13 Make-Ahead Cold Appetizer Recipes for the Busy Host

chicken liver mousse crostini recipe
Photo: Christopher Testani

You know what we love about cold appetizers? No last-minute baking, sautéing, simmering, or frying. These recipes can be prepared ahead of time, so you can enjoy your party sans stress.

Whether you're a Martha-level host or new to entertaining, you'll want to add some of these cold appetizer recipes to your list of party must-makes. Ultimately, having dishes made before a gathering is like having money in the bank—you'll be comfortable knowing that your menu is handled, no heat necessary.

Best of all, these light bites are total crowd-pleasers that just might persuade you to prep all your appetizers ahead, or at least the majority (so you have time to focus on that special last-minute dish). Whatever your approach, you can rely on these trusty cold appetizer recipes to delight your loved ones time and again.

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Blue-Cheese Spread

Blue-Cheese Spread
Nico Schinco

Our Blue-Cheese Spread is quick and easy, but fancy, too, and comes together with just two ingredients: cream cheese and a creamy blue cheese, such as Roquefort. They're whizzed together in the food processor and seasoned to taste. Make it ahead and stash the spread in the refrigerator until party time.

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Classic Deviled Eggs

Bryan Gardner

Go classic with your deviled eggs or try something different like Tomato-Pimenton Deviled Eggs. Ultimately, you can't go wrong, since these bites are a wonderful make-ahead cold appetizer—and a crowd-pleaser to boot.

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Chilled Melon, Cucumber, and Mint Soup


Cucumber and honeydew melon provide vitamin C-packed flavor to this no-cook, chilled soup that's made in the blender.

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Quick Shrimp Relish Tray

Shrimp Tray
Alpha Smoot

The genius of this appetizer is that it combines the crowd-pleasing aspects of shrimp cocktail with the ease of a relish tray. All you have to do is put the platter together and let guests help themselves to their ideal bites. It's less work for you—and more fun for them.

As for the elements to make ahead? Prep the shrimp and refrigerate; also, make the crostini in advance, but store them in an airtight container outside of the fridge.

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Roasted Red Pepper and Walnut Dip

red pepper walnut dip

This delectable vegan dip is best made a day ahead to allow the rich smoky flavors to blend.

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Chicken-Liver Mousse with Raspberry Jelly

Courtesy of Christopher Testani

Exquisite and easy, the rich combination of chicken livers and butter is beautifully complemented by sweet-tart raspberry jelly.

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Beet and Tahini Dip

Julia Gartland

This bright and satisfying vegan dip can be made ahead and refrigerated for up to three days, so you can focus on day-of activities, such as roasting and baking, as your guests graze.

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Guacamole Hummus

Con Poulos

Two favorite party dips unite in this creamy recipe. Three cups of cilantro leaves give the dip its vivid green color.

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Juniper-and-Gin Gravlax

juniper and fin gravlax salmon
Justin Walker

For a spectacular make-ahead cold appetizer, nothing beats a side of cured salmon. And while it looks impressive, this Swedish-inspired dish is actually easy to make. Besides the quality salmon, the main ingredient is time: You slather the fish with a salty-sweet spice mix and let it hang out in the refrigerator for three days.

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8-Layer Dip


Whether it's a backyard barbecue, game day, or birthday party, you can't go wrong with this layered taco dip. Refried beans, cheddar cheese, tomatoes, avocado, scallions, canned green chiles, sour cream, and shredded lettuce make up the enticing layers.

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Pan-Roasted Marinated Mushrooms

pan-roasted marinated mushrooms served in a bowl
Nico Schinco

They take about 15 minutes to make and need at least an hour to sit before serving, but these marinated mushrooms taste even better when made a day or two in advance and stored in the refrigerator. Serve this easy cold appetizer with buttery crackers and a selection of cheeses.

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Grilled-Vegetable Agrodolce

grilled vegetable agrodolce
Ryan Liebe

Grill the eggplants and squashes for this agrodolce, then toss them with a sweet-and-sour marinade full of plump raisins and briny capers. They can be prepped the day before and refrigerated. All that's left to do is toast some crusty Italian bread before serving—and raise a glass.

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Mixed Olive Tapenade

mixed olive tapenade
William Abranowicz

Spoon it onto pita bread, pile it on slices of fresh mozzarella, or just let guests dig in with a toothpick. This blend of mixed olives, anchovies, and capers is the salty, savory make-ahead bite that we just can't get enough of.

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