Skip to main content

13 Easy Party Appetizers for Any Holidays or Event

Phyllis loves to share recipes from her 'Down Home Recipes Box', which has recipes handed down from three or more generations ago.

Attractive tray of Hors d'Oeuvres.

Attractive tray of Hors d'Oeuvres.

Wow Guests With Your Taste and Presentation

If you're planning a party, the recipes I'll share with you make perfect appetizers to serve to your guests. Remember that taste and presentation are the top priorities you should focus on to tempt and satisfy your guests with the food you serve.

The main table should be a beautiful showcase. Keep the following tips in mind:

  • Remove all of the chairs so the table and foods are easy to access. The chairs can be arranged in rooms where extra seating is needed.
  • Smaller tables should hold attractive bowls of nuts, mints, or other treats.
  • The main table is where you want to have all your cold sandwiches and appetizers.
  • The hostess should make the rounds and serve hot appetizers to guests. Hold the tray in one hand and the napkins in your other hand.

Now let's look at the many delicious recipes you can put together for a stellar party!

Bruschetta is great with toppings.

Bruschetta is great with toppings.

Little Toasts, Crackers, Breads

Crostini Recipe

Crostini is Italian, meaning "little toasts". This is the base for the toppings you'll create later on.


  • White bread (for small round crostini, try using a long, thin baguette loaf)
  • Garlic clove
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper


  1. For light and crispy toast, cut the baguette into 1/4" slices.
  2. Place the slices on a baking sheet and rub them with a sliced garlic clove.
  3. Brush the bread with olive oil and sprinkle the top with salt and pepper.
  4. Bake them in a 350°F oven. Letting the oven preheat for at least 15 minutes will help to brown all of the slices evenly.
  5. Bake for about four minutes.
  6. Turn the sheet around and bake it for another four to five minutes.
  7. The slices should be browned around the edges and light golden in the centers.


For the best crackers, choose ones that are crisp and delicate in flavor. The prominent taste should be your special topping or spread.

Fresh Bread

Here are three types of bread that would make a nice selection for a sandwich tray:

  • Party rye: Rye has a very distinctive flavor, so put something light on it, like cream cheese and an olive slice.
  • White bread
  • Wheat bread

How to Display the Small Sandwiches

An attractive way to display the triangle sandwiches is on a round tray.

  1. Place a layer of wheat bread sandwiches with all the points of the triangle towards the center.
  2. The next layer is white bread sandwiches.
  3. Continue till this "tower of sandwiches" is six layers tall
  4. Line the edge of the platter with parsley sprigs.

Bruschetta is also a very good bread to serve with toppings. It is an Italian bread, very similar to crostini.

Hors d'oeuvre: A ham sandwich cut into forty pieces.

— Jack Benny

Spreads and Toppings

Spreads and toppings are what make the appetizers score big. The flavor is a top priority, and the colors make it festive. For any spread that is a bit lacking in color, place a bright green stuffed olive or a slice of pimento in the center. Garnishes should be colorful to add that pizazz to your delectable presentation.

1. Tapenade Recipe

Tapenade is a rich olive spread that is popular in the Mediterranean.


  • 1 cup Nicoise olives, pitted
  • 1 cup small green French olives (Picholine), pitted
  • 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, drained
  • 1 tbsp capers, drained
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 anchovy fillet
  • 1/2 tbsp fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 1/2 tbsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped
  • 1/2 tbsp fresh parsley leaves, chopped
  • 1/4 tbsp fresh oregano leaves, chopped
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil


  1. Place all ingredients except the olive oil in a food processor.
  2. Pulse until coarsely chopped and well-mixed.
  3. Slowly add the olive oil and, using the pulse button, mix until it's well blended.
  4. Place in a bowl, cover, and refrigerate till ready to use.
  5. Serve on crostini with a thin slice of herbed goat cheese.

2. Herbal Goat Cheese


  • 2 tsp fresh parsley leaves, chopped
  • 2 tsp fresh chives, chopped
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 (7 or 8-ounce) log of goat cheese


  1. Combine the parsley, chives, thyme, and pepper and arrange them on a flat surface.
  2. Roll the log of cheese in the mixture, coating all sides and retaining the shape of the log.
  3. Wrap the cheese in plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed.
  4. This can be served with the tapenade spread on crostini.
  5. Place a thin slice of cheese on the toast and cover it with the tapenade.
  6. Top with a green olive.

3. Herbal or Spiced Cream Cheese

You can buy a soft spread herbal cream cheese, but it is less expensive to make your own and choose your own herbs or spices.


  • Cream cheese
  • Herbs and spices of choice
  • Crackers: Breton vegetable-flavored crackers are great for this spread.


  1. Let the cream cheese sit at room temperature till soft enough to whip.
  2. Place it in a bowl and add the herbs or spices of your choice.
  3. Mix thoroughly with a fork and then with a wire, whip till completely blended.
  4. Spread on crackers.
Canapes and finger sandwiches

Canapes and finger sandwiches

Finger Sandwiches

A tray or two of small open-faced sandwiches (commonly referred to as "finger sandwiches") is always a popular treat. Make them small enough to be easily picked up and eaten in one or two bites. The bread should be firm enough to hold together and not be squished when picked up. Here are a few variations you can try out for your get-together!

