Uh oh. The buzzer rings. Friends are coming over to spread holiday cheer and you panic. Serve frozen dumplings...again?! You can do better than that. Print out this list of easy-to-assemble, stress-free, mostly-sub-20-minutes-to-prepare munchies and paste it to the fridge.
We asked the SE staffers for all their favorite secret party food weapons. Here are 60+ dips, hors d'oeuvres, small bites, toasty snacks, sweet nibbles, appetizers, and more festive munchies to prepare in a snap.
Bean-Based Dips and Snacks
Garlicky Hummus 2 cans drained chickpeas, 3 cloves minced garlic, 1/3 cup tahini (or use 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil), juice of 1 lemon, 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil in food processor. Season with salt, adding reserved liquid from chickpea cans if necessary. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with paprika
Edamame Dip Replace chickpeas in Garlicky Hummus recipe with cooked edamame. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
Frozen Pea "Hummus" Thaw a pound bag of frozen baby peas, setting aside some for the garnish. Place peas in food processor with 1/4 cup of olive oil, 1 minced garlic clove, and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice; process until smooth. Sprinkle with remaining whole peas, drizzle with more olive oil, and serve with crostini or pita bread. Full recipe here.
White Bean Dip 2 cans drained white beans, 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, 1 clove garlic, zest of one lemon, pulsed in food processor until chunky mash or smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with chopped parsley if desired.
Marinated White Beans 1 can drained white beans, lots of good olive oil, a little minced garlic, salt, and lemon zest.
Homemade Aioli 3 minced garlic cloves, 2 egg yolks, a tablespoon of water, a teaspoon lemon juice, and a teaspoon of mustard in a food processor (or whisk by hand). With machine running, drizzle in 1 cup vegetable oil. Transfer to bowl and whisk in 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Whisk in water if sauce is too thick. Serve with raw vegetables or poached chilled shrimp. Full recipe here.
Creamy Anchovy-Herb Dip A cup of mayonnaise with a cup of Greek yogurt, a garlic clove, two anchovies, and a handful of parsley in the food processor. Stir in chopped chives and serve with crudités.
Fish Roe and Crème Fraîche A cup of crème fraîche and a quarter cup of Japanese-style tobiko stirred together with a teaspoon of lemon or yuzu juice, seasoned with salt to taste. Serve with breadsticks or crudités.
Leftover Roast Meat with White Sauce A cup each yogurt and mayonnaise with 1 clove minced garlic, chopped parsley (or mint), and juice of one lemon. Season with salt and pepper and serve with thin sliced leftover roast beef (or roast turkey or roast pork) on toasted pita chips.
Spicy Indian Pickle Dip 1/2 cup of jarred Indian lime pickle pureed in the blender or food processor with 1/2 cup of mayonnaise and a teaspoon of lemon zest. Serve with crudité or homemade or storebought fried chicken fingers.
Cheese-Based Dips and Spreads
Whipped Ricotta Beat two cups of ricotta with a half cup of whole milk until it's light and fluffy. Place it in a bowl and sprinkle with sea salt, thyme, and/or rosemary and drizzle with olive oil. Slather it on toasted bread and serve with figs or other jammy fruit. Full recipe here.
Miso-Honey Mayo 1/4 cup of miso paste and 1/4 cup of honey mixed with a cup of mayonnaise. Serve with homemade or store-bought onion rings.
Ricotta with Butternut Squash Mix a quarter-cup of butternut squash puree into good ricotta. Fry a handful of sage leaves in 2 tablespoons until butter has browned, stir into mixture. Season with salt and pinch of brown sugar.
Thyme Spread 1 package cream cheese in the food processor with chopped fresh thyme, fresh parsley, a grated garlic clove. Serve with crackers.
Pimento Cheese Dip Combine 1 pound grated sharp cheddar, 1 cup mayonnaise, 1 (7-ounce) jar drained and diced pimentos, a half teaspoon hot sauce, and a half teaspoon cayenne pepper in a bowl. Serve with crackers.
