Appetizer Ideas for a Finger Food Dinner Party
For a fun change of pace, ditch the traditional sit-down dinner in favor of an appetizer dinner party. Serving tasty finger foods can be inexpensive, low-stress, and a great conversation starter. The trick is to find delicious appetizer recipes that mimic a traditional dinner menu. We've got plenty of easy appetizer ideas, plus tips to help you throw a fresh, fun party from start to finish.
If you're new to hosting, live in a small space, or are simply looking for an easy weeknight entertaining idea, this dinner party is for you. Serve guests a spread of hearty appetizers that require minimal prep (a.k.a. popped in the oven or poured out of a bag) and can be enjoyed while sitting or standing. Today's grocery store shelves and freezer sections are filled with gourmet options to make entertaining an almost-effortless task. Stock up on small but filling nibbles like mini quiches, nuts, meats and cheeses, cut veggies, and pastries, then add a few touches to make them yours. Garnish drink glasses with fruit slices, drizzle hummus with olive oil and a dusting of paprika, and display everything on pretty dishes. Break out the linen napkins and copper serving knives to make it feel like an event, and you've got yourself a party. We walk through commonly asked hosting questions like how much food to buy and when to shop, plus give you ideas to recreate this concept at home.
Easy Appetizer Ideas
To guarantee a diverse appetizer spread, serve a combination of easy appetizers that satisfy several of the following food categories:
- Garden: Typically healthy appetizers made with fruit or vegetables -- raw, cooked, or stuffed.
- Starch: Hearty, starchy appetizer recipes, such as finger sandwiches, pizza, and dumplings, are all part of this family. Bruschetta, breadsticks, crackers, and rolls are also mainstays. Cheesy appetizers pair nicely with this category.
- Protein: Serve meat or fish dishes, such as meatballs, chicken wings, or sushi, to give your guests protein. You could also make an egg, cheese, or tofu appetizer. Try these grilled appetizer recipes.
- Snacks: Easy appetizers to prepare, the snack category includes nuts, chips, pretzels, popcorn, and other mostly savory finger foods. Check out our favorite easy party snacks.
- Dips and Spreads: Pair foods from various appetizer categories with tapenades, relishes, and other party dips and spreads.
- Desserts: No dinner would be complete without dessert! Some sweet party appetizer ideas are cookies, slivers of cake, candies, and chocolates. Get our free bite-size desserts cookbook!
Editor's Tip: If your guests have dietary restrictions, consider making an assortment of appetizer recipes that cater to their needs. Having vegetarian appetizers or gluten-free appetizers, for instance, might be a priority if you are inviting vegetarians or people with gluten sensitivities.
How Many Appetizers Should You Serve?
The number of party appetizers you serve depends on the number of guests you invite. As your guest list increases, so should the appetizer selections.
Here's a quick guide to how many appetizers you should serve at your party:
- 10-12 guests = 5 appetizer selections
- 25 guests = 9 appetizer selections
- 50 guests = 13 appetizer selections
For more party planning help, check out our Free Appetizer Quantity Guide. If you're still worried about running out of food, keep easy appetizers that don't require preparation -- such as cured meats, cheeses, and chips or crackers -- in the refrigerator or pantry.
The Party Planning Timeline
You want to relax and enjoy the party, too. So set your appetizer menu, and then develop a schedule for shopping for and preparing the appetizers.
Two weeks to a month before the party:
- Create a complete shopping list, sorting the list by when you can purchase items (perishables closer to party time).
- Shop for items with a long shelf life -- wine, soft drinks, crackers, nuts, and hard cheeses.
A week before the party:
- Prepare any foods that can be made ahead and frozen.
- Finish any party decorations that can be created in advance.
A day or two before the party:
- Prepare any appetizers that can be stored in the refrigerator.
- Pull out serving dishes and utensils.
- Purchase flowers or other perishables.
The day of the party:
- Buy ice and chill beverages.
- Finish last-minute appetizer recipes.
- Set the table.
Editor's Tip: Many party foods taste better when served around room temperature -- not piping-hot or ice-cold. However, perishable appetizers should not stand at room temperature for longer than two hours. Switch out serving plates, or serve them in heated chafing dishes or bowls of ice to maintain appropriate temperatures.
Get Party Appetizer Recipes!
Hungry for more crowd-pleasing ideas? Use our favorite appetizer and easy finger food recipes to create your next party menu, and use our free calculator to find out how much food to buy before heading to the grocery store.