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Easy Make Ahead Appetizers

Here is my list of my go-to easy make ahead appetizers that I regularly make when company is coming.  They may not all be original, but they are popular. I’m big on quick and easy and, as always, pretty on the plate.  Many of these are vegetarian-friendly and all can be made ahead. For fancier versions, I sometimes make individual servings using mini cups and shot glasses, but more often it’s serve-yourself with plates, napkins and forks. Typically, I choose 3-4 different appetizers when serving 6-10 people. Also check out our More Easy Make Ahead Appetizers.

Shrimp Cocktail Appetizer

Fairly common, but everyone seems to love a shrimp cocktail appetizer. Here’s our shrimp cocktail recipe with homemade cocktail sauce.  I use large or extra large easy peel shrimp (count 16-20 or 20-25) and either boil them for 3 minutes or roast them tossed in olive oil, salt and pepper at 400F for 7-8 minutes.  I sprinkle the shrimp with some chopped parsley and serve with a cocktail sauce of ketchup, horseradish and a dash of Worcestershire sauce.

Butternut Squash Soup Shots Appetizer

Any cream or blended soup will do for this appetizer.  Here’s the link to our Easy Butternut Squash Soup and Thai-Inspired Butternut Squash Soup. I serve it in little espresso cups or shot glasses on a small wooden cutting board or tray.  Easy to pass around. Can be vegetarian. 

Beef Roll-ups Appetizer

I make this appetizer if I have leftover flank steak or tenderloin beef.  Cut the cold meat in thin slices across the grain (each piece about 1.5 x 2.5 inches), smear a bit of hoisin sauce on one side of the beef (or use grainy mustard or horseradish cream), roll up each slice with a bit of thinly sliced green onion inside and secure with  a toothpick.   Serve with extra hoisin on the side for dipping.

Fresh Salmon on Cucumber Rounds Appetizer

I make this appetizer with a piece of leftover roasted salmon (even half a piece goes a long way).  Slice an English cucumber (unpeeled) into thin rounds, about 1/4 inch thick. Crackers are fine too.  Top with a dab of lemon-zested mayonnaise, then a tiny chunk of salmon (about 1/2 inch).  I sometimes add a drizzle of sweet spicy thai sauce on top for beautiful color.  Alternatively, make salmon salad from the leftover fish and use a teaspoon on each cucumber round, topped with pepper jelly or thai sauce.

Fresh Vegetables with Humus in Mini Cups Appetizer

This appetizer is, of course, just veggies and dip, but the individual mini cups from the dollar store give it a more festive flare.  Put humus (or any dip) in a plastic sealed bag, twist the top of the bag to push to humus to the bottom.  Cut a tiny piece off a corner of the bag, then pipe the humus into the cups.  (of course you can just spoon in the humus if you can find a way not to make a big mess in those tiny cups). Add sliced vegetables of your choice, standing them up in the cups – red/yellow peppers, japanese or english cucumbers, sugar snap peas.  Serve on a tray, plate or small cutting board.  This pretty, easy-to-eat humus in mini cup recipe comes from Faith Durand of The Kitchn.  Vegetarian. 

Fresh Mango Slices Appetizer

This appetizer is very simple with lots of pluses.  Mango is silky smooth and rich when ripe as well as light and refreshing.  Not to mention it takes about 5 minutes to put together (best ever!).  I either slice the mango or serve it in chunks with toothpicks. Vegetarian.

Dumplings and Peanut Sauce Appetizer

My friends know this appetizer well.  I serve it a lot!  by popular demand.  And the whole thing takes about 10 minutes. Here’s how to make this recipe.  Go to an Asian or large mainstream grocery store.  Buy packages of dumplings or wontons (shrimp, pork, chicken, vegetable, combinations).  Prepare as per package directions (3-5 minutes if you boil them). Then make the peanut sauce by mixing peanut butter, warm water and a dash of soy, garlic, sesame oil, sugar and chili until smooth.   A little trick I use is to mix the drained dumplings with a teaspoon of oil so they don’t stick together (especially if you have to rewarm them in the microwave for 40 seconds as your guests arrive).  Sprinkle some chopped green onion over the dumplings and serve with the sauce.  You can also use a soy-based sauce instead.   Can be vegetarian.

Guacamole Appetizer

Use your favorite recipe or, in a pinch, buy it.  I tend to make a simple, fresh guacomole appetizer that just takes 5 minutes to prepare –  2 avocados mashed, juice of 1 lime, kosher salt and pepper to taste.  Of course, you can add green onion, chopped cilantro and tomatoes if you like.  Serve with crackers, tortilla chips or vegetable sticks. Vegetarian

Smoked Salmon and Cream Cheese Pinwheels Appetizer

This appetizer takes a little more work and is a bit messier to make, but it still takes less than 30 minutes and has a lovely presentation.  Spread smoked salmon (lox) rectangular pieces on  cutting board.  Mix room temperature cream cheese with some lemon zest and a bit of milk to make it a nice spreading consistency, then spread a thin layer on each rectangle.  Roll it up lengthwise and wrap it in plastic wrap.  Chill in fridge for easier slicing.  Slice into 1/2 inch rounds (use a wet blade) and place on a cucumber round or cracker.

Freshly Squeezed Orange Juice Shots Appetizer

What can be easier as an appetizer?  You’d be surprised at how much of a treat freshly squeezed orange juice is (which you can buy of course or make your own).  You can use plastic shot glasses from the dollar store.  Serve on a platter or interesting tray. Vegetarian

Other Easy Make Ahead Appetizer Winners

  • Cheese board with grapes
  • Bruschetta with crostini
  • Antipasto platter
  • Olive bread sliced, served with olive oil mixed with herbs and balsamic
  • Melon chunks
  • Dips with crunchy snap peas as scoops
  • Deviled eggs



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