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It's time to put a tasty cap on the last 365 (or 366) days. This round-up of our best holiday finger foods features classic New Year's Eve appetizers like cocktail meatballs and a few new favorites like smoked salmon bites and a queso dip made with goat cheese. Whether you're bringing just one item to a party or feeding the whole family at your place, pick and choose from our assortment of holiday appetizers to find the ones your whole crew is guaranteed to gobble up.
Tricolored Beet Tart
Start your holiday meal with a simple yet gorgeous beet tart, topped off with tangy goat cheese, crunchy hazelnuts, and flaky sea salt. Par-bake the crust to get a lovely raised edge (what forms the shell of your tart) and ensure that the bottom will be cooked through. If you or your guests are not beet fans, substitute sweet potatoes: Wrap 4 (4-ounce) sweet potatoes in parchment paper, and microwave at HIGH 3 minutes. Then cool, peel, and slice. You can also sub feta for goat cheese and pecans or walnuts for hazelnuts.
Smoked Salmon Bites
If you're looking for an appetizer that will delight your guests with its gorgeous presentation and rich, delicious taste, the search stops here. These beautiful canapés start with a base of candy cane (or Chioggia) beet squares, whose alternating ruby and white rings are stunning. (You can add more color to the platter by alternating candy cane beet and golden beet slices.) The beet stays raw, so the slices are crunchy and sweet and hold up nicely. The jewel-like topping of easy-to-find salmon caviar turns what's truly a simple make-ahead nibble into an absolute work of art that'll make you the talk of your social circle.
Glazed Cocktail Meatballs
These mini meatballs are perfect for holiday parties and tailgating. We made them healthier by forgoing sodium-heavy ingredients like the usual ketchup and chili sauce and including whole-grain bulgur in place of breadcrumbs. You can also serve a larger portion of these meatballs for weeknight dinner. To up the kid-friendly factor, omit the ground red pepper in the glaze and serve with mashed potatoes (à la Swedish meatballs). For a tangier glaze, substitute cranberry sauce for the grape jelly.
Dressing-Stuffed Mini Peppers
We love these stuffed peppers as an appetizer, but you can also serve them as a side dish. Be sure to use baby bell peppers and not mini sweet peppers (shaped like jalapeños) so they're big enough to accommodate the filling. As an alternative to broiling, you can char the peppers directly over a gas flame, turning frequently with tongs.
Mini Cheese Balls
Save 108 calories, 7g sat fat, and 69mg sodium per serving over a traditional cheese ball. Almond milk cream cheese is delicately nutty, with a buttery-rich texture and zero grams of sat fat. Find it at Whole Foods stores nationwide. You can substitute 1⁄3-less-fat cream cheese, which adds 1.6g sat fat to each serving.
Golden Beet Nachos
Photo: Jennifer Causey; Styling: Lindsey Lower
With their awesome crunch and yellow color, thinly sliced golden beets make a great stand-in for tortilla chips. A mandoline works beautifully for slicing; try to cut the beets between 1/8- and 1/16-inch thick. If you use a knife instead, aim to get the thinnest slices possible.
Crispy Parmesan Chickpeas
Dry your chickpeas as thoroughly as possible before cooking to ensure a satisfyingly crisp result. If you're planning to pack these flavor-coated, fiber-filled poppers as a to-go-snack, be sure to allow them to cool completely on a flat surface first.
Gingery Shrimp Salad Bites
Photo: Christopher Testani
Pick up inexpensive Chinese soup spoons at Asian markets, or serve on rice crackers or in hollowed-out pieces of cucumber. The chives, an optional sixth ingredient, perk up the look but aren’t crucial to the flavor.
Mini Crab Cakes With Pickled Celery
Save 104 calories, 12.6g fat, and 156mg sodium over traditional mini crab cakes. You can bake these cakes up to 2 hours ahead of party time and rewarm in a 300° oven for 5 to 6 minutes.
