Rose Mary's mother and all of her aunts are great Southern cooks. She likes to think she's not so bad herself.
My mom and I have spent hours over the years discussing appetizers and party foods, especially when she was an active member of the Women’s “Circle Group" of her church. Once a year she hosted, and it was like a competition the way these ladies tried to outdo each other with new and surprising treats.
These are some ideas I put together for quick easy appetizer recipes. Many are so easy, they don’t really need a recipe, or can be bought ready-made.
Food Table with Party Appetizers
Even for a small gathering it’s still nice to have several dips or spreads for tortilla chips, potato chips, wheat thins or raw vegetables. Dips are relatively inexpensive, and most are quick and easy to make. In college, my internship roommate and I would have coffee table junk food smorgasbords. We'd buy multiple kinds of chips and dips, and feed our school stress.
If you’ve never bought avocados and made your own guacamole, don’t be intimidated! I’m not encouraging you to bruise the produce, but the avocados should be slightly soft, and “give” a little when you hold them firmly.
- 2 large or 5 small avocados
- 1/2 cup chopped sweet onion
- 1 medium tomato, chopped
1. Cut the avocados in half. The seed is large and very hard. Run your knife lengthwise around the avocado, then give it a twist and one side should pull away, leaving the seed on the other side. Remove the seed.
2. Use a spoon to remove the soft flesh of both halves. Mash the avocado with a fork.
3. Add chopped sweet onion and a little salt. Stir to combine.
4. You can add chopped, drained fresh tomato, but we like it with just the onion at our house.
5. Serve with tortilla chips.
How to Select and Prepare an Avocodo
Add a Homemade Touch to Your Salsa
Buy a jar of your favorite salsa. Then add a bit of something fresh. This is quick, but seems a little more homemade. Serve with tortilla chips. Sam’s Member’s Mark Bruchetta is really good with chips too.
- 1 jar favorite salsa
Mix in one or more of the following:
- 1/4 c chopped sweet onion
- 1 jalapeño
- 1-2 T chopped cilantro
Velveeta & Ro*Tel Tomato Dip
- 1 small can Ro-Tel tomatoes, 10 oz
- 1 block Velveeta Cheese, 16 oz
1. Melt Velveeta. Most do this in the microwave, but you can melt on the stovetop in a non-stick pan. Stir frequently until completely melted.
2. Add Ro-Tel tomatoes. Stir to combine.
3. Transfer dip to a small crock pot to keep warm for your gathering. Serve with tortilla chips or other favorite chips.
- 1 can refried beans
- 1/4 cup sour cream, optional
- 1/2 cup shredded cheddar or Monterrey Jack cheese
1. Heat beans. Add water if necessary until creamy.
2. Mix in a little sour cream if desired.
3. Place in serving dish. Top with cheddar or Monterrey Jack cheese. Heat to melt cheese.
4. Serve with tortilla chips or other favorite chips.
Fresh Herb Dip
- fresh herbs, such as dill or chives
- 2 cups sour cream, or 1 cup sour cream & 1 cup plain yogurt
1. Wash, then spin or pat herbs dry. Finely chop and measure about 2 taplespoons.
2. Thoroughly mix herbs into sour cream (or sour cream and yogurt mixture).
3. Serve chilled with chips, crackers, or raw vegetables.
Spinach Dip in Bread Bowl
This dip is always a crowd pleaser. If you want to really make an impression, buy a large round Hawaiian bread and hollow out the center for the dip. Cut the bread you removed into cubes to use with the dip. Also good for chips, crackers, and raw vegetables.
- 1 envelop Lipton or Knorr dry Vegetable Recipe mix
- 1 box frozen chopped spinach, well drained
- 1 c mayonnaise
- 1-2 c sour cream (depends on which mix you buy)
- 1 can water chestnuts, chopped
1. Mix ingredients together.
2. Chill at least 4 hours before serving. Serve with chips, bread cubes, or vegetables.
- 1 pkg ranch mix
- 2 cups sour cream, or 1 c sour cream & 1 c yogurt
1. Mix one package of Ranch Dressing or Dip mix with sour cream or half sour cream and half Greek yogurt.
2. Serve chilled with chips or raw vegetables.
Chili Con Queso Dip
This is a mix I started buying from Hampe House in Gruene, Texas, 10 years ago. Hampe House is now out of business, but my brother tracked down the company who packaged the dips, Country Home Creations. That's where I order my dip mix, but you can also get Chili Con Queso mix at The Old Mill. I make my queso dip with 1 ½ cups plain yogurt and ½ cup sour cream or mayo. I try to always have packages of this mix on hand.
