Simple Summer Appetizers
Everything Smoked-Salmon Summer Rolls
Everything bagel, meet the picnic basket. Fold smoked salmon into rice paper along with ripe slices of avocado, crunchy Bibb lettuce, Thai basil, crème fraiche, and a generous sprinkling of everything bagel seasoning, and enjoy the lighter side of this breakfast-favorite-turned appetizer.
Potato Chip–Crusted Fried Oysters
Cucumber Crudités with Soy Aioli and Sesame Crumble
The simple duet of crunchy cucumbers and an addictively delicious soy aioli spangled with salty sesame crumble will keep hungry guests at bay before the main event. Pro tip: save a dollop or two of soy aioli for a cooling fish dip.
Spicy Tuna Dolmas with Citrus-Yogurt Sauce
Our variation on dolmas (think Mediterranean spring rolls) is the perfect way to start a Mediterranean meze feast. Take care when removing the leaf bundles (available at most Mediterranean markets, Whole Foods, or Trader Joe’s locations) from the jar, then stuff the tangy grape leaves with fresh tuna, crunchy peppers, and tender couscous.
Octopus with Potatoes and Chorizo
Octopus might seem intimidating, but the four-step preparation used here is a manageable take with impressive results and full-on Majorca vibes. To make, toss super tender octopus with dry-cured chorizo, crisped fingerling potatoes, and a sprinkling of Espelette pepper, then enjoy with a glass or two of a crisp Spanish wine.
Turmeric-Marinated Swordfish Skewers with Harissa and Pistachios
Now this is what we call a hearty appetizer. The juicy swordfish boasts immense flavor thanks to a simple turmeric rub, a drizzle of chopped pistachios, and spicy harissa that calls for a cold glass of lightly fizzy Portuguese Vinho Verde.
Chilled Shrimp with Saffron Aïoli
Take a page from L.A. chef Michael Cimarusti's party-ready book and start your feast with jalapeño-, fennel pollen-, and garlicky breadcrumb-topped clams. Pro tip: When placing shells on the bed of sea salt before roasting, keep clams level as to not lose any flavorful juices.
Recipe: Herb-Roasted Clams
Smoked Sausage-and-Shrimp Toasts
Grilled Oysters with Tarragon-Parsley Butter
Crostini with Jerk Shrimp and Pineapple Chutney
Spicy Crab-and-Caviar Pinchers
Fifteen minutes is all it takes to assemble these mini pastry shells generously filled with lump crabmeat, jalapeño-lime mayo, and aromatic chopped chives. Don't forget a mini scoop of caviar or salmon roe for a final fancy touch.
Recipe: Spicy Crab-and-Caviar Pinchers
Chorizo-and-White Bean Dip
This easy summer appetizer is pretty as a picture. We love employing colorful vegetables for some added aesthetic appeal, but use whatever fresh, crunchy produce is in season.
Spicy chorizo adds some intriguing heat, but pureed cannellini beans balance the flavors and keep this dip from getting too spicy. The recipe only calls for eight ingredients and two steps, so you can enjoy this spicy take on a classic dip in minutes.
- Recipe: Chorizo-and-White Bean Dip
Buffalo Chicken Sliders with Celery-Ranch Slaw
These fantastic sliders can be an appetizer, a game day party snack, or the main course! The homemade celery-ranch slaw balances out the spice of the buffalo chicken, and an extra drizzle of a hot sauce-butter blend adds even more delicious flavor. One thing is for sure: these little sandwiches pack a punch!
Pro tip: You can always reduce (or increase!) the hotness level of the sliders by adjusting the amount of hot sauce you use.
Smoky Buttery Crab Claws
This recipe is a simple take on a classic; nonetheless, it’s sure to delight your guests with its smoky aroma and savory flavors. We love the unexpected addition of bacon—it complements the moist crab and makes each bite sinfully delicious. Serve this appetizer with French bread to mop up the remaining juices. Depending on the formality of your event, you can present these claws in ramekins or other small dishes to really impress your visitors.
- Recipe: Smoky Buttery Crab Claws
Spicy Tuna-Mango Skewers
The spice in this easy summer appetizer comes from a dose of dried crushed red pepper. If you prefer milder fare, simply skip the pepper and enjoy the other tasty flavors of marinated tuna and fresh mango.
Pro tip: The recipe calls for broiling each skewer, but you can also grill them if you want more of a smoky aroma. Place them on the grill over medium-high heat and cook for about one minute on each side.
