50 Last-Minute Appetizers For Your Next Unexpected Gathering
Pimento Cheese Puffs
Classic French gougères with a Southern remix. These airy pimiento cheese puffs make an impressive addition to virtually any party spread. While the choux pastry dough may seem intimidating to make, trust us—success is just a matter of not walking away from the pan. As long as you can stay put and keep stirring (so that your dough doesn’t burn), you can make gougères.
French Onion Soup Bites
Easy to assemble and perfectly portable, these French Onion Soup bites are the perfect addition to any holiday party spread. They’re like your favorite Trader Joe’s freezer aisle find, but tastier.
Lemony Herbed Ricotta and Roasted Tomato Bruschetta
This bite-size bruschetta recipe is dressed in flavorful herbs and makes a perfect appetizer to pair with a classic Italian entrée.
Pear, Brie, and Balsamic Bruschetta
This bruschetta is both sweet, with pear slices and honey, and savory because of the Brie cheese and balsamic drizzle.
Saucy Mini Meatballs
Adding cinnamon gives these meatballs a slight Moroccan feel. You can make this a day ahead and reheat on the stovetop before the party. Using different types of beef adds moisture to the meatballs while keeping sat fat in check.
Greek Crab Dip
With the salty richness of feta cheese and brightness from fresh lemon juice and herbs, this is an incredible twist on a classic creamy crab dip. Lump crab meat gives the dip an added touch of decadence, but it could also be made with less-expensive claw meat. Served with warm, crusty baguette slices this savory crab dip is the perfect “something different” to bring to your next potluck or party.
These tender, buttery snack rolls are akin to cinnamon buns in structure… but they’re full-on pizza perfection in flavor. Using canned crescent roll dough and prepared marinara sauce keeps both the prep time and ingredient list short, making these cheesy, kid-friendly bites easy to whip up at a moment’s notice. Of course, you can also prep them ahead to enjoy as after-school snacks or on-the-go breakfasts throughout the week. Feel free to customize you homemade pizza rolls with your own favorite toppings.
Black-Eyed Pea, Bacon, and Pickled Okra Bruschetta
This innovative bruschetta recipe makes a garlic, olive oil and black-eyed pea paste and is topped with crumbled bacon and pickled okra rounds.
Smoked Trout and Dill Cream Bruschetta
Add a sophisticated twist to a classic appetizer. Your guests will be begging for the recipe!
Chickpea Crackers with Chunky Tapenade
These rustic, gluten-free crackers are addictively salty and crunchy, like a snack should be. The creamy hummus and briny tapenade are the perfect complements to create an impressive appetizer spread.
Mini Crab Melts
These little morsels are perfect for snacking on before dinner is served. As soon as the cheese is melted, they're ready to serve.
Mini Black Bean and Cheese Enchiladas
Everyone loves enchiladas but all that rolling and filling can be a little labor-intensive on a busy weeknight. So we figured out a way to bake up a pan of delicious mini enchiladas in three easy steps! First, tuck small flour tortillas into two muffin pans and bake until browned to make crispy shells. Next, fill the prepared shells with a mixture of black beans, refried beans, enchilada sauce, green chiles, and shredded Monterey Jack cheese. Use a mild enchilada sauce and omit the chiles if your family doesn’t like a lot of heat. Bake the mini enchiladas until the cheese melts, then top each one with shredded lettuce, pico de gallo, sour cream, and scallions. Serve with your favorite green salad (a serving size is three mini enchiladas per person) for a fast and family-friendly meal that will be on your dinner table in 30 minutes.
Niçoise Gnocchi Salad
Haven’t made it to the grocery store in a minute? That doesn’t mean you can’t whip up an impressive dish. This lovely, snackable take on a salad Niçoise is composed largely from pantry items, like canned tuna and roasted red peppers, plus a couple of common refrigerator staples—frozen green beans and eggs. We use packaged gnocchi, shelf-stable gnocchi as a creative swap for the fresh potatoes typically found in a salad Niçoise. Dressed up with a super simple vinaigrette this “throw-together” salad could easily pass for a well-planned. In other words, keep this one in your back pocket for the next time you need a last-minute appetizer for entertaining.
Crispy Cauliflower Bites with Herbed Yogurt Dip
Even your most carnivorous meat-eating guests won’t be able to resist these crispy, spiced cauliflower bites. Offering the perfect balance of hearty crunch and bright, tangy sauciness, our cauli-bites are a grade-A vegetarian appetizer for entertaining, tailgating, and beyond. You can find berbere at supermarkets like Whole Foods or online; and if this Ethiopian spice blend is new to you, be prepared, you’re gonna wanna add it to everything.
