Unusual recipes

45 Crowd-Pleasing Appetizers for Your Thanksgiving Feast

45 Crowd-Pleasing Appetizers for Your Thanksgiving Feast

Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner

These beautiful, bold, zingy appetizers are the perfect way to start your Thanksgiving celebration. Plus, giving your guests (and yourself) a little something to munch on before the big feast can help prevent overeating in the long run. Find recipes and ideas for easy finger foods, make-ahead apps, delicious dips, and more in this decked-out collection of healthy Thanksgiving appetizers.

45 Crowd-Pleasing Appetizers for Your Thanksgiving Feast

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.

Beet Chips With Turmeric-Yogurt Dip

Here's a lighter, more colorful take on the usual chips and dip. Beet chips crisp up in a flash in the microwave. Keep close watch on them to make sure they won't scorch.

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.

Creamy Artichoke Dip

This is a creamy, rich, yet healthier riff on the classic—and is great for entertaining. We process half of the artichokes to sneak more veggies into the dip, plus a little tofu to help cut back on cheese and boost protein. Using frozen artichokes instead of canned helps keep sodium in check. Serve each ramekin with different sides—we like a medley of vegetables, crackers, or bread. Or keep it super simple and bake in one larger baking dish.

Tricolored Beet Tart

Start your holiday meal with a simple yet gorgeous beet tart, topped off with tangy goat cheese, crunchy hazelnuts, and flaky sea salt. Par-bake the crust to get a lovely raised edge (what forms the shell of your tart) and ensure that the bottom will be cooked through. If you or your guests are not beet fans, substitute sweet potatoes: Wrap 4 (4-ounce) sweet potatoes in parchment paper, and microwave at HIGH 3 minutes. Then cool, peel, and slice. You can also sub feta for goat cheese and pecans or walnuts for hazelnuts.

Dressing-Stuffed Mini Peppers

We love these stuffed peppers as an appetizer, but you can also serve them as a side dish. Be sure to use baby bell peppers and not mini sweet peppers (shaped like jalapeños) so they're big enough to accommodate the filling. As an alternative to broiling, you can char the peppers directly over a gas flame, turning frequently with tongs.

Creamy Salmon Dip

Classic salmon dip boasts one of our favorite sources of Omega-3 fats—but globs of mayo don’t make this easy appetizer the healthiest option. Our mayo-free version is just as satisfying and indulgent, thanks to Greek yogurt and Neufchâtel cream cheese, which contains 1/3 less fat than regular cream cheese.

Cider-Bourbon-Honey Punch

Make this cocktail the morning of—or the night before—the Thanksgiving feast, then let guests ladle out cups as they arrive. We like to keep the punch chilled using an ice ring with lemon and apple slices frozen inside.

Curried Sweet Potato–Yogurt Dip

Sweet potatoes make a wonderful base for a creamy dip, creating a smooth texture and faintly sweet flavor. Toasting the curry paste in the first step helps to deepen the flavor and is worth the extra couple of minutes.

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.

Pesto Pastries

Photo: Christopher Testani

Unlike classic pesto, there's no oil in this filling. Once everything is minced in the food processor, though, it develops a paste-like consistency. Thaw the pastry in the fridge overnight, or leave out at room temperature for an hour or two.

Spanakopita Tart

We use the tart-shell method from the master recipe for a fuss-free version of the classic Greek spinach-and-cheese-pastry. A little pimiento, brightened with vinegar, adds pop; you could also sub chopped olives. Make sure to drain the spinach mixture well; extra liquid could make the crust soggy. Let the spinach drain while the crust bakes. Build and finish baking the tart shortly before guests arrive.

Mini Crab Cakes With Pickled Celery

Save 104 calories, 12.6g fat, and 156mg sodium over traditional mini crab cakes. You can bake these cakes up to 2 hours ahead of party time and rewarm in a 300° oven for 5 to 6 minutes.

Mini Cheese Balls

Save 108 calories, 7g sat fat, and 69mg sodium per serving over a traditional cheese ball. Almond milk cream cheese is delicately nutty, with a buttery-rich texture and zero grams of sat fat. Find it at Whole Foods stores nationwide. You can substitute 1⁄3-less-fat cream cheese, which adds 1.6g sat fat to each serving.

