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.
Here’s an elegant toast that makes the most of gorgeous farmers market produce. Grilled eggplant slices are pulsed in a food processor with lemon juice, full-fat Greek yogurt, and garlic—transforming into a spread for grilled baguette that has deep, rich, “meaty” flavor. A salad of colorful cherry tomatoes and arugula goes on top, so that your palate is first met with a burst of vibrant, fresh, sweet-tart flavor that then gives way to the richness of the eggplant. Once you've tried it, you'll keep this recipe in your back pocket for times you have guests you want to impress.
The name says it all—this is one of the easiest guac recipes you’ll find. We turn to the food processor to speed up prep, allowing it to do the work of finely chopping onion, garlic, and jalapeño. Then soft, ripe avocado is added, and the whole thing gets blended until perfectly creamy. Sure, this is a pretty classic guacamole that’s ideal for serving with tortilla chips, but you can also use this as your go-to spread for avocado toast. Get creative with avo toast toppers: You can try shaved radishes, carrots, or zucchini; crumbled soft cheeses or shaved firm cheeses; or charred corn kernels.
Black-Eyed Pea and Tomato Salsa
You'll sometimes see black-eyed pea dips like this one labeled as Texas caviar—a playful name that does point to the dish’s deliciousness. It’s a perfect accompaniment to tortilla chips, a twist on traditional tomato salsa that adds the creamy richness of peas. With fresh chopped tomatoes, red onion, poblano chile, cilantro, and lime juice, the dip absolutely bursts with freshness. It should get gobbled up if you set it out, but if you do find yourself with leftovers, serve them in tacos, on a leafy salad, or as a relish-type topping for grilled fish or chicken.
Chicken and Lemon Pot Stickers with Soy-Scallion Dipping Sauce
Pot stickers are always a crowd pleaser, as folks just never can seem to get enough of Asian dumplings, with their savory filling, chewy-tender wrappers, and salty dipping sauce. They're surprisingly easy to make at home, too, especially with our easy folding technique to seal the dumplings. And with pot stickers, you don't need any special equipment for cooking; simply fry and steam in a skillet. You can prepare the filling a day ahead, then assemble the pot stickers shortly before cooking. Look for square wonton wrappers near the tofu in your supermarket, usually in a refrigerated part of the produce section.
Grape Leaves Stuffed with Rice, Currants, and Herbs
Grape leaves are a part of Turkish, Greek, Arabic, and Romanian cuisines and are often stuffed with a mixture of rice, vegetables, meat, and spices. Called dolmades (pronounced dohl-MAH-dehs), they're served warm or cold as an appetizer or main dish with yogurt. This meatless version gets tons of flavor from two kinds of onions, pine nuts, petite dried currants, and fresh herbs. You can make this dish completely the day before your gathering, refrigerate overnight, and then serve at room temperature. You'll typically find grape leaves in brine in jars; look on the international aisle of your supermarket, or with the olives and specialty pickles.
Red Pepper Hummus
For convenience, prepare the dip up to three days in advance and refrigerate in an airtight container. Serve with pita wedges and bell pepper strips.
Windowpane Potato Chips
A mandoline will help you create picture-perfect chips. Tip: Buy an extra potato to practice with beforehand.
Grilled Pepper Poppers
The three-cheese filling is a nice complement for the spicy peppers. You can also use a milder chile, such as a cherry pepper. Shredded cheddar cheese can take the place of Parmesan, if you like.
Artichokes with Roasted Garlic-Wine Dip
The ritual of eating whole artichokes―tear off a leaf, eat the tender flesh, and repeat―is as much a part of the experience as the flavor. The creamy texture and sweet savoriness of roasted garlic in the dipping sauce serve to enhance everything to heavenly levels.
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.
Bruschetta with Peach Salsa and Melted Brie
Place the cheese in the freezer for about 20 minutes for easier cutting. To make this appetizer in advance, you can prepare and refrigerate the salsa up to a day ahead. Toast bread and assemble just before serving.
Blue Cheese and Chive Straws
Blue cheese gives a bit of a bite, but is not overpowering to this delightfully crunchy snack. Prepare up to two days ahead and store in an airtight container at room temperature. We think they make a delightful nibble with drinks.
Smoked Salmon and Cheese Mini Twice-Baked Potatoes
This scrumptious low-cal finger food was developed by reader Abigail McMahon who was inspired by Ireland. "I love Ireland and the country's wonderful food. When I think of Irish food, the first items that come to mind are potatoes, salmon, and cheese." Luckily, this recipe has all three.
Deviled Eggs with Smoked Salmon
Deviled eggs go upscale, thanks to the elegant addition of silky cold-smoked salmon. The filling uses a combination of sour cream, mayonnaise, and Dijon mustard for supreme creaminess and just-right flavor to match and balance the bold taste of the salmon. You can use any combination of herbs you like for this easy starter. We chose a trio of chives, tarragon, and dill—the lacey dill and tarragon sprigs are particularly beautiful as the garnish. For easier-to-peel eggs, try steaming: Arrange eggs in a steamer basket inside a large pan with 1 inch of water; bring to a boil, cover, and steam 16 minutes, then cool in ice water before peeling.
Green Olive and Artichoke Tapenade
This tangy spread is delicious as a dip with whole-grain crackers or spread on a sandwich of grilled vegetables (shown here). Or use it to build easy bruschetta bites: Spread a thin layer of softened goat cheese onto toasted baguette slices, and spoon on a bit of the tapenade. Because the recipe incorporates a can of artichoke hearts, the flavor is less intense than traditional olive tapenades—and that helps it become more versatile. The tapenade will keep well in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week, so it’s a great make-ahead option for your party.
