Healthy Thanksgiving Appetizers
Before the turkey hits the table, whet the appetites of your guests by serving one (or more, depending on your head count) of these festive nibbles. To encourage guests to mix and mingle, set up tasting stations around the party. One thing is for sure, these recipes will get them talking.
First up: Our polenta squares will have your Thanksgiving meal off to an impressive start. These are also tasty with chopped dried figs or cranberries in place of the currants.
Tricolored Beet Tart
Start your holiday meal with a simple yet gorgeous beet tart, topped off with tangy goat cheese, crunchy hazelnuts, and flaky sea salt. Par-bake the crust to get a lovely raised edge (what forms the shell of your tart) and ensure that the bottom will be cooked through. If you or your guests are not beet fans, substitute sweet potatoes: Wrap 4 (4-ounce) sweet potatoes in parchment paper, and microwave at HIGH 3 minutes. Then cool, peel, and slice. You can also sub feta for goat cheese and pecans or walnuts for hazelnuts.
Dressing-Stuffed Mini Peppers
We love these stuffed peppers as an appetizer, but you can also serve them as a side dish. Be sure to use baby bell peppers and not mini sweet peppers (shaped like jalapeños) so they're big enough to accommodate the filling. As an alternative to broiling, you can char the peppers directly over a gas flame, turning frequently with tongs.
Mini Cheese Balls
Save 108 calories, 7g sat fat, and 69mg sodium per serving over a traditional cheese ball. Almond milk cream cheese is delicately nutty, with a buttery-rich texture and zero grams of sat fat. Find it at Whole Foods stores nationwide. You can substitute 1⁄3-less-fat cream cheese, which adds 1.6g sat fat to each serving.
Unlike classic pesto, there's no oil in this filling. Once everything is minced in the food processor, though, it develops a paste-like consistency. Thaw the pastry in the fridge overnight, or leave out at room temperature for an hour or two.
Gram's Clam Dip
While you're putting the final touches on your dishes, your guests can snack on this dip. Precut crudités will hold up well if you'd like to prep them the day before. Wrap trimmed and cut veggies in a damp paper towel and refrigerate in a zip-top plastic bag for the crispiest texture.
Mini Crab Cakes with Pickled Celery
Save 104 calories, 12.6g fat, and 156mg sodium over traditional mini crab cakes. You can bake these cakes up to 2 hours ahead of party time and rewarm in a 300° oven for 5 to 6 minutes.
Chicken Phyllo Turnovers
This appetizer is based on bisteeya, a traditional Moroccan pastry that pairs savory, spiced meat and flaky phyllo with a dusting of cinnamon and powdered sugar. Make ahead: Freeze unbaked pastries for up to 1 month; bake frozen, unthawed pastries 5 additional minutes or until browned.
Spicy Soy Bar Nuts
The almonds and cashews roast at slightly different rates, so place each in a separate baking pan. After initially roasting, you can place them in the oven together with the peanuts for this recipe, but rotate the pan for even cooking.
Crispy Parmesan Chickpeas
Dry your chickpeas as thoroughly as possible before cooking to ensure a satisfyingly crisp result. If you're planning to pack these flavor-coated, fiber-filled poppers as a to-go-snack, be sure to allow them to cool completely on a flat surface first.
Save 167 calories, 3.6g sat fat, and 393mg sodium per serving over traditional spinach-artichoke dip. Frozen artichoke hearts contain no added salt, unlike the canned variety, which may contain more than 300mg per half cup.
We use the tart-shell method from the master recipe for a fuss-free version of the classic Greek spinach-and-cheese-pastry. A little pimiento, brightened with vinegar, adds pop; you could also sub chopped olives. Make sure to drain the spinach mixture well; extra liquid could make the crust soggy. Let the spinach drain while the crust bakes. Build and finish baking the tart shortly before guests arrive.
Brown Sugar-Spiced Nut Mix
Achieve a bronze-like patina on these candied nuts by keeping a close watch near the end of their roasting time. Too long and they'll overdarken and take on a bitter flavor.
Broiled Shrimp with Buttermilk Rémoulade
If preboiled shrimp and cocktail sauce is a standard starter at your holiday gathering, try these quick broiled shrimp with a spicy rémoulade dipping sauce—a homemade alternative that takes minutes, tastes much better, and is much lower in sodium. Like cocktail sauce, the rémoulade gets a pungent kick from prepared horseradish, though you could also try Creole mustard. We leave the tails on the shrimp for easy handling. Keep a small bowl next to the serving plate for discarded shrimp tails.
