The first few minutes of any party seem to set the mood for the rest of the night. A stressed welcome, for instance, takes time to shake off, whereas a warm introduction makes it easier to drift into a good conversation. There are plenty of ways to ensure that a party starts off with a bang, of course: A solid guest list, proper lighting, available seating, and a fun playlist are a few ideas. But appetizers should be among this list, and probably at the top, if you want to get a party off to a good start.
Appetizers allow guests to gather as soon as they arrive—it gives them an excuse, other than drinks, to mingle with others. And if guests notice that there are few appetizers to choose from, it may give them a reason to be overly critical of other details, or perhaps wonder how long they're invited to stay. So if you're thinking of planning a party, you should probably give your appetizer options some thought.
We gathered 13 of the best appetizer recipes to consider if you're looking to set a fun mood for your upcoming event since they include various dietary need without ever turning their back on flavor. From classic shrimp cocktail and jerk tofu lettuce wraps to chicken wings and spinach artichoke dip, these are the appetizer choices that will make your party memorable from the very beginning.
The Recipe: Chipotle Chicken Taquitos
Why It Works: Whether it's a casual night with close friends or a larger get-together, these chicken taquitos from Heidi Larsen at Foodie Crush are sure to leave a serving platter faster than you can say, "Taquitos are here." Thanks to their five ingredients, including chipotle peppers, shredded chicken, and Monterey Jack cheese, these taquitos pack a lot of flavor into handheld bites. Serve them with pico de gallo, salsa verde, and sour cream, and you're all set.
The Pro Tip: "If frying, heat the oil to 350 degrees Fahrenheit—use a candy thermometer to measure the oil without touching the bottom of the pan," Larsen suggests.
The Recipe: Shrimp Cocktail
Why It Works: Another five-ingredient recipe from Heidi Larsen at Foodie Crush gives an updated spin on the classic appetizer of shrimp cocktail, and features chili sauce, horseradish, lemon, and chili sauce alongside a pound of cooked shrimp. That tangy, spicy addition to the seafood will make this appetizer tough to resist.
The Pro Tip: "Quick-thaw the shrimp by placing them in a bowl then rinsing with cold water for 15 to 20 minutes, and drain," Larsen says.
The Recipe: Healthy Tzatziki Sauce
Why It Works: The last recipe recommendation from Heidi Larsen at Foodie Crush will look bold on a buffet table when paired with a variety of veggies. To make this tzatziki sauce, Larsen blends plain Greek non-fat yogurt, garlic cloves, red wine vinegar, minced dill, and cucumber halves in a bowl and lets the flavors combine in the refrigerator for at least a half hour. When it's ready, she arranges the sauce with vegetables for an irresistible dip.
The Pro Tip: "Choose different colors and shapes of veggies and arrange them so the same colors don't sit next to one another," she notes. "Instead, place them opposite one another."
The Recipe: Vegetarian Lettuce Wraps With Jerk Grilled Tofu
Why It Works: Taylor Kiser at Food Faith Fitness created this recipe with fresh ingredients and plenty of different spices for a vegetarian dish that's full of flavor. It starts with diced habanero chili, diced red onion, minced garlic, and cinnamon, and all of it marinades tofu prior to the grill. Once the tofu has been grilled, it's added to lettuce leaves and topped with salsa.
The Pro Tip: "Place the tofu on a layer of paper towel and then cover with an additional layer and press out the moisture," Kiser says. "Repeat this process with new paper towels until you've squeezed as much moisture out as possible."
The Recipe: Barbecue Chicken Wings
Why It Works: Chicken wings are a standard appetizer for many parties, and Taylor Kiser at Food Faith Fitness has figured out how to make them appealing to as many hosts and guests as possible. Why? Her version is paleo, and it can be made in the slow cooker. A rub is made with chili powder, ground cumin, onion powder, dried thyme, and smoked paprika, and it covers the chicken wings before they're cooked for four hours.
The Pro Tip: "Transfer the wings to a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil," Kiser says. "Broil for about 10 minutes on high, until the wings begin to turn golden brown in spots."