- Recipe: Spicy Tuna-Mango Skewers
Grilled Tomato-Basil Pizzettes
If the vibrant colors of this easy appetizer aren’t enough to convince you to try it, take a look at the ingredients: fresh, easy-to-find ingredients that taste as good as they look. The simple Italian-inspired flavors of these mini pizzas are perfect for warm summer evenings, and the process of making the pizzas can be fun for everyone! Letting everyone top his or her own pizza ensures they like what they’re eating, and it means less prep for you!
- Recipe: Grilled Tomato Basil-Pizzettes
Greek Shrimp Bruschetta
Recipe: Greek Shrimp Bruschetta
Bruschetta may be a traditional Italian antipasto, but our take on this easy summer appetizer has a Greek twist. Small shrimp are tossed with chopped plum tomatoes, garlic, feta cheese, lemon juice, and a dash of Greek seasoning. While the toasted baguette slices on the bottom help soak up all the juices.
Pro tip: Be sure to pick out shrimp that are on the smaller size. Anything too large becomes unwieldy and has a tendency to overpower the rest of the ingredients.
Chorizo-and Goat Cheese-Stuffed Peppers
We love that four simple ingredients can make an easy summer appetizer with such complex flavors! Baby sweet peppers, chorizo, goat cheese, and cream cheese are the only ingredients you need to make these stuffed peppers. The cheeses balance the spice of the peppers and chorizo, so it’s not too spicy but still has a kick. Garnish if you want to make these a little more photogenic, or leave them as they are and simply enjoy the taste.
Tomato Feta Bites
Recipe: Tomato Feta Bites
Whether you're hosting a grand gathering or just trying to change up your dinner routine, these easy summer appetizers are a sure to kick the evening off right.
This easy Mediterranean-style appetizer has only six ingredients, so prep is a breeze! Frozen puff pastry cut into bite-size pieces serves as the base, while fresh tomato slices act as a wonderfully juicy foil. Chopped olives and crumbled feta cheese sprinkled over the top—along with a drizzle of olive oil—add some Greek flair. Baking allows the flavors to mix, and a final flourish of chopped herbs makes for a long and savory finish.
Cruisin’ Crab Dip
Recipe: Cruisin’ Crab Dip
Easy doesn’t begin to cover this creamy, sinfully delicious crab dip. Even better, because you’re making it at home, you’re in charge! You can make sure that there will be a bite of crab in each scoop and up the spice factor—or bring it down—by adding hot sauce to suit your taste.
Combining and heating all the ingredients before adding the crab keeps it from getting too tough. Skip the parsley garnish if you want to dive in immediately—believe us, we won’t judge.
Oysters on the Half Shell with Pickled-ginger Salsa
Oysters are the obvious stars on this riff on a classically coastal appetizer. But picking good bivalves is paramount—don’t be afraid to ask the seller for help, and always go as fresh as possible. Shucking the oysters is the greatest challenge of this recipe; mixing up the pickled ginger salsa is easy, and it makes the perfect accompaniment.
Want another perfect accompaniment? Try serving this dish with a crisp Grüner Veltliner or a lean sparkling wine such as Lucien Albrecht Cremant d’Alsace Brut Rose.
Smoked Bluefish Spread
Recipe: Smoked Bluefish Spread
With only six components in the entire recipe, this summer appetizer keeps it simple and light. And that despite a small dose of cream cheese. The key is not only the small number of ingredients (to keep the flavors from getting too complicated), but the act of blending them all together to introduce some airiness. Serve with unflavored and unseasoned crostini or crackers to keep the focus on the dip itself, not the accompaniment.
Pro tip: Don’t like bluefish? Try smoked tuna or trout instead!
Grilled Shrimp Gazpacho
Recipe: Grilled Shrimp Gazpacho
Gazpacho—the famed chilled Spanish soup—can be intimidating—yet it also makes for a delicious, refreshing, and unique offering at any summer soiree. Chopped vegetables and a dash of lemon juice make up a base that shouldn’t be too runny. Serve with crusty bread to sop up any tangy remains.
Pair this dish with a Spanish Albarino such as Valminor or try a domestic take from the Niven Family’s Tangent line of wines.
Asian Fried Crab Balls
Recipe: Asian Fried Crab Balls
With delicious, fresh ingredients, this summer appetizer is guaranteed to wow. But to really make this dish shine, focus on the presentation: Place three to four crab balls in a small warmed bowl, ladle on our easy three-ingredient broth, and top with toasted nori strips. Customize with daikon radish, enoki mushrooms, and radish sprouts on the side.
