100+ Healthy Appetizers for Any Occasion
100+ Healthy Appetizers for Any Occasion
Pesto Yogurt Dip
Our tangy Greek yogurt dip is the perfect light appetizer before a heavy meal. Pair with an assortment of fresh sliced vegetables such as carrots, radishes, cucumbers, little gem lettuce leaves, and mini bell peppers.
Cheesy Turkey Meatballs
Meatballs are always a hit at any party, and this easy recipe is sure to impress. Serve these cheesy meatballs straight from the skillet so guests can easily scoop up the fresh tomato sauce. If you don’t have a skillet with a lid, make sure your nonstick skillet is OK to use in the oven—a cast-iron skillet is a safe bet.
Grilled Stuffed Jalapeños
The rich and creamy combination of bacon, cream cheese, and cheddar is a nice foil for the muted spice of grilled jalapeño peppers. This recipe is a healthy, fresh alternative to the popular breaded and fried version. If making these poppers for a party, you can stuff the peppers, cover, and chill. Then grill just before your guests arrive.
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.
Broiled Shrimp with Buttermilk Rémoulade
Try these quick broiled shrimp with a spicy remoulade dipping sauce—a homemade alternative that takes minutes, is much more delicious, and much lower in sodium. Like cocktail sauce, the remoulade gets a pungent kick from prepared horseradish. For a different type of heat, omit the horseradish and try Creole mustard, a stone-ground mustard with a little extra vinegar punch.
French Onion Dip With Sweet Potato Chips
With big flavor and less heft, our healthier ode to the classic French onion dip is a delicious way to sneak in extra vegetables. Ditch the sodium-bomb seasoning packets and sour cream-and-mayonnaise–laden dip (which can pack a small meal’s worth of calories and sat fat into a single serving) for our homemade dip. And be patient with the caramelizing process—slowly sizzled onions have noteworthy sweetness and concentrated umami. And because no dip is complete without a dipper, baked sweet potatoes will satisfy your chip craving for half the calories of most bagged varieties.
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.
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 even the most discerning party guests.
Cauliflower "Caviar" with Frizzled Prosciutto
Lose the knife and fork for these delightful 6-ingredient bites. The smoky prosciutto and cauliflower filling stands up to the slightly bitter endive “boats” for a light, balanced appetizer. The brilliance of these bites is how easy they are to make and how elegant they look—“caviar” is a more than fitting description for the caramelized pearls of cauliflower florets. For a vegetarian appetizer, swap the prosciutto for chopped sautéed shiitake mushrooms, and sprinkle toasted pine nuts over each filled endive leaf. If you can't find small endive heads, cut the leaves from larger endive heads in half lengthwise before filling.
Roasted Oysters with Pancetta and Breadcrumbs
For easy prep, slice the lemon and make the bread mixture ahead of time. 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.
Double-Serrano Watermelon Bites
These bites are a step up from classic prosciutto-wrapped melon and provide sweet, spicy, salty, tart, and meaty tastes. If you can’t find serrano ham, use prosciutto; you also can use balsamic glaze in place of pomegranate molasses.
Maple-Sesame Cauliflower Bites
Chickpea flour is gluten-free, protein packed, and makes an incredibly light batter for baked cauliflower. Look for it near the other gluten-free flours at your local health food store. Tamari is a slightly thicker, wheat-free alternative to soy sauce with a more robust flavor. These bites can double as an appetizer or side dish served with grilled fish or baked chicken.
Polenta Squares with Gorgonzola and Pine Nuts
Instead of crostini, try gluten-free polenta squares as the base for a variety of toppings. Creamy polenta becomes perfectly firm once chilled; it will hold its shape when sliced and seared. The result is a golden brown crust outside and a creamy, not rubbery, texture inside. We top ours with a funky Gorgonzola cheese, balsamic reduction, faintly sweet dried currants, and pine nuts. You could substitute chopped dried figs or cranberries for the currants, or come up with your own flavor combo. Try diced marinated tomato and basil, sautéed mushrooms and garlic, or more substantial shredded pork shoulder.
