Our Best Party Appetizers
Firecracker Shrimp with Sweet Chili-Lime Dipping Sauce
A guaranteed holiday party favorite, firecracker shrimp go best with a sweet chili-lime dipping sauce. Pro tip: cut a ¼-inch-deep slit into the inner curved side of each shrimp to prevent curling, and fold the spring roll wrapper tightly so you don’t lose any pork stuffing during frying (trust us, you’ll want every bit).
Dungeness Crab Gratin
With sweet Dungeness crab meat tucked beneath layers of crème fraiche and bubbling white cheddar, don’t expect this dip to last long at the app table. Serve in a casserole dish for easy sharing or scoop into individual au gratin dishes so everyone gets their own hearty portion.
- Recipe: Dungeness Crab Gratin
Blood Orange Tartlets
Blood oranges segments, with a unique flavor combining citrus notes and a distinct touch of raspberry, pop against the pudding-filled tartlet. Show off your artistic flair by arranging your oranges in a floral fashion and topping with a dollop of sweetened whipped cream.
- Recipe: Blood Orange Tartlets
Spiced Rum Balls
Everyone’s favorite boozy sweet treat gets an arresting upgrade with a splash of spiced rum. Roll in large flakes of dried coconut for a decorative finish, then arrange in a holiday tin for the perfect hostess gift.
- Recipe: Spiced Rum Balls
Purple Sweet Potato Latkes with Tobiko
Update your Jewish potato pancakes with purple sweet potatoes for an unexpected pop of color. Press the individual latkes tightly so they don’t fall apart in the pan, then top with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkle of mildly salty red tobiko (i.e. flying fish roe).
Cheesy Caramelized Onion Flatbreads
These delicious snacks pair perfectly with Domaine de Baumard Cremant de Loire "Carte Turquoise," NV, 50% Chenin Blanc, 50% Cabernet Franc ($21):
"The presence of green apple and golden raspberry pairs incredibly well with the mix of cheeses and black sesame," says Velo. Add the light acidity from this sparkling wine and it is a great match."
Smoked Salmon Rillettes
At Renee Erickson’s mini empire of Seattle restaurants, saltines are a secret weapon as an edible vehicle for both fresh and tinned seafood. Here, she bakes them with butter and shichimi togarashi (a Japanese spice blend) and serves with pickled shallots and her creamy smoked salmon rillettes.
- Recipe: Smoked Salmon Rillettes
Togarashi-Spiced Snack Mix
Nanami togarashi is a Japanese spice blend of red pepper, sesame seeds, seaweed, and dried citrus that offers all kinds of new possibilities to popcorn, Rice Chex, and any other salty snack food. Combine with shrimp chips, spicy wasabi peas, and soy-glazed macadamia nuts for the best party mix ever.
- Recipe: Togarashi-Spiced Snack Mix
Crab Rangoon Cheese Ball
No more waiting for your next takeout binge—we’re bringing a reimagined crab Rangoon to your party platter. Opt for fresh crabmeat for a more authentic flavor that will be the hit of the tailgate. Serve with packaged Wontons, or fry strips of egg roll wrappers for a fresh, warm alternative to chips and crackers.
- Recipe: Crab Rangoon Cheese Ball
Octopus with Potatoes and Chorizo
Green Goddess Deviled Eggs
Mussel Bánh Mì Toasts
Toast isn’t just for avocado and jam. Go next level with this open-faced banh mi piled high with pickled carrot and radish, shichimi togarashi (a Japanese spice blend) laced mayo, and mussels simmered in a lemongrass-steeped coconut broth.
- Recipe: Mussel Bánh Mì Toasts
Salt Cod Croquettes
Known in Portugal and Brazil as a classic bar snack called bolinhos (Portuguese for little cakes), these crispy and herbaceous bites are best when made with salt cod, which takes on a firmer, sweeter flavor through drying and preserving (similar to ham).
Recipe: Salt Cod Croquettes
Making your own hummus is a cinch, and well worth the extra effort when the results are this fresh, creamy, and nutrient-dense. Pita chips are a natural with our verde version of the mezze staple, or you can opt for a healthier alternative and serve with a spectrum of colorful veggies.
- Recipe: Edamame-Avocado Hummus
These salty snacks are great with beer and tart cocktails, such as margaritas.
- Recipe: Tapenade Twists
Goat Cheese Poppers with Honey
In addition to being a delicious appetizer, these bites are great as croutons on salads or as "meat" balls for vegetarian pasta dishes.
To sip, Velo recommends André Clouet Grande Reserve Brut, NV Grand Cru, 100% Pinot Noir ($30):
"If the lush cherry, strawberry, and cream are not enough to complement the goat cheese and spice from the black pepper and hot red pepper, the decadent, fruity finish should seal the deal."