- 1 pkg chili con queso dip mix
- 2 c sour cream
1. Blend dip mix into sour cream, or yogurt and sour cream.
2. Refrigerate at least 4 hours.
3. Serve chilled with chips or vegetables. I'm partial to baby carrots.
Sweet Dips and Spreads
Country Home Creations also sells sweet dips and spreads, made with cream cheese, or cream cheese and sour cream. I can personally vouch for the cherry almond and blueberry walnut spreads. Serve on something like Town House crackers.
Make a fruit plate, and serve with one or more of these for dipping:
Yogurt: Blend in a little softened cream cheese into vanilla yogurt to make it a bit thicker.
Pudding: Try chocolate pudding for dipping. Stir in some powdered sugar if you want to make it a little sweeter and more textured.
Caramel Dip: Combine 8 oz softened cream cheese with one container of caramel apple dip.
PBJ Dip: Blend together approximately equal amounts of peanut butter and jelly.
Cream Cheese: Blend together 1 cup mayonnaise and ¼ cup lemon juice. Then blend in 8 oz softened cream cheese. Add more lemon juice if needed for desired consistency.
Cucumber spread or topping is popular in Mediterranean culture. The Turks call it Cacik and the Greeks call it Tzitziki. Since I lived in Turkey for 3 ½ years, my version is Turkish-inspired. To most Turks, cacik is actually more like a cold soup. The "American version" served in restaurants near the base is very thick and spread-able, and served with pita bread.
- 2 baby cucumbers with skin
- 2 cups thick Greek yogurt, like Fage, or 1 cup yogurt and 1 cup sour cream
- 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tsp dried mint
- salt to taste
1. Chop cucumbers very small, or coarse grate. They should be relatively dry if chopped, but pat off excess moisture with paper towels. If grated, they will be very wet. Spread onto several layers of paper towel, and place towels on top as well.
2. Combine cucumbers with yogurt or sour cream.
3. Add garlic, dried mint, and salt to taste. Combine thoroughly.
4. Serve with pita quarters. Flour tortilla quarters would do in a pinch.
Hummus topped with Warm Oil with Cumin
Buy your favorite commercial hummus flavor and serve with pita or tortilla quarters. You can make your own with canned chickpeas, but I prefer to used dried chickpeas. I find the canned chickpeas are too firm. I also use garbanzo powder and follow the package directions for hydrating.
- 2 c dried chickpeas
- 2 T tahini paste
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 T lemon juice
- salt to taste
- 3 T olive oil
- 1 tsp ground cumin
1. Soak chickpeas 8 hours. Cook until soft, and drain.
2. Break apart chickpeas in a food processor.
3. Add tahini, garlic and lemon juice. Process until smooth. Salt to taste.
4. Heat oil in a skillet. Add cumin and heat until slightly browner.
5. Empty chickpea mix onto plate. Pour cumin oil over the top of your hummus. Serve on pita or tortilla quarters.
Cheese Ball with Water Crackers
The basic cheese ball is usually made with cream cheese and shredded cheddar cheese. Additions include ranch dressing mix, or chopped herbs such as chives or dill.
- 2 pkgs 8-oz cream cheese, softened
- 2 1/2 c shredded cheddar cheese
- 1 1/2 c chopped pecans
1. Place softened cream cheese in a bowl. Add cheddar cheese.
2. Add ranch powder or herbs if desired.
3. Mix well and form into a ball.
4. Roll in 1 ½ cups of chopped pecans.
Cocktail Meatballs in Grape Jelly Sauce
- 1 1/4 c grape jelly
- 12 oz bottle tomato-based chili sauce
- 1 1/2 lbs meatballs
1. Combine grape jelly with chili sauce. Alternatively use 1/2 cup mustard instead of chili sauce.
2. Add meatballs, and simmer for 30 to 60 minutes. Transfer to crock pot to stay warm. Alternatively, prepare in crock pot cooking 4 to 6 hours on low.
