Expert Tips for 12 Easy Holiday Appetizer Ideas

Looking for some last-minute holiday appetizer ideas? Food editor Jessica Saari Christensen shares easy last-minute munchies for holiday appetizer parties, Christmas meal starters, or New Year's Eve celebrations.


Quick Appetizer Ideas

1. Easy Spring Rolls. Soften rice paper in simmering water, then lay out on a flat surface. On one side of the paper, arrange your choice of fillings, such as cooked shrimp or chicken, tofu, shredded carrots, bean sprouts, cooked rice noodles, chopped peanuts, sliced sweet peppers, and mint or cilantro leaves. Starting on the side with filling, tightly roll the paper up similar to an egg roll or burrito. Serve with purchased dipping sauces, such as peanut sauce or soy sauce.

2. Cheese-and-Cherries Phyllo. Fill baked miniature phyllo dough shells with a small dollop of softened cream cheese. Top with a bit of crumbled blue cheese and a sprinkle of snipped tart dried cherries. If you like, sprinkle with chopped candied pecans or almonds.


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3. Super Fast Shrimp. Who doesn't love shrimp? For an easy holiday appetizer, thaw cooked frozen shrimp (or steam, saute, or boil your own raw shrimp). Place bowls of dipping sauces (such as tartar or cocktail sauce or aioli) on a platter, then surround the bowls with the cooked shrimp. A squeeze of lemon adds zest.

4. Twist on Salsa. Here's a fun salsa variation that's almost a meal in itself. Combine drained canned black beans, thawed frozen corn, chopped roma tomatoes, sliced green onions, chopped cilantro, chopped green pepper, and chopped avocado. Toss the mixture with some lime juice, salt, and pepper. If you like, you can also add chopped garlic, sliced black olives, or chopped jalapeno peppers. Serve with tortilla chips.

5. Hummus and Crackers. Purchased hummus and some yummy crackers or pita chips are easy snacks to either keep hunger at bay until dinner or to supplement an appetizer spread. Select a couple different hummus flavors, such as roasted red pepper, roasted garlic, or black olive, and create a tasting spread.

6. Tortilla Roll-Ups. Spread a thin layer of your favorite cream cheese spread on large flour tortillas (you can use plain, herb, sun-dried tomato, or spinach-flavor). Top with thin layers of turkey, ham, chicken, or roast beef; thinly sliced tomato; and baby spinach leaves. Roll the tortilla up very tightly, similar to a jelly roll. Chill rolls for about 30 minutes, then cut rolls into slices, creating bite-size rolls.

7. Add a Dip. Every party needs a dip, but here's an option that's a little bit more gourmet. Purchase garlic- or basil-flavor oil or make your own variations by stirring herbs, garlic, or grated Parmesan cheese into olive oil. Pour the oil into small dipping dishes and serve with chunks of focaccia or baguette slices.

8. Relish Tray. Prepare a relish tray like no other! On a platter, artistically arrange roasted red peppers; green, black, or specialty stuffed olives; cheese cubes; sliced meats, such as pastrami, ham, or salami; marinated artichoke hearts; smoked sliced salmon lox; marinated or fresh vegetables; and pickled peppers. If you like, serve the relish tray with hard or soft breadsticks.

9. Fruit Platter. Prepare a platter with sliced apples, pears, and/or grapes; crisp bread or crackers; and your choice of cheese, such as blue or brie.

10. Antipasto Kabobs. Marinate cooked cheese-filled tortellini, quartered artichoke hearts, cherry tomatoes, black olives, and whole pickled banana peppers in bottled Italian dressing for 2-24 hours. Thread one of each of the ingredients onto 6-inch skewers, adding a thin roll of salami.

11. Roasted Romas. Slice roma tomatoes lengthwise into thirds (smaller tomatoes can be cut in half). Place them in a single layer on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Brush the slices with olive oil and sprinkle with finely chopped garlic. Bake tomatoes at 400 degrees F for about 20-30 minutes, checking often so they don't dry out or burn. Line up cooled tomatoes on a platter and serve with softened brie cheese and crackers or toasted baguette slices.

12. Simple Salmon. With a pastry bag, pipe flavored cream cheese (such as chive) on cucumber slices. Top each cucumber slice with a small piece of purchased smoked salmon. If desired, garnish with fresh chopped chives.

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