Everything Smoked-Salmon Summer Rolls
Simply the Best Guacamole
Always remember: The best guacamole is the simplest guacamole.
Baked Crab Rangoon
Mini Tomato Sandwiches With Bacon Mayonnaise
One of the season’s simplest and most iconic pleasures, the beloved BLT, can also double as an effortless appetizer. The quality of your tomatoes will make or break this simple sandwich. We like the color contrast of red and yellow heirloom tomatoes, but choose whichever large tomato is ripest. These little sandwiches are perfect for outdoor picnics or brunch with the ladies.
Sheet Pan Carnitas Bao Buns
This genius recipe is the perfect solution for anyone who craves delightful, soft and fluffy steamed buns, but doesn’t own a steamer (i.e. most of us). Here, we create a pseudo-steamer using the ever-versatile sheet pan; simply place a wire rack (for the buns to sit on) in a sheet pan filled with a shallow layer of water, tent the buns loosely with foil, and you’re ready to go. While you steam the buns, you’ll use another sheet pan to simultaneously cook the deliciously crispy pulled pork that you’ll fill the buns with. You can find frozen bao buns (we used Wei-Chuan brand) at your local Asian market—and you can also pick up gochujang, ponzu sauce, and Kewpie mayo there as well. We prefer Kewpie in this recipe as it is a bit sweeter than typical mayonnaise, which is a great balance to the gochujang. And if you want to cut back on the heat a bit, as the saucy pork definitely has a kick, reduce the gochujang by 1 tablespoon. These little buns make for a great game day snack or party appetizer, and the recipe is easily multiplied to serve more people.
Flamin' Hot Cheetos Stuffed Jalapeños
Best Sausage Balls
There’s a universal attachment to these and the holidays. Everyone starts by rolling their eyes at the idea of them and then proceeds to eat at least 5.
Roasted Kale and Chickpea Snack Mix
This fiber-filled, gluten-free snack mix is great sprinkled over salads to give them a little spicy crunch.
Cheesy Crab Artichoke Toasts
Save time the day of the party by preparing the crab mixture one day ahead. Cut and store the sliced bread in an airtight container until ready to assemble, and then broil as the recipe instructs shortly before party time.
Super Simple Pimiento Cheese
This foolproof recipe for classic pimiento cheese comes from Damaris Phillip's cookbook Southern Girl Meets Vegetarian Boy: Down Home Classics for Vegetarians (and the Meat Eaters Who Love Them). The mainstay Southern cheese spread makes for an excellent appetizer served with crackers, and is equally delicious in recipes like this Pimiento Cheese Roasted Chicken.
Brie-and-Fig Puffed Pastry Bites
You don’t need a culinary degree and ample free time to create impressive appetizers for your next party. In fact, all you need is three simple ingredients and about ten minutes of hands-on work to whip up these easy and delectably cheesy bites. They’re yet another reason that puff pastry is the true MVP when it comes to entertaining.
A fun and easy way to eat sushi that'll impress anyone.
Quick and Easy Nachos
This platter of goodness represents the lowest-effort end of the homemade nachos spectrum. That said, “low-effort”—by no stretch of the imagination—means a low YUM-factor here. Although this game day-perfect platter of beefy, cheesy nachos comes together quickly and relies largely on store-bought shortcuts, it delivers the classic meld of flavors and textures that you want from everyone’s favorite appetizer. For this nachos recipe, we combine the meat and nacho cheese elements to create a Ro*Tel Dip-inspired, beefy cheese sauce. This guarantees an even distribution of the hearty toppings and keeps you from having to crank up the oven. However, if you prefer melted, shredded cheese over a nacho cheese sauce, simply cook your ground beef in a skillet on the stovetop, drain, and distribute over the nachos on a sheet pan. Then, top the platter with shredded cheese and pop it under the broiler until melty and glorious (no Ro*Tel required).
Chickpea Salad Boats
This recipe captures all of the bright, fresh appeal of a salad in a pretty, portable bite. Sturdy endive leaves have a nice cup shape for filling; you also could use Little Gem or small Bibb lettuce leaves. To get a head start, make the filling (minus the pears) up to a day in advance. About an hour before guests arrive, gently stir in the pear and fill the leaves.
