40 Retro Party Appetizers We'll Never, Ever Stop Making

Grape Jelly Meatballs
Photo: Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Ali Ramee; Prop Styling: Sarah Elizabeth Cleveland

When we say something is "an oldie but a goodie," it's the highest form of compliment—because somehow it was able to withstand the test of time and trends. No easy feat. While we're happy to say goodbye to the congealed tuna loaf and frozen cheese salad—yes, those were real and once thrived—we're never letting go of these vintage appetizer recipes. These are the all-stars.

Generations of Southern community cookbooks have featured these dips, spreads, bites, and nibbles. That deliciously creamy, cheesy crab dip gracing the holiday spread? Your great-aunt Barb has made many. And those warm, saucy meatballs sitting pretty at the cocktail party? Just ask your grandmother. Because some party appetizers just never die, and thank goodness for that. Many of these party appetizers date decades back—we're betting that this 1960s cocktail party food is ready for its comeback.

Read on for 40 easy and classic finger-food appetizers, both hot and cold, that are so good you won't ever need another party recipe.

01 of 40

Party Cheese Ball

party cheese ball

Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Torie Cox

We'll repeat it until the cows come home: It's not a party without a cheese ball. You'll fondly recognize this blend of Cheddar, cream cheese, and Worcestershire sauce. We added a touch of blue cheese for extra tang. Scoop it up on buttery crackers and transport yourself to years past.

02 of 40

Hot Cheesy Crab Dip

Hot Cheesy Crab Dip
Victor Protasio; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall; Prop Styling: Audrey Davis

No party is complete without some kind of gooey, cheesy dip. Crab dip is always welcome at a friendly gathering, from football tailgates to the Christmas party. Dig in with crackers, baguette slices, or crisp vegetables.

03 of 40

Mini Tomato Sandwiches With Bacon Mayonnaise

Mini Tomato Sandwiches With Bacon Mayonnaise
Victor Protasio; Food Styling: Tina Bell Stamos; Prop Styling: Christine Keely

The tomato sandwich is a tale as old as time—so of course the mini version belongs on your appetizer table. This simple recipe uses red and yellow heirloom tomatoes for a colorful contrast. Use very thin white bread and cut off the crusts to keep your tea sandwiches authentic.

04 of 40

Smoked-Fish Dip

Smoked-Fish Dip
Antonis Achilleos; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall; Prop Styling: Kay E. Clarke

Guaranteed to rake in the compliments, this smoked fish dip is packed full of fresh herbs like scallions, parsley, and dill. Serve it with water crackers and a crisp, seafood-friendly white wine.

05 of 40

Basic Pimiento Cheese​​​​​

Basic Pimiento Cheese
Jennifer Causey; Prop Styling: Christine Keely; Food Styling: Torie Cox

Now, every Southern cook knows how to make a top-notch pimiento cheese spread, but the add-on ingredients can change from one to the next, with things like Worcestershire, cayenne, and even shaved onion making appearances. This one has a short ingredient list, and it's a winner.

06 of 40

Spinach-Artichoke Dip

Spinach-Artichoke Dips
Caitlin Bensel

Ah, the dip that launched a thousand renditions. This most iconic of snacks comes in many variations, but here's a traditional crowd-pleaser. Use frozen artichokes for the best flavor.

07 of 40

Butter-Baked Saltine Crackers

Butter-Baked Saltine Crackers
Southern Living

Generations of Southern hosts have known how to upgrade any store-bought staple, including saltine crackers. There are just two ingredients here, but your guests will eat them up—with just about anything on top.

08 of 40

Classic Deviled Eggs

Classic Deviled Eggs
Southern Living

Show up with a tray of deviled eggs, and you're instantly the favorite of everyone in the room. Though we've shared many versions over the years, sometimes we like to stick with the standard mustard, sweet pickle relish, and paprika.

09 of 40

Ham-And-Cheese Sliders

Ham-And-Cheese Sliders
Photography and Styling: Karen Rankin

Southerners will instantly recognize this handheld staple, with the first bite bound to kickstart all kinds of reminiscing about the last time a melty, gooey, baked ham-and-cheese slider hit the taste buds. This indulgent version gets slathered with a homemade béchamel sauce.

10 of 40

Buttery Toasted Pecans

Buttery Toasted Pecans
Photo: Iain Bagwell

This four-ingredient recipe is about as simple as it gets—and perfect for setting out in a bowl when unexpected company drops by. Make a batch on your jelly roll pan and store for up to a week.

11 of 40

Baked Oysters with Bacon, Greens, And Parmesan

Baked Oysters with Bacon, Greens, and Parmesan
Antonis Achilleos; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall; Prop Styling: Kay E. Clarke

Something about baking oysters elevates them from basic to party-worthy, and you can't change our minds about that. These are dressed with a creamy mixture of Parmesan, bacon, and collard greens. They can be prepared up to a day in advance of the party.