Warm Baked Feta With Marinara Sauce

Add this baked feta to your holiday appetizer arsenal—and you won’t regret it. In each balanced bite, you get creamy feta cheese, tangy marinara sauce, earthy oregano, and bright lemon zest. Scoop it all up with crisp naan bread, the perfect vehicle for this crave-worthy dish.

Smoky Red Lentil Hummus

Use this fun riff on classic chickpea hummus to anchor a tray of fresh, seasonal vegetable dippers­—we recommend multicolored carrots, radishes, and cauliflower florets. You can prepare the hummus up to three days ahead; wash and trim the crudités a day in advance, and store them in ziplock plastic bags lined with paper towels.

Grapefruit Gin and Tonic

Though we love the blushing pink color from Ruby Red grapefruit, you also can use a yellow-fleshed variety, which will likely be less sweet. We find that a London-style gin works best here; the floral flavors of more botanical styles (such as new-wave gins) are likely to overpower the taste of the grapefruit.

Spicy Soy Bar Nuts

The almonds and cashews roast at slightly different rates, so place each in a separate baking pan. After initially roasting, you can place them in the oven together with the peanuts for this recipe, but rotate the pan for even cooking.

Chicken Phyllo Turnovers

Photo: Christopher Testani

This appetizer is based on bisteeya, a traditional Moroccan pastry that pairs savory, spiced meat and flaky phyllo with a dusting of cinnamon and powdered sugar. Make ahead: Freeze unbaked pastries for up to 1 month; bake frozen, unthawed pastries 5 additional minutes or until browned.

Gram's Clam Dip

While you're putting the final touches on your dishes, your guests can snack on this dip. Precut crudités will hold up well if you'd like to prep them the day before. Wrap trimmed and cut veggies in a damp paper towel and refrigerate in a zip-top plastic bag for the crispiest texture.

Broiled Shrimp With Buttermilk Rémoulade

If preboiled shrimp and cocktail sauce is a standard starter at your holiday gathering, try these quick broiled shrimp with a spicy rémoulade dipping sauce—a homemade alternative that takes minutes, tastes much better, and is much lower in sodium. Like cocktail sauce, the rémoulade gets a pungent kick from prepared horseradish, though you could also try Creole mustard. We leave the tails on the shrimp for easy handling. Keep a small bowl next to the serving plate for discarded shrimp tails.

Crispy Parmesan Chickpeas

Dry your chickpeas as thoroughly as possible before cooking to ensure a satisfyingly crisp result. If you're planning to pack these flavor-coated, fiber-filled poppers as a to-go-snack, be sure to allow them to cool completely on a flat surface first.

Harissa-Spiked Hummus

Round out your holiday hors d'oeuvre plate with a variety of veggies and a couple dips—including this delicious smoky dip, and some tangy romesco. The harissa can be made and refrigerated up to 3 days in advance, and will elevate any store-bought hummus.

Maple-Sumac Roasted Walnuts

Here’s a perfectly simple and delicious snack. A little sumac adds a bright piney-citrusy note. Look for it at specialty spice stores. A tablespoon of lemon rind can sub for sumac, if you prefer.

Spinach-Artichoke Bites

Save 167 calories, 3.6g sat fat, and 393mg sodium per serving over traditional spinach-artichoke dip. Frozen artichoke hearts contain no added salt, unlike the canned variety, which may contain more than 300mg per half cup.

Brown Sugar-Spiced Nut Mix

Achieve a bronze-like patina on these candied nuts by keeping a close watch near the end of their roasting time. Too long and they'll overdarken and take on a bitter flavor.

Corn Fritters With Jalapeño Jelly

Avoid overmixing the batter to keep fritters from becoming too heavy and dense. You can make them earlier in the day and quickly reheat; arrange fritters on a wire rack set over a baking sheet in a 425° oven until thoroughly heated and crisp.

