As every good chef knows, appetizers aren’t just a tasty add-on. They’re the foundation of a great meal.
While they may be small, appetizers set the tone for your dining experience, creating a delectable range in the evening’s flavor palette without filling up your guests. They’re snackable, shareable, and require much less commitment than an entree. If the world’s greatest minds came together to reinvent food, they’d probably end up with appetizers.
Today, we’ll review some of our absolute favorite and easy appetizer recipes - the kind that will have your guests begging for a second (or third) round. But first, let’s cover some basics.
What is an appetizer?
Although the term appetizer is sometimes used interchangeably with hors d’oeuvres, there are actually some slight differences in meaning. And while most guests care more about taste than terminology, it’s helpful to know the difference.
Hors d’oeuvres are served before a meal, perhaps while you’re standing and socializing. Appetizers, on the other hand, are part of the meal. They’re eaten sitting, and they’re carefully chosen to complement the dishes that follow. Hors d’oeuvres are also typically a one-bite experience - something you can pluck off a serving dish with one hand while holding your cocktail glass in the other. Appetizers are larger (though much smaller than an entree, of course) and may require cutlery to eat properly.
The range of food you can serve as an appetizer is almost limitless. Bread, cheeses, fruits, veggies, soups, salads… the list goes on.
What are some examples of appetizers?
We’ll dive into the full recipes below, but for a small taste of what’s to come here are a few time-honored, easy appetizer examples:
- Classic deviled eggs
- Cream cheese with fresh herbs
- Maple-glazed roasted Brussels sprouts
- Artichoke dip with tortilla chips
- Cheese dip on toasted whole wheat bread
- Avocado crostini with sliced cherry tomatoes and bacon chips
- Mashed potato puff pastry
- Crispy baked wonton with garlic sauce
- Chopped spinach caprese salad
- Loaded sweet potato rounds with goat cheese
Is your mouth watering yet? Good, us too. We'll load you up with some of our mind-blowing, easy appetizer recipe examples shortly. But first, let’s discuss one final (and extremely important) subject: presentation.
What are some tips for presenting appetizers?
“Plating” food - i.e. presenting it beautifully and deliberately - is its own art form, and professional chefs take it very seriously. Although, you don’t need a culinary degree to pick up the basic skills. In fact, you might be surprised how far a little knowledge will go in making your appetizers… well, appetizing. Here are the three most important tips:
Consider the plate. Understanding which types of plates fit the occasion is important. If you’re serving a pre-portioned appetizer (think portobello salad with caramelized onion), you’ll want to use individual plates - like these durable and elegant appetizer plates from Made In. At 8 inches in diameter, they’re perfectly sized for one small serving.
On the other hand, if your appetizer is a single large item (like a wheel of baked brie with figs and honey) or many small items that your guests will sample from (like an array of deviled eggs), you’ll want to use a single platter - like a 13 inch serving platter from Made In. It’s finely crafted and chip-resistant with a remarkable beauty that makes your appetizers a feast for the eyes and stomach alike.
Pair with a drink. If you have special beverages lined up, don’t wait for the entree to break them out. When guests begin digging into your appetizers, they should have a refreshing drink at their fingertips - both to clear the palate and to complement the dish. (Explore the different types of drinking glasses to know which glass pairs well with your dinner’s drink list!) For a spicy chicken dish, try a smooth, low-alcohol red wine - or perhaps a sweet wine like a riesling. For an appetizer on the saltier side (like edamame glazed with garlic soy sauce), a stout beer will offer delicious contrast. And for a creamy, fatty appetizer recipe (like avocado toast drizzled in olive oil), try a high-citrus cocktail like the classic margarita.
Don’t skip the garnish! A garnish is simply a decorative finishing touch on your appetizer. It can be made of almost anything edible. That includes fresh herbs (like parsley, rosemary, and basil), carved fans of strawberry and radish, a splash of decorative sauce, or even edible flowers like pansies and calendula. Try to choose a garnish that works well with your color palette and complements the visual form of your appetizer recipe.
The Best Appetizer Recipes for 2021
Ready to cut to the chase? Here are some of our very favorite appetizer recipes that are sure to delight your guests and complement the larger meal. Some of these can be quite addictive - don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Crispy Parmesan Brussels Sprout Bites
For an easy and quick appetizer, these bites are tough to beat. And their deliciousness truly cannot be overstated. Hearty parmesan cheese melts into the folds of the Brussels sprouts, turning them into hot, melty, crispy little bites. You might even make some converts of the “I hate Brussels sprouts” crowd with this easy appetizer recipe.