The easiest way to candy nuts is to toss them with an egg white-sugar mixture, then gently bake them until the sugar melts and the egg whites dry out, forming a crispy candy shell around each nut. The whites serve as an adhesive so the sugar and any flavorings can cling to the nuts. There are other, trickier methods, but this one gives you sure fire results. You can play with spices and sweeteners; try maple sugar or granulated honey. The choice of nut is up to you. A crunchy sugar coating goes hand in hand with any nut, but pecans and walnuts really rise to the occasion: Their craggy surfaces are perfect for catching the egg mixture. Candied nuts are pretty durable, so make a big batch, and store them in a cool, dry place for up to one week.
Hasseltots with Crème Fraîche and Caviar
Photo: Hector Manuel Sanchez
This two-bite, no-fork-required appetizer is perfect for parties where guests will be juggling drinks and nibbles. Choose a sustainable, budget-friendly roe. Depending on what kind you choose, it can be affordable or break the bank. Make note of the origin to be sure you aren't buying caviar or roe from endangered fishing areas or species. We suggest Classic American White Sturgeon Caviar ($85/oz.), Paddlefish Caviar ($44/oz.), Salmon Roe ($8/oz.), and Masago ($5/oz.). Store opened caviar on ice, and use within one to two days. In a pinch, sour cream can stand in for the crème fraîche.
Beet Hummus with Blue Cheese and Walnuts
We love creating innovative hummus recipes, and Beet Hummus with Blue Cheese and Walnuts is no exception. This beautiful, crimson-colored dip is made with chickpeas, tahini, beets and garlic.
Pear, Brie, and Balsamic Bruschetta
This bruschetta is both sweet, with pear slices and honey, and savory because of the Brie cheese and balsamic drizzle. Perfect for entertaining, these adorable bruschetta bites are a light way to kick off a dinner, plus they come together quickly and easily.
Goat Cheese Queso Dip with Vegetable Chips
This warm, tangy twist on fundido is perfect with sparkling wine; the bubbles help cut through the richness. We pair with veggie chips, but you can also serve with crudités for a fresher take. The dip is very easy to put together. One note on mixing: Blend the beans until they are completely smooth and puréed for the silkiest, creamiest results. You can’t overblend it, but if you stop too soon, the dip might have a few lumps. The great thing about this dip is that it can be made ahead and rewarmed when you’re ready to serve it. To reheat, stir gently over low heat until hot. For an herby version, add a generous 1⁄4 cup of a mix of chopped herbs, such as parsley, chives, and a little basil.
Spicy Soy Bar Nuts
To achieve maximum nuttiness, you have to toast nuts. This coaxes out flavorful, aromatic oils for a deep, rich taste and pulls out some of the nut's moisture for satisfying crunch with each bite. Our go-to-method for toasting nuts is a slow oven roast at a relatively low temperature (300°F) in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet, stirring occasionally until lightly browned and crisp. That allows hot air to circulate around each nut to gently cook it. Don't blast them in a hot 400°F oven for a few minutes until they've darkened—not a good thing for a nut—because that high heat can bring out bitter flavors. Only using a handful? You can also roast nuts in a pan on the stovetop over medium-low heat or on a plate in the microwave for a minute or so at HIGH.
Sesame-Soy Nut and Pretzel Mix
If any one dish is devoured quickly and constantly (usually by the fistful) throughout the holiday, it’s snack mix. Consisting of salty nuts, pretzels, and cereal doused with a Worcestershire and butter, this innocent munchie racks up sodium and calories quickly. Our healthier version gives you all the salt, crunch, and bold spices of the original with the addition of whole-grain popcorn, toasty whole-wheat cereal, and spicy wasabi peas. The peas inspired an Asian track with toasty sesame oil and reduced-sodium soy sauce, cashews, and pungent ground ginger.
Sautéed Mushrooms with Garlic
Photo: Christopher Testani
After just one bite, it's easy to get hooked on this flavorful, 5-ingredient, hummus topper. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve with toasty baked pita chips, if desired. Simple, yet impressive, soon you'll be topping mashed potatoes and steaks with this versatile mushroom side too.