The Recipe: French Onion Dip
Why It Works: Abbey Rodriguez at The Butter Half also figured out how to make this crowd-pleasing appetizer healthier by using plain Greek yogurt, French onion soup mix, spinach, arugula, and herbs. When paired with potato chips, it's tough to have just one scoop.
The Pro Tip: "This can be made with only two ingredients if you want to keep it simple, but I like to add in some additional herbs and greens to give it that healthy boost," Rodriguez says.
The Recipe: Instant Pot Hummus
Why It Works: Abbey Rodriguez at The Butter Half recommends this easy-to-replicate dip, too, since all it takes is an Instant Pot and a food processor. She combines the Instant Pot's cooked chickpeas with the minced garlic, paprika, tahini, and lemon together in a food processor, and then tops the finished dip with pine nuts and a drizzle of olive oil.
The Pro Tip: "Use high-quality tahini and olive oil," Rodriguez says. "These are items to spend a little extra on."
The Recipe: Spinach Artichoke Dip
Why It Works: Natalie Mortimer at The Modern Proper knows that a good host has to have a recipe for this classic dip in their arsenal, and that's why she's recommending this quick one. Mortimer mixes together softened cream cheese, mayonnaise, garlic powder, minced basil, raw spinach, and artichoke hearts, and places it all in a skillet. Everything is topped with mozzarella and baked until bubbly.
The Pro Tip: "Serve warm or at room temperature with bread or chips of choice," she notes.
The Recipe: Green Bean Tempura
Why It Works: When you need an impressive, unusual appetizer to shake a dinner party up, this option from Natalie Mortimer at The Modern Proper should do it. Fresh green beans, club soda, and flour are fried in vegetable oil until golden brown and then served with curry mayonnaise.
The Pro Tip: "The curry mayo in this recipe is not to be skipped," Mortimer says. "Yes, the art of good tempura is something that you'll be praising yourself about for a while, but don't kid yourself that you can skimp on the sauce."
The Recipe: Deviled Eggs
Why It Works: Jessica Merchant at How Sweet Eats makes the case for serving these deviled eggs—which are given a twist using buffalo wing sauce, sliced green onion, and dijon mustard—at your next brunch party because of their layered flavors. The egg yolks are mixed with softened goat cheese and plain Greek yogurt, too.
The Pro Tip: "You want the eggs to sit in cold water for 20 minutes or so, so you may need to dump the water from the pot and refill it with cold water a few times," she says.
The Recipe: Salted Lavender Nuts
Why It Works: Everyone will be snacking on these salted lavender nuts from Jessica Merchant at How Sweet Eats, and that's because of their salty-sweet coating. She mixes dried culinary lavender petals, flaked sea salt, and honey with toasted almonds, cashews, and Brazil nuts, and then lets their flavors combine for up to two hours.
The Pro Tip: "Break them apart and either serve or package up for snacks," she notes.
The Recipe: Chipotle Braised Chicken Nachos
Why It Works: Tieghan Gerard at Half Baked Harvest didn't shy away from decadence in this recipe, and it's worth the indulgence. She combines skinless chicken breasts with herbs and spices and then cooks it all in beer and enchilada sauce. The chicken is shredded and assembled with chips and cheese, and then everything is covered in an avocado salsa.
The Pro Tip: "I love the addition of the avocado salsa," Gerard says. "The creamy avocado adds a nice coolness to the dish, along with a bright pop of fresh green color."
The Recipe: Corn and Tomato Tarte Tatin
Why It Works: Tieghan Gerard at Half Baked Harvest also uses color to give this tart a bold presentation, and it's sure to make guests happy. Cherry tomatoes are cooked with shallot, thyme, balsamic vinegar, and honey, and then layered over a puff pastry alongside corn and Havarti cheese. The pastry is cooked until golden brown and served.
The Pro Tip: "If any of the tomatoes fall out of place after you invert the tart onto a plate, don't stress, just simply place them back in the tart and all will be good," Gerard notes.