Mini Shrimp Rolls
Porch parties and backyard cookouts call for shrimp-salad sliders with a little kick. Everyone will devour these cute little sandwiches made with shrimp, celery, and pickled jalapenos. If you are bringing these rolls to a party, transport the prepared shrimp-salad mixture, toasted rolls, and fresh toppings separately. Then assemble the Mini Shrimp Rolls just before serving.
Lasagna Dip With Pasta Chips
Olive Garden got this one right, folks—lasagna in dip form is all kinds of wonderful, especially served with freshly fried, crisp pasta chips. Trust us, this meaty, cheesy appetizer will be a welcome addition to any party.
Queso-Filled Mini Peppers
Tortilla chips usually go hand-in-hand with queso, but mini sweet peppers make a tasty and colorful bite-sized vessel for the rich cheese dip. Don’t worry if the queso looks a little broken when the cheese melts in the evaporated milk, the cream cheese will make it smooth again. Pickled jalapeños add a tangy note to the dip, but if you like your queso extra spicy, use finely chopped fresh jalapeños instead.
Cranberry Baked Brie
Make an easy and elegant holiday appetizer by topping a round of baked Brie with sweetened cranberry sauce and toasted pecans. Serve with assorted crackers, gingersnaps, apple slices or pear slices.
Creamy Chicken Alfredo Turnovers
Chicken Alfredo meets finger food in these buttery turnovers. Chopped rotisserie chicken and frozen puff pastry sheets are perfect shortcuts for this easy, crowd-pleasing appetizer. These impressive turnovers are perfect for gatherings, like holiday parties and tailgates, and come together at the last minute. Serve leftover filling with pasta to get even more mileage out of this recipe.
Bacon-Wrapped Grilled Dates with Brie
These yummy little bites are not your normal appetizer. Make sure to use large dates, which are much easier to handle and fill than small ones, and center cut bacon—thick cut bacon will take too long to cook. If a date splits while you’re filling it, just press it back together. These are best warm, right off the grill, but are still good at room temperature.
Instant Pot Mango Chutney
This chutney is slightly sweet and spicy, with a pleasant lingering heat from the Serrano and del arbol chiles. The sharp pops of flavor from the pickling spices mimic the flavors you’d find in North Indian cuisine. The orange juice and lime juice add some acidity and sour flavors to balance the natural sweetness in the mangoes. It’s the perfect cooling accompaniment for curries or fried samosas, but it would also work well on a cheese board.
We’ve got the perfect way to satisfy a high-carb craving without getting off your low-carb diet. These nachos are hearty and slightly chewy with a little bit of lightness. Balance the rich meat and cheese with creamy chipotle sauce and pico topping. Distribute the toppings evenly and work them into the spaces and crevices. This way, each “chip” gets toppings and the center doesn’t end up a soggy mess.The best pork skins to use for this recipe are chicharrones, which are firmer and crispier. You can find them in large “sheets” at international markets or grocery stores.
Fontina-And-Kale Mini Meatballs
These easy, cheesy meatballs are perfect for anything from a holiday party to a tailgating get-together—especially if you need to have a keto-friendly appetizer in the mix. The blend of Italian sausage and lean ground beef provide a great, flavorful base that isn’t overly greasy, and the kale and Fontina combo is a surefire crowd-pleaser.
BBQ Chicken Bean Dip
Step aside, Buffalo chicken. Move it along, basic bean dip. The game day dip to rule all game day dips has arrived. This bold yet balance BBQ Chicken Bean Dip has so much going for it: It’s easy to make, you likely have most of the necessary ingredients on hand, and most importantly—this cheesy chicken appetizer will be a winner with any crowd. The barbecue sauce used in to make the dip couldn’t be easier to mix up, and it’s one you can come back to again and again for all of your BBQ needs; however, if you want to shave a few minutes off the recipe, you can certainly use your favorite bottled sauce instead. We suggest topping the dip with cheese towards the end of baking in order to prevent the dip from becoming too greasy.
Easy Party Pizza Sticks
If you’re searching for an easy and inexpensive appetizer for a crowd, the hunt stops here. These crispy, cheesy pizza sticks are the perfect snack to whip up for a Super Bowl spread, birthday party, or a casual family get-together. Besides being inherently kid-friendly, these tasty pizza sticks are endlessly customizable—just pile on your favorite toppings!