1. Cucumber Sandwich


  • Cucumber
  • Butter or margarine
  • Party rye bread


  1. Peel and slice a cucumber.
  2. Spread butter (or margarine) on two pieces of party rye.
  3. Place cucumber slices on one piece of bread and top it with the other piece of bread.

2. Cream Cheese and Tuna Spread


  • 2 large cans of white albacore tuna, drained
  • 8-ounce package of cream cheese softened


  1. Place tuna in a medium bowl and break it up with a fork.
  2. Add the softened cream cheese to the tuna and mix till thoroughly blended.
  3. Remove crusts from white or wheat bread to make a square.
  4. Spread tuna mix on one slice.
  5. Top with another slice of bread.
  6. Cut the sandwich into four squares or triangles.

3. Ham Salad Spread


  • 1/2 pound deli sliced ham
  • 1 small can of chopped black olives
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 teaspoons spicy brown mustard
  • Green olives


  1. Chop the ham finely and mix it with other ingredients.
  2. Spread on party rye bread.
  3. Top with a green olive, or use bread (white or wheat) to make closed sandwiches that are then cut into squares or triangles.

4. Egg Salad Spread


  • 6 hard-boiled eggs
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • powdered nutmeg


  1. Eggs can be boiled the day before and refrigerated. When ready to prepare, peel eggs and chop finely. It will be easier to peel the eggs if you place them in warm water for a few minutes.
  2. Mix the eggs with mayonnaise.
  3. Remove the crusts from either wheat or white bread.
  4. Spread the egg salad on one slice of bread.
  5. Sprinkle lightly with nutmeg and top with another slice of bread.
  6. Cut into four squares or triangles.

Quick and Easy Hot Appetizers

1. Tomato, Cheese, and Herb Topping


  • Crostini slices
  • 6 Roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 cup sundried tomatoes, packed in oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Preheat the oven broiler for at least five minutes.
  2. Combine all ingredients except the cheese and crostini in a large bowl.
  3. Mix everything together and allow it to set for at least ten minutes so the flavors blend.
  4. Arrange the crostini slices on a cookie sheet.
  5. Top each slice with the tomato mix.
  6. Add the cheese on top.
  7. Broil for about five minutes till the cheese is melted.
  8. Serve warm.

2. Crab and Cheese Diamonds


  • 2 sheets of puff pastry
  • 2 cups crab meat or imitation crab
  • 1/4 cup onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cups shredded Monterrey Jack cheese


  1. Place the crab meat into the blender and pulse it till it's very crumbly.
  2. Empty it into a bowl and mix it with onions and cheese.
  3. Place one pastry sheet on a nonstick cookie sheet and roll it out till it's fairly thin.
  4. Spread the crab mixture over the pastry.
  5. Roll out another pastry sheet on wax paper. Then, gently flip it over on top of the crab mixture.
  6. Peel off the wax paper.
  7. Bake at 350°F till the pastry is done and light golden brown. Remove it from the oven and let it rest for at least five minutes till the cheese sets a little.
  8. Slide it onto a breadboard and cut it in a diamond pattern with a pizza cutter.
  9. Arrange them on a platter with parsley sprigs around the edges, and serve it warm.

3. Stuffed Mushroom Caps

  1. Fresh mushrooms should not be washed in water. Rub them gently with a paper towel to clean them.
  2. Remove the stem from the large mushroom caps.
  3. Hollow out the cavity with a small spoon and fill it with shredded Monterey Pepper Jack Cheese.
  4. Place them on a nonstick cookie sheet and broil till the cheese is bubbly.
  5. Serve as soon as they are cool enough to handle.

4. Little Sausages in Blankets


  • Miniature sausages
  • Tubes of crescent roll dough


  1. Dry the sausages with paper towels.
  2. Unwrap and cut the crescent triangles in half.
  3. Wrap each sausage in the dough.
  4. Bake at 375°F till the dough is light golden brown.
  5. Serve with a dip of mayonnaise mixed with spicy brown mustard to taste.

Cheese Boards

Cheese boards are always a welcome sight at any party.

  1. Arrange small slices of cheese (the more flavorful, the better!) and crackers on a platter.
  2. Add a few small clusters of green and purple grapes.
  3. Place little handfuls of cashew nuts in any empty spots that remain.
  4. Pepper in a few sections of sliced salami to give the guests a little spice.
  5. Create a few cheese boards with different selections for variety.

A special cheese like Mozzarella can be arranged on a raised serving dish. I'd garnish it with parsley flakes and surround it with olives, sun-dried tomatoes, or short pieces of green onion to make it attractive and appetizing.

Special cheese presentation: Mozzarella cheese is a favorite.

Special cheese presentation: Mozzarella cheese is a favorite.

Serve Mints and Fruits for a Fresh Finish

It is always a good idea to serve some after-dinner mints, sliced apples, sliced oranges, and grapes when the party is winding down. The apples and oranges can be arranged alternately on a round tray with a sprig of parsley in the center. Not only is this a refreshing dish after all those seasoned and highly-flavored appetizers, but it can also be a subtle yet polite signal to everyone that the cocktail party is nearing its end.

People will begin to wrap up the evening when the appetizers are depleted, and the fruit and mints are served. It might be a good idea to have a freshly brewed pot of coffee for those who would like it.

Enjoy your party and friends!

© 2010 Phyllis Doyle Burns