Love the flavor of potato gratin? How about a handheld mini version brought to you by delicious, flaky puff pastry? Either baby Dutch or fingerling potatoes work well here.
Pork sausage gives these toasted polenta squares a wonderfully familiar, stuffing-like flavoring for an appetizer that feels more substantial than cheese and crackers. Look for instant or quick-cooking polenta for this recipe—the fine grains will cook in just 3 minutes and have a smoother texture when cooled and sliced. Before serving, let the dish stand at room temperature for one hour, cut polenta into triangles, and toast them right before guests arrive.
Caramelized Onion Tartlets
Frozen puff pastry is a convenience product we love. The flaky, buttery dough is rather labor-intensive on its own; frozen sheets just need to be thawed, cut, and filled. We keep the toppings simple yet delicious: slowly caramelized onions, a splash of mild, fruity white balsamic vinegar, and a sharp Asiago cheese. Think of these 5-ingredient bites as the party version of French onion soup—special yet comforting. Assemble the tarts a day or two ahead and freeze on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet (the cheese will protect the pastry from the wet onion mixture).
Quick Liver Paté
This luxuriously silky spread is the perfect holiday appetizer, elegant yet so easy to make. Tart dried cherries, plumped in hot water, cut through the richness of the liver and bacon. You can substitute unsalted chicken stock for the cognac, if you like. If you can't find liverwurst or prefer not to use it, you can substitute chicken livers: After removing the bacon, add 8 ounces trimmed chicken livers to drippings in pan and cook 2 minutes on each side. Remove livers to a plate and reserve 1 tablespoon drippings in pan before continuing with step 3.
Tunisian Brik-Style Eggs
This dish hails from Tunisia, a North African country that borders the Mediterranean. Tender chunks of potato and a perfectly cooked egg are tucked inside crisp, flaky phyllo dough pastry with tangy feta and an easy, irresistible harissa sauce. These individual packets would be a brilliant appetizer or first course for a Moroccan or Middle Eastern–style dinner, perhaps served with hummus, tabbouleh salad, and roasted fish or lamb.
Caramelized Onion, Gruyère, and Bacon Spread
Serve with crackers or bread slices. If you can't find Gruyère, substitute raclette, fontina, or Swiss cheese.
Pear Chutney Bruschetta with Pecans and Blue Cheese
This quick and easy homemade chutney will have your house smelling warm and inviting in minutes; the combination of fresh pear and cinnamon is the perfect "pair" for toasty bruschetta. You'll find pear nectar in the fruit juice section of the supermarket, but you can also substitute white grape juice or apple juice instead. You can make the chutney up to three days in advance; assemble bruschetta shortly before serving.
Low and slow is the key to drawing out all of the moisture without burning the chickpeas or seasoning. It may seem tedious, but removing the skins before roasting is essential to obtain the deepest level of crunch on this tasty snack, which is a much healthier alternative to deep-fried chickpeas. As they cook, the spices mingle and mellow for a rounded flavor. You'll surprise and delight the crowd with how satisfyingly crunchy these light nibbles are. Use leftovers for salads, snack mixes, or to top casseroles, soups, and stews.
Cajun Hot Crab Dip
Most crab dips take a tiny portion of crabmeat and hide it under loads of mayo, cheese, and salty seasonings. Instead, we embrace this key ingredient and make it the star of this ultra-rich and creamy party dip. To create a lighter but still flavor-packed base, we blend part of the juicy, fresh crabmeat with a hefty dash of hot pepper sauce until it becomes creamy and smooth. The rest of the crab gets gently folded into a mixture of canola mayonnaise and light cream cheese. Crispy panko adds a pleasant crunchy topper. You can make this dip a day in advance: Simply refrigerate until ready to serve and top with panko and chives just before baking.
Baked Feta with Romesco and Olive Tapenade
Romesco is a bright, tangy sauce made from roasted red peppers and nuts, made thicker and creamier with bread. Traditional recipes call for almonds, but we love this version here, made from toasted hazelnuts. The hazelnuts grind into an almost velvety texture that offers a wonderful contrast to the chunky tapenade. Crumbled feta melts into tender pockets of cheesy goodness throughout. It's a perfectly layered balance of salty, tangy, creamy, and sweet. The romesco sauce and tapenade mixture can be made up to three days in advance and stored separately in the refrigerator in airtight containers.
