Quick and Easy Appetizers That Make Entertaining a Breeze
Here's the secret to a great party: After being greeted by the host, guests should be given a drink and a bite to eat. That's what everyone wants, after all! A fed guest tends to be a happy one, so whether you're planning a game day gathering, afternoon tea, or an elegant holiday festivus, having a few starters at the ready when the doorbell rings is a great way to kick off any party.
In a perfect world, we'd relish the time spent preparing a made-from-scratch menu, but with the reality of packed schedules and little downtime, that's rarely how it happens. The solution isn't to swear off hosting indefinitely—after all, maintaining connections with friends and family is one of the keys to good health. Instead, consider our all-star lineup of low-stress, easier-than-ever appetizers that will keep the fun going for years to come. Every recipe either requires six-ingredients or fewer (like these irresistible Loaded Potato Bites), come together with under 15 minutes of prep time, or can be made-ahead (sometimes, it's all three!).
To help us select the cream of the crop, we started with these three basic rules to host by: First, seasonal equals simpler. When produce is in peak-season, less ends up being more. If you have heirloom tomatoes on your hands, don't gild the lily with a laundry list of ingredients. Instead, a quick toss with a few aromatics like fresh basil and garlic, as well as a generous glug of quality extra-virgin olive oil, is all you need.
Next, embrace the life-changing magic of make-ahead recipes. It's savvy planning to include recipes that can be made at least partially ahead of time (if not all the way, like this smoky trout pâte). We never thought we'd be able to get away with making guacamole in advance, but once we created this version, which remains a cool avocado-green for days, we knew we had a winner. For warm foods, there's no rule against making something like these sausage-cheddar meatballs the day before; reheating them in batches so they stay hot for your guests is both smart and considerate.
Last but not least, don't be afraid to go store-bought. Just be sure to add an easy upgrade at home. A sign of a good "easy" recipe is one that taps store-bought products in a big way, but looks like a from-scratch enterprise. Jarred condiments like pesto and marinated artichokes take on new identities as a creamy dip when blitzed in a food processor with tangy yogurt or sour cream. Creating something that is greater than the sum of its parts is easy with something like this flatbread recipe that uses pre-baked naan as a base for a few simple but decadent ingredients.
Keep reading to discover more clever tips and recipes for easy entertaining!
Cucumber Feta Toasts
Chorizo, Parsnip, and Olive Bites
Cheaters Deviled Eggs
Smoked Trout Pate on Toasted Baguette
To keep the ingredient list short for this elegant smoked trout spread, we use cream cheese as the main mix-in—it provides both a velvety texture and a balancing tang. Lemon juice, shallot, and fresh herbs round out the flavors in this quick and satisfying appetizer.
Easy Sauteéd Mushrooms
Grilled Prosciutto-Wrapped Melon
Mixed Olive Tapenade
Lemony White Bean Hummus
Roasted Tomatoes and Cheese with Thyme
To brighten up (and lighten up) the standard baked brie while still keeping it in the super-easy appetizer realm, we took our flavor cues from the South of France. Roasting cherry tomatoes—even when they are out of season—with woodsy thyme turns them into an umami-bomb of sweet and tart flavor that stands in perfect contrast to the decadent, creamy cheese.
Harissa, Goat Cheese, and Herb Tart
Taco Truck-Style Guacamole
Pear, Walnut, and Ricotta Crostini
Spicy Roasted Chickpeas
Mango and Avocado Salsa
Bacon-Wrapped Ginger Shrimp
Spring Pesto Dip
This light and bright four-ingredient dip is a snap to make, and it's ideal for setting out with crunchy in-season produce for dipping (check out our clever trick for keeping cut veggies ultra-crisp!). Make this recipe even easier by picking up a container of store-bought pesto—we recommend the refrigerated kind because it has a fresher color and flavor.