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).
This French fry alternative is equally as delicious, and will satisfy your craving for creamy avocado. With only 6 ingredients, it’s also incredibly easy to make. Lightly batter wedges of avocado in panko breadcrumbs (a lighter alternative to conventional breadcrumbs) and fry until golden-brown. Your next step? Enjoy!
Pro tip: Looking for a good dipping sauce? Ketchup is the obvious choice, but also try salsa, pico de gallo, or this lime-sriracha aioli. All taste great with avocado.
- Recipe: Avocado Fries
Lobster Deviled Eggs
Use this summer appetizer to surprise and delight your guests with this twist on a Southern classic. Simply prepare deviled eggs as you typically would, then add coarsely chopped, cooked lobster to the filling before placing spoonfuls on the egg whites. Sprinkle smoked paprika and chives on top, and then cover and chill until it is time to eat.
Pro tip: To make it easier to peel the hardboiled eggshells, use a sewing needle and prick a hole in the top prior to boiling.
- Recipe: Lobster Deviled Eggs
Shrimp with Zesty Cocktail Sauce
Yes, this appetizer consists of the usual boiled shrimp and homemade cocktail sauce (always a hit!), but we highly encourage some spontaneous customization as well. Serve creatively in individual dishes, or carefully arrange shrimp around the sauce on a unique platter.
Pro tip: For even quicker prep, add 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill and 1 tablespoon chopped preserved lemon (or 1 teaspoon lemon zest) to a 12-ounce bottle of your favorite store-bought cocktail sauce.
- Recipe: Shrimp with Zesty Cocktail Sauce
Tuna Gribiche Crostini
Quick vocab lesson: Gribiche is a classic French sauce layered with cornichons, capers, and hard-boiled eggs. Often described as a cousin to tartar sauce, gribiche can be deployed in a number of ways: on vegetables, cold roasted chicken, and all manner of seafood. It sounds impressive, but preparing this textured condiment is incredibly easy. Simply mix together the ingredients and spoon the mixture onto toasted baguette slices.
Pro tip: Be careful to toss the tuna gently, as you want it to remain a bit chunky.
- Recipe: Tuna Gribiche Crostini
Grilled Smoked Salmon Pizza
Need an excuse to fire up the grill? Look no further than this crowd favorite come pizza night. The recipe calls for prepared pizza dough, but if you’re feeling ambitious, feel free to skip the shortcut and make your own! Once your dough is ready, simply grill it, top with mascarpone cheese, some smoked salmon slices, capers, and chopped chive. A squeeze of lemon juice at the end helps tie it all together.
- Recipe: Grilled Smoked Salmon Pizza
Brie with Strawberries and Honey
The key to this simple summer appetizer is a cedar grilling plank that not only lends the brie a great smoky flavor, but serves as a beautifully rustic serving platter. The most difficult step in this recipe may be heating the grill—once you’ve done that, it’s simply a matter of cooking the cheese until soft. Once your Brie has reached a nice, gooey consistency, place sliced strawberries, almonds, and a drizzle of honey on top. Serve with gingersnaps and water crackers, and watch your guests gobble it up.
- Recipe: Brie with Strawberries and Honey
Scallop Avocado Tostadas
These bite-size appetizers are perfect for both a casual family gathering and a momentous cocktail party. They’re not too messy, so guests can munch on them while mingling. Everyone will swoon over the combination of seared scallop, creamy avocado, and spicy micro greens. And they’re Instagram-worthy (just watch the room break out their phones).
Pro tip: Spread the avocado mixture evenly on top of each tortilla chip, so none get overloaded and unwieldy.
- Recipe: Scallop Avocado Tostadas
Roasted Garlic and Sun-dried Tomato Cheese Spread
Creamy, savory, and with a garlicky punch, this spread—known in some circles as Ossabaw Dip, after the Georgia barrier island—is perfect as a party snack or a topping for crostini and bruschetta. Garlic, olive oil, sun-dried tomatoes, and a dash of dry white wine contribute to the flavor, while a generous amount of cream cheese creates the sinfully delicious texture. The key is a good food processor, as you want all the ingredients to be well-blended.
Grilled Shrimp with Rémoulade
The rémoulade, a quick dipping sauce, can be served with chips, crackers, or slices of bread, but we prefer it with juicy grilled shrimp. The sauce is only nine ingredients and can be mixed together in seconds; after that, it’s a mere matter of marinating and grilling the shrimp.
Pro tip: To make sure the rémoulade has the best possible flavor blend, let it chill for about an hour before serving.