Air-Fried Buffalo Cauliflower Bites
This spicy air-fried cauliflower bites recipe checks all the boxes, whether you're having vegetarian friends over to watch the game or you just enjoy recipe mashups starring your favorite flavors. A smidgen of blue cheese adds a lot of flavor to the quick stir-together sauce. (If you’re not a fan of pungent blue cheese, try milder gorgonzola, or even feta.) To make this no-fuss recipe even easier, pick up a package of pre-cut cauliflower florets.
Peanut Butter and Chocolate Dipped Pretzels
Salty-sweet honey wheat pretzels make a perfectly portioned portable vessel for everyone's favorite dessert duo: peanut butter and chocolate. The beauty of these 3-ingredient treats is the versatility: You can arrange them on a party platter, pack them in lunches, stash them in a desk drawer, or gift them to a friend who simply needs a smile. Mix it up with different nut butters, too, or roll in chopped roasted peanuts for a prettier, party-worthy presentation.
Sweet and Spicy Pumpkinseeds
Hulled pumpkin seeds (also called pepitas) are packed with protein, iron, heart healthy fats, and fiber. This spiced up version makes a delicious snack that delivers a slight sweetness with a subtle kick thanks to the chipotle chili powder and red pepper. For even more kick, add an extra 1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper. Not just for snacks, these toasty seeds are delicious over yogurt, tossed into salads, sprinkled over whole grains (bonus crunch!), or stirred into your favorite homemade granola mix. Make a double batch and store in an airtight container for 3 to 5 days; these seeds are so good you'll never want to run out!
Quick Pickled Dilly Green Beans
A fresh alternative to pickled cukes, these pickled green beans make a zesty snack, garnish for a Bloody Mary, or condiment in a sandwich or salad. They're easy to prepare and will keep up to a week in the refrigerator. It's the perfect answer for a bounty of garden-fresh summer green beans. Pickling spice, available in the supermarket's spice section, is typically a blend of bold, warm-flavored spices like mustard seed, coriander, allspice, cloves, and peppers.
Black Bean Hummus
Who says hummus has to be made from chickpeas? This version is made from the deep, dark, sultry black bean—the perfect base for a Southwestern spin on modern hummus. Zesty lime, toasty cumin, and bright-hot jalapeño are the perfect partners for this creamy, comforting dip. Its dramatically deep color is gorgeous with a display of brightly colored bell peppers, carrots, celery, and fresh cilantro. A touch of tahini not only adds nutty goodness but gives a nod to traditional hummus. Reviewers of this five-star recipe say not only is this recipe full of flavor but that it's also a nice change from the usual. KarenWilliams says it makes "a great spread for sandwiches." We couldn't agree more!
Thai Cashew Brittle
Nutty brittle with a hit of spice? Oh yes! This addictively delicious Thai take on the classic nut brittle is beyond brilliant. It's got a hint of sambal oelek, a chile paste made of pounded fresh red cayenne chiles flavored with salt, a little sugar, and vinegar, creating a harmonious balance for this traditionally very sweet treat. Fresh ginger and lemongrass add a pop of brightness that'll keep you coming back for more. If you can't find fresh lemongrass, use a pinch of lemon zest instead. If you only have unsalted cashews on hand, we recommend adding a dash of kosher salt to help round out the spicy-sweet flavors of this satisfyingly crunchy snack.
Cheesy Pigs in a Blanket
The original version of this recipe calls for canned crescent rolls, which are full of preservatives, artificials, trans fats, and sodium. Instead we use refrigerated pizza dough—a much cleaner ingredient that can also be found in a whole-grain version at most supermarkets. We swap cocktail weiners for lower-calorie turkey dogs that we cut in half - try organic, uncured wieners, which tend to have less sodium, like those from Applegate Farms. Our entree-worthy piggies are slightly larger than the classic cocktail size, but you can cut the dogs into thirds for a party-sized portion. Serve on a pretty platter for a dash of elegance.
