The Best Thanksgiving Appetizers
Whether you’re hosting or bringing a dish to Thanksgiving this year, it’s always good to present a few easy starters. Be thankful for these recipes, which include easy make ahead Thanksgiving appetizers, last minute finger foods, appetizers that are easy to transport, kid-friendly starters and more!
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At the holidays, it never hurts to have a few go-to appetizer recipes in your back pocket.
If you’re hosting, of course you want to have snacks! Not only for you, the cook, but for the guests to nibble on while they await the turkey, sides and pie.
Even if you’re attending a Thanksgiving event, it can be so helpful to the host to offer to bring an extra appetizer. Trust me, no host is going to turn that kind of help down!
Everyone loves appetizers, but they don’t have to be the most stressful part of the day. (Save that for the turkey and pie crust. Except don’t actually stress about that—I have tons of Thanksgiving tips to relieve your anxiety!)
Don’t miss these amazing Thanksgiving recipes to make this year! And if you’re hosting a crowd, check out these Thanksgiving cocktails.
How many appetizers to serve
Three is a good place to start, especially if you have a small crowd of 4-8 people. A trio of appetizers is enough for everyone to get a taste of everything and lets pickier eaters have a selection to choose from.
Add another appetizer for every additional four people, up to five appetizers. From there, you’ll just want to scale up your production of each offering for a bigger crowd.
So how do you choose the best apps for your group? I like to have a little bit of everything for different tastes and dietary requirements!
For me, that usually means something without cheese, something vegetarian and something without gluten. See the section below for ideas for appetizers for special diets.
Occasions for Thanksgiving appetizers
Beyond the main event, there are so many times you can serve up these appetizers for Thanksgiving, not just on Thanksgiving day.
- Friendsgiving celebrations before Thanksgiving
- Thanksgiving office parties
- The night before Thanksgiving (great if you are having company and need a pre-dinner snack!)
- For sustenance before the local Turkey Trot or volunteer shift
- While watching the Thanksgiving parade, dog show and football games
- While preparing the Thanksgiving meal
- For snacks while Black Friday online shopping
- Throughout the holiday season
If you’re bringing these Thanksgiving hors d’oeuvres and starters on the go, just make sure they’re safely packaged. Nobody wants a crushed dish when it arrives at the big dinner.
Many of these easy Thanksgiving appetizers also double as Christmas and New Year’s appetizers, so Thanksgiving can work as a test run for other events you might have coming up.
Erin’s Easy Entertaining Tips
It’s fun to have delicious Thanksgiving appetizers for the big day and to provide a little sustenance before your main course.
- Appetizers shouldn’t clash with the sides, even though they’re coming beforehand. Try to aim for a variety of flavors across the meal.
- Don’t forget to plan out how to serve each appetizer. Toothpicks, skewers, spreaders, and spoons are often an afterthought.
- Always stock up on some disposable storage containers to send guests home with any leftover appetizers and other dishes.
You’ll find a little bit of everything with these Thanksgiving appetizer ideas, including cream cheese, goat cheese, a VEGAN cheese ball,
The Best Thanksgiving Appetizers
Whether you’re hosting or bringing a dish to Thanksgiving this year, it’s always good to present a few easy Thanksgiving appetizers. Be thankful for these varied appetizers, which include make ahead recipes, easy dishes to make for sharing, kid-friendly apps and more.
Easy Thanksgiving Appetizers
Easy is quintessential on Thanksgiving, when there are so many other balls in the air! Here are some of my favorite easy-as-apple-pie recipes.
Thanksgiving Cheese Board
Not much is easier than setting cheese, crackers and fruit out on a platter! Whether you make it pretty or not is up to you — bet no one will mind either way!
Hot Spinach Artichoke Dip
Restaurant-quality spinach and artichoke dip will be gone in no time. Serve it with some crusty bread or hardy crackers.
Sweet Potato Rounds with Herbed Ricotta and Walnuts
Did you know you can make “crackers” from sweet potatoes? These bite-sized appetizers feature herbed ricotta cheese, walnuts, cranberries and honey.
Pretzel Cheese Dip
If the game is on, you’re going to need a cheesy dip to go with it. Made with just three ingredients, this dip is always a winner. (Everyone will agree.)
Olive Oil Parmesan Spice Dipping Sauce
Grab some fluffy bread or dinner rolls to dip in this amazing olive oil dip. You can even bring this one over to the table for even more dipping if it doesn’t get sopped up beforehand!
Make Ahead Thanksgiving Appetizers
These make-ahead Thanksgiving appetizer ideas are perfect for your Turkey Day celebrations.
Cheesy Pull Apart Bread with French Onion Flavors
Make this one ahead of time and plan to pop it in the oven just before guests arrive, so it’s ready for them to enjoy its cheesy pull-apart goodness ASAP.
Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
If you’re already using a real pumpkin for your pie, why not save the seeds and serve them as an appetizer? This recipe is so flavorful and easy to put together.
Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
This creamy, comforting butternut squash soup is an easy make-ahead Thanksgiving appetizer because you can make the soup in advance and keep it warm in a slow cooker. It's an easy way to get some hearty ingredients and is always a crowd pleaser!
Easy Peel and Eat Shrimp Recipe - Simply Whisked
Shrimp cocktail is always a family favorite. Make these easy peel-and-eat shrimp ahead of time and chill them in the fridge. Serve cold with cocktail sauce.