Smoked Salmon Spread Process 1/2 pound smoked salmon and 1 package cream cheese until roughly chopped. Fold in chopped scallions and black pepper. Serve with crackers and chopped capers.
Roasted Pepper Dip Broil 3 large poblano or Anaheim chiles until charred (or use 2 cans whole green chiles) peel and roughly chop. Mix with 1 package cream cheese, 1 clove minced garlic, salt and pepper. Serve with crackers or tortilla chips.
Cheeseburger Dip Brown 1/2 pound hamburger. Add half can evaporated milk, 1 pound cubed American deli cheese, 1 cup salsa or Ro*Tel tomatoes, Frank's hot sauce if desired. Cook until melted and smooth then stir in 1/2 cup sliced scallions. Serve with tortilla chips or Ritz crackers. Full recipe here.
Broiled, Marinated, and Stuffed Cheese
Broiled Cream Cheese and Spinach Thaw and drain 1 package frozen spinach. Mix with 1 package cream cheese and 1/2 cups chopped roasted red pepper. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with grated parmesan. Broil in skillet and serve hot
Broiled Feta Broil slab of feta in gratin dish until browned Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with fresh chopped oregano, parsley, red pepper flakes, black pepper. Serve with crackers.
Marinated Manchego Cubes of manchego, asiago, or other semi-firm cheese marinated in olive oil with rosemary, sliced garlic, and black pepper for 15 minutes. Top each cube with a slice of sun-dried tomato and skewer with rosemary stems
Goat Cheese and Herb Peppadews Blend a good soft goat cheese with any chopped herbs you have on hand. Roll tiny balls of goat cheese and stuff them into the peppadews for awesome pepper poppers.
Stuffed Dates Stuff pitted dates or prunes with blue cheese like Cabrales. Wrap with prosciutto or jamón Serrano and drizzle with honey.
Maple-Rosemary Pecans Preheat oven to 325ºF. Heat 3 tablespoons bourbon, 1/4 cup maple syrup, 2 tablespoons salt, and 2/3 cup water in medium saucepan until salt is dissolved. Add 2 sprigs rosemary and 2 cups pecans. Soak for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Spread pecans in a single layer on baking sheet and bake until dry, toasty, and fragrant. Full recipe here.
Chipotle Mandarin Almonds Toss 3 cups almonds with 2 tablespoons olive oil, pinch of kosher salt, and pinch of chipotle powder. Roast at 350ºF until fragrant. Squeeze the juice of 1 mandarin orange over the almonds just as they come out of the oven, you want the juice to sizzle, reduce, and bake onto the spicy, smoky almonds.
Bourbon-Spiced Walnuts Toast 3 cups walnuts in 350°F oven for 5 minutes. Heat 1 tablespoon butter, 2 teaspoons brown sugar, 1 tablespoon bourbon in skillet until bubbly. Toss with pecans, another tablespoon brown sugar, pinch, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and salt. Spread on baking sheet and cool.
Spiced Coconutty Peanuts Toast 1/2 cup grated unsweeted coconut in a dry skillet. Transfer to small bowl and with 2 tablespoons brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (more or less to taste), zest from 1 lime. Toss with 3 cups dry-roasted salted peanuts to coat.
Popcorn with Furikake Toss 2 quarts plain popped popcorn with 3 tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle with Japanese-style furikake (mixed rice condiment).
Popcorn with Parmesan and Thyme Toss 2 quarts plain popped popcorn with 3 tablespoons olive oil, 1/4 cup grated parmesan, and 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves.
Popcorn with Smoked Paprika and Brown Sugar Toss 2 quarts plain popped popcorn with 3 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon smoked paprika, 1 tablespoons brown sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt.
Bar Snacks and Other Small Bites
Marinated Olives Marinate olives with olive oil, bay leaf, orange (or lemon, or grapefruit) zest, and red pepper. Microwave for 30 seconds to warm and let rest for 15 minutes before serving.