Tomato-Baby Bell Pepper Tartlets
Puff pastry makes a fantastic base for party appetizers—it's like putting a festive topping on a rich, flaky, buttery mini-croissant. Homemade puff pastry is a labor of love: It requires many multiple layers of dough spread with butter, folded in on themselves, rolled, and spread again, which makes the dough rise and separate into papery layers so elegantly. Fortunately, store-bought puff pastry is readily available in your supermarket's frozen foods section. We use bell peppers and grape tomatoes here, giving the app a summery vibe. For the prettiest appearance, use red, yellow, and orange bell peppers. If you can't find baby bell peppers, use julienne strips of regular bell pepper.
This buttery, savory sauté can be spooned on toasted baguette slices as an appetizer, or spread over a larger piece of toast for lunch. It also goes great over pasta as a full-on dinner.
Clams Casino with Pancetta
Clams casino is a classic New England dish. The breaded and broiled bacon-flecked clams originated in Rhode Island. We use pancetta in this recipe, but bacon would work just fine as well. You can also substitute panko breadcrumbs for white bread for a crisper texture. For easier shucking, steam clams over simmering water for two minutes or just until their shells barely open. Run a knife or small screwdriver around a shell's edge, and pop it open. If you partially steam the clams, reduce the broiling time by a minute or two. The clams may be unsteady on the jelly-roll pan, so you can line the pan with a bed of rock salt for more stability.
Crab and Celery Root Rémoulade
Here's an appetizer that will not weigh down you or your meal. A melt-in-your-mouth mixture of crab and other fresh ingredients is tucked into a crispy leaf of Boston lettuce to make this little explosion of flavor. Rémoulade is a classic mayonnaise-based sauce traditionally served with seafood. It's like tartar sauce, but more complexly flavored. We love how the licorice notes of tarragon pair with shellfish like crab and lobster, but you can use parsley, lemon thyme, or basil if you prefer. Lump crabmeat costs a little more than fin meat or other cheaper kinds of packaged crab, but it boasts big chunks and sweet mild flavor.
Mini Corn Bread Crab Cakes with Lemon-Caper Sauce
Bake the cornbread up to three days in advance, and keep in a ziplock plastic bag. Combine the sauce ingredients and assemble the crab cakes the night before; refrigerate separately. Any leftover crab cakes are terrific with a green salad. Be gentle as you pick through the crab to discard any bits of shell: Crab cakes are all the better and more flavorful with big chunks of crab rather than tiny shreds.
Sun-Dried Tomato Palmiers
You've seen these kinds of palmiers at many parties, no doubt, and for good reason: They're retro-chic, simple crowd pleasers, so they make a great go-to appetizer. You can either thaw the puff pastry in the fridge overnight or leave it out at room temperature for one to two hours until it's pliable. If you're not a fan of sun-dried tomatoes, you can use any number of spreads as filling, such as olive tapenade or pesto. Fresh basil or oregano would be good alternatives to thyme in this dish, if you prefer.
Oysters with Pink Peppercorn Mignonette
Raw oysters are delicious enough with just a squeeze of lemon, but the Pink Peppercorn Mignonette elevates them into the stratosphere. (Mignonette is a traditional condiment for raw oysters, made from black pepper, shallots, and vinegar.) Prepare and chill the sauce up to an hour or two ahead of serving to give the flavors time to meld: the sharpness of the shallots will mellow and the pepper will infuse the liquid. For an extra elegant presentation, freeze the mignonette on a baking dish, then scrape with a fork as for a granita and top the oysters with the icy shards just before serving.
Strawberry-Avocado Salsa with Cinnamon Tortilla Chips
Here's a fresh take on chips and dip, made especially for those with a sweet tooth. While avocado seasoned with jalapeño, lime juice, and cilantro is a classic combo found in dips like guacamole, the strawberries add a burst of color and bright, sweet-tart flavor. While strawberries and avocados are available in markets year-round, this dish is best in May, when the two fruits are in peak season. What's more, it makes a festive and fun twist for a Cinco de Mayo party spread. Cinnamon and sugar dusted on the chips brings the whole dish together. Make the chips in advance, cool completely, and store in an airtight container until ready to serve.