Hot Bacon, Onion, and Swiss Dip
This ridiculously-good baked cheese dip is one of test kitchen chef Karen Rankin’s all-time favorite dishes to bring to parties and tailgates. It’s the ultimate oozy-gooey cheese appetizer. As Rankin puts it, the way Swiss cheese, savory bacon, and sweet caramelized onions play together is nothing short of divine. Cream cheese and mayo contribute a necessary touch of creaminess, while scallions and fresh thyme offer a added savory flavor intrigue, and a finishing touch of crispy onions on top delivers a pleasant crunch. Serve with pretzel rods, or other dippers of your choosing, and plan on handing the recipe over to anyone who tries it. Trust us, they’re gonna ask.
Easy Smoked Mussels with Garlic Butter
This easy technique for cooking mussels on the grill delivers the classic flavors you crave in a dish of steamed mussels—thanks to the garlic butter and lemony fresh herb sauce—but with a delightful smokey base. Serve warm off of the grill with slices of grilled bread for a divine seafood dinner.
Marinated Manchego with Olives and Orange
This cheese display is so impressive, nobody will guess it barely took any effort. Meet your new favorite cheese—Manchego is a hard, semi-aged Spanish cheese made from sheep’s milk with a mildly sharp, nutty flavor. And when it’s infused with olive oil, it takes on a floral flavor that pairs wonderfully with olives and almonds. Marinate your Manchego as long as you can—two hours, minimum—so the mixture can really set in. Serve as an appetizer with crackers or bread, or set it out in place of a cheese board.
Nacho Sausage Balls
Nothing says PARTY like two of the all-time greatest finger foods uniting as one. And that is exactly what is happening with these Nacho Sausage Balls. Adding chorizo, Mexican cheese, pickled jalapeño, cilantro, and crushed nacho cheese flavored Doritos to the mix gives traditional sausage balls a hit of spicy personality. They’re perfect for tailgating or holiday parties—plus, these next-level sausage balls can be made ahead of time and frozen for up to 1 month. For ease, form the sausage ball and freeze them in a single layer on a baking sheet; once frozen, transfer them to a freezer-safe container. When you’re ready to serve, pop them straight from the freezer to the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes. Serve your nacho sausage balls with favorite nacho condiments, like sour cream, salsa, and guacamole, for dipping.
Million Dollar Dip
Million Dollar Dip is like pimiento cheese, but better. The mixture of cheddar cheese, bacon, almonds, green onions, and mayonnaise will please anyone with a cracker or slice of celery. According to The Vintage Church Cookbook, it originated in the Neiman Marcus department store restaurant in the 1950s and became an instant favorite. This recipe doubles effortlessly, so go ahead and make a bigger batch. If there are any leftovers, you can always use it in a sandwich.
Pineapple Pizza Bites
This easy, 4-ingredient appetizer is a fun and inexpensive way to feed a crowd. They’ve got the greatest balance of sweet and salty thanks to the meat and cheese’s richness, the tomato’s acidity, and the pineapple’s juice.
It’s easy, it’s cheesy, and it requires no special equipment—what’s not to love? This slow cooker take on cheese fondue offers all of the nuanced flavor of traditional fondue along with all of the convenience of the crockpot; basically, it’s perfect for entertaining. Tossing the cornstarch with your grated cheese helps the cheese incorporate evenly into the liquid when melting and prevents clumping. Serve with a platter of your favorite roasted veggies, sausages, and bread cubes, using long skewers for dipping.
These crowd-pleasing cranberry-brie bites are the easiest scratch appetizer you can make. Plus, unlike other shareable appetizers, these won’t make a mess. You’ll find the mini phyllo shells in the frozen foods section. These are best warm and hot, so cook them as you need them.
Chicken Tikka Masala Dip
If you like buffalo chicken dip, you’ll love this super creamy version of chicken tikka masala. Thanks to the cream cheese, its tangier than traditional tikka masala. Don’t use Greek yogurt—it’s too chalky and astringent for this. Pulsing the chicken and yogurt helps tenderize everything and makes it scoopable. For a more flavorful twist, try chicken thighs instead of breasts. Serve this at your next party and blow everyone away.
Buffalo Chicken Stuffed Celery
We can’t decide what we love more about these Buffalo celery bites—the fact that they require zero cooking, come together in about 15 minutes, and are roughly the easiest appetizer ever OR the sheer magnitude of how delicious they are. But then, that’s the beauty of these seriously upgraded stuffed celery sticks, you don’t have to choose between convenience and full-on flavor. Crisp celery sticks are loaded with a creamy Buffalo chicken mixture—made entirely from store-bought staples—and topped off with crumbled blue cheese, making every bite the perfect Buffalo bite. Perfect for game day, these got-it-all snacks are sure to score more than a few devoted fans.