Top-Rated Holiday Appetizers
Far from ordinary, our collection of drinks and appetizers will get your gathering off to a memorable start.
The holidays are filled with parties, and nothing gets a party started quite like a great appetizer – especially when it's made from a beloved Southern ingredient like tart cranberries, crunchy bacon, sweet potatoes, or juicy crab. Whether you are hosting a large group at home or need an easy holiday appetizer that travels well, this selection of our favorite dips, spreads, and finger foods will please any crowd. Serve your guests casual, all-time favorite appetizers such as Muffuletta Deviled Eggs, Turnip Green Pesto, or Warm Kale and Asiago Dip. Or give them something a little more elegant and prepare Lump Crab Mornay and Sesame Salmon Croquettes. Whatever your theme, your party will be a success with any of these flavorful holiday appetizers.
Inside-Out Hot Brown Bites
Recipe: Inside-Out Hot Brown Bites
We've reimagined this signature Kentucky sandwich of bacon, turkey, and cheese sauce into beautiful bite-size cups.
Roasted Fennel-and-Prosciutto Flatbread
Topped with traditional Italian flavors such as fresh thyme and oregano and gooey fontina cheese, this flatbread will surely be a crowd pleaser. Crushed red pepper adds an extra kick while a balsamic glaze takes the flavor palette to the next level. The natural paring of fennel and prosciutto marry this appetizer in a harmonious way that will leave guests searching for seconds. Cook the flatbread until the crust is golden brown, and broil the pizza for one minute for perfectly melted cheese. Substituting sweet onion for fennel and bacon for prosciutto is also a great alternative that still serves up delicious flavor in this flatbread appetizer.
Recipe: Cherry-Pecan Brie
You can have this five-ingredient appetizer party-ready in about 10 minutes.
Petite Sweet Potato Biscuits with Pulled Pork and Slaw
The sweet potato biscuits freeze beautifully—thaw, bake, and top them just before serving.
Grapefruit-Beet-Goat Cheese Flatbread
Garnished with golden beets, red grapefruit, and goat cheese, this bright appetizer will look great on any appetizer tray. The appetizer is elegant enough to be served at any upscale dinner or cocktail party, yet simple enough for guests to enjoy at a casual dinner party or a game night. It is great alternative to pizza and a wonderful vegetarian option to have on the menu. Not to mention, nothing says refreshing more than fresh mint leaves and toasted pine nuts also give crunch to the flatbread appetizer. Letting bakery pizza dough rest at room temperature for about 30 minutes also makes it easier to knead.
Creamy Shrimp Dip with Crispy Wonton Chips
If you don't have time to make fried wontons, use fancy potato chips or crispy tortilla chips.
Smoked Trout Crostini with Radishes and Dill Cream
For a fresh appetizer, try the smoked trout crostini with radishes and dill cream. An appetizer consisting of sour cream spread on a triangle of toasted crostini and topped with smoked trout and radishes will give guests a break from warm appetizers typically served at a dinner party. These perfect little triangles also offer a beautiful presentation, fooling guests into believing you worked much harder than you did on this appetizer. A fresh squeeze of lemon juice will also give guests the burst of freshness that will perfectly balance out your appetizer platter. For an even more colorful spread, replace the trout with smoked salmon.
Chicken Liver Mousse Crostini with Pepper Jelly
For a different presentation, make this mousse in a 1 1/2-qt. ovenproof dish instead of small jars.
Feta-Olive-Fresh Herb Cheese Ball
Closely related to the blue cheese-red currant cheese ball, this appetizer will wow guests with big flavors packed in such a simple dish. Feta and cream make this creamy appetizer while flat-leaf parsley and finely chopped green onion give a burst of freshness and crunch to the outside. The bright green appearance will also draw guests to aesthetically appeasing appetizer that is best served with cucumber slices. Other ingredients including green olives, hot sauce, lemon zest, and Worcestershire sauce add another layer of flavor to balance out the others. Add a little holiday flair by shaping this cheese mixture into a Yule log or keep it traditional in a classic cheese ball shape.
Mexican Shrimp Cocktail
Recipe: Mexican Shrimp Cocktail
This fresh, colorful swap for creamy shrimp dip was inspired by reader Carolyn Coleman.