Broiled Shrimp with Buttermilk Rémoulade
Quick broiled shrimp paired with spicy remoulade dipping sauce is sure to rally a crowd at the appetizer table. This holiday staple is naturally low in sugar and rich in lean protein.
Lobster and Bacon Stuffed Jalapeño Bites
Put down the wings and elevate your happy hour appetizers with these flavorful bite-sized poppers. The cream cheese balances the spice of the jalapeños with the richness of the lobster and bacon.
Bacon and Ricotta-Stuffed Mushrooms
These crowd-pleasing stuffed ‘shrooms pack two cheeses, crumbled bacon, and fresh thyme. You can fill the mushroom caps in advance, but don’t sprinkle the panko mixture over top until ready to bake.
This homemade hummus is a great appetizer for holiday parties and casual dinner get-togethers alike. Healthy dippers include baby carrots, bell peppers, pita chips, radishes, jicama, and sugar snap peas.
Photo: Christopher Testani
Unlike classic pesto, there's no oil in this filling. Once everything is minced in the food processor, though, it develops a paste-like consistency. Thaw the pastry in the fridge overnight, or leave out at room temperature for an hour or two.
Save 167 calories, 3.6g sat fat, and 393mg sodium per serving over traditional spinach-artichoke dip. Frozen artichoke hearts contain no added salt, unlike the canned variety, which may contain more than 300mg per half cup.
Chicken Phyllo Turnovers
Photo: Christopher Testani
This appetizer is based on bisteeya, a traditional Moroccan pastry that pairs savory, spiced meat and flaky phyllo with a dusting of cinnamon and powdered sugar. Make ahead: Freeze unbaked pastries for up to 1 month; bake frozen, unthawed pastries 5 additional minutes or until browned.
Date, Walnut, and Blue Cheese Ball
This retro-chic snack can be served with raw veggies, crackers, or toasted whole grain bread. Medjool dates add natural sweetness and chewy texture, while blue cheese creates the ideal salty, tangy contrast. Bonus: you can prepare it up to two days in advance.
Mac and Cheese Bites
Feed a hungry crowd these all-star, feel-good favorites at your next party. Nothing is as comforting as melty, creamy, cheesy, comforting macaroni and cheese. Be still our hearts.
Eggs in a Cloud
If you love your eggs over easy, then you will love these light and fluffy baked egg whites topped with an oozy egg yolk. This recipe bakes up in less than 10 minutes and creates a delightful yet simple twist for the ever-so-popular egg-in-a-basket. The recipe title Egg-in-a-Cloud rings true—the texture of the baked egg whites mixed with Parmesan cheese creates a wonderfully airy, cloudlike texture. This texture allows the egg yolk to nestle perfectly inside, creating that egg-in-a-hole type of dish we all love so much.
Blue Cheese-Bacon-Spinach Dip
The bold flavor of blue cheese and saltiness of the bacon give a creative punch to your average spinach dip. Serve with celery sticks for an added crunch.
Buffalo-Brisket Sliders with Special Sauce
This is the burger everyone will be talking about and wanting the recipe for. It’s OK, you can demure and tell them it’s your secret recipe—we won’t tell. The mayo-based “special sauce” gets heat and sweetness from red pepper jelly; a briny edge from dill pickle relish; and a little lemon, onion, and garlic to balance it all out. Buffalo (also called bison) has a sweet and rich flavor and is a low-fat, nutrient-dense food. We mix in rich and flavorful brisket to maximize this burger’s taste and juiciness. Pressing each patty once it hits the hot pan helps develop a good sear that will lock in the burger juices.
These are not your abuela’s nachos. OK—it’s likely no nachos are from your Mexican grandmother because this popular dish has its roots in Tex-Mex cuisine. The first nachos were reportedly created by a maître d’ in Texas named Ignacio whose nickname was “Nacho.” But don’t focus on who lays claim to having invented them; instead revel in our iteration laden with lobster; avocado; a rich yet amazingly low-fat cheese sauce; and a heap of crunchy, piquant tomato-radish salad on top that takes this dish to a completely new level. You can substitute cooked crabmeat for the lobster, if you are looking for a more budget-friendly choice.