The Two-Ingredient Holiday Appetizer My Family Begs Me To Bring Every Year

I’d be scared to show up without it.

There is no shortage of show-stopping, praise-getting foods that make appearances during the holidays, from towering layer cakes to perfectly glazed ham. However, the more that I’ve cooked and contributed to the family holiday meals and parties, I’ve come to realize that, most times, the simplest recipes make the biggest mark. It hasn’t been when I’ve spent hours in the kitchen that I’ve raked in the most compliments, nor my most complicated dishes that have been the subject of “can I have that recipe?” implorings. It’s been the ones that took me less time, less effort, and less ingredients. Turns out, hungry Southerners in the midst of the most cheerful time of year are relatively easy to please. 

What are examples of this type of efficient cooking? Bacon-wrapped lil’ smokies. Bacon bow-tie crackers. Really, anything bacon-related will get you halfway there. If you’re savvy at cheese straws or deviled eggs, I can almost guarantee they’ll score higher than even the most intricate casserole. If you combine just a few crowd-pleasing ingredients, it will yield crowd-pleasing results. That’s the equation I’ve come to trust when showing up to any occasion, including my family’s annual “Tiny Feast,” a rather competitive affair. 

Butter-Baked Saltine Crackers

Victor Protasio; Food Stylist: Karen Rankin; Prop Stylist: Claire Spollen

During the holidays, appetizers are generally the stars of the season, and you can barely go wrong with a well-executed bite-sized snack. My family are big-time grazers, and there’s one recipe that they request me to make again and again. When I first made these Butter-Baked Saltine Crackers, I hardly thought twice. Two ingredients. Ten minutes total. What I did not anticipate was the response from everyone who tasted them. For a recipe so seemingly simple, the buttery, salty, toasty crackers were a standout that people couldn’t stop talking about. 

I’ve made this Butter-Baked Saltine Crackers recipe many times by now, and it stands up on its own. However, when I want to switch things up, it’s so easy to customize. For example, you can add seasonings—such as a ranch dressing packet, red pepper flakes, or garlic salt— to the crackers when you layer them with butter before baking for extra flavor. You can also make the basic version, but bring a dip or spread to go alongside the crackers. Pimiento cheese, goat cheese with pepper jelly, or cream cheese with Pickapeppa Sauce are all favorites of my family. 

When I say that I’m hesitant to ever show up during the holidays with anything more than five ingredients, I mean it. If you’re looking for instant success and less stress, go with these Butter-Baked Saltines for your next cocktail party or family celebration. 

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