- 1 pound of fresh Brussels sprouts
- 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- ½ cup of grated Parmesan cheese
- ½ cup of panko breadcrumbs
- Wash the Brussels sprouts. Trim off their tough, woody ends and remove their coarse outer leaves.
- Cut the sprouts in half from top to bottom.
- Place the sprouts in a mixing bowl and drizzle them with olive oil. Stir until they’re evenly coated.
- Combine your garlic powder, salt, and pepper with your parmesan cheese and panko breadcrumbs. Mix well.
- Pour the mixture over your Brussels sprouts and toss them until they’re evenly coated.
- Spread the Brussels sprouts in an even layer on your sheet pan. (Optional: Use a layer of parchment paper to prevent sticking.) Make sure they are spread out with some space in between, rather than piled up.
- Roast them in an oven that’s preheated to 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes. Flip them and roast for another 5-10 minutes. Watch carefully to make sure they don’t burn.
- When removed from the oven, the Brussels sprouts should be lightly browned, and the cheese should be melted and crispy.
- Serve on a serving platter.. For table service, place a small portion of sprouts at the center of an 8-inch appetizer plate.
Caprese-Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms
With its subtle blend of earthy, creamy, and zesty herbal flavors, these mozzarella-stuffed mushrooms are a jaw-dropping introduction to the night’s fare. This recipe is flexible (think deep-dish pizza), so don’t be afraid to experiment with the herbs and veggies.
- 4-6 large portobello mushrooms
- 1 cup of fresh mozzarella balls
- 1 cup of cherry tomatoes, halved
- 2 tablespoons of butter, melted
- 2 cloves of fresh garlic
- ½ teaspoon of salt
- ½ teaspoon of black pepper
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
- 2 teaspoons of balsamic vinegar
- 1 cup of basil leaves, washed and thinly sliced
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Wash and pat dry the mushrooms. Gently pop off the stems and scoop out the gills with a spoon.
- Drain and halve the mozzarella balls.
- Wash and halve the cherry tomatoes.
- Melt the butter in your desired saucepan and add the garlic, salt, pepper, and parsley. Stir gently.
- Using a silicone brush, cover the mushrooms (both top and bottom) with the garlic butter mixture.
- Place the mushrooms on a baking sheet. Bake them for 8-10 minutes or until soft. Remove from the oven.
- Stir together the cherry tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, salt, and pepper with a splash of olive oil. Stuff the pre-cooked mushrooms with this mixture.
- Bake the stuffed mushrooms for 12-15 minutes. The cheese should fully melt and tomatoes should wilt.
- Remove from the oven and drizzle each mushroom with a splash of balsamic vinegar.
- Place each mushroom in the center of a small appetizer plate and garnish with a sprig of fresh basil.
- Serve immediately.
Classic Deviled Eggs
Deviled eggs are one of the most appreciated appetizers for a reason. They’re scrumptious, filling, and endlessly versatile with plenty of regional variations to choose from. If you haven’t feasted on them in a while, you might not remember just how good deviled eggs are.
- 12 hard-boiled eggs
- ⅓ cup mayonnaise or Greek yogurt
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice and apple cider vinegar
- ½ teaspoon of garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon of salt
- ½ teaspoon of black pepper
- ½ teaspoon of smoked paprika
- 1 tablespoon of chopped, fresh chives
- Place the unboiled eggs in a large stock pot and cover with water to 1 inch above the eggs.
- Bring the water to a boil over medium-high heat. Then cover, remove the pot from the heat, and set aside for 11 minutes.
- Gently drain the eggs and cool them in an ice water bath. Let them cool completely.
- Crack and peel the eggs under cool running water, then pat them dry and slice them lengthwise.
- Use a small spoon to scoop out the yolks (which should be completely solid) and collect them in a bowl. Set the egg whites aside for now.
- Mash up the yolks into a fine crumble using a fork.
- Add the mayonnaise (or Greek yogurt), vinegar, mustard, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Mix well. If the mixture appears too thick, you can add a bit more vinegar, mayonnaise, or water.
- Using a spoon or a piping bag, fill each egg white with a heap of the prepared yolk mixture.
- Arrange the eggs on a serving platter, working outward from the center.
- Garnish each egg with a sprinkling of smoked paprika and chives.
- Serve immediately.
Now that you have these tasty appetizer recipes in your back pocket, it’s time to host! Pick one (or a few) of your favorites to start prepping for your next dinner party! Your guests are sure to be impressed.