Get your party started with these delicious finger foods. They look catered, but they’re super easy.
Writer Virginia Switzer
1 of 15Photographer Jean Allsopp
Thai Shrimp Skewers
Serve these skewered bites at your next party and your guests will rave for weeks. Creamy white coconut milk, hot curry, and a splash of aromatic fish sauce highlight the simple flavors of juicy shrimp.
½ cup light coconut milk
¼ cup flaked sweetened coconut
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 to 2 teaspoons red curry paste
24 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1. Whisk together coconut milk, coconut, fish sauce, and curry paste in a medium bowl. Add shrimp; toss well. Chill 1 hour.
2. Grill shrimp over medium-high heat 2 minutes on each side or until done. Place on individual bamboo picks to serve. Makes 2 dozen.
Hosting Help: Skewer food ahead of time with decorative toothpicks to add a fun flair and easy pickup for guests.
2 of 15Photographer Jean Allsopp
Smoked Salmon and Fingerling Potatoes
Jazz up smoked salmon by pairing it with potato halves topped with crème fraîche and garnished with salty capers. Crème fraîche can be made by combining one part sour cream to one part whipping cream or buttermilk, covered and chilled for at least four hour
12 fingerling potatoes (about 1 pound)
1½ tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 ounces thinly sliced smoked salmon
½ cup crème fraîche or sour cream
1 tablespoon capers
1. Slice potatoes in half lengthwise, toss in olive oil, and place on a baking sheet. Bake at 425° for 20 minutes or until golden brown and tender. Let cool.
2. Arrange pieces of smoked salmon on potatoes; top each with a dollop of crème fraîche and capers. Makes 2 dozen.
Hosting Help: Have extra plates and napkins on hand for guests who want seconds, and allow space on tables for partiers to set down used glasses and dishes.
3 of 15Photographer Jean Allsopp
Brie with Chutney and Bacon
Sweet mango chutney and crispy bacon crumbles showcase buttery-soft Brie cheese in this elegant orchestra of textures. Serve with gingersnaps for a lovely spread that is perfect for impromptu outdoor entertaining.
1 (13.2-ounce) round Brie
2/3 cup mango chutney
4 bacon slices, cooked and crumbled
Gingersnaps or crackers
1. Remove rind from top of Brie, leaving a ¼-inch border. Place Brie on a microwave-safe plate. Top with chutney; microwave on high 1 minute or until cheese softens. (Do not melt cheese.)
2. Sprinkle bacon over chutney. Serve with gingersnaps or crackers. Makes 10 appetizer servings.
Hosting Help: Brie is a tasty choice for any party platter. When selecting perfectly ripe cheese for the best flavor, pick one that is plump and resilient to touch. The rind might show soft brown edges.
4 of 15Photograher Jean Allsopp
Four ingredients and 12 minutes of cooking time is all you need for this impressive cocktail snacks. Pop these in the oven before guests arrive and you'll have warm puff pasty draped over crispy asparagus and salty prosciutto, ready to serve.
1. Blanch asparagus in boiling water 1 to 2 minutes or until crisp-tender. Rinse in cold water; drain. (If asparagus is thin, use 2 pieces per appetizer and skip the blanching process.)
2. Unfold pastry sheet onto a lightly floured surface, and press out fold lines. Roll onto a 12- x 10-inch rectangle. Cut into 12 (1-inch) strips.
3. Wrap 1 or 2 asparagus spears in 1 slice of prosciutto, and wrap with 1 strip of pastry dough. Place on a parchment-lined or greased, foil-lined baking sheet. Repeat with remaining pastry, asparagus, and prosciutto. Sprinkle wraps with Parmesan cheese.
Hosting Help: Spice things up with unconventional food shapes, twists, and presentations.
5 of 15Photographer Jean Allsopp
Manchego is a golden, semi-firm cheese that has a full, mellow flavor. Paired with rich kalamata olives and fresh herbs, then drizzled with olive oil, it's dazzling and effortless.
