Our Best Healthy Appetizers for the Christmas Season
Our Best Healthy Appetizers for the Christmas Season
Saucy Mini Meatballs
Adding cinnamon gives these meatballs a slight Moroccan feel. You can make this a day ahead and reheat on the stovetop before the party. Using different types of beef adds moisture to the meatballs while keeping sat fat in check.
Miso Deviled Eggs
This fun twist on deviled eggs is a nice change-of-pace dish for your next picnic or cookout. With just a hint of tang and spice, they’ll appeal to all, including folks who aren’t particularly adventurous eaters. Try to use older eggs—they will peel more easily. Look for shichimi togarashi in the same place you buy miso.
Tomato, Hazelnut and Bell Pepper Romesco Dip
Romesco is a Catalonian sauce made from tomatoes and nuts—and it makes a delicious pre-meal appetizer or snack with veggies! It pairs beautifully with harissa-spiked hummus. Make this romesco as smooth or chunky as you like—and up to three days ahead. Use leftovers as a sandwich spread or sauce to top meat or pasta. Sunchokes are sometimes labeled as Jerusalem artichokes. If you can’t find them, sub fingerling potatoes.
Lobster Roll Bruschetta
Though we love the sweet flavor of lobster in this appetizer, you can easily substitute 1/2 pound of shrimp with delicious results.
Goat Cheese Queso Dip with Vegetable Chips
This warm, tangy twist on fundido is perfect with sparkling wine; the bubbles help cut through the richness. We pair with veggie chips, but you can also serve with crudités for a fresher take. The dip is very easy to put together. One note on mixing: Blend the beans until they are completely smooth and puréed for the silkiest, creamiest results. You can’t overblend it, but if you stop too soon, the dip might have a few lumps. The great thing about this dip is that it can be made ahead and rewarmed when you’re ready to serve it. To reheat, stir gently over low heat until hot. For an herby version, add a generous 1⁄4 cup of a mix of chopped herbs, such as parsley, chives, and a little basil.
If you’re worried that this crunchy snack will taste like fish, rest your fears. The anchovy paste simply lends rich umami depth and a good salty kick. We use a fair amount of fresh thyme here, too, for even more savory notes; it adds a woodsy, earthy flavor that other herbs just don’t quite have. If you would rather start with prepopped corn, opt for one with little or no seasoning, and use 8 cups.
Creamy Artichoke Dip
This is a creamy, rich, yet healthier riff on the classic—and is great for entertaining. We process half of the artichokes to sneak more veggies into the dip, plus a little tofu to help cut back on cheese and boost protein. Using frozen artichokes instead of canned helps keep sodium in check. Serve each ramekin with different sides—we like a medley of vegetables, crackers, or bread. Or keep it super simple and bake in one larger baking dish.
Peanut, Shrimp, and Broccoli Rolls
Hasseltots with Crème Fraîche and Caviar
This two-bite, no-fork-required appetizer is perfect for parties where guests will be juggling drinks and nibbles. Choose a sustainable, budget-friendly roe. Depending on what kind you choose, it can be affordable or break the bank. Make note of the origin to be sure you aren't buying caviar or roe from endangered fishing areas or species. We suggest Classic American White Sturgeon Caviar ($85/oz.), Paddlefish Caviar ($44/oz.), Salmon Roe ($8/oz.), and Masago ($5/oz.). Store opened caviar on ice, and use within one to two days. In a pinch, sour cream can stand in for the crème fraîche.
Sesame-Soy Nut and Pretzel Mix
If any one dish is devoured quickly and constantly (usually by the fistful) throughout the holiday, it’s snack mix. Consisting of salty nuts, pretzels, and cereal doused with a Worcestershire and butter, this innocent munchie racks up sodium and calories quickly. Our healthier version gives you all the salt, crunch, and bold spices of the original with the addition of whole-grain popcorn, toasty whole-wheat cereal, and spicy wasabi peas. The peas inspired an Asian track with toasty sesame oil and reduced-sodium soy sauce, cashews, and pungent ground ginger.
Cheesy Crab Artichoke Toasts
Save time the day of the party by preparing the crab mixture one day ahead. Cut and store the sliced bread in an airtight container until ready to assemble, and then broil as the recipe instructs shortly before party time.
Chickpea Salad Boats
This recipe captures all of the bright, fresh appeal of a salad in a pretty, portable bite. Sturdy endive leaves have a nice cup shape for filling; you also could use Little Gem or small Bibb lettuce leaves. To get a head start, make the filling (minus the pears) up to a day in advance. About an hour before guests arrive, gently stir in the pear and fill the leaves.