[Photograph: Sarah Shatz]
Smoky Fried Chickpeas Drain 2 cans of chickpeas and dry thoroughly. Heat 1/2 cup olive oil, 1 tablespoon of lemon zest, a thyme sprig, and chickpeas in a skillet over medium heat. Fry until the chickpeas darken and are crunchy adding 4 sliced garlic cloves 2 minutes into cooking. Drain and season with kosher salt and smoked paprika. Full recipe here.
Roasted Chickpeas Toss 1 can drained chickpeas with olive oil, and pinch each of cumin, cayenne, and paprika. Roast at 425F degrees until crunchy. Season with salt.
Kale Chips Wash a head of kale. Dry thoroughly and tear leaves into small pieces (do not use thicker parts of stems). Toss with olive oil and salt. Bake in a 350ºF oven, tossing occasionally, until dried out and darkened. Squeeze lemon over top and serve immediately.
Pesto Bites Halve 1 pint of cherry tomatoes. Spread each half with jarred or homemade pesto. Thread onto toothpicks along with a 1/2-inch cube of fresh mozzarella. Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil, season with salt and cracked black pepper.
Salmon on Pumpernickel Cut a half loaf of pumpernickel bread into 1.5-inch square pieces. Top each square with one teaspoon of cream cheese, one piece of smoked salmon, 1/4 teaspoon chopped chives and a squeeze of lemon.
Deviled Egg Variations
The Best Deviled Eggs Boil 1 dozen eggs. Split in half and process yolks with 2 tablespoons mayonnaise, a tablespoon mustard, 2 teaspoons vinegar, and a 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce in the food processor. Drizzle in 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil with machine running. Season to taste with salt and pepper and spoon or pipe mixture into 16 best-looking egg white halves (dicard remaining egg white halves). Sprinkle with cayenne or hot paprika, sea salt, and chives. Drizzle with olive oil. Full recipe here.
Deviled Eggs With Herbs and Olive Oil Fold in 1 tablespoon each chopped parsley, tarragon, and chives to yolk mixture.
Deviled Eggs With Tuna Add 1 small can high quality Spanish or French confit tuna packed in olive oil to yolks with 2 tablespoons chopped Niçoise olives. spoon into whites. Sprinkle with parsley, drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and crunchy sea salt. Use all the egg white cups.
Deviled Eggs With Smoked Salmon Fold 1/2 cup chopped smoked salmon into yolk mixture. Serve garnished with chopped red onions and capers.
Deviled Eggs With Bacon and Cheddar (or Pancetta and Romano) Fold 1/2 cup crumbled cooked bacon (or pancetta) along with 1/4 cup finely grated sharp cheddar (or romano) cheese into yolk mixture. Top with more grated cheese and bacon (or pancetta) bits.
Deviled Eggs With Horseradish Fold 2 tablespoons prepared horseradish (or more) into yolk mixture.
Deviled Eggs With Blue Cheese and Chives Add 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese to food processor while making yolk mixture. Sprinkle with crumbled blue cheese and chives before serving.
Deviled Eggs with Garden Vegetables Fold 1 small grated carrot, 1/4 cup finely minced shallot, 1/4 cup finely minced red bell pepper, and 1/4 cup finely minced celery into the yolk mixture along with 1/2 cup cream cheese. Use all the egg white cups.
Deviled Eggs With Caviar Top deviled eggs with an extravagant amount of the best caviar. Serve with champagne.
Roasted Marinated Red Bell Peppers Roast 4 red peppers directly over an open burner (or under the broiler) until blackened, then peel (or use 1 large jar store-bought roasted red peppers). Cut into strips and toss with 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, 2 tablespoons chopped capers, 1 clove minced garlic, and 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and garnish with chopped parsley. Full recipe here.