1 pound manchego cheese, rind removed and cubed
½ cup arbequina, niçoise, and/or kalamata olives
4 to 6 fresh thyme sprigs
1 fresh rosemary sprig
Extra-virgin olive oil
Combine cheese, olives, thyme, and rosemary in a 1-quart jar. Fill jar with olive oil; cover. Marinate in refrigerator 1 week. Makes 10 appetizer servings.
Hosting Help: Keep it clean and simple. Slice meats, cheeses, and vegetables into individual servings, and avoid thin, drippy sauces.
6 of 15Photographer Jean Allsopp
If what they say is true―we eat with our eyes―then the vibrant colors in this seafood starter will get your mouth watering for cool avocado, sushi-grade tuna, and fresh cilantro.
24 won ton wrappers
1 small lime
1 avocado, cubed
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
½ pound sushi-grade tuna
1. Press won ton wrappers into nonstick mini-muffin cups, pleating each to form a small shell. Bake at 350° for 7 to 9 minutes or until golden brown. Remove cups with a small spatula; cool.
2. Combine zest and juice from lime in a medium bowl. Fold in avocado, cilantro, and tuna. Spoon into won ton cups, and serve immediately. Makes 2 dozen.
Hosting Help: Plan on seven to eight appetizer servings per person.
7 of 15Photographer Jean Allsopp
Tomato and Goat Cheese Spread
This is ideal for a casual get-together. With only two ingredients, it’s a quick and easy recipe with creamy, bold flavors that will keep your guests happy as they nibble.
3 (3-ounce) packages goat cheese
½ cup dried tomatoes in oil, drained
Toasted baguette slices
Process goat cheese and tomatoes in a food processor until smooth, stopping to scrape down sides. Serve with toasted baguette slices. Makes 1½ slices.
Hosting Help: Let partiers help themselves at stations around your home to encourage movement and mingling.
8 of 15Photographer Jean Allsopp
Black Pepper-Chèvre Pastries
Don’t fret: Chèvre is just a fancy French word for goat cheese. Bite into one of these flaky puff pastries and experience the smooth texture of goat cheese, a kick of black pepper, and a hint of citrus.
1. Combine orange zest, juice, and goat cheese in a medium bowl.
2. Roll each pastry sheet into a 9-inch square. Cut each sheet into 9 (3-inch) squares.
3. Spoon goat cheese mixture evenly into centers of squares. Brush edges of pastry with water. Fold each square of pastry into a triangle, gently pressing edges to seal. Place triangles on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and seal edges with a fork. Brush pastries with egg yolk.
4. Bake at 400° for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden. Serve immediately. Makes 1½ dozen.
Hosting Help: Serve bites that taste delicious warm or at room temperature.
9 of 15Photographer Jean Allsopp
Curried Shrimp Balls
Bring out the ethnic flavors of India at your next party. Don’t worry about running out, because this recipe makes four dozen scrumptious starters.
1 cup flaked coconut
1 teaspoon curry powder
2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
12 ounces peeled and deveined shrimp, cooked
2 green onions, coarsely chopped
1. Combine coconut and curry powder on a baking sheet, and bake at 325° for 5 minutes or until golden. Set aside.
2. Process cream cheese, shrimp, and onions in a food processor until blended.
3. Shape shrimp mixture into 1-inch balls, and roll into coconut mixture. Cover and chill. Makes 4 dozen.
Hosting Help: Avoid serving all your hor d’oeuvres at once. Keep extras in the kitchen for restocking platters when they’re beginning to look bare.
10 of 15Photographer Jean Allsopp
Seared Scallops with Balsamic Reduction
Scallops’ sweet, succulent flavor and sumptuous texture play the starring role in this simple yet elegant dish.
1 cup balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons butter, divided
12 large sea scallops
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1. Bring balsamic vinegar to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Reduce heat, and simmer about 15 to 20 minutes or until reduced to ½ cup. Stir in 1 tablespoon butter; set aside.
2. Sprinkle both sides of scallps with salt and pepper. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add scallops, and cool 3 minutes on each side or until golden crust begins to form. Serve scallops with balsamic reduction dipping sauce. Makes 4 appetizer servings.
Hosting Help: If you’re serving small bites such as shrimp or scallops, skewer them before serving for easy handling and charming presentation.
