Fresh Summer Appetizers
Summer eating is all about sharing and mostly about eating with your hands. Pool parties, cookouts, and picnics fundamentally thrive on communal bites, so make sure you’ve got the best summer appetizers possible. Whether you want to ditch the utensils, take advantage of fresh produce, or just keep your guests coming back for more, these summer-approved appetizers will do the trick and please everyone.
Potato and Carrot Pancakes with Curry Sauce
Carrots bring an earthy sweetness to these crispy, latke-like pancakes. To reheat, place on a baking sheet, and heat in a 325° oven until warmed through.
These meatballs are made with onion, minced garlic, corn tortilla, egg, ground sirloin, and chipotle chile.
Pulled Pork Barbecue Nachos
Brighten up a warm summer evening with these colorful, layered nachos made with our famous pulled pork.
Tomato, Watermelon, and Feta Skewers with Mint and Lime
No time for skewers? Gently toss the ingredients in a salad bowl, or dice the tomato, watermelon, and cheese into small cubes to serve as a fresh relish for grilled meats.
Sweet Pea and Avocado Dip with Baked Pita Chips
Incorporating green peas into this tasty summer snack not only reduces the amount of fat but also adds sweetness and further brightens the green color.
Cornmeal Thumbprint Cookies with Tomato Jam
This clever take on beloved thumbprint cookies is sweet and savory. Refrigerated dough keeps for days, and the baked cookies freeze well.
Chile-Lime Watermelon Wedges
Covering all the summer flavor bases, Chile-Lime Watermelon Wedges are spicy, sweet, tangy, and super juicy!
Lobster Roll Cones
The perfect remaking of the traditional lobster roll, these toasted cones will be the star of your next luncheon or dinner party.
Smoky Red Pepper Dip with Grilled Crudités
Step aside, boring crudités--enter deliciously crunchy, lightly charred fennel and broccoli paired with grilled bread and juicy tomatoes.
Yogurt Cheese with Roasted Beets and Feta
This ultra-creamy, Middle Eastern–style appetizer dip created by cookbook author Janet Fletcher is also excellent with raw cucumbers. If you make your own yogurt cheese, you'll need to start it 24 hours ahead of making this dish.
Chilled Sweet Pea Soup with Mint and Cream
We love this bright, minty soup because it adds a pop of spring color to the buffet. Make it up to 48 hours ahead of time.
Creamy Basil-Black Pepper Cucumbers
Greek yogurt creates a creamy finish with these sliced cucumbers, which are perfect with a salad or simply by themselves.
Melon, Mozzarella, and Prosciutto Skewers
Keep entertaining simple with this 4-ingredient appetizer featuring fresh melon, prosciutto, and fresh mozzarella balls.
Baked Egg Rolls
These egg rolls are great for appetizers, alongside Asian cuisine, or just as a hearty afternoon snack.
Stuffed Peppers with Chèvre, Pecans, and Golden Raisins
"Both sides of my family--the Greeks and the Southerners--love stuffed peppers."
At happy hour, pair these appetizer-size pizzas with a chilly glass of rosé. For an entrée, simply roll dough into larger rounds.
Cucumbers with Ginger, Rice Vinegar, and Mint
This refreshing dish features cucumber and mint to keep you cool on those hot summer days.
Prosciutto-Wrapped Grilled Okra
A sweet-tangy balsamic glaze makes this summertime appetizer irresistible. Using two skewers for the wrapped okra makes it easier to flip on the grill.
Cucumber-Tomato Skewers with Dilly Sauce
English or Kirby cucumbers have few seeds and a thin peel. You could also add pieces of fresh bell pepper to the skewers.
Pan-Fried Beef and Scallion Dumplings
These easy beef dumplings are an excellent use for extra-lean ground beef, and are great served as an appetizer or as a simple entree alongside a couple of vegetable sides
Seared Halloumi with Cucumbers, Apricots, and Honey
The key to this multi-textured meze plate is halloumi, a salty Cyprus grilling cheese, that works wonderfully with ripe figs, summer melon, and all manner of stone fruits.