Corn Fritters with Jalapeño Jelly
Avoid overmixing the batter to keep fritters from becoming too heavy and dense. You can make them earlier in the day and quickly reheat; arrange fritters on a wire rack set over a baking sheet in a 425° oven until thoroughly heated and crisp.
Caramelized Leek and Spinach Dip
Beautifully caramelized leeks and onions cannot be rushed; resist the urge to crank up the heat. Leeks become especially silky and sweet when left to cook awhile. If they start to stick to the bottom of the pan, add a tablespoon or two of water, and stir (the liquid will evaporate during cooking). Instead of bread or crackers, serve the dip with an array of vegetables, such as baby carrots, endive leaves, radishes, diagonally sliced cucumber, and mini sweet bell peppers for a bit of freshness, color, and crunch. You'll also save calories and room for the rest of the meal.
We put a whole-grain spin on this appetizer. Freeze unbaked olivettes for a month; bake from frozen for an extra few minutes.
Roasted Oysters with Pancetta and Breadcrumbs
For easy prep, slice the lemon and make the bread mixture in the morning before things get hectic. Store in the refrigerator. Just before guests arrive, assemble the oysters then pop them in the oven. Be sure to set a timer. The oysters cook for only a short time and you won't want to forget these are baking away while you're greeting guests.
Phyllo Cups with Ricotta, Chèvre, and Thyme
Start making the phyllo stacks about 30 minutes after you put the cheese mixture in the refrigerator. Or make the cheese mixture a day ahead, and assemble before guests arrive.
Cauliflower "Caviar" with Frizzled Prosciutto
Before the turkey, lose the fork and knife for these healthy handheld bites. Smoky prosciutto and cauliflower fill bitter endive leaves in this flavorful, light appetizer.
Date, Walnut, and Blue Cheese Ball
Prepare this retro-chic snack up to two days ahead, and serve with crackers, bread, or veggies. Rolled in minced fresh flat-leaf parsley, this cheese ball is festive enough for the most discerning party guests.
Quick Liver Pâté
This pared-down pâté is based on liverwurst. Use Usinger's or Schaller & Weber brand liverwurst for best results.
Prepare polenta through step 2 up to two days ahead so you can focus on the turkey and fixings on the big day. Before serving, let the dish stand at room temperature one hour, cut polenta into triangles, and toast them right before guests arrive. Pork sausage gives them a wonderfully familiar, stuffing-like flavoring.
Vegetable Samosas with Mint Chutney
This dish uses leftover mashed potatoes to make a big batch of Indian-inspired snacks that are perfect for a pre-turkey nosh. Serve warm or at room temperature with the cilantro and mint chutney.
Citrus, Fennel, and Rosemary Olives
A mix of fruity and meaty olives works well in this treatment. Serve with pre-dinner cocktails.
Creamy Garlic-Herb Dip
You can prepare this all-purpose dip up to a day ahead, making this a quick fix for hungry holiday guests. Serve it with cauliflower and broccoli florets, carrot and celery sticks, and bell pepper strips.
Caramelized Onion, Gruyère, and Bacon Spread
Serve with crackers or bread slices. If you can't find Gruyère, substitute raclette, fontina, or Swiss cheese.
Cajun Hot Crab Dip
Spoon this dip into a baking dish up to a day ahead, but top with panko and chives just before baking. If it's chilled, leave the dish out at room temperature while the oven preheats. Scoop into multiple bowls that you can set at different tasting stations.
Low and slow is the key to drawing out all of the moisture without burning the chickpeas or seasoning. As they cook, the spices mingle and mellow for a rounded flavor. You're Thanksgiving guest will love these light nibbles.
Pear Chutney Bruschetta with Pecans and Blue Cheese
Sweet-tangy chutney pairs beautifully with pungent blue cheese and toasty pecans. You can make the chutney up to three days in advance; assemble bruschetta shortly before serving.
Warm Cranberry-Walnut Brie
This luscious Thanksgiving appetizer features seasonal flavors of cranberry, walnuts, and thyme. Serve with crackers for a warm and melty start to the meal.
Apple-Blue Cheese Chutney
Prepare and refrigerate the chutney up to three days ahead; bring to room temperature before serving. For a prettier presentation, top crostini with chutney, and sprinkle the cheese on top instead of stirring it into the chutney.
Bring the best of fall's flavors to your Thanksgiving appetizer spread with this super-easy pumpkin dip, perfect for enjoying with fresh apple slices.
Orange Chipotle-Spiced Pecan Mix
Prepare a batch of this smoky-sweet mix to have on hand when guests arrive. It's the perfect snack to hold guests over while you put the finishing touches on the meal.