Cocktail Weenies in Barbecue Sauce
- 1 1/2 lbs wieners
- 1 bottle barbecue sauce
1. Cut wieners into ½” to ¾” pieces.
2. In a saucepan combine wieners with one bottle of your favorite barbecue sauce, enough to coat wieners. They do not have to be completely submerged.
3. Heat 30-60 minutes. Transfer to crockpot to keep warm.
Lit'l Smokies in Brown Sugar and Mustard Sauce
- 12 oz pkg Lit'l Smokies or other favorite sausages cut into rounds
- 1/2 c packed light brown sugar
- 1/4 c yellow mustard
- 1/4 c water
1. Place sausages in a saucepan.
2. Combine brown sugar, mustard, and water. Pour mixture over sausages.
3. Heat 30-60 minutes.
For more sauce ideas, see my article, 18 Sauces for Cocktail Meatballs, Weenies, and Sausages.
Super Bowl Smokies
- 12 oz pkg Lit'l Smokies
- 8-10 oz bacon
- 1/4 c brown sugar
1. Cut bacon into 1/3 to ½ slices, about 4 inches long.
2. Wrap bacon around Lit’l Smokies sausages and secure with toothpicks.
3. Place smokies in pan and sprinkle with brown sugar.
4. Bake at 350° for 50 minutes.
- 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast
- 8 oz carton pineapple cream cheese spread
- 1/2 c chopped walnuts or pecans
- 1/4 c dried cranberries or dried cherries
1. Cook chicken until it easily falls apart. I cook chicken in crockpot overnight, and it stirs apart with no need for chopping.
2. Stir in cream cheese spread, nuts, and dried fruit.
3. Serve on crackers or melba toast.
Ham and Cream Cheese Pinwheels
- 1 lb pkg boiled ham, or other deli meat
- 8 oz cream cheese, softened
- 1/4 cup mayonnaise or Greek yogurt
- fresh herbs, optional
1. Blend mayonnaise into cream cheese. Add in chopped herbs if desired.
2. Spread cream cheese mixture onto ham.
3. Roll meat and secure with plastic wrap or toothpicks.
4. Refrigerate to allow cream cheese to become firm again.
5. Cut like cookie dough, about ½” thick. Secure with toothpicks or serve on top of crackers.
Here are several ideas for easy shrimp options:
Buy 1 pkg shrimp salad, such as from Costco. It has a light coating of dressing and tiny diced celery.
Buy 1 pkg precooked shrimp, deveined, shelled, tail off, size 40 to 50 per pound or larger. If frozen, run under water to thaw.
What's not good wrapped in bacon? Nothing I can think of. Try some bacon-wrapped shrimp.
- 1 pkg med-large raw shrimp
- 1 pkg pre-cooked bacon
1. Heat bacon long enough to be pliable. Cut into halves or thirds.
2. Wrap bacon around shrimp and secure with toothpick.
3. Bake 10 minutes at 350.
Chicken wings, hot wings, or Buffalo wings are very popular. There are loads of recipes out there, but I would probably stop in at Buffalo Wild Wings, which is only 2 blocks from my house. The picture above is as sampling from BWWs. I also have bought frozen wings from Schwan's.
Lit'l Smokies Corndogs
This was so much easier than I expected! I was afraid I’d have an unmitigated mess, but I dipped the sausages and fried them up without any drama. I used small sausages, but you can use 2”-3” wiener pieces.
- 12 oz pkg Lit’l Smokies sausages
- 2 boxes Jiffy corn muffin mix
- 2 eggs
- 2/3 c milk
- 1 qt cooking oil
- 35-40 wood skewers
1. Bake sausages 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Set aside to cool.
2. Prepare Jiffy mix according to package directions.
3. Pour about 3” oil into a 1 1/2-2 qt saucepan and heat until very hot.
4. Put Smokies on skewers, then roll in cornbread batter.
5. Ease battered Smokies into hot oil 1-2 at a time.
6. Hold onto skewers, being careful not to let mini corndogs touch each other, and deep fry for 15-30 seconds, until golden.