- Recipe: Grilled Shrimp with Rémoulade
Veggie Spring Rolls with Cashew-Ginger Dipping Sauce
These fresh, light-as-can-be spring rolls are not your Chinese take-out variety. With crisp veggies and thin rice paper wrappers, the focus is on the healthy, natural flavors, not the fried outer coating. Paired with a creamy cashew-ginger dipping sauce, these spring rolls make great additions to any summer snack spread.
Pro tip: Rice paper wrappers are very delicate and can be tricky to work with. When folding the wrapper around the veggies, take your time, and don’t be afraid to unwrap it and start again.
Baked Guava Chicken
A thick, sweet guava sauce makes this appetizer irresistible. The sauce is only a handful of ingredients, so prep is easy, and using the sauce to marinate the chicken before baking it allows the meat to absorb the moisture and flavor. The recipe suggests using chicken drumettes (specific parts of a chicken wing) to make this recipe finger-food–friendly, but feel free to use the sauce to make dinner-sized portions of chicken! Pair with an avocado and pineapple salad to make it a full meal.
- Recipe: Baked Guava Chicken
Crab Mango Cashew Dip
Preparing this tropical dip is mainly a matter of combining the ingredients. Many are blended in a food processor to smooth the texture of the dip, but when you add the last few ingredients, be sure to gently fold them in, as blending the lump crabmeat can break up and toughen the pieces. Serve with crisp pita chips or another sturdy cracker.
Pro tip: Fresh lump crab is preferred for this recipe, but it can be pricey. Replace with canned or pouched lump crabmeat for comparable quality at a lower price.
- Recipe: Crab Mango Cashew Dip
Mini Surf and Turf Burgers
This recipe is actually three-in-one: one for the burger patty, one for the crab cake patty, and one for the final creation. Make sure you have a method—such as a warming drawer, an oven set very low, or a warm slow-cooker—to keep the patties warm while you assemble the final product. If you know some of your guests dislike seafood or prefer to avoid red meat, make a few burgers of just one or the other and let them pick and choose.
- Recipe: Mini Surf and Turf Burgers
Tuna Tartare Blini
Delicious doesn’t begin to cover this luxurious, photo-ready, elegant summer appetizer. Blini, thin buckwheat pancakes, serve as the base; a fragrant tuna, lime juice, and caper mixture spooned on top adds texture and heft. A dollop of crème fraîche and a sprinkling of caviar on top polish off each bite and make this stately appetizer one your guests will not be able to resist. Just be sure to make enough for seconds!
- Recipe: Tuna Tartare Blini
Curried Coconut Shrimp Balls
With only five ingredients, this appetizer is a simple savory treat perfect for afternoons by the water.
Preparation is simple, too: simply process cream cheese, cooked shrimp, and chopped onions until blended, then refrigerate. Once an hour has passed, mix flaked coconut and curry powder, then roast until golden and slightly crisp. Remove the shrimp mixture from the fridge and shape it into bite-size balls. Roll the balls in the toasted coconut mixture, and serve!
- Recipe: Curried Coconut Shrimp Balls
Mini Crab Cakes with Wasabi Mayonnaise
These crab cakes have sesame seeds, scallions, and lime juice for unexpected flavor. The best part of this summer appetizer, though, is the wasabi mayonnaise. A simple blend of mayonnaise, wasabi paste, and lemon zest, it polishes off the raw flavors of the crab cakes perfectly.
Pro tip: The crab cakes can be made the morning of your gathering and refrigerated until just before guests arrive.
This ceviche combines two seafood favorites, offering a sweet appetizer with a kick of hotness from small pieces of Serrano pepper.
Pro tip: Presenting this dish in portioned cups makes sure each guest gets a full serving; this serving style is especially helpful if guests are mingling in a large space and don’t want to spend time gathered around an isolated food table. Offer your guests tortilla chips, too, for scooping up any remaining liquid.
- Recipe: Salmon-and-Shrimp Ceviche
Field Pea-and-Radish Crostini
These crostini are perfect for summer: they have fresh vegetables and light flavors, and they’re the ideal size for a finger food. A smear of ricotta on each slice of bread ensures the toppings will stick, and a sprinkling of vegetables on each slice keeps this appetizer light.
Pro tip: Chop the vegetables as small as you can, so they don’t overpower each other or add too much weight to the crostini. Similarly, don’t put too much ricotta on each slice, as it could make the bread too soggy.
- Recipe: Field Pea-and-Radish Crostini