When I was growing up, Thanksgiving was always a marathon day of food. Sure, dinner was an elaborate affair, but we actually started eating hours before sitting down at the table, and the appetizers were as important as the turkey and mashed potatoes. We blamed the snacking on the fact that dinner always took longer than expected, but we probably could have finished cooking earlier if we weren't so busy stuffing ourselves with deviled eggs, cheese, dips, and more.
I wouldn't have had it any other way, though—those extended Thanksgivings were some of the best days of my childhood. If you're on board with spending all of Turkey Day eating, read on for 27 of our favorite Thanksgiving snacks and appetizers, like chicken liver pâté, roasted pumpkin seeds, and cheesy butternut squash dip. And check out our full guide to Thanksgiving for even more recipes, how-tos, and quick tips to make this Thanksgiving the best ever.
Vegan and Vegetarian Appetizers for Thanksgiving
If you're buying a sugar pumpkin to make pumpkin pie, don't let the seeds go to waste! Roast them instead to make a tasty, crunchy snack. You won't go wrong seasoning them with just salt and pepper, as in this basic recipe, but there are also lots of other possibilities—how about ginger and orange zest, brown butter and sage, or even (for a nonvegetarian option) anchovy bread crumbs?
For this savory spread, fleshy plum tomatoes are slowly roasted with aromatic garlic and thyme until they grow jammy and sweet with concentrated flavor. The oven-dried tomatoes get pulsed with briny capers, then combined with a generous dose of the best-quality extra-virgin olive oil, for a simple spread that's packed with sweet and salty flavors.
Spinach-artichoke dip—creamy, salty, and a little tart—has become a classic appetizer for a reason. This vegan version harnesses the richness of cauliflower and cashews to create the base, while nutritional yeast and mustard provide balance with tangy, savory flavors.
This recipe uses deeply roasted cauliflower and buttery pecans to make a meat-free take on pâté that feels as luxurious and satisfying as the original. If you want to keep the dish vegan, you can swap out the butter for oil and omit the cream, but the result won't be quite as rich.
Making the best spiced nuts requires more than a dusting of spices—we typically (though not always) prefer to coat the nuts in an egg-white glaze to give them a crisp shell. For these barbecue-inspired almonds, we make the glaze with brown sugar and flavor it with smoked paprika, Old Bay, and cayenne. Try our Mexican-spiced chocolate pecans and olive-rosemary cashews for flavorful variations on the same theme; the latter of those two is also vegan.
Regular Cheez-Its might seem like a fairly basic snack to serve for a special-occasion meal, but our homemade ones are delicious enough that guests will request them every Thanksgiving. Using cream instead of butter gives the crackers a deep, nutty flavor. Depending on what kind of cheese you use, you can go with a more classic Cheez-It experience, or mix things up.
Squash isn't the most common ingredient in dips, but maybe it should be. This festive appetizer pairs butternut squash with melty cheddar and rich cream cheese, plus onion, garlic, and plenty of sage. We also add sour cream, which cuts through the sweetness of the roasted squash and caramelized onions.
This incredibly easy, crowd-pleasing dip uses a base of creamy Greek yogurt, which offers a tartness that complements the cheese. Simply combine the yogurt, feta, olive oil, and a garlic clove using a blender, food processor, or immersion blender for a delicious pre-dinner accompaniment to crudités, baguette toasts, and more.
In this recipe—almost as easy as the feta dip above—we thin out buttery, tangy blue cheese with a mixture of mayonnaise, lemon juice, and sour cream, then add a handful of toasted pecans for crunchy texture. It's great with almost anything you can think of dipping in it—try crackers, sliced fruit, pepper strips, or pretzels.
Forget about the waxy, pre-shredded cheddar—this recipe treats cheese balls right. Each one starts with cream cheese, then pairs it with another cheese, mix-ins, and a crust. My favorite of the three is also the simplest: It's made with just goat cheese, lemon zest, black pepper, and fresh herbs.
How do you improve on a wheel of pleasantly soft room-temperature Brie? By baking it until it's warmed through and gooey. There are plenty of ways to gussy up your baked Brie, but this version, topped with a tart/spicy/sweet mix of cranberries, jalapeño, and brown sugar, looks particularly festive for the holiday season.
Adding a puff pastry crust to your baked Brie is sure to win you cool points among your Thanksgiving guests, and it's not as complicated as it might sound. Baked Brie en croûte was a staple of my childhood Thanksgivings, though ours came straight from the freezer section. For a more homemade version, wrap a wheel of Brie up in store-bought puff pastry along with a warmly spiced apple-pear compote, then bake until the crust is crisp. A triple-cream Brie will melt the best.
I love stuffing so much, I don't want to have to wait for dinner to be served to start eating it. This recipe brings my favorite side dish into the appetizer course by mixing a flour-and-cornmeal batter with stuffing ingredients, like onions, apple, and celery, and frying until golden brown. Unlike actual stuffing, there's no poultry in this recipe—though, if you're not trying to keep it vegetarian, adding some bacon drippings to the frying oil is a power move.