Lobster and Corn Quesadillas
Inspired by a simple, classic lobster and corn chowder, these decadent Maine lobster quesadillas can be served family-style as a crowd-pleasing appetizer, or plated with a simple green salad for an exceptional meal. Filled with delicate sweetness and savory richness, this high-low dish is sure to be a dinner party hit.
Fried Buffalo Oysters
Selects are rather large shucked oysters—which makes them the perfect size for battering and deep-frying. A unique twist on the tangy buffalo wing, fried oysters are crispy on the outside and meltingly rich and creamy on the inside. These fiery bites are a bit spicy, so it’s best to have a side of cool ranch or blue cheese and trimmed celery sticks nearby. Serve at your next tailgate party for the ultimate crunchy starter.
Slow-Cooker Beef Nachos
From the Kitchen of Julie Hutson, Callahan, Florida. "This is surprisingly yummy to have such simple ingredients."
Here, the cheese dough becomes a savory crust for caramelized fennel and tangy tomatoes.
Rainbow Tomato Bruschetta
Linda Wisner of Portland, Oregon uses a mix of heirloom tomato varieties from her garden; heirlooms are available in many farmers' markets. Toast the baguette slices up to 1 day ahead; cool, wrap airtight, and store at room temperature. Prepare tomatoes up to 1 hour ahead; cover and let stand at room temperature.
Goat Cheese Poppers with Honey
In addition to being a delicious appetizer that feels special, these Goat Cheese Poppers with Honey make for extra awesome croutons on salads and as "meat" balls for vegetarian pasta dishes.
Mini Corn Cakes with Smoked Salmon and Dill Crème Fraîche
Make these in the morning, and top with salmon and crème fraîche just before your guests arrive. Tight on time? Use store-bought blini instead.
Muffin Pan Tomato Tarts
Our new twist on the classic summer pie starts with puff pastry sheets.
Usher in the warm days of spring and summer with Strawberry Bruschetta. This refreshing mixture of nectarine, grape tomatoes, strawberries, and basil are served over baguette slices with slatherings of goat cheese.
Pesto and Corn Crostini
For a summertime spin on a classic crostini, add some fresh summer produce to your toast. Use fresh basil from your garden to whip up a delicious pesto, and top with fresh corn kernels, sugar, and salt.
Candied Pancetta Stacks
Here's a fresh take on caprese that invites a meaty, umami burst from pancetta. Serve as an appetizer or dessert (think cheese-and-charcuterie board reinvented) at your next summer soiree for a crowd-pleasing treat.
Ceviche is a popular Latin American dish that involves marinating chopped raw fish in fresh citrus juice, fresh herbs, and various spices. After a few hours of resting, the acid in the marinade actually "cooks" the fish in a sense. That said, using the freshest seafood you can find is a must for ceviche; in this preparation, the freshest seafood will also be the tastiest. Juicy-sweet summer watermelon and sliced oranges bring an additional level of refreshing brightness to this take on ceviche, featuring shrimp and scallops. The fruit also helps balance the spicy kick delivered by fresh jalapeño.
Late-Summer Vegetables with Aioli
Make use of summer's bounty of vegetables with this stunning salad. Designed to focus on the colors, textures, and flavors of late summer produce, this dish combines raw and cooked veggies for variety.
Roasted Roma Tomatoes on Toast
Roasting, an easy technique, leaves tomatoes juicy while intensifying their flavor. Add lemon cheese and place atop olive-oil toast for an elegant starter.
Roasted Tricolored Peppers and Goat Cheese
When making this height-of-summer appetizer, reader Elizabeth Sfatcu suggests roasting extra peppers and saving them in the freezer. "They come in handy for a quick salad," she says. "I'm happy I can skip the roasting and peeling part the second time."
Grilled Okra and Tomato Skewers
Feature two summer produce stars—fresh okra and tomatoes—together in this colorful grilled appetizer. This is a great appetizer for entertaining because you can assemble the skewers the night before and brush the oil mixture on just before grilling.
Grilled Stuffed Jalapeños
The rich and creamy combination of bacon, cream cheese, and cheddar is a nice foil for the muted spice of grilled jalapeño peppers. This recipe is a healthy, fresh alternative to the popular breaded and fried version.