Pan-Roasted Shishito Peppers Toss a couple cups of peppers with a couple tablespoons olive oil. Sautée in hot skillet or wok until charred and soft. Sprinkle with kosher salt and serve piping hot drizzled with fresh extra-virgin olive oil.
Sauteed Shiitakes Saute 1 pound sliced shiitake mushrooms in 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil until well browned. Add 1 teaspoon thyme and 1/2 cup dry vermouth or white wine. Stir in a dollop of crème fraîche, season with salt and pepper, and serve warm with toast.
Smoky Chickpea Stew Sauté 1/2 cup homemade breadcrumbs in 2 tablespoons olive oil until brown. Set aside. Sauté 1 chopped onion and 3 minced cloves of garlic in 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil until soft. Add can of chickpeas, 1/2 cup crushed tomatoes, toasted breadcrumbs, pinch cumin, juice of a lemon, and plenty of smoked paprika. Cook until thick, season with salt .
Black Bean Quesadillas Mix 1 can drained black beans, 1 pound grated pepper jack cheese, handful chopped cilantro. Fold into flour tortillas and fry in vegetable oil until crisp.
Garlicky Spanish Shrimp Thaw 1 pound peeled shrimp in cool running water and dry. Heat 2 cloves sliced garlic, 1 bay leaf, 1 teaspoon red pepper flake in 1 cup olive oil. Add shrimp when garlic bubbles. Cook 2 minutes (stirring), garnish with parsley, and serve with good bread.
Thai-Style Lettuce Wraps Simmer 1 pound ground chicken or pork with 1/2 cup water until not pink. Drain and toss with 1/2 cup thin sliced red onion, juice from 2 limes, 1 tablespoon sugar, 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes, and handful each chopped mint and cilantro. Serve with romaine or bibb lettuce leaves.
Queso Fundido 1 pound grated pepper jack cheese in a gratin dish. Top with browned/drained crumbled chorizo or other sausage. Broil until bubbly and serve with tortillas. Full recipe here.
Jumbo Shrimp with Japanese BBQ Sauce Bread jumbo shrimp with flour, then eggs, then panko and deep-fry at 350°F until crisp. Serve with Japanese barbecue sauce: 1/2 cup ketchup, 1/4 cup worcestershire, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, and 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seed oil.
Quick Puff Pastry Tarts
Prunes, Onion, Blue Cheese Caramelized onions and prunes simmered in a mixture of cognac and honey on top of puff pastry, bake at 350°F until puffed and golden, then top with blue cheese and a honey drizzle.
Anchovies, Olives, Red Pepper, Capers Anchovies, olives, and red pepper strips arranged in stripes on puff pastry, topped with grated parm and picked thyme leaves, baked at 350°F until puffed and golden. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with drained capers and chopped parsley.
Apples, Apricots, Goat Cheese Thinly sliced apples tiled on puff pastry painted with a mixture of 1/2 cup apricot jam and a tablespoon of water. Dot with goat cheese and bake at 350°F until puffed and golden, then sprinkle with thyme leaves.
Chocolate Chipotle Bacon Popcorn Melt 8 ounces dark chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl or a double boiler. Combine with 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice, 1/4 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper, 4 slices crumbled cooked bacon, and 2 to 3 quarts popped popcorn. Season with kosher salt and spread on greased baking sheet to cool. Break and serve. Full recipe here.
White Chocolate Grapes Melt white chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl or a double boiler. Dip grapes in chocolate and coat with chopped toasted cashews. Refrigerate until set.
Salted Caramel Apple Dip Whip two packages cream cheese, 1/2 cup heavy cream, 1 1/2 cups light brown sugar and a teaspoon of vanilla until light and fluffy. Heat 1 cup of sugar, 1/3 cup of water, 2 tablespoons of corn syrup and 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice over high heat until light amber. Stir into cream cheese mixture and serve with sliced fruit. Full recipe here.
Honey-Yogurt Dip Serve sliced fruits or berries with greek yogurt drizzled with honey and a pinch of freshly chopped thyme or rosemary.