Entertaining—real entertaining, not just inviting your buds over to share a joint and a bag of Doritos while watching Netflix—does not have to feel like you're playing the role of a '50's housewife hosting your ad exec husband's business associates for dinner in the 'burbs. (Although we love a good Mad Men-themed party as much as the next guy, sans-latent racism and misogyny.)
But if you're hosting one of those grownup parties, you do need to do a little old-fashioned menu planning, and part of your strategy should be to have appetizers ready as soon as your guests walk in the door. (Well, that, and a well-stocked bar.) Food being readily available helps ease awkward strangers into real face-to-face socialization, giving them something to congregate around and talk about. Plus, it gives you a few minutes of leeway to finish your dinner prep or frantically shove all of your junk into your closet because who has time to clean and cook?
To inspire you to before-dinner greatness for your next dinner party, we pulled together some fool-proof party appetizers for any occasion, from casual weekend hangs with friends to more special parties like Christmas or New Year's Eve.
Cheesy artichoke dip seems like the kind of dish that presumes you really love vegetables because why else would you choose to have artichokes when you can have, say, mozzarella sticks? But in reality, those negligible bits of artichoke are really just there to serve as an excuse for shoveling as much hot, melty cheese in your mouth as those mozz sticks would. Or you can go with a vegan version that’s (almost) as good, too!
Homemade bagel bites are the kind of party appetizer that simultaneously says “I’m an irreverent and ironic party host,” and also “I’m a veritable homesteader who made these baby bagels with my bare hands and you should be impressed by my industriousness and aversion to the frozen food aisle.”
French onion soup: not quite party-friendly. But serve it in bread cups, and you can hold all that carby, beefy, cheesy richness in one hand while the other one nurses your drink.
Homemade potstickers are nothing without that savory, vinegar-y dipping sauce, so don’t skimp on that—soy sauce alone is not gonna cut it!
You could buy a tub of whatever’s on sale, but then you won’t get the silky-smooth creaminess of this homemade hummus. Watch chef Mike Solomonov do it one-handed over on VICE Video—it’s that easy.
Who doesn’t love a mini sandwich? Here’s your favorite late-night snack, but shrunken down and made for a crowd.
True Texan queso is little more than quick-melting processed cheese with milk or cream mixed in to thin it out, but to make it a truly appetizing appetizer, Texan chef Courtney McBroom includes just a touch of Monterey Jack cheese and pico de gallo. You can also watch her make this recipe over on VICE Video, too.
These crispy chickpea fritters are the perfect finger food for all your vegetarian friends, but also any and all your friends who just like a crispy, savory, solid snack.
These clams on the half-shell are packed with so much buttery, garlicky breadcrumbs, you almost don’t even notice the little clam meat tucked inside there. And that’s exactly how this Italian-American classic is meant to be.
If your standard baked clams are feeling bland, this version is loaded up with Worcestershire, bacon, and peppers instead—perfect for an outdoor beach party, or pretending you’re down the shore.
This very simple, quick tomato sauce can be used for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, but when heaped up on a toasted slice of baguette and sprinkled with flaky, herby sea salt, it also makes for a perfect app.
With a bit of ground beef and a pack of pre-made spring roll wrappers, an appetizer is right around the corner. Pack all of the best flavors of a cheeseburger—ketchup, pickles, and American cheese, included—into a few wrappers and serve with extra condiments for dipping for a whimsical start to your next dinner party.
If you asked your grandma what an appropriate appetizer for a party is, she might suggest deviled eggs, but certainly not these deviled eggs, with spicy creole mustard, cayenne pepper, and chipotle hot sauce.
Scotch eggs are a quintessential British bar snack, but they’d also make for an excellent snack to have ready for your guests as they walk in the door and grab themselves a drink from the bar cart.
This tapenade spread is composed of mostly jarred ingredients you can keep on hand in your pantry for any spur-of the moment entertaining situations you might find yourself in.
A deconstructed California roll perching atop a perfectly fried pocket of sushi rice seems like a sure-fire crowd pleaser, no?
The serving size notes on this recipe is for “a crowd,” so if you’re looking for a recipe that you’re sure you won’t run out of before all of your guests even make it in the door, this one’s for you.
Squash blossoms are admittedly not an ingredient you can procure year-round in most places, but while they’re in season, there’s no better way to serve them than to stuff them with seasoned ricotta and fry them lightly in tempura batter.
You will have to pry the Lipton’s dehydrated onion soup packet and tub of sour cream from our cold, dead onion-dip-loving hands, but we’ll begrudgingly admit that this DIY version is pretty dope, too.
Chicken liver pate is the kind of appetizer that sounds swanky and fancy, but in reality, this is peasant food at its absolute best, and requires just a bit of rustic, crusty bread toasted up on the side to serve.
What kind of vibe are you going for for this little social gathering of yours, hm? Want to make sure everyone’s at ease and under no false pretenses that this is going to be a stuffy, awkward dinner party? Go with this perennial bar favorite—Buffalo wings—to set the “it’s cool to eat with your hands and lick your fingers here” mood.
Spanish pinxtos are basically the ur-party snack. This particular plate of the traditional bar food has just three ingredients, so shelling out for the best of the best (preferably actual Spanish imports, please) makes all the difference in the world.
Who among us can deny ourselves the pleasure of combining loaded potato skins with nachos? Having a mountain of these ready on your coffee table when your guests arrive assures that everyone will dig in together, and the small talk will flow naturally.
Your mom—or the local thrift store—has an old fondue pot in the back of her closet somewhere, and with it, you have the perfect kitschy (and kirsch-y) way to start your dinner party.
Buying frozen veg means easy access to nice, tender artichoke hearts, without the hassle of having to break them down on your own. Party planning just got a little easier.
Putting stuff on toast is the easiest trick for feeding a crowd easily. The classic flavor combo of these smoked salmon toasts will definitely be a hit—and if you add some dill, nigella seeds, and big flakes of sea salt, they'll look extra fancy.
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