Caramelized Leek and Spinach Dip

Beautifully caramelized leeks and onions cannot be rushed; resist the urge to crank up the heat. Leeks become especially silky and sweet when left to cook awhile. If they start to stick to the bottom of the pan, add a tablespoon or two of water, and stir (the liquid will evaporate during cooking). Instead of bread or crackers, serve the dip with an array of vegetables, such as baby carrots, endive leaves, radishes, diagonally sliced cucumber, and mini sweet bell peppers for a bit of freshness, color, and crunch. You'll also save calories and room for the rest of the meal.

Cheese Olivettes

We put a whole-grain spin on this appetizer. Freeze unbaked olivettes for a month; bake from frozen for an extra few minutes.

Roasted Oysters With Pancetta and Breadcrumbs

For easy prep, slice the lemon and make the bread mixture in the morning before things get hectic. Store in the refrigerator. Just before guests arrive, assemble the oysters then pop them in the oven. Be sure to set a timer. The oysters cook for only a short time and you won't want to forget these are baking away while you're greeting guests.

Phyllo Cups With Ricotta, Chèvre, and Thyme

Start making the phyllo stacks about 30 minutes after you put the cheese mixture in the refrigerator. Or make the cheese mixture a day ahead, and assemble before guests arrive.

Cauliflower "Caviar" with Frizzled Prosciutto

Before the turkey, lose the fork and knife for these healthy handheld bites. Smoky prosciutto and cauliflower fill bitter endive leaves in this flavorful, light appetizer.

Date, Walnut, and Blue Cheese Ball

Prepare this retro-chic snack up to two days ahead, and serve with crackers, bread, or veggies. Rolled in minced fresh flat-leaf parsley, this cheese ball is festive enough for the most discerning party guests.

Quick Liver Pâté

This pared-down pâté is based on liverwurst. Use Usinger's or Schaller & Weber brand liverwurst for best results.

Polenta-Sausage Triangles

Prepare polenta through step 2 up to two days ahead so you can focus on the turkey and fixings on the big day. Before serving, let the dish stand at room temperature one hour, cut polenta into triangles, and toast them right before guests arrive. Pork sausage gives them a wonderfully familiar, stuffing-like flavoring.

Vegetable Samosas With Mint Chutney

This dish uses leftover mashed potatoes to make a big batch of Indian-inspired snacks that are perfect for a pre-turkey nosh. Serve warm or at room temperature with the cilantro and mint chutney.

Citrus, Fennel, and Rosemary Olives

A mix of fruity and meaty olives works well in this treatment. Serve with pre-dinner cocktails.

Creamy Garlic-Herb Dip

You can prepare this all-purpose dip up to a day ahead, making this a quick fix for hungry holiday guests. Serve it with cauliflower and broccoli florets, carrot and celery sticks, and bell pepper strips.

Caramelized Onion, Gruyère, and Bacon Spread

Serve with crackers or bread slices. If you can't find Gruyère, substitute raclette, fontina, or Swiss cheese.

Cajun Hot Crab Dip

Spoon this dip into a baking dish up to a day ahead, but top with panko and chives just before baking. If it's chilled, leave the dish out at room temperature while the oven preheats. Scoop into multiple bowls that you can set at different tasting stations.

Crunchy Chickpeas

Low and slow is the key to drawing out all of the moisture without burning the chickpeas or seasoning. As they cook, the spices mingle and mellow for a rounded flavor. You're Thanksgiving guest will love these light nibbles.

Pear Chutney Bruschetta With Pecans and Blue Cheese

Sweet-tangy chutney pairs beautifully with pungent blue cheese and toasty pecans. You can make the chutney up to three days in advance; assemble bruschetta shortly before serving.

Warm Cranberry-Walnut Brie

Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner

This luscious Thanksgiving appetizer features seasonal flavors of cranberry, walnuts, and thyme. Serve with crackers for a warm and melty start to the meal.

Apple-Blue Cheese Chutney

Prepare and refrigerate the chutney up to three days ahead; bring to room temperature before serving. For a prettier presentation, top crostini with chutney, and sprinkle the cheese on top instead of stirring it into the chutney.

Orange Chipotle-Spiced Pecan Mix

Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner

Prepare a batch of this smoky-sweet mix to have on hand when guests arrive. It's the perfect snack to hold guests over while you put the finishing touches on the meal.

Watch the video: 3 Thanksgiving Appetizers