Pair this dish with a floral, off-dry Riesling such as Owen Roe Dubrul Vineyard Riesling.
Maine Crab Cakes with Lime Aiöli
Recipe: Maine Crab Cakes with Lime Aiöli
Bite-size crab cakes mean you get to eat as many as you want, right? We think so! These panko-crusted beauts are delicious on their own, and make for perfect party finger foods. Just add a dollop of homemade lime aïoli to complete the picture. Not an aïoli advocate yet? You will be after whipping together this tart and tangy version in your food processor.
Pair with a wheat beer such as Allagash White from Portland, Maine.
Recipe: Prosciutto-wrapped Mozzarella
We love this easy summer appetizer, not least of all because it consists of only two ingredients. Simply marinate some fresh mozzarella balls in a mixture of Italian vinaigrette and spices, wrap them in strips of prosciutto, secure with a toothpick, and voila! It’s the perfect way to supercharge any charcuterie board or picnic basket.
Pair this dish with something equally light and carefree, such Bieler Père et Fils Rosé.
Romas and Goats
Recipe: Romas and Goats
When it comes to Romas and Goats, you can definitely judge a book by its cover. This dish—halved Roma tomatoes stuffed with goat cheese—is an eye-catcher. Just de-seed the tomatoes, fill with cheese, coat in a savory panko and parmesan mixture, and bake in the oven until lightly browned. We recommend allowing it to cool to room temperature before serving so the cheese is extra gooey.
Crab Salad Rolls with Ginger-Plum Sauce
Ever wanted to channel your inner sushi chef? With this recipe, you can join their esteemed ranks. While not as involved as anything you might order at your local sushi counter, these crab salad rolls are equally delicious, and they feed a crowd.
Dijon mustard, lemon juice, and avocado balance the sweetness of the mango and sweet onion. Lettuce adds some necessary crunch. And our homemade ginger-plum is just plain addictive.
Chilled Salmon Appetizers
Recipe: Chilled Salmon Appetizers
In the dead of summer, the last thing you want to do is add more heat to your kitchen. Hence the beauty of this no-oven summer appetizer. In fact, the only cooking required is whipping up an herby, tarragon-tinged rémoulade. Once that’s ready, simply slice some pumpernickel, spread some rémoulade on top, and dress with hot smoked salmon and chopped chive. As always, with a dish this simple, quality ingredients are key. So, be sure to find the freshest fish available.
Bacon-wrapped Shrimp with Basil-Garlic Stuffing
As if wrapping shrimp in bacon wasn’t decadent enough, we’ve gone and added basil, Parmesan cheese, and a garlic stuffing. After a little stuffing and wrapping, all you have to do is brush on your favorite barbecue sauce. Pop into the oven for 8-9 minutes and you’ve got a lip-smacking, two-bite appetizer.
Pro tip: In place of bacon—if you want to try something less pronounced and smoky—go Italian with some pancetta or prosciutto.
Spicy Shrimp Wraps
Here’s a creative way to use up those flour tortillas from taco night. Just swipe a tortilla with a light layer of cream cheese, pile on some spinach and shrimp, and cut each roll-up into bite-size pieces. The heat from these guilt-free wraps comes from the Cajun seasoning—don’t hesitate to add more or less than the recipe calls for, depending on your preference.
Pair this dish with a dry Muscadet such as Chateau de la Ragotiere.
- Recipe: Spicy Shrimp Wraps
Smoked Salmon and Fingerling Potatoes
With only six ingredients, shopping for this summer appetizer is just as easy as preparing it. Simply toss halved fingerling potatoes in olive oil and bake for 20 minutes. Once they’ve cooled, top with ribbons of smoked salmon and a dollop of crème fraîche. Sprinkle caviar (or salmon roe) and cracked pepper on top. Not a fan of caviar? Sub in some briny capers instead.
Avocado-Corn Dip with Homemade Tortilla Chips
We’re with you—peas don’t belong in guacamole! But corn and brown sugar on the other hand … Just trust us. You’re welcome to purchase tortilla chips for dipping at the store, but for a little extra wow-factor, try frying your own at home.
Pro tip: The homemade tortilla chips call for peanut oil, but if you or any of your guests have a peanut allergy, it’s perfectly acceptable to use another oil (like canola or grapeseed).