Ham and Cheese Pinwheels
While I’d be flattered if you assumed that my go-to appetizer is a beautifully styled combination of bespoke produce, a homemade fancy sauce, and some kind of European cured meat, let me tell you a little secret: it’s actually these four-ingredient Ham and Cheese Pinwheels.
Yes, that is correct. This full-time food blogger’s #1 party appetizer is a combination of deli meat, cheese, mustard, and puff pastry that I buy in the freezer section of the grocery store.
Wait! Don’t go!
As borderline embarrassingly simple as this Ham and Cheese Pinwheel appetizer recipe is to make, the reason I keep coming back to it again and again (and again and again) is the way my friends react every time I pull a pan of these roll ups out of the oven.
People go CRAZY!
Maybe it’s the melty, gooey cheddar cheese.
Maybe it’s the way the outside edges of the ham crisp just so.
Maybe it’s the zip of the Dijon mustard.
Or maybe, just maybe, it’s that mindbogglingly buttery yet light and flaky puff pastry that enriches every bite.
Puff Pastry Ham and Cheese Pinwheels—A Classic Make-Ahead Appetizer, All Grown Up
I like to think of these Ham and Cheese Pinwheels as the elevated version of the ham and cream cheese tortilla roll ups (and their cousin, ham and cheese pinwheels crescent rolls) that were paramount fixtures at our family reunions growing up. Pinwheels are easy, everyone loves them, and you can make them in advance. What’s not to adore?
Making the Ham and Cheese Pinwheels with puff pastry, however, elevates the more classic tortilla and crescent rolls appetizers to a new level. I’d be as comfortable serving these Ham and Cheese puff pastry appetizers for a game day party as I would a holiday brunch or dinner.
If you’ve never had puff pastry, it’s a marvelous dough that you can purchase as sheets in the freezer section of just about any grocery store (my favorite brand is Pepperidge Farm<—not sponsored, I just really do like theirs the best).
Its flavor and texture is a bit like a croissant, crescent roll, and pie crust all got together to create a golden, glorious pastry baby. While you can make puff pastry dough from scratch, I’ve honestly never felt the need.
Unlike my favorite homemade whole wheat pie crust (which is a little tricky but completely doable and worth it), homemade puff pastry dough is…intense. Too intense for me. I’m happy to take the shortcut and stick with the frozen kind, which is good quality anyway.
Frozen puff pastry is my most faithful entertaining BFF. It lends itself perfectly to make-ahead and freezer-friendly recipes, which can be a lifesaver if you are hosting a holiday gathering, whether it’s Christmas dinner or Easter brunch.
Further, it’s universally adored. Buttery, flaky dough? SIGN ME UP.
Puff pastry is also ultra versatile, because you can easily cut it into different shapes and vary the fillings. Not a fan of ham? Make turkey and cheese pinwheels instead. Looking for something even more tiny and bite size? Try Cranberry Baked Brie Puff Pastry Bites or Cheesy Mushroom Puff Pastry Bites. Want to make a simple, perfect spring tart? Try this Easy Asparagus Tart with Puff Pastry).
To make the Ham and Cheese Pinwheels, smear the puff pastry with a light layer of Dijon mustard, top with good-quality ham and any rich, melty cheese you love (cheddar, gruyere, Swiss, or fontina would all be fabulous), then roll, slice, and bake. That’s it!
In the oven, these four little ingredients transform into appetizer magic. The puff pastry becomes golden and flaky, the ham savory and crispy, and the cheese bubbly and ooey-gooey. The mustard provides zip and is the little somethin’ somethin’ that will keep you reaching back to the plate.
These Ham and Cheese Pinwheels can be baked ahead and frozen up to a month in advance and taste great both warm and at room temperature, so they’re ideal for entertaining. Whether you nibble them in your finest cocktail attire or shovel them fist-over-fist in your lucky jersey (or the reverse), you won’t believe how wonderful four little ingredients can taste.
Ham and Cheese Pinwheels
- 2 sheets frozen puff pastry — thawed overnight in the refrigerator
- 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard — divided
- 12 slices thinly-sliced, good-quality deli ham — about 10 ounces
- 2 cups freshly grated gruyere — Swiss, fontina, sharp cheddar, or similar melty cheese (about 5 ounces)
- Chopped fresh parsley — thyme, or chives (optional, for serving)
Lay a large piece of plastic wrap on your counter (I pressed two long sheets together at the edges to create a single larger sheet). Unfold the first sheet of puff pastry in the center of the plastic, then roll it into a 10x12-inch rectangle. Spread with 1 1/2 tablespoons mustard, leaving a 1/2-inch border on all sides. Lay 6 ham slices on top, overlapping as needed. Sprinkle with 1 cup cheese.
Starting at the long (12-inch) edge, roll the puff pastry into a log. Trim the ends so that they are even, then tightly wrap the log with the plastic wrap. Place in the refrigerator for 20 minutes. Repeat with the second sheet of puff pastry and remaining mustard, ham, and cheese. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
Once the log has chilled, using a sharp, serrated knife, carefully cut each log into 1/2-inch-wide slices. (If each log is 12 inches, you will get 24 rolls from each one). Arrange the rolls 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake until the puff pastry is light golden brown and the cheese is hot and bubbly, about 18 minutes. Immediately sprinkle with chopped thyme, parsley, or chives as desired. Let cool slightly. Serve warm or at room temperature.
- To make this recipe ahead: Fully bake the pinwheels, then let cool. Arrange in a flat layer on the baking sheet and freeze completely. Transfer to an airtight container and store for up to 1 month. Reheat on a parchment-lined baking sheet at 375 degrees F until warmed through. You could also try freezing the pinwheels unbaked, but be careful of the grated cheese coming loose. Baking the pinwheels first, then freezing, is the easiest route.
Nutrition InformationAmount per serving (1 pinwheel) — Calories: 60, Fat: 5g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 3mg, Sodium: 65mg, Carbohydrates: 6g, Protein: 5g
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