Pigs in Blankets
Pigs in a Blanket are typically made by wrapping wiener pieces and cheese in biscuit dough. I used Lit’l Smokies sausages and biscuits. You can also use crescent roll dough, cut in pieces.
- 12 oz pkg Lit’l Smokies sausages
- 2 cans refrigerated biscuits
1. Bake sausages 20 minutes at 350 degrees. Set aside to cool.
2. Cut biscuits in half. Wrap each sausage in biscuit piece.
3. Bake according to biscuit package directions.
Homemade Tuna Salad
- 12 oz can tuna, drained
- 1/4 c sweet pickle relish
- 1 boiled egg, mashed
- 1/3 c mayonnaise
1. Combine tuna and other ingredients.
2. Adjust pickles and mayo to desired taste and consistency.
3. Serve with crackers.
Deviled Ham Spread
- 8 oz cream cheese, softened
- 1/2 tsp prepared mustard
- 1/4 c mayonnaise
- 1 can deviled ham, such as Underwood 4.25 oz
- 1 boiled egg, mashed
1. Combine ham spread with cream cheese, mustard, mayo, and egg.
2. Serve on bread, crackers, or with raw vegetables.
Crab Dip on Butter Crackers
- 1 c crabmeat (I prefer refrigerated over canned)
- 1 1/2 c mayonnaise
- 1/2 c shredded cheddar cheese
- 1 tsp horseradish
- 4 T French dressing
1. Drain crab and place in bowl.
2. Add mayo, cheese, horseradish, and dressing. Stir to combine.
3. Serve chilled with crackers.
- 8 oz cooked shrimp
- 1 med onion
- 3 oz cream cheese
- 2 T mayonnaise
- ¼ c milk
- ¼ tsp garlic salt
1. Combine all ingredients in food processor.
2. Serve with crackers.
I come from "plain folk". When I go home to Carolina to visit, church gatherings still include old school sandwiches. You can almost always find pimento cheese sandwiches and boiled ham sandwiches. My mom sometimes made homemade chicken salad sandwiches. These are all good options. A big consideration is to beware of fillings like tuna salad on regular white bread, which would get soggy. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches would be great if your gathering includes kids. Spread a thin smear of peanut butter on both breads, then jelly in the middle, to prevent the soggy problem. In some parts of the planet, cucumber and cream cheese, and watercress butter sandwiches are mainstays of afternoon tea.
I went to a house warming party once where my friend got two submarine sandwiches, about four foot long each, and cut them into two-inch wide pieces. That's a pretty cool party idea.
Sliders are relatively new to the scene, compared to the time-honored traditional sandwich. I think the first time I saw sliders, they were mini hamburgers, usually offered on restaurant appetizer menus. Before sliders were a thing, there was White Castle! You can now get White Castle burgers in the frozen food section. That's what I would do for a party. I've also seen some yummy looking slider sandwiches I'd like to try, like gooey oven baked ham and cheese sliders, on Pinterest.
I did a quick internet search and found that mini hotdogs and mini hotdog buns exist. Just sayin'.
Wraps are popular. They are basically sandwich stuff rolled in a tortilla or wrap. For party trays, they are typically cut into one- to two-inch rounds.
You could get really creative putting together party platters, or you could short cut and purchase them, and put your time into other projects. Here are just a few party platter options:
Meat and cheese
Cheese and crackers
Vegetables, cheese and olives
Mini bagels and savory and sweet spreads
During my Air Force years, it seems no matter where I was stationed, I had the good fortune to be assigned with someone from the Philippines, or married to someone from the Philippines. So when we had potluck dinners, we always had lumpia! I’m not ambitious enough to make lumpia, or anything akin, but luckily, there are many options in the frozen food aisle. Here are some options for rolls and such:
Make “Mini Kebabs” on toothpicks or skewers. This is an especially good idea if you want to make your fruits, vegetables, and olives into finger foods, instead of having trays of them, with some items requiring forks. Mix and match on the skewer within categories. You could have skewers alternating tomatoes and cucumbers, or alternating colors of peppers. Try three olives on a toothpick, all green or all black, as well as some with alternating green and black. The combinations of fruits are endless.