Air-Fried Corn Dog Bites
Who doesn’t love a corn dog? These whimsical, perfect little bites of smoky hot dog goodness come with a crunchy cornflake coating—thanks to the air fryer—that will make party guests smile. Look for high-quality uncured hot dogs at upscale grocery stores such as Whole Foods. Mustard is best friends with corn dogs, so pick out your favorite to serve with these fun and festive snacks.
Spicy Maple-Cashew Popcorn
It's important to spread the popcorn mixture out on a sheet pan immediately after it's dressed with the syrup mixture so it doesn't clump together as it cools. Use Grade B maple syrup if you have it on hand: it has bolder maple flavor than Grade A syrup and is preferable for cooking applications. Shaking the pan constantly while the popcorn cooks is essential, because it ensures that it cooks evenly and completely and won't leave a pile of unpopped kernels at the bottom. Use brown sugar in place of white if you like even deeper flavor. For a more kid-friendly version, omit the ground red pepper. Store in an airtight container for up to two days.
Zesty Green Goddess Dip
We use watercress as the base green in this dip because we like it's slightly peppery flavor, but you can use spinach, kale, or even mustard greens if you prefer. A touch of anchovy paste in the mix won't make the dip taste fishy. Rather, it lends meaty umami flavor as a bottom note to the blend. If you don't have anchovy paste, an equal amount of fish sauce would work. it makes a great last-minute party snack since it's made up mostly of kitchen staples. Serve with crackers or crudité. The dip also makes a creamy, delicious sandwich spread.
Endive Spears with Spicy Goat Cheese
When you need an elegant starter but you have little time to devote to one, Endive Spears with Spicy Goat Cheese is the recipe for you. Pungent goat cheese gets combined with tangy Greek yogurt, salt, pepper, garlic, and sweet paprika, and the mixture is mashed together with a fork—you don't even need to pull out the food processor! Belgian endive leaves are the perfect vessel for the cheese combo, with their pleasantly bitter flavor and superior crunch. They're also way less caloric than crackers; each serving of six filled endive leaves sets you back only 105 calories. One other selling point: You can make the cheese mixture a day or two ahead.
Fire-Seared Antipasto Platter
How’s this for an Instagram-worthy platter? Gorgeous and colorful grilled veggies mingle with slivers of salty prosciutto, creamy fresh mozzarella, and briny capers under a citrusy vinaigrette. More of a game plan than a set recipe, this dish lends itself to an assortment of ingredients you may have on hand. For example, if you can't find capocollo—cured sausage similar to salami—substitute salami or pepperoni. If you don't have eggplant, simply double-down on the zucchini, or swap in yellow squash. Serve the platter while vegetables are warm or at room temperature; it’s a dish your guests can linger over.
Roasted Red Pepper Bagna Cauda
This bright, vibrant dip is a fun adaptation of a classic Italian dish. Bagna cauda (pronounced BAHN-yah KOW-dah), roughly translated as “hot bath,” typically combines olive oil, garlic, anchovies, and butter into a warm dip for raw vegetables. This riff blends roasted red bell peppers with a whole head of roasted garlic, a good bit of olive oil, and big hits of lemon and anchovy. Serve with a colorful assortment of crudités; try sliced fennel bulb, baby carrots, crunchy cauliflower, baby sweet peppers, raw golden beet slices, and lightly blanched broccoli. If you have any leftovers, reincarnate them as a sandwich spread.
Baked Black Beans with Chorizo
Think of this warm, starchy concoction as the best version of bean dip you'll ever have. Canned black beans get kicked-up flavor from sautéed onion, garlic, cumin, and jalapeño and are then mashed and placed in a dish. On top go firm, cured, paprika-rich Spanish chorizo, chopped tomato, creamy Jack cheese, and green onions—then the whole thing is baked until gooey, warm, and irresistible. You'll be delighted to scoop it up with crunchy tortilla chips. It’s a versatile dish, too; you can also serve it as a side dish with fajitas, as a taco filling, or as a jalapeño popper or chile rellenos stuffing.