Summer Fruit Salad
Turn fruit salad into a first course appetizer by combining fresh fruit with avocado, cilantro and arugula, and serving in small glasses or cups as a portable salad.
Peach and Prosciutto Canapés
The elegance of this easy appetizer belies its simplicity. Make-ahead tip: Toast the baguette slices and combine the cheese mixture well in advance, but assemble just before company arrives for the best results; it will all come together in a flash.
Top toasted baguette slices with fresh grilled and chopped eggplant, arugula, tomato and fresh mint for a fresh-from-the-garden appetizer.
Pickled Grapes With Rosemary and Chiles
Add these gorgeous spicy-tart grapes to an antipasto platter or cheese plate or stir them into a summer salad. Prep is only 10 minutes and the “pickling” happens in the refrigerator in just a few hours.
Fire-Seared Antipasto Platter
Arrange garden-fresh grilled veggies—eggplant, bell peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, and onion—on a platter alongside an assortment of thinly sliced cheese and meats for an easy, colorful appetizer tray.
Shrimp-and-Blue Cheese Spread
Make a creamy dip by adding a mixture of blue cheese, mayonnaise, sour cream, and cream cheese to chopped fresh shrimp. Serve with an assortment of fresh veggies and baguette slices.
Roasted Corn Salsa
Fresh corn, tomatoes, onions, and parsley are tossed with a sweet-hot vinaigrette to make this favorite summertime salsa. Pair with tortilla chips for a colorful appetizer or serve alongside grilled burgers, chicken, or ribs.
Asian Slaw with Egg Roll Crackers
A gorgeous presentation of shredded crunchy veggies makes for one special summer appetizer. Crisped egg roll wrappers form the base for this Asian slaw.
Corn and Sun-Dried Tomato Quesadilla with Smoked Mozzarella
These richly flavored quesadillas are a tasty twist on the Mexican favorite. Though delicious when served by themselves, try them on top of a tossed salad, as shown here.
Chunky Tomato-Fruit Gazpacho
This delicious, chunky gazpacho features chopped tomatoes, honeydew melon, cantaloupe, mango, cucumber, and nectarines. It’s a light and flavorful starter for heavier summertime meals, like grilled steak or chicken.
Stuffed Squash Blossom Bruschetta
You'll find squash blossoms, which have a subtle squash flavor, from late spring to early fall at gourmet grocery stores, farmers' markets, or Latin food markets. Here, we've served them as an appetizer atop grilled bread.
Lemon-Macerated Okra and Olives
Instead of filling up dinner guests on peanuts or pretzels, try this colorful blend of okra, olives, and garlic, seasoned with lemon juice, olive oil, and herbs. Serve alongside a selection of bread, cheese, artichokes, and chilled shrimp or cold cuts for an antipasto platter.
Marinated Tomatoes with Basil and Balsamic Vinegar
Marinating the tomatoes gives them a tangy flavor that pairs perfectly with the onion topping. For a heartier version, serve tomatoes on top of sliced French bread and garnish with Parmesan cheese curls.
Fresh Corn Blinis with Smoked Salmon and Chive Cream
Traditional blinis consist of flour pancakes topped with sour cream and caviar, but our version features sweet corn pancakes topped with cold-smoked salmon and homemade chive cream. These easy apps are a great way to use up extra corn-on-the-cob you might have picked up at the market.
Marinated Cucumber-And-Tomato Salad
This easy cucumber and tomato salad tastes like summertime in a bowl. The dressing is light and zingy from the vinegar, the cucumbers and onion are so pleasantly crunchy you can’t stop eating them, and the tomatoes are so juicy and sweet they burst in your mouth. It’s perfect as a light summer snack, but would also be a great side dish at any barbecue or cookout or even an addition to other salads. Go ahead and make a big vat of this and keep it in the fridge. It’ll disappear in no time.