Blue Cheese-Red Currant Cheese Ball
Perfect for the holidays, this blue cheese-red currant cheese ball can be served with gingersnaps on a beautiful cheese or dip platter. Held together by cream cheese, crumbled blue cheese and coated with currants, guests will enjoy the smooth and creamy texture of the appetizer with a little added texture. The strong ginger flavor will also help to enhance the flavor of the blue cheese while also bringing out the hint of lemon zest and red currant jam. You can shape the cheese mixture into a Yule log during the holiday season or into a regular ball shape for any other special occasion.
Recipe: Spicy-Sweet Pecans
The egg white helps the spice mixture adhere evenly and gives the pecans a crisp, glossy coating.
Cheddar-Horseradish-Walnut Cheese Ball
You can also shape the cheese mixture into a Yule log.
Recipe: Cranberry-Jalapeño Salsa
Show off the festive flavor of cranberries with this sweet-hot salsa. You can make it ahead and freeze up to one month before your holiday gathering.
Recipe: Bacon-Cheese Dip
Crumbled bacon is the crowning glory of this creamy cheese dip that features cream cheese, blue cheese, and sour cream. You're guaranteed not to have any leftovers when you bring this dip to a party.
Mini Crab Cakes with Pineapple-Cucumber Salsa
Cornmeal Tarts with Ricotta Pimiento Cheese
Chicken Liver Pâté
Recipe: Zucchini-and-Squash Pickles
Ribbons of zucchini and squash make up these colorful Zucchini-and-Squash Pickles. These pickles are as beautiful as they are delicious.
Muffuletta Deviled Eggs
Recipe: Muffuletta Deviled Eggs
This easy appetizer melds the flavors of olives, egg, and salty salami.
Recipe: Pear Preserves
These sweet and sour pear preserves make the perfect hostess gift. You can make them ahead of time and refrigerate for up to 3 weeks.
Turnip Green Pesto
Recipe: Pickled Beets
Remove skins from roasted beets while they're still warm by gently wiping with a paper towel.
Asparagus with Curry Dip
Recipe: Asparagus with Curry Dip
Give a classic side dish an extra kick with spices like curry, horseradish, and hot sauce.
Recipe: Cheese Dreams
These little gems will be the first appetizer to disappear. Make them the day before and refrigerate, or freeze up to 3 weeks. If frozen, pop in the oven straight from the freezer; increase the bake time by 10 minutes.
Buttery Toasted Pecans
Recipe: Buttery Toasted Pecans
Patiently roasting pecans (the entire 25 minutes!) at 325° to coax out their flavor and essential oils takes them from good to great.
Lump Crab Mornay
Recipe: Lump Crab Mornay
Recipe developer Julia Reed adapted this creamy dip from a recipe in Bayou Cuisine by St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Indianola, Mississippi. Located in the Mississippi Delta, this recipe pays homage to the rich culture in the region, using lump crabmeat and red pepper to add spice. All-purpose flour and heavy cream give the dish its creamy texture and freshly grated cheese makes it savory. This dip can be kept in a chafing dish or a slow cooker set on a very low temperature to keep the dip perfect throughout the night for guests to enjoy. Serve with toast points perfect for dipping.
Warm Kale-and-Asiago Dip
Recipe: Warm Kale-and-Asiago Dip
Bacon and trendy kale update the hot spinach dip.
Black-Eyed Pea Pâté
Pumpkin-Carrot Soup Shooters With Coconut Cream
Pimiento Cheese Gougères
Recipe: Pimiento Cheese Gougères
Stamp a Southern accent on this classic French hors d'oeuvre. You can use a piping bag with a 1/2-inch round tip or a zip-top plastic freezer bag with a corner snipped off to pipe the dough onto the baking sheets.
Pepper Jelly Palmiers
Recipe: Pepper Jelly Palmiers
Party-staples pepper jelly and puff pastry go uptown in this flaky, sweet-and-savory pastry.
Sesame Salmon Croquettes
Rosemary Salt-and-Vinegar Chips
Roasted Shallot Dip
Cranberry-Goat Cheese Canapés
Asparagus-Blue Cheese Canapés
Contemporary Shrimp Cocktail
Recipe: Contemporary Shrimp Cocktail
Revive this party staple by setting out a bountiful platter of shrimp with three bowls of zingy new sauces. For an appetizer, plan on 1 pound of large shrimp for every 4 to 5 guests. Perk up precooked shrimp in boiling water for 30 seconds. Then plunge them in ice water. Drain shrimp well, pat dry, and serve. Try it with Avocado Cream, Tequila-Lime Cocktail Sauce, or Ginger Rémoulade.