11 of 15Photographer Jean Allsopp
Tapenade, with a twist―fewer ingredients and a bold punch of flavor. These pastry sticks are quick to make and even easier to eat.
¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup pitted kalamata olives
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
½ (17.3-ounce package frozen puff pastry, thawed)
1. Process first 4 ingredients until smooth.
2. Unfold pastry sheet onto a lightly floured surface, and press out fold lines. Roll into a 12- x 10-inch rectangle.
3. Spread olive mixture over lengthwise half of rectangle to within 1 inch of long ledge; fold pastry over filling. Roll gently with a rolling pin; pinch edges to seal. Cut crosswise into (½-inch) strips. Twist strips; place on a greased baking sheet.
4. Bake at 400° for 12 to 15 minutes. Remove to wire racks to cool. Makes about 1½ dozen.
Hosting Help: Include a variety of options in your party spread so dieters and vegetarians can indulge.
12 of 15Photographer Jean Allsopp
This bite-size take on a classic salami sandwich has a tendency to vanish quickly at any party. Get creative with your mustard selection. Try spicy brown, Dijon, or a Creamy Mustard Horseradish Sauce
1. Unfold pastry sheet onto a floured surface; press out folds. Layer half of salami on pastry, leaving a ½-inch border at the top. Top salami with 3 slices Swiss cheese.
2. Brush top edge lightly with water. Starting at the bottom, roll up pastry, pressing border at the top to seal. Repeat with remaining pastry, salami, and cheese.
3. Cut ½-inch-thick slices, and place on a greased, foil-lined baking sheet.
4. Bake at 400° for 12 minutes or until golden brown. Serve with Dijon or whole-grain mustard. Makes about 3½ dozen.
Hosting Help: Set out several bowls or ramekins for the dipping sauces. Guests can dip or spoon sauces onto their plates. Alternatively, give each guest a few small, shallow bowls.
13 of 15Photographer Jean Allsopp
Spicy Shrimp Wraps
You don’t have to heat up the kitchen to make this crowd pleaser. It’s perfect to make, grab, and go for a charming waterside gathering.
3 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
4 (6-inch) chili-flavored or plain flour tortillas
1 cup loosely packed spinach leaves
½ pound peeled and deveined large shrimp, cooked
1. Combine cream cheese and seasoning, and spread on one side of each tortilla.
2. Top cream cheese mixture with spinach. Place shrimp about 1 inch from edge, and roll tightly. Cut into 1-inch slices, and secure with wooden picks. Makes about 1½ dozen.
Hosting Help: Place this simple starter over bright green banana leaves for tropical flair.
14 of 15Photographer Jean Allsopp
Blue Cheese–Walnut Wafers
Slip away in to a tranquil state while sitting on the back deck watching the sunset, sipping a glass of wine, and nibbling on these crispy pleasures. This recipe yields four dozen and can be made days ahead, giving you the freedom to stay outside―and out of the kitchen.
1 (4-ounce) package blue cheese, softened
½ cup butter, softened
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup finely chopped walnuts
1. Process first 3 ingredients in a food processor until smooth, stopping to scrape down sides. (Mixture will be sticky.) Spoon mixture into a bowl; stir in walnuts. Cover and chill 5 minutes.
2. Divide dough in half. Shape each portion into an 8-inch log. Wrap in heavy-duty plastic wrap; chill 1 hour.
3. Slice dough into ¼-inch-thick slices; place on ungreased baking sheets.
4. Bake at 350° for 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Serve warm or at room temperature. Makes 4 dozen.
Hosting Help: Make items ahead for effortless entertaining. These wafers will keep in airtight container until you’re ready to serve them.
15 of 15Photographer Jean Allsopp
Smoked Tuna Dip
This appetizer is extremely convenient and can be created in mere minutes. The recipe calls for canned tuna, a classic pantry staple you may even have on hand. Serve this flavorful hors d'oeuvre with crackers, carrot sticks, celery sticks, and green or red bell pepper strips.
2 (6-ounce) pouches hickory-smoked solid light tuna in water, drained
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
¾ cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup coarsely chopped green onions
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Process all ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Makes about 2 cups.
Hosting Help: Serve dips and spreads in hollowed-out tomato or bell pepper halves.