While there’s a time and place to get creative in the kitchen, cooking an appetizer for all the holiday potlucks is stressful. You’re probably wondering what the harm is in heading to your nearest Costco or Trader Joe’s and grabbing the tastiest dip you can find. Luckily, we have a few semi-homemade, easy appetizer recipes that will spare you from the chips vibe.
The trick is in the plating and styling. A strategically spread premade sauce or well-placed garnish can change a simple dish into a work of culinary art. These appetizers call for store-bought ingredients that you can find at any supermarket, and the instructions have nothing more complicated than rolling up premade dough or sticking a fancy toothpick through some veggies. With a little creativity and a minimal amount of culinary effort, you can show up in style without killing yourself in the kitchen.
Roll it, stuff it, skewer it
We’ve broken down these easy appetizers into three categories: Things you can roll, things you can stuff, and things you can skewer. And the cooking instructions for each category are just as their names suggest.
As with any recipe, the first step is a grocery run. Trader Joe’s has tons of great vegan and non-vegan dips and sauces that are great for serving at parties, but any supermarket will work. A lot of the ingredients can be used in more than one of these recipes, so you can even make a few appetizers for another get-together, if you’re feeling ambitious.
Just a note: We used mostly vegan ingredients for these appetizers, but the regular products will work just as well.
Yield: 1 package of crescent rolls yields 20 pinwheels
Pinwheels are fun, easy baked appetizers made of prepackaged crescent rolls and any filling you like.
Open up the crescent rolls and lay the two rectangles on an oiled pastry board or clean countertop. Oil the surface with a little cooking spray so the dough doesn’t stick while you’re working with it.
Next, use your fingers to work out the perforations in the dough. Do this on both sides so that the pinwheels don’t come apart as they bake.
Distribute the spread across the entire surface of the dough, and then sprinkle some Parmesan over it. We went with pesto and olive tapenade, but some other ideas for filling are spicy harissa, queso or marinara and shredded mozzarella.
Roll the rectangles the short way to create short cylinders. Pat in the sides so the rolls don’t come to a point on either end. Cut them into 10 equal slices, and lay them on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper (or grease the baking sheet). Sprinkle a little more Parmesan over the top, and place them in a 400 F oven. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until golden brown.
Make it sweet
Try adding filling such as fruit jams or a mixture of butter, sugar and cinnamon. Instead of topping with Parmesan, add a sprinkle of sugar before you throw them in the oven.
Dish: Stuffed mushrooms
8-ounce package cremini mushrooms
½ cup bread crumbs
¼ cup pesto
½ cup cream cheese
Yield: 8-10 mushrooms
Stuffed mushrooms might look fancy, but they are so easy to make.
Remove the mushroom stems. Then, mix ½ a cup of your favorite cream cheese with ½ cup bread crumbs and ¼ cup pesto. We recommend using flavored cream cheese, like Miyoko’s chive double-cream cashew cheese, to add depth. Plus, it’s vegan!
Mix everything thoroughly, and then stuff the mushrooms with the mixture. Bake at 400 F for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.
Dish: Stuffed crudités
Garlic spread dip
Yield: Varies (1 hothouse cucumber makes 8-10 cucumber cups; 1 sweet pepper makes 1 sweet pepper cup)
Serving a platter of veggies and dip is tried and true, but they can get messy. Plus, you have to worry about the party-goers double-dipping. Yuck. These stuffed crudités are a quick and easy way to take the pain out of sharing communal dips.
Peel and cut a cucumber into 1 ½- inch rounds. Use a spoon or melon baller to hollow out a little hole, taking care not to poke all the way through to the other end. Use a small spoon to fill the cucumbers with hummus.
For the peppers, remove the tops and seeds. Because they are a little bigger, we stuffed these heirloom sweet peppers with half hummus and half garlic spread. Top with a dollop of olive tapenade and a little parsley leaf for garnish.
Dish: Cocktail Skewers
Caprese: Tomato, mozzarella and basil, drizzled with balsamic glaze
Greek: Olive, feta, grilled artichoke hearts and tomato
Sweet and savory: Basil, mint, strawberry and feta, drizzled with balsamic glaze
Of all the appetizers on this list, these have to be the easiest.
Finger food on fancy sticks is a cocktail party essential. For whatever reason, everything looks prettier impaled by an elegant bamboo pick. Make sure you get the fancy skewers ahead of time; they aren’t a common kitchen staple, so you might need to shop a food specialty store or order them online ahead of time.
To assemble, simply skewer the ingredients onto a pick. That’s it. What you put on the pick is entirely up to you, but we’ve given you a few options above.
And there you have it: At least eight easy appetizers to impress at your next holiday party with very little effort in the kitchen. Get creative! Go for your favorite sauces or vegetables, sweet instead of savory … There are no limits.