Creamy Salmon Dip
Classic salmon dip boasts one of our favorite sources of Omega-3 fats—but globs of mayo don’t make this easy appetizer the healthiest option. Our mayo-free version is just as satisfying and indulgent, thanks to Greek yogurt and Neufchâtel cream cheese, which contains 1/3 less fat than regular cream cheese.
Air Fryer Buffalo Mushroom Poppers
A genius combination of jalapeño poppers and stuffed mushrooms, this appetizer lovechild gets a healthy makeover thanks to your air fryer. With loads less fat than their traditionally deep-fried parents, these mashup snacks get another kick of bold flavor from a quick stir-together blue cheese sauce.
Broiled Shrimp with Buttermilk Rémoulade
Quick broiled shrimp paired with spicy remoulade dipping sauce is sure to rally a crowd at the appetizer table. This holiday staple is naturally low in sugar and rich in lean protein.
Beet Hummus with Blue Cheese and Walnuts
We love creating innovative hummus recipes, and Beet Hummus with Blue Cheese and Walnuts is no exception. This beautiful, crimson-colored dip is made with chickpeas, tahini, beets and garlic.
Foolproof Cheese Fondue
Fondue is forever tied to the kitschy themed parties of the 1960s and "70s, but the dish is worth reviving: It's a casual, fun way to entertain. Nutritionally, fondue is a great way to stretch the calorie and saturated fat content of rich cheeses over several servings without losing any melty goodness. We add evaporated milk to make the base even creamier with fewer calories and less saturated fat. Guests will keep coming back for more. Any Gruyère works wonderfully here, but the aged kind has a bigger, nuttier flavor. While a double boiler is used in many recipes, you'll need a heavy saucepan and direct heat here to activate the cornstarch and thicken the fondue. Serve with tart, crisp apples and crusty whole-grain bread.
Glazed Cocktail Meatballs
These mini meatballs are perfect for holiday parties and tailgating. We made them healthier by forgoing sodium-heavy ingredients like the usual ketchup and chili sauce and including whole-grain bulgur in place of breadcrumbs. You can also serve a larger portion of these meatballs for weeknight dinner. To up the kid-friendly factor, omit the ground red pepper in the glaze and serve with mashed potatoes (à la Swedish meatballs). For a tangier glaze, substitute cranberry sauce for the grape jelly.
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.
Warm Baked Feta With Marinara Sauce
Bacon-Goat Cheese Jalapeño Poppers
Salty bacon, rich goat cheese, savory-sweet jelly, and roasted jalapeño—it takes teamwork to make the dream work. If you already have the grill going, these dreamy little bites are equally easy to cook outdoors.
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.
Smoked Salmon Bites
If you're looking for an appetizer that will delight your guests with its gorgeous presentation and rich, delicious taste, the search stops here. These beautiful canapés start with a base of candy cane (or Chioggia) beet squares, whose alternating ruby and white rings are stunning. (You can add more color to the platter by alternating candy cane beet and golden beet slices.) The beet stays raw, so the slices are crunchy and sweet and hold up nicely. The jewel-like topping of easy-to-find salmon caviar turns what's truly a simple make-ahead nibble into an absolute work of art that'll make you the talk of your social circle.
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.
Mac and Cheese Bites
Feed a hungry crowd these all-star, feel-good favorites at your next party. Nothing is as comforting as melty, creamy, cheesy, comforting macaroni and cheese. Be still our hearts.
Caramelized Onion and Olive Pizza with Goat Cheese
Sweet caramelized onions form a creamy pizza “sauce.” Intense spices make chicken kicken’. Peppery arugula dressed with lemon vinaigrette complements this rich pizza. Toss 4 cups arugula, 1 cup rinsed and drained unsalted canned chickpeas, and 1 shaved carrot with 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, 1½ tablespoons lemon juice, and 1/8 teaspoon each of salt and pepper.
Date, Walnut, and Blue Cheese Ball
The sweet-savory combo of dates, walnuts, and blue cheese, topped with the earthiness of fresh flat-leaf parsley, brings your regular cheese ball up a notch. 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 of holiday crowds and with 5.3g of carbs, 229mg of sodium, and 4.8g fat, it's just right for diabetic diets.
Endive Stuffed with Goat Cheese and Walnuts
Delicate, bitter-flavored endive is dressed up with a single orange section, toasted walnuts, goat cheese (or blue if you prefer), and a drizzle of orange, honey, and balsamic-infused syrup. Perfect for a holiday fete, each bite of this balanced recipe packs a burst of tangy, salty, and sweet flavors.
Apricot-Blue Cheese Angels
Bake and freeze these bites up to a week in advance. Try a trio of flavors like a fig jam and goat cheese filling, or finely chopped apples tossed with honey and cinnamon.