Vegetables: grape tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, celery
Fruits: pineapple, strawberry, mango, melon, seedless grapes
Green and black olives
Tator Tots: These minced potatoes shaped into little cylinders are in the frozen section of the grocery store. Bake according to package directions. They are very popular, especially with kids. Serve on toothpicks. Have ketchup on the side.
Gherkins or other pickles
Cocktail meatballs, weenies, and sausages: See above for sauces and tips. While these foods could be served on a plate and eaten with a fork, any of them could be served on toothpicks.
Mixed kabobs, such as sausage round, cheese, and olives
Try using the miniature sized paper cupcake and muffin liners to serve dry items. This may be especially helpful if you are having a large gathering and you want to help the serving line move along.
“Movie theater”: candies: Junior Mints, Milk Duds, SweetTarts, Skittles, M & Ms, Reeses’ Pieces
Fruit: grapes, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries
Nachos: Spread a single layer of tortilla chips on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with cheese. Heat until cheese melts. If you’re feeling a little more adventuresome, drizzle your favorite canned chili, then cheese. Heat, then top with salsa.
Cheese and Crackers: Buy a package of mixed cheese. Sam’s, Costco, and many grocery stores carry trays with four kinds of cheese cut into strips. All you have to do is cut each slice half, or into three pieces. Serve with an assortment of crackers such as Triscuits, Wheat Thins, and Sociables.
Celery with Cheese: Buy celery hearts. Cut stalks into 3” pieces. Squirt Cheese Whiz into rib.
Chex Party Mix: In “the old days” we had to buy Chex cereal, pretzels, and nuts and drizzle with butter and heat to make this. Now you can buy Chex Party Mix that you just pour out of the box.
Candy Cookie Combo
Cupcakes or muffins: Buy a package mix for cupcakes or muffins. Bake in miniature muffin pan.
Brownies: There are loads of choices in boxed brownie mixes.
Kiss cookies: Buy sugar cookie dough in the refrigerator section. Cut cookies, place on baking sheet, press unwrapped Hershey’s Kiss into center. Bake according to package directions.
Refrigerated cookie dough: Pick a favorite, such as chocolate chip, slice and bake.
Mini pies: You can buy mini pie crusts. Fill with canned pie filling, such as lemon, cherry, or blueberry.
Refrigerated rolls and pastries: You can get cinnamon rolls in bop tubes like biscuits. My favorite is one with orange frosting. You can also get fruit turnovers.
Guy Fieri’s Super Bowl Appetizers
What Do You Serve?
© 2010 rmcrayne
Thelma Alberts from Germany on December 13, 2018:
What a wonderful delicious choices I could have for a Christmas or any party gatherings. Thanks for sharing. This is indeed quick and easy food to make. Merry Christmas to you and your family.
Sandy on April 15, 2015:
Great ideas for the party
Kim Anderson on September 16, 2011:
Great ideas thanks!
rmcrayne (author) from San Antonio Texas on January 01, 2011:
Thanks so much gr82bme. I think it's a great little hub, but has seen very little traffic until recently.
gr82bme from USA on December 31, 2010:
Great ideas and simple. Duh, why didn't I think of that. Love the recipes. Thanks for sharing
voted up and bookmarked. Also shared
rmcrayne (author) from San Antonio Texas on June 19, 2010:
Thanks Sandy and Paradise for your ongoing support!
rmcrayne (author) from San Antonio Texas on June 19, 2010:
judyd, I haven't tried the caramel dip yet. I got it from my family's church recipe book. Can't beat country church ladies when it comes to food, right?
Paradise7 from Upstate New York on June 17, 2010:
Looks great! Thanks!
Sandy Mertens from Wisconsin, USA on June 17, 2010:
This is great for little get together. Nice!
judydianne from Palm Harbor, FL on June 17, 2010:
These suggestions are simple, easy and fast. I think I'll try the caramel dip. Sounds really good!