I love classing up dinner parties with delicate appetizers, but it seems like no matter how carefully choreographed the dinner-prep dance, I run out of time and have to serve those appetizers while simultaneously changing into my party clothes, welcoming my guests, and putting the finishing touches on the main dishes. Trying to make sure that the appetizers come out at exactly the right temperature when my guests arrive is a losing battle in my kitchen, so cold appetizers are much more my jam these days.
They're convenient–they can be prepped and kept cool in the fridge hours before party begins, and served directly from fridge to table in seconds–but convenience is not the only reason to put cold appetizers on the menu. Cold appetizer recipes often involve fresh vegetables which add a lot of color to the table, and they keep guests’ appetites at bay without filling them up too much to enjoy the main dish over which you slaved for hours. They’re refreshing, quick to assemble, and you can recruit the kids to help make them!
Looking for fresh ideas for cold appetizer recipes? My approach is to deconstruct favorite salads into bite-sized, toothpick-speared delights that guests can easily pick up and consume without making a mess. Here are five such recipes to try at your next dinner party!
Strawberry, Spinach, and Feta Bites (pictured above)
In a typical spinach and strawberry salad, the strawberries play second fiddle to the spinach. Here, they take center stage, making these sweet bite-sized salads a great option before or after a meal.
- A handful of strawberries
- A handful of spinach leaves
- 2 tablespoons chopped walnuts
- 2 tablespoons crumbled feta
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon golden or white balsamic vinaigrette
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- salt and pepper to taste
- Combine the olive oil, balsamic vinaigrette, honey, lemon juice, salt and pepper and mix well.
- Slice the strawberries the horizontally so that the slices form round-ish circles.
- Cut the spinach into strips and layer a few strips over the strawberries. Top a bit of feta and chopped walnuts onto each. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
- Drizzle the dressing over each strawberry right before serving, or serve on the side as a dipping sauce.
Caprese Salad on a Stick
The classic tomato-mozzarella combo is a favorite on Pinterest, and it’s easy to see why. The cherry tomatoes and mozzarella balls come together in an explosion of cuteness and irresistible taste. What’s more, mozzarella tastes even better as it gets closer to room temperature, so no need to worry about keeping these apps cold as the night progresses—if your guests don't devour them in minutes, that is.
- A handful of cherry or grape tomatoes
- A box of mozzarella balls or block of mozzarella
- A handful of fresh basil leaves
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinaigrette
- Cut tomatoes and mozzarella balls in half or pieces, or keep whole if you prefer.
- Spear one tomato, a small basil leaf, and a mozzarella ball on each toothpick.
- Right before serving, drizzle with balsamic vinaigrette, or serve on the side as a dipping sauce.
One-Bite Potato Salad
These “nibble” baby potatoes popped up at my local grocery store a few months ago and are almost too cute to eat. They’re the perfect shape for this bite-sized deconstructed potato salad, or you can purchase regular-sized potatoes and cut them into small pieces.
- A bag of nibble-sized baby potatoes, or 1 regular-sized potato
- 1 celery stalk
- 1/4 of a red onion
- 2 teaspoon Dijon or spicy mustard
- 2 tablespoon mayonnaise
- 1/2 teaspoon dried dill
- salt and pepper to taste
- A squeeze of lemon juice
- 1 green onion, chopped
- Boil the potatoes for 7 minutes, or as instructed on the packaging. Drain and let cool.
- Mix the mustard, mayonnaise, dill, salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
- Cut celery and red onion into small pieces.
- Spear a piece of celery, onion, and one potato on each toothpick. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
- When serving, dip each toothpick into the dressing before placing on the serving plate, or serve dressing on the side as a dipping sauce. Sprinkle with chopped green onions.
Shrimp and Avocado Salad Skewers
Your guests will find the shrimp-avocado-lime combo irresistible! On the off chance that they're not immediately gobbled up, pop them back in the fridge after a while so that they're not left sitting out for too long. Opt for precooked shrimp to shave a few minutes off the schedule, or cook raw shrimp and let cool.
- 1/2 of an avocado
- A handful of frozen precooked shrimp, thawed
- A handful of cherry tomatoes, or 1 regular-sized tomato
- A handful of cilantro leaves
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- juice of 1/2 lime, divided
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- salt and pepper to taste
- Combine olive oil, remaining lime juice, garlic power, salt and pepper, and mix well. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
- Cut the tomatoes in half or into small pieces.
- Cut the avocado into small cubes and toss with 2 tbsp of lime juice to prevent them from browning too quickly.
- Spear one shrimp, an avocado cube, one cilantro leaf, and a cherry tomato onto each toothpick. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
- Drizzle the dressing over the skewers right before serving, or serve on the side as as a dipping sauce.
Fruit Salad Spears with Yogurt Dip
These bite-sized delights are crowd pleasers and are a great bet if you've got kids or picky eaters on the guest list. They're wonderfully refreshing before or after a meal. I’ve chosen my favorite fruit for these spears, but you can make them with almost any fruit. Go for a variety of colors and shapes; if you’re using cantaloupe or honeydew melon, you can even use small cookie cutters to make festive shapes! Avoid fruits that brown quickly (like apples) unless you toss them with a bit of lemon or lime juice immediately after chopping.
- 3-4 fruits, such as berries, melons, grapes, etc.
- 3 tablespoons Greek yogurt
- 1 tablespoon honey
- A dash of vanilla extract
1. Combine Greek yogurt, honey, and vanilla extract and mix well. Refrigerate before serving.
2. Peel and cut fruit into small pieces.
3. Spear one of each fruit onto a toothpick and refrigerate before serving.
4. Serve with yogurt mixture on the side for dipping.