Cream Cheese Ranch Roll Ups
Cream cheese ranch roll ups might be the easiest and most popular appetizer you could ever make. Rich cream cheese, ranch dressing mix and veggies all rolled into tortillas? You can bet they will disappear in a flash at any party!
Easy Smoked Salmon Dip for All Occasions
Smoked Salmon Dip is a mainstay of holiday party appetizer spreads. It’s rich and flavorful and everyone loves it! Serve it with baguette slices, crackers, bagel chips, or cucumber slices as a perfect appetizer.
Last Minute Appetizers
Got a last minute request to bring an appetizer to Thanksgiving? Realized too late you forgot to stock up on app supplies? No problems here. Try one of these quick and easy appetizers to make at the last possible second.
Baked Brie in Puff Pastry with Cranberry Chutney
This classic Thanksgiving appetizer recipe only needs three ingredients plus crackers or bread. You are going to love how easy it is to put together.
Delicious Cranberry Pecan Cheese Ball
Cheese balls are classic Thanksgiving fare. This one features cream cheese and cheddar cheese plus dried cranberries and pecans for a distinctly autumn flavor.
Cranberry Brie Bites
These brie bites made with puff pastry and cranberry sauce are the perfect last-minute appetizer. They take next to no time to put together and everyone will love their warm, gooey texture.
Easily transportable appetizers
Need to travel with your appetizer? Easier said than done. These appetizers are easy to make ahead and bring to your party.
Bruschetta Pinwheels and Pesto Sun-Dried Tomato Pinwheels
Bake up a batch of these pinwheels to bring to your Thanksgiving party. They are so easy to make and perfect for sharing.
Cranberry Goat Cheese Roll
Prepare this easy goat cheese roll ahead of time and wrap it in plastic wrap. Transport it in a lunchbox or small cooler with your crackers and a platter, then set it up to serve when you arrive at your destination.
Spicy Southern Cheese Straws
Cheese straws are a Southern recipe that is easy to make ahead of time. Bring them in a cookie tin lined with parchment paper for padding (or any other airtight, food-safe container) to keep them from snapping during the trip. They make a great hostess gift, too!
Kids, especially picky ones, will appreciate an appetizer that appeals to them. These are some of my favorites to make when we have extra kiddos at our Thanksgiving dinner.
No one can turn down a plate of this easy pepperoni dip. Pizza lovers (especially kids!) will adore this one.
Sweet and Savory Party Mix
Give this popcorn party mix a dose of fall flavor by adding dried cranberries, pumpkin seeds, Reese’s Pieces candy and festive M&M's. Scoop it into plastic cups for kids to grab easily without making a mess.
Fun Turkey Veggie Tray Appetizer for Thanksgiving
Kids won’t mind eating some veggies with this super fun veggie tray! A bowl of ranch dip and a red pepper act as the turkey’s head and body, while the dippers form its tail.
Appetizers for special diets
Don’t let the special diets in your party be an afterthought. If Aunt Mildred is always on a diet, make sure there are veggies for her to snack on. If Cousin Derek has a gluten allergy, make sure he knows there are special crackers just for him (and where to find them).
Sage Pumpkin Hummus
Hummus of any kind is an easy appetizer for the vegetarians and vegans at your party. This one has a fall twist and pairs perfectly with pita chips or sliced vegetables. (Veggies are a great gluten-free dipper.)
Apple Chutney Bruschetta
Vegetarians will appreciate a non-hummus appetizer too. This apple chutney bruschetta is a wonderful meatless appetizer. (Make a few on gluten-free bread, too!)
Favorite Vegan Cheese Ball
Make your own vegan cheese ball with cashews, water, coconut oil and agar powder that is creamy and delightful to spread on crackers or veggies. It’s delightful, decadent and dairy-free!
What are some tools I might need to make these recipes?
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Obviously, this depends on what recipe you’re making, but here are a few things we keep in our kitchen at all times for easy appetizers:
- Muffin tins and cookie sheets
- Mini slow cooker (for hot dips)
- Basket for chips or bread
- Serving board for cheese
- Large food-storage containers
- Platters for serving
- Tiered display for appetizers
- Bamboo skewers or toothpicks
- Paper plates and cocktail napkins
You’ll also need some ingredients, which will be dependent on what dishes you serve, too.
A lot of the dishes above involve cheese. Others call for store bough puff pastry, one of my favorite quick appetizer hacks. And some more call for seasonal ingredients, like butternut squash and cranberries.
Frequently Asked Questions
Chips and dip, mini sandwiches and spreads with bread are all great finger foods.
The day before Thanksgiving, you can get a lot of your menu out of the way. Brine your turkey or make your turkey herb butter. Bake your pies, too, or at the very least prepare the crust. Easily reheatable sides like mashed potatoes are good ones to make the day before. And don’t forget to get a make-ahead appetizer or two ready for snacking while you cook.
Some people make a turkey anyway and just enjoy the appetizers, side dishes and pie. Roasted chicken is another crowd pleasing substitute for a turkey. Ham is also acceptable.
Make as many homemade dishes as possible. Store bought take-and-bake items from the grocery are usually fresher and tastes better than frozen or instant versions of dishes like green beans, mashed potatoes.