If you've been bringing the same deviled eggs to Thanksgiving dinner every year, it might be time to try something new. We have nine recipes to help you dress up the classic—admittedly, many of them are meat-laden, but vegetarians will love the spicy Buffalo twist, the fried-caper/lemon combo, and the eggs topped with Thai-style crispy fried shallots and chilies.
Nonvegetarian Thanksgiving Appetizers
If you're looking to pull out all the stops on Thanksgiving, you can't do much better than this creamy chicken liver pâté. To make the appetizer especially seasonal, we add bourbon and apple cider to the pâté and top it with a tart cranberry gelée. Though the dish looks and sounds fancy, there isn't much more to it than a sauté pan, a food processor, and a mesh strainer.
Pork rillettes feel festive in a similar way to pâté, but they're easier to make, especially in bulk—all you have to do is slow-roast pork shoulder until it starts to fall apart, then whip it up in a stand mixer. For something even more elegant, try making our salmon rillettes instead.
While I prefer an old-school tapenade made with equal parts olives, capers, and fish, when most people think of tapenade, their mind goes straight to olives. Our recipe for a modern tapenade uses mostly black olives, with just enough capers and anchovies to give the dip a briny bite.
Brandade is a cousin of rillettes, made by whipping up salt cod with olive oil and half-and-half. You can add potatoes if you want to give it a milder flavor, but I'm partial to the more aggressive all-fish version. Either way, the brandade is best if you brown it under the broiler before serving.
If you're a big fan of the classic Italian-American appetizer clams casino—clams on the half shell, topped with bacon and bread crumbs—but prefer a less fussy presentation, why not pack all the same flavors into a big bowl o' dip? We start with a base of sour cream and cream cheese, then add crumbled bacon, chopped canned clams, and bread crumbs toasted golden in bacon grease, for an irresistible party-sized appetizer that doesn't require painstakingly building individual portions.
The very concept of bagna càuda isn't for the faint of heart—it's a dip loaded with anchovies and garlic, two of the most potent and pungent ingredients we can think of. But somehow, they just manage to work together. Poaching the garlic cloves in water or milk makes it easier to smash them into a purée before you add the anchovies, which should be of the best quality you can find. Check out our guide to preparing your own salt-packed anchovies before you shop.
Our take on this retro party snack uses a mixture of beef and pork, bound with panko and egg and glazed with a sauce made of hoisin, ketchup, vinegar, honey, soy sauce, and sesame oil. The meatballs can be made with dark-meat turkey instead of beef and pork, if you want something extra Thanksgiving-appropriate.
No Thanksgiving is complete without cheese wrapped in bacon, right? These bacon-wrapped broiled figs are stuffed with funky blue cheese and coated in a caramel glaze spiked with bourbon, leaving them salty, sweet, smoky, and rich. We pre-cook the bacon strips before assembling the figs, ensuring that the bacon has enough time to crisp and brown nicely in the oven and the figs and cheese don't overcook.
Another one for stuffing lovers, this recipe flavors homemade potato chips with celery leaves, sage, rosemary, and marjoram. To give the chips a meaty flavor that brings them firmly into stuffing territory, we use powdered chicken bouillon and MSG—an ingredient that we know makes some people nervous, but it adds a savoriness that the chips really need.
You may be used to thinking of tarte Tatin as a dessert topped with glossy apples (and sometimes pears!), but it turns out that an old-fashioned buttery pie crust is just as good a vehicle for savory ingredients as sweet. Here, we combine the classic French tart with another bistro favorite—French onion soup—by loading the crust with deeply caramelized wedges of yellow onion and melty Gruyère. Harried-cook tip: You can use store-bought puff pastry instead of homemade pie dough to streamline the process a bit, and the results will still be excellent.
If you love potato skins the way we do, these little bites deserve a place on your Thanksgiving menu. Canned chipotle chilies and smoked paprika in the marinade for the potatoes underscore the bacon's smoky flavor. In contrast with the bacon-wrapped-figs recipe, the bacon will cook at the same rate as the potatoes, so there's no need to par-cook it.
Featuring sweet potato and spicy Italian sausage, these Korean-style pancakes were developed to evoke traditional Thanksgiving flavors. Shallow fried and served with a spicy, savory yangnyeom sauce, they're a golden, crispy nod to classic turkey stuffing. Serve them as a snack before the big meal, or as a component of our banchan-style Thanksgiving menu.
We coat these potato skins a potato starch slurry before deep frying them, for shatteringly crisp cups that are custom made for filling with an array of dips, spreads, and more. Need inspiration? Try them packed with pulled pork and cheddar cheese, as pictured above; overflowing with crème fraîche and smoked salmon; or stuffed with melted raclette cheese and thinly sliced cornichons.
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