Korean Fried Chicken
You don’t know crispy fried chicken until you’ve tried this Korean fried chicken. Our smitten test kitchen team even deemed this some of the best fried chicken they’d ever experienced. The secret to the chicken’s incredible, light and crisp exterior comes down to two key details: the potato starch used to coat the chicken and the double-fry method (trust us on this one—it works). Between the delightfully crackly texture, the aromatic flavor worked into the chicken via its ginger-salt rub, and the dynamic heat of the gochujang sauce, this Korean fried chicken is guaranteed to impress. While we loved this recipe for chicken wings and drumsticks, you could use the technique for other pieces of the bird, like breasts and thighs; you’ll just need to adjust your cooking time to accommodate more substantial cuts.
Grilled Garlic Knots
You can’t beat a garlic and butter roll, especially one that has been grilled. The cheese and parsley give them a nice Fazoli’s feel, while the charred bread adds extra flavor. Plus, they’re a cinch to grill. Prepared pizza dough can easily be found in the deli section of major grocery stores, but you can even buy it directly from a pizza shop if you ask.
For the perfect, all-purpose macaroni salad, look no further than this easy recipe. Our version of the staple summertime side dish delivers everything you love about a classic, creamy pasta salad, but with an extra touch of vibrancy. Chopped bell peppers deliver colorful, sweet crunch while cream cheese provides a tangy depth, and fresh dill lends a flavorful kick of freshness. Whether you’re heading to a picnic or potluck-style barbecue, a large bowl of this macaroni salad will always be more than welcome.
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.
Piña Colada Snack Mix
Everyone’s favorite beach drink becomes crunchy in this snack mix filled with flavor: Sweet, rich coconut, tangy lime and pineapple, and saltiness. You’ll find dried fruit in the produce sections of most stores. We used large coconut flakes. Toss in the fat before you add salt and seasoning to ensure an even dispersal. This makes a lot, and will easily cut in half, but leftovers hold really well in a sealed bag. Serve with actual piña coladas, or your favorite beer.
Tomato Tart with Smoked Mozzarella and Dijon
Our take on a Southern classic is super delicious, and kind of tastes like biscuit pizza—the biscuit is flaky and buttery with a fun cornmeal texture, and the tomatoes are tender and juicy without sogging out the crust. Mixing the mayonnaise and cheese together makes things feel even more Southern. Your local farmers’ market will have the most delightfully colorful tomatoes with the best flavor, so search there. For a crispier crust, invert a rimmed baking sheet, which will circulate more air underneath it. You can also reheat this in the oven without sacrificing any taste—just wrap it in foil first.
Farro Salad With Cherries, Corn, and Basil
Meal preppers, meet your new favorite salad. It’s bright and juicy thanks to the cherries, while the farro base keeps things feeling nice and hearty. The almonds bring in a crunch and nuttiness that helps bring everything together. Since it’s super versatile, you could make a batch on Sunday and serve it with arugula and baked chicken for a healthy lunch all week long.
Spicy Grilled Watermelon
This bold and beautiful grilled watermelon recipe features a kick of heat, balanced with bright lime and salty cotija cheese. With a bit of cilantro for a pop of freshness and color, this summery side dish is ready for your next cookout. For a more dynamic spice experience, we love Tajin seasoning—which can be found at most grocery stores and pairs exceptionally well with melon. If you have trouble finding it at your local supermarket, try the nearest Mexican market or order it online. You can cut the watermelon away from the rind before or after grilling and chop it into a more composed salad if desired.
Air-Fried Jalapeño Poppers
The air-fryer jalapeño poppers allow you to enjoy everything you love about crispy pepper poppers without all of the not-so-lovable mess that comes with deep-frying.
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.
Instant Pot Pork Sliders with Watermelon Barbecue Sauce
This has all the flavor and tenderness of all-day barbecue, but comes together in a few hours. The watermelon juice replaces the stock usually found in Instant Pot or slow cooker pulled pork recipes, and the rind gives the sauce from extra body. The pork’s sweetness resembles that of al pastor, so it would work just as well in tacos as it does in sliders.
Grilled Wings with Pineapple-Ginger Glaze
Not to brag, but these wings are incredible. The marinade is nice and the char from the grill is perfect. These wings have some heat to them, but not too much. Wings often come in one piece, but don’t fret: Cutting whole wings is easy, just make sure you cut through the joints.