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 18 of our favorite Thanksgiving snacks and appetizers, like chicken liver pâté, roasted pumpkin seeds, and cheesy butternut squash dip.
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.
Vegetarians don't need to be left out of the fun—this recipe uses roasted cauliflower and pecans to make a satisfying meat-free pâté. 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.
Pork rillettes feel festive in a similar way to pâté, but they're easier to make for a crowd—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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 dress up the classic, ranging from a spicy Buffalo twist to a carbonara-inspired version made with pancetta, Parmesan crisps, and black pepper.
Don't let the seeds go to waste next time you buy a sugar pumpkin to make pumpkin pie; 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 options—how about ginger and orange zest, brown butter and sage, or even anchovy bread crumbs?
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.
I love stuffing so much that 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.
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.
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.
Baked Brie en croûte was a staple of my childhood Thanksgivings, though ours came straight from the freezer section. To make the dish at home, wrap a wheel of Brie up in puff pastry with apple-pear compote and bake until the crust is crispy. Go with a triple-cream Brie here—it'll melt the best.
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.
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.
Spinach and 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 tangy nutritional yeast and mustard provide balance.
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