Tiny Tomato Tarts
Recipe: Tiny Tomato Tarts
With all the flavor of a traditional tomato pie, these tiny tarts will be a hit at your party. These bite-sized tarts are made with a simple blend of diced tomatoes, piecrusts, a blend of cheeses, and fresh basil. This recipe can also be made ahead by baking the pastry shells up to three days before they are served and storing in an airtight container, leaving the filling to be prepared the day of the party. A medley of Parmesan, cheddar, and mozzarella cheeses make this finger food a delicious alternative to a large slice of tomato pie while still being reminiscent of the Southern favorite.
Butternut-Goat Cheese Mushrooms
Mini Manchego-Tomato Chutney Tartlets
Recipe: Mushroom Puffs
Flaky puff pastry envelopes a rich mix of cream cheese, mushrooms, onions, and Parmesan cheese. You can even assemble and freeze these ahead of time.
Recipe: Bacon-Arugula-Apple Bites
Complement any menu with this no-fuss party appetizer.
Warm Lemon-Rosemary Olives
Recipe: Warm Lemon-Rosemary Olives
Bake mixed olives, fresh rosemary sprigs, and lemon zest for a simple, yet delicious, starter for your party. Rosemary sprigs and lemon rind strips make festive garnishes.
Recipe: Cheese Straws
If you like yours less spicy, use the smaller amount of red pepper.
Brie Tartlets With Grape Relish
Recipe: Brie Tartlets With Grape Relish
Take another cue from the French by using Brie as the filling in these tartlets. Grapes make an excellent topper, adding color and an elegant touch to the hors d’oeuvre. Guests will love the creative use of this fruit, as well as the added vitamins and minerals.
Recipe: Marinated Mozzarella
These snacks are as simple as sliced cheese. Prepare them ahead of time to allow ample chill time. Be sure to garnish with a sprig of parsley or rosemary for a bit of panache.
Black Pepper-Goat Cheese Log
Recipe: Black Pepper-Goat Cheese Log
Keep a few logs of goat cheese in the refrigerator during the holidays and you'll always be ready with a quick appetizer. All you have to do is sprinkle the cheese with pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Serve with bread slices or crackers.
Recipe: Cranberry Meatballs
Making these meatballs ahead and freezing them is a great way to save time during the holiday months.
Recipe: Marinated Shrimp-and-Artichokes
Serve these as heavy hors d'oeuvres or as a light holiday supper all season long.
White Bean-and-Black Olive Crostini
This salty, satisfying appetizer sets a great tone for the rest of your meal. Garnish with torn basil leaves.
Tortellini Caprese Bites
Recipe: Tortellini Caprese Bites
Tortellini Caprese Bites are drizzled with a basil vinaigrette and are so simple to prepare. The no-mess presentation makes these appetizer skewers ideal for parties.
Pancetta Crisps With Goat Cheese and Pear
Top Bartlett pear slices with baked pancetta, crumbled goat cheese, and a drizzle of honey for an easy, salty-sweet appetizer recipe that tastes delicious and looks gorgeous.
Hot Roast Beef Party Sandwiches
Recipe: Hot Roast Beef Party Sandwiches
This is an updated version of a recipe that used ham, cheese, and mustard. Eyes lit up at our tasting table when these roast beef sandwiches came out of the oven.
Caramelized Onion-and-Goat Cheese Bread
We've taken garlic bread up a notch. Mix the spreads the day before, and refrigerate overnight. You'll only need to slather them on French bread and bake for a super-quick presentation.
Recipe: Beef-and-Asparagus Bundles
Tie these bundles with a fresh chive to put the perfect touch on this edible package.
Tuna-Apple Mini Melts
Recipe: Tuna-Apple Mini Melts
A creamy tuna-apple mixture fills mini-phyllo pastry shells and is topped with Havarti cheese slices to make a tasty, bite-sized appetizer.
Blue Cheese Straws
Recipe: Blue Cheese Straws
Entertain guests with a flavorful twist on a classic Southern appetizer. These cheese straws add a bit of edge with black pepper and a generous hunk of blue cheese.