12 of 40

Beer-Cheese Fondue

Rosemary-Bacon Nut Mix
Antonis Achilleos; Prop Styling: Kay E. Clarke; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall

Either by way of melty cheese or gooey chocolate, fondue gave every cocktail party guest something fun to do back in the day. A genuine fondue pot and Sterno will keep the cheese from clumping throughout the night. Served with cubed bread, sliced bratwurst, steamed broccoli florets, and roasted fingerling potatoes.

13 of 40

Bacon Bites

Bacon Bites
Oxmoor House

Crispy bites of salty goodness await you with this three-ingredient recipe that always disappears before anything else. A coating of brown sugar caramelizes the bacon-wrapped breadsticks. Stick them in a fancy goblet, picnic pail, or mint julep cup, depending on the event.

14 of 40

Cheese Dreams

Cheese Dreams

Antonis Achilleos; Food Stylist: Ruth Blackburn

What's a cheese dream, you might ask? Well, if you don't know, bless your heart. These bites of heaven get a double layer of cheesy goodness that's enough to make a Southern crowd holler.

15 of 40

Slow-Cooker Grape Jelly Meatballs

Grape Jelly Meatballs
Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Ali Ramee; Prop Styling: Sarah Elizabeth Cleveland

Back in the day, cocktail meatballs might as well have been a requirement on the appetizer spread. We wouldn't mind if that rule stuck around. These are soaking up a sweet and spicy mixture of grape jelly, chili sauce, barbecue sauce, and Sriracha.

16 of 40

Sweet Heat Garden Pickles

Sweet Heat Garden Pickles
Victor Protasio; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall; Prop Styling: Audrey Davis

The vintage cookbooks never met something they couldn't pickle, mark our words. Radishes, carrots, asparagus, and green beans are all fair game. These pickled vegetables make the perfect appetizer accoutrement.

17 of 40

Chicken Liver Mousse Crostini With Pepper Jelly

Chicken Liver Mousse Crostini with Pepper Jelly
Hector Sanchez

This retro snack might seem out-there to some, but to us it's just nostalgic enough to keep around. The smooth, velvety mousse gets topped with spicy-sweet pepper jelly. Allow time to chill before serving.

18 of 40

Crab Cake Bites With Old Bay Mayo, Chives, And Lemon

Crab Cake Bites with Old Bay Seasoning
Antonis Achilleos; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall; Prop Styling: Kay E. Clarke

Crab cakes always feel like a delicious splurge for any special occasion, and making them miniature-sized ensures everyone gets a bite. Serve them with a dollop of Duke's mayonnaise mixed with Old Bay for good old Southern flavor.

19 of 40

Angel Biscuits

Angel Biscuits
Emily Laurae

These fluffy, petite biscuits make the best accessory to any spread, especially when pimiento cheese or chicken salad is involved. The addition of yeast is the secret to making them so airy, while the buttermilk provides classic buttermilk biscuit flavor.

20 of 40

West Indies Crab Salad

West Indies Crab Salad
Victor Protasio; Prop Styling: Claire Spollen; Food Styling: Torie Cox

This little-known Southern salad—believed to have originated in Mobile, Alabama—is a beloved party snack you'd find in a tattered coastal cookbook. (But it's still just as popular today.) Place it out with crackers and crudité.

21 of 40

Baked Goat Cheese Spread With Pepper Jelly

Baked Goat Cheese Spread with Pepper Jelly
Antonis Achilleos; Prop Styling: Kay E. Clarke; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall

Pepper jelly and cream cheese is a duo that never disappoints, but goat cheese is just as delicious and adds that much more creaminess. Bake until warmed through for the most satisfying flavor.

22 of 40

Jalapeño Poppers

jalapeno poppers

Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Torie Cox

We've made the iconic restaurant appetizer so much easier by using the oven instead of the fryer. Top the tangy cream cheese filling with panko breadcrumbs and bacon for a bit of crunch. You can control the heat by scraping out all the pepper seeds or leaving some in.

23 of 40

Homemade Chicken Salad

Homemade Chicken Salad
Southern Living

It's hard to beat this protein-packed spread for daytime entertaining, no matter if you like a classic recipe or one with extra flair, like our Cranberry Chicken Salad. In most cases, this simple mixture of shredded chicken, celery, lemon juice, and mayonnaise is just what the situation calls for. Stick with the basics and serve with Saltines or buttery Ritz crackers.

24 of 40

Oysters Rockefeller

Oysters Rockefeller
Southern Living

This recipe dates back to 1899, and since then it's earned a long-standing spot in any Louisiana community cookbook. In this recipe, greens get a splash of absinthe for a strong anise flavor, then the oysters are broiled to a light golden brown.

25 of 40

Lump Crab Mornay

Lump Crab Mornay
Iain Bagwell

This dip is decadence in a dish. The masterful blend of creamy cheese, crabmeat, and just a little bit of heat has long made crab mornay a Southern classic. This version comes from a church cookbook out of Mississippi.

26 of 40

Mini Quiches With Asparagus And Goat Cheese

Asparagus and Goat Cheese Mini Quiches
Hector Manuel Sanchez

Mini quiches separate ho-hum brunches and showers from next-level affairs. You can prepare this recipe in a 9-inch pie plate or 4 1/2-inch fluted tart pans—but smaller snack food is the way to go for instant party success.