- Recipe: Goat Cheese Poppers with Honey
Mini Beef Wellingtons
The best bubbly to serve with these tasty bites? Diebolt-Vallois Champagne, NV Blanc de Blanc, 100% Chardonnay ($36):
"This bubbly is rich and toasty—just right with the herbs and flaky puff pastry," says Michael Velo, bubbly expert from the Carriage House Restaurant in Chicago.
- Recipe: Mini Beef Wellingtons
Enliven your crudité platter deep green snap peas, rainbow carrots, bright heirloom cherry tomatoes, and this tropical twist on Greek skordalia—a garlicky dip made from nuts and soaked bread.
- Recipe: Macadamia-Coconut Dip
Hot Crab and Shrimp Dip
This hearty spread needs sturdy dippers, such as crostini or stone-ground crackers.
- Recipe: Hot Crab and Shrimp Dip
Curried Coconut Shrimp Balls
Bite-size Wasabi Crab Cakes
The crab cake mixture can be made several hours ahead. After they’re cooked, keep them warm in a 200° oven for up to an hour.
- Recipe: Bite-size Wasabi Crab Cakes
Offer a mix of hot and cold appetizers so you can replenish cold apps while the hot ones are baking.
- Recipe: Scallop-Spinach Spread
Crab, Mango, and Cashew Dip
Fresh lump crab is the gold standard, but can be quite pricey. Alternatives include refrigerated, pasteurized cans or shelf-stable cans and pouches.
- Recipe: Crab, Mango, and Cashew Dip
Smoked Salmon and Clam Spread
Hot smoked salmon has a long shelf life, so keep some on hand for impromptu snacks.
- Recipe: Smoked Salmon and Clam Spread
Smoked Salmon and Fingerling Potatoes
Peppered Pancetta-Wrapped Shrimp
Soak wooden skewers in water at least 30 minutes before grilling to prevent charring.
- Recipe: Peppered Pancetta-Wrapped Shrimp
Beef Tenderloin Yakitori
For a bargain-friendly version of this recipe pick more affordable cuts of beef (chuck, round, or flank) and weave thin strips onto skewers.
- Recipe: Beef Tenderloin Yakitori
Grilled Shrimp with Rémoulade
Think of this recipe as a deconstructed Shrimp Po' Boy without the bread. Marinated and grilled shrimp get even more flavor from a tangy rémoulade with capers, lemon juice and a dash of hot sauce.
- Recipe: Grilled Shrimp with Rémoulade
Almost any flavorful cheese works in these light-as-air bites. Try Cheddar in place of the Gruyère, and stir in 3 slices chopped cooked bacon or prosciutto. Or substitute 1⁄4 cup crumbled blue cheese, and add 1⁄4 cup finely chopped pecans.
- Recipe: Cheese Puffs
Taramasalata with Pita Chips
Taramasalata is a creamy Greek dip featuring carp roe, or tarama. A popular brand of roe, Krinos Tarama ($7), is available nationwide at specialty foods stores or at amazon.com. Get creative: Use golden whitefish roe ($12 for 2 ounces), available at californiacaviar.com. Save black roe for other uses; it will turn this dip an unappetizing gray color.
- Recipe: Taramasalata with Pita Chips
Sweet and Spicy Asian Nuts
Brown sugar makes these asian-spiced nuts sweet; wasabi powder brings the heat!
- Recipe: Sweet and Spicy Asian Nuts
These tartlets have all the sweet and sticky goodnes of traditional baklava but come packaged in a phyllo dough cup for a crisp bite and a buttery finish.
- Recipe: Baklava Tartlets
Cranberry and Pistachio Brownie Bites
These fudgy treats—which you can make ahead and freeze in an airtight container, unsliced, for up to three weeks—are an ideal addition to a cocktail party menu.
Make this flavorful appetizer up to a week early. Bring to room temperature before serving and garnish with fresh rosemary sprigs or strips of lemon peel.
- Recipe: Honeyed Olives
Basil Aïoli with Crudités
Presentation is half the fun! A beautiful platter of crudités is almost too pretty to eat.
- Recipe: Basil Aïoli with Crudités
Chicken Sausage Puffs with Creamy Mustard Dipping Sauce
These delightful little puff pastries taste best when served warm and require only five ingredients.
Mini Bacon Quiches
Top these quiches with fresh thyme leaves and green onion. Bonus: This recipes tastes good both warm and at room temperature.
- Recipe: Mini Bacon Quiches
Since the scallops take only two minutes to cook, you can make the avocado mixture ahead of time and then refrigerate until ready to cut down on prep time the day of your event.
- Recipe: Scallop-and-Avocado Tostadas