Roasted Baby Beets with Creamy Goat Cheese Dip
If using multiple colors of beets, roast the red ones separately to keep their color from bleeding into the others.
Spinach, Herb, and Cheese Phyllo Rolls
This kind of dish is traditional street food in Greece. The key is to think of it like a sandwich, an Eastern Mediterranean sandwich: There is an ideal balance between the crust and the filling. Freeze leftover rolls up to 6 months. To reheat, cover loosely with foil and bake at 375° for 15 minutes. Uncover and bake 10 minutes, turning after 5 minutes.
Endive Boats with Pears, Blue Cheese, and Walnuts
Let the ripeness of your pears determine how long you cook them. Soft, juicy fruit will only need to cook a minute or two; underripe fruit will need to go longer.
Pear, Blue Cheese, and Bacon Focaccia-Style Pizza
If you don't own a pizza pan, you can find inexpensive, disposable rimmed pizza pans at the supermarket. For a quick side, combine 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, and 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard in a bowl. Add 1/2 cup halved grape tomatoes, 5 cups mixed greens, 1/2 cup toasted walnuts, and 1/4 cup chopped pitted dates; toss to coat.
Butternut Squash Pizza with White Sauce, Spinach, and Goat Cheese
Try swapping out the goat cheese for feta or Gorgonzola to switch up the flavor profile.
Phyllo-Wrapped Asparagus with Prosciutto
Wrap asparagus in flaky phyllo instead of buttery puff pastry.
OURS 59 calories, 0.3g sat fat
CLASSIC 261 calories, 5.5g sat fat
SAVES 202 calories, 5.2g sat fat
Gingery Shrimp Salad Bites
Pick up inexpensive Chinese soup spoons at Asian markets, or serve on rice crackers or in hollowed-out pieces of cucumber. The chives, an optional sixth ingredient, perk up the look but aren’t crucial to the flavor.
Honey-Ginger Chicken Bites
Ditch the greasy fried chicken fingers in favor of these sweet glazed chicken bites. They're the perfect size for popping into your mouth or serving on skewers. This dish is prepared with boneless, skinless chicken thighs but feel free to use chicken breasts if you have them on hand.
Corn Bread Bites
This recipe also makes a dozen muffins in a standard muffin tin; bake 17 minutes or until golden brown. You also can double the recipe and freeze the extra muffins for up to one month. If you do this, prepare the muffins in two batches so the baking powder doesn't lose its effectiveness while the extra batter waits for the first batch to be turned out of the pans.
Meatballs in Brussels Sprout Cups
Friends will love the ingenuity of these appetizers—little meatballs cradled in Brussels sprout cups—cleverly seasonal.
Spicy Soy Bar Nuts
To achieve maximum nuttiness, you have to toast nuts. This coaxes out flavorful, aromatic oils for a deep, rich taste and pulls out some of the nut's moisture for satisfying crunch with each bite. Our go-to-method for toasting nuts is a slow oven roast at a relatively low temperature (300°F) in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet, stirring occasionally until lightly browned and crisp. That allows hot air to circulate around each nut to gently cook it. Don't blast them in a hot 400°F oven for a few minutes until they've darkened—not a good thing for a nut—because that high heat can bring out bitter flavors. Only using a handful? You can also roast nuts in a pan on the stovetop over medium-low heat or on a plate in the microwave for a minute or so at HIGH.
These are not your abuela’s nachos. OK—it’s likely no nachos are from your Mexican grandmother because this popular dish has its roots in Tex-Mex cuisine. The first nachos were reportedly created by a maître d’ in Texas named Ignacio whose nickname was “Nacho.” But don’t focus on who lays claim to having invented them; instead revel in our iteration laden with lobster; avocado; a rich yet amazingly low-fat cheese sauce; and a heap of crunchy, piquant tomato-radish salad on top that takes this dish to a completely new level. You can substitute cooked crabmeat for the lobster, if you are looking for a more budget-friendly choice.
Buffalo-Brisket Sliders with Special Sauce
This is the burger everyone will be talking about and wanting the recipe for. It’s OK, you can demure and tell them it’s your secret recipe—we won’t tell. The mayo-based “special sauce” gets heat and sweetness from red pepper jelly; a briny edge from dill pickle relish; and a little lemon, onion, and garlic to balance it all out. Buffalo (also called bison) has a sweet and rich flavor and is a low-fat, nutrient-dense food. We mix in rich and flavorful brisket to maximize this burger’s taste and juiciness. Pressing each patty once it hits the hot pan helps develop a good sear that will lock in the burger juices.