Prosciutto-Wrapped Stuffed Dates
Elegant, easy, gluten-free, and just 5 ingredients, you'll be hard pressed to find a reason not to make these delectable appetizers. Did we mention they're ready in less than 20 minutes? Dates have a fantastic chew and a honey sweetness that balances the salty prosciutto and silky, tangy goat cheese (a lower fat, lower sodium alternative to the traditional bacon-wrapped and blue cheese–stuffed version, yet even more delicious than the original). Michele0814 comments, “Delicious! Will be making again for our upcoming Christmas party.” To make the dates even easier to fill, place the goat cheese mixture in a ziplock plastic bag, snip off one corner, and carefully pipe into each date.
Indian-Spiced Roasted Nuts
Yes, you could just put out a can of store-bought nuts at your next party, but where’s the fun in that? Instead, give this old standby an Indian spin with a warm, fragrant, faintly sweet glaze made from cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves. These subtle spices will have your guests asking, “What is that?” as they reach for another handful. For another Indian-influenced spice combination, try 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon and 1/2-3/4 teaspoon garam masala. This spice blend includes both cloves and cardamom, as well as cumin, nutmeg, and black or white pepper. If you have a nut allergy, try this recipe with unsalted pumpkin seeds.
Haitian Chicken Pâté Puffs
We fill flaky puff pastry with a picadillo—a spicy, aromatic minced hash that is popular in Mexico, the Philippines, and countries in the Caribbean—for an easy appetizer guests won't soon forget. Picadillos are traditionally loose and saucy, meant to be stuffed into bell peppers and served over rice. By cooking the mixture first, cooling it, and mincing in the food processor, we get rid of excess moisture and create a cohesive filling that won't spill out of the puff pastry pockets. Serve this dish at gatherings that call for more substantial appetizers.
Mixed Olive Tapenade
There’s a reason this specialty of southern France has remained popular for so long. Briny, meaty, and zesty, this spread holds its own on simply toasted baguette slices or crackers. Beyond the appetizer table, serve with roasted lamb or beef to cut through the richness, or toss with hot cooked pasta, lemon, and olive oil for a no-cook sauce. You can buy an olive blend from the olive bar at the supermarket, but we prefer to assemble our own for an ideal mix of intense flavor (oil-cured olives) and more mild, fruitier flavor (green olives).
Tex-Mex Pinto Bean Spread
Think of this speedy spread as the best part of a seven-layer bean dip with none of the fuss and all the flavor. Simply blend canned beans with fresh, zesty ingredients like jalapeño, fresh lime, and cilantro, and the dip is done. A sprinkle of pumpkin seeds adds interest and crunch. You could also place the dip in a small baking dish, sprinkle with a shredded Mexican blend cheese, and broil for a couple minutes until the cheese melts. Jadecker22 says, “This has been my go-to dip for years. It’s fast, inexpensive, and full of flavor.”
Spicy Squash Pickles
Think beyond the cucumber and try these fantastic sweet and spicy squash pickles, a great way to use up that bumper crop from the farmers market. Salting the squash slices first helps to draw out their moisture so the finished pickle will have a great snap. Vidalia onion slices add a touch of sweetness and an extra element of crunch. Reader ellengoldman says, “Easy to prepare and delicious! Great as a side dish, or on hamburgers and other sandwiches.” Erikisst adds, “I saw this recipe and had to try it. I am SO GLAD I did! Super tasty and really easy to make.”
Orange Chipotle-Spiced Pecan Mix
This holiday snack mix has gotten rave reviews over the years, both as a winning appetizer and a much-requested gift for family, friends, teachers, and coworkers. Pecans are toasted with a glaze of fresh orange and chipotle chile powder for a combo that’s sweet, spicy, smoky, and wonderfully fragrant. Tart-sweet dried cranberries balance the nuts and make the mix even more festive. Make ahead and cool completely, stirring occasionally so the nuts don't stick.
Artichoke and Fennel Caponata
Wow your guests with a fresh, chunky dip that’s far from your typical salsa (it belongs on a Sicilian table rather than a Mexican one). Caponata usually features eggplant, but we find that tender artichoke hearts are a perfect fit here. Combined with crisp, anise-tinged fennel, plump and sweet golden raisins, piquant capers, and a splash of vinegar, the flavor profile is completely unique and irresistible. These elements marry and get better over time, so make a couple days before your gathering and refrigerate. Serve with thin, toasted slices of baguette or nice whole-grain crackers.
Nectarine, Prosciutto, and Arugula Bundles
These wonderful bites are truly perfect for unexpected guests; they take all of two minutes to put together and use one of the season's best fruits. They also use just five ingredients (including olive oil and black pepper) and are gluten and dairy-free. If you have vegetarians at your gathering, skip the prosciutto and stack the basil and nectarines on crackers with sliced fresh mozzarella. Stone fruits and pork products pair extremely well together, so you also could use plums, peaches, or apricots with slices of ham or salami. Arugula provides crunch and pepperiness to contrast the rich prosciutto and sweet fruit.
Mushroom and Parmigiano Bruschetta
Classic bruschetta is great, but add a trio of meaty mushrooms to the filling and you have something extraordinary. We love the combination of shiitake, Portobello, and cremini, but you could use just one or two types. Skip white button mushrooms here—they won't have enough earthiness to stand up to the vinegar and crushed red pepper in the topping. Sautée the mushrooms to release their liquid and concentrate flavor; you'll know they're ready when the liquid has evaporated from the pan and the mushrooms are a deep golden brown. Use a vegetable peeler to shave the Parmesan into wide strips.
Spiced nuts are usually baked; this stovetop version speeds up the process. The smoky-spicy snack will store well in an airtight container for several days.