Lighter American Snacks and Appetizers
Lighten Up, Snacks & Apps!
We love to nibble, but so many favorite snacks are loaded with excess calories and fat. Our versions transformed those foes to friends, and they're so good that it's easy to turn down the old deep-fried, fat-packed, too-creamy snacks and appetizers we craved before.
First on the menu is a potluck staple: Deviled Eggs.
To keep these portable snacks from turning on their sides when serving, use a deviled egg tray. Especially in vogue during the 1940s and ’50s, when specialized serving dishes could be found in a variety of china patterns, deviled egg plates are still quite common today.
Baked Mozzarella Bites
The plump little love children of battered fresh cheese and a deep fryer, fried cheese curds are a midwinter favorite of beer-and-cheese states from Iowa to Wisconsin. This recipe, which substitutes string cheese for the curds and baking for the frying, is a lighter variation.
Order this warm, creamy, and cheesy dish in most American chain restaurants and you could be looking at nearly a day’s worth of calories! Not so here; my version has fewer than 150 per serving. Assemble the dish up to two days ahead and bake just before serving. Serve with tortilla chips, pita chips, or sliced baguette.
Grilled Stuffed Jalapeños
The rich and creamy combination of bacon, cream cheese, and cheddar nicely contrasts the muted spice of the grilled jalapeños in these poppers. You’ll never guess these are lightened up! That’s why this recipe—a healthy, fresh alternative to the popular breaded and fried snack—is one of our favorite appetizers to make.
This popular party dip gets a face-lift with a few simple changes. Keep fat and calories to a minimum by swapping whole-kernel corn for the customary layer of ground beef.
Pigs in a Blanket
Brooklyn Piggies, a food stand in Brooklyn, NY, serves up a version of this 1950s American cocktail appetizer that’s parallel to none. Light, flaky puff pastry encases quality sausage to create one of America's favorite indulgences. At home, substitute pizza dough for the puff pastry and turkey dogs for the sausage.
Clams are a low-tide favorite on any American coast. Buy them as fresh as possible and discard any whose shells don’t close when touched. Keep them well chilled and use within a day of purchase.
Guacamole was concocted by the Aztecs over 400 years ago. Since then it has become an American party-food favorite and restaurant menu staple. Tortilla chips are the natural accompaniment, but you can also serve it with veggies like jicama, bell peppers, and radishes.
Beer-Steamed Clams and Mussels
Be sure to use a large, wide pot so the shellfish can cook evenly, then serve them straight from the pot with crusty Italian bread to soak up the broth.
Texas caviar makes a perfect side for barbecue but is equally delicious as a starter salad or a dip for tortilla chips.
Spiced nuts are usually slowly baked; this stovetop version speeds up the process. The smoky-spicy snack will store well in an airtight container for several days.
Crab Cakes with Cajun Rémoulade
Numerous variations of crab cakes exist, and this one takes its cue from Cajun cuisine. A quick sauté on the cooktop crisps them on the outside without saturating them in oil.
Blue Cheese Ball
Cheese balls were originally the tangy result of a collection of leftover cheeses. Modern riffs have since become more selective, adding high-quality cheeses, herbs, and even dried fruits to the mix. This recipe is a lighter interpretation of the retro-chic dish.
Thai Lettuce Wraps
An increase in immigration from Southeast Asia over the past 20 years has made dishes like this more popular, especially in urban centers. The ingredients for this dish can be easily purchased at your local market. Lean pork, low-sodium soy sauce, and plenty of fresh vegetables make these a great low-carb, low-calorie snack at any time of the day.
Look for sweet chili sauce on the ethnic aisle at most supermarkets, or in Asian grocery stores. Dark sesame oil and lower-sodium soy sauce deliver tremendous flavor with less sodium and saturated fat.
Green Tomatoes with Garlicky Rémoulade
Buttermilk is the key ingredient in this recipe; it helps the cornmeal coating adhere to the tomatoes. These are served with a garlicky rémoulade just as they would be in New Orleans.
Coconut Shrimp with Fiery Mango Sauce
This dish is a happy-hour favorite. Keep it lean by baking instead of frying the shrimp. Stand them upright on the baking sheet so they brown and cook evenly—and so you don’t have to worry about turning them.