives or chopped roasted red pepper alongside the fresh mozzarella.
Make ahead and storage instructions
- As I mentioned in the intro, you can let the mozzarella balls marinate in the fridge up to one day ahead of time!
- I recommend only marinating the mozzarella balls for one day before serving. After that, the fresh herbs start to lose some of their bright green color.
- However, any leftovers will last in the fridge for an additional 2 - 3 days (after the one day marinating time). Just keep the marinated mozzarella tightly covered.
- I don't recommend freezing the marinated mozzarella balls. Freezing fresh mozzarella will spoil the soft, smooth texture.
I recommend marinating the mozzarella balls for at least one hour in the fridge. But, if you have time, they will taste even better if you let them stay in the fridge overnight! The garlic and herb flavor permeates the mozzarella much better with a longer marinade time.
If you marinate the mozzarella balls in the fridge for longer than 1 hour or so, the olive oil will harden from the cold. If this happens, just let the mozzarella balls sit at room temperature for 30 - 40 minutes before serving.
You can serve the mozzarella either at room temperature or slightly chilled. But, for the best flavor and texture, I don't recommend serving them straight from the fridge, unless you did a short marinade time of 1 hour or less. This is both because the oil will solidify when cold, and because the flavors will be more muted when cold.
I have found letting the mozzarella sit for 30 - 40 minutes at room temp before serving will provide the best serving temperature (slightly cool, but not overly cold!). And, this is also enough time for the oil in the marinade to re-liquefy.
To marinate mozzarella, the best type of fresh mozzarella to use (in my opinion) is ciliegine. This is because they are bite-sized, about the size of a cherry. (Ciliegine means "cherries" in Italian!) If you don't have ciliegine, you can also use bocconcini, which are slightly larger.
You could also try using the smaller "pearl" size if you like, which would be a good option if you are going to use these in a salad. Finally, you could also use a log of fresh mozzarella cut into slices, which would be great served alongside crostini or slices of bread!
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Marinated Mozzarella Balls
This easy recipe for marinated mozzarella balls makes the perfect appetizer for the holidays or any time of year! With herbs, olive oil, garlic, and sun-dried tomatoes.
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Inactive time: 1 hour
- Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
- Yield: 12 servings 1x
- Category: appetizer, snack
- Method: mix
- Cuisine: American
- 16 ounces (454 g) fresh mozzarella balls (ciliegine/"cherry size") (see note 1)
- ½ cup (32 g) chopped fresh basil
- 2 tablespoons (6 g) finely chopped fresh rosemary
- 2 ounces (57 g) drained sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, finely chopped (about ⅓ cup)
- 1 medium garlic clove, minced (see note 2)
- ¾ cup (177 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons (11 ml) red wine vinegar
- ¾ teaspoon (4 g) salt, or to taste (see note 3)
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper, or to taste
- red pepper flakes, to taste (optional)
- In a large bowl, add the extra-virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, kosher salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes (optional). Whisk together thoroughly to combine.
- Add the chopped fresh basil, finely chopped fresh rosemary, finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes, and minced garlic to the bowl. Stir to combine.
- Thoroughly drain the fresh mozzarella balls and add them to the bowl. Stir gently to combine the mozzarella balls with the marinade ingredients. Arrange the mozzarella balls so as many are covered with the marinade as possible. (Or, transfer the mozzarella and marinade into glass jars, which will help the marinade more fully cover the mozzarella balls.)
- Cover the bowl (or jars) and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight (see note 4).
Ciliegine are bite-sized fresh mozzarella balls (about the size of a cherry!). If you don't have ciliegine, you can also use bocconcini, which are slightly larger, or cut a log of fresh mozzarella into slices (a good option if serving with bread!).
If you don't enjoy the bold flavor of raw garlic, omit the garlic altogether or reduce it to only ½ clove.
You can make this recipe with any type of salt you have on hand. Use the ¾ teaspoon measurement if using fine grain salt or Morton kosher salt. To use Diamond Crystal kosher salt, increase the amount to 1 ¼ teaspoons. Or, go by the weight measurement (4 g).
The longer you allow the mozzarella balls to marinate, the more intense the flavor will be! Depending on how long the mozzarella balls have been in the fridge, the olive oil may solidify from the cold. If this occurs, let the mozzarella balls sit at room temperature for 30 -40 minutes before serving.
The nutrition information below is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator, and should not be considered a substitute for professional medical, health, or nutritional advice. See our full nutrition disclosure policy.
- Serving Size: 1/12 recipe
- Calories: 225
- Sugar: 0 g
- Sodium: 189 mg
- Fat: 22.5 g
- Saturated Fat: 7.2 g
- Carbohydrates: 1.3 g
- Fiber: 0.5 g
- Protein: 6.9 g
- Cholesterol: 27 mg
Keywords: marinated mozzarella balls, mozzarella balls marinated, marinate mozzarella