27 of 40

Sparkling Cranberries

Sparkling Cranberries
Melina Hammer; Styling: Buffy Hargett

Like tasty little jewels, these sugared berries make the perfect party attaché. These delights have been a favorite of holiday parties for decades. Set them in a bowl so guests can pop them in their mouths, but keep a few to decorate the party cake.

28 of 40

Summer Fruit Skewers

Summer Fruit Skewers
Southern Living

Nothing says "party" like arranging fruit on a grab-and-go skewer. Our Summer Fruit Skewers have a red-white-and-blue theme perfect for a Fourth of July event. Take advantage of whatever is in season and use cookie cutters to create the shapes.

29 of 40

Sausage Balls

You Have To Try This Southern Sausage Ball Recipe

Like so many classic recipes, this one starts with a box of Bisquick. Simple, yet totally crowd-pleasing, sausage balls are every Southern cook's three-ingredient trick up the sleeve.

30 of 40

Cheddar Cheese Straws

Cheese Straws

Antonis Achilleos; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall; Prop Styling: Missie Neville Crawford

You won't find a one-bite wonder like the cheese straw or biscuit. Crunchy, cheesy, and oh-so addicting, they've blessed snack tables for generations. A cookie press with a star-shape disc will make preparation easier.

31 of 40

Red Chipotle Pepper Jelly

Red Chipotle Pepper Jelly
Victor Protasio; Food Styling: Ruth Blackburn; Prop Styling: Audrey Davis

If you have a jar of this pepper jelly in your fridge or freezer, you're a block of cream cheese and a pack of crackers from one of the most nostalgic Southern appetizers ever. Here we tell you how to make your very own with red bell peppers and chipotle chiles.

32 of 40

Rotel Sausage Dip

Rotel Dip
Caitlin Bensel

You knew Velveeta had to show up here somewhere. Our recipe is made in a slow cooker just like the recipes of old. Keep it on WARM throughout the party and serve with scoop tortilla chips.

33 of 40

Pigs In A Blanket

Pigs in a Blanket
Will Dickey

We fancied up this bite-sized favorite by using puff pastry dough, which you can find in the chiller or freezer at your grocery store. A dusting of everything bagel seasoning adds even more finesse. Set out a smorgasbord of mustards and pop a couple—or a dozen—in your mouth. We won't tell.

34 of 40

Petite Blueberry Cheesecakes

Petite Blueberry Cheesecakes

Sure, you can find these in the freezer section, but homemade is so much more fun. You'll be pleasantly surprised at how easily these cupcake-sized cheesecakes come together. Our recipe calls for blueberry preserves, but feel free to substitute cherry or strawberry.

35 of 40

Shrimp On Seasoned Crackers With Pepper Jelly And Cream Cheese

Shrimp on Seasoned Crackers with Pepper Jelly and Cream Cheese
Antonis Achilleos; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall; Prop Styling: Kay E. Clarke

Break out these little canapés for a holiday or cocktail party when you're looking to impress. Your guests will love the classic combination of spicy crackers topped with citrusy shrimp and sweet pepper jelly. Assemble just before serving to keep the crackers crisp.

36 of 40

The Masters Egg Salad Sandwiches

Southern Living The Masters Egg Salad Sandwiches on a plate to serve with a beer

Fred Hardy; Food Stylist: Margaret Monroe Dickey; Prop Stylist: Caleb Clarke

We don't actually have the recipe for the egg salad at the Masters, but this one comes close. Grate the eggs and mash until nice and smooth for the perfect texture. Cut into finger sandwiches and down with a cold glass of sweet tea or a frothy beer.

37 of 40

Baked Brie With Pecans

Baked Brie with Pecans
Antonis Achilleos; Prop Styling: Kathleen Varner; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall

What's better than brie baked to a soft, almost oozing texture? Brie topped with sweet honey, dried cherries, and toasted pecans. This classic party appetizer is equally good spread on toasted baguette or a crisp sliced apple.

38 of 40

Little Smoked Sausages In Grape Jelly And Chili Sauce

Little Smoked Sausages in Grape Jelly and Chili Sauce

Monica Farber/Southern Living

These smoked sausages hearken to a time when toothpicks were the favored party utensil. The three-ingredient recipe is customizable with whatever jellies or hot sauces you have in the house. You'll find these go quick when kids and adults alike flock to the table.

39 of 40

Rainbow Fruit Pizza

Rainbow Fruit Pizza
Southern Living

Fruit pizza was all the rage in the 1980s and we've never forgotten it since. Bake the sugar cookie dough crust, frost, and place fruit in a delightful and colorful arrangement. Cut it into slices for a refreshing treat sure to be the hit of the party.

40 of 40

Cheese Puffs With Ham Salad

Cheese Puffs with Ham Salad
Alison Miksch; Prop Styling: Buffy Hargett Miller; Food Styling: Torie Cox

Ham salad first roared on the scene in the 1920s, and we don't see any reason to let it fade into the past. This recipe uses cream cheese instead of mayonnaise for extra richness. It doesn't get more festive than these adorable party puff sandwiches.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles