My Favorite Crowd-Pleasing Easy Appetizers

posted by Andrea | 12/11/2019

crowd-pleasing easy appetizers

Are you searching for easy appetizers to bring to an upcoming holiday party or summer BBQ?

Or maybe you need an assortment of snacks for an office function or just a casual play date with neighborhood moms and kids.

Do you want something that works for gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, soy-free, etc.?

Would you like an appetizer that offers whole-food options?

Whatever the case, my favorite crowd-pleasing easy appetizers should fit the bill!

easy appetizers

This easy appetizer platter can be tweaked, altered, and adapted to appease the most sophisticated taste buds and the pickiest of eaters. 

It works for vegetarians, vegans, whole-food enthusiasts, and almost other dietary restrictions you can come up with. 

You can make it as elaborate or as simple as you’d like — there are countless options to fit every budget.

It’s so quick and easy to throw together, it transports well, and the majority of it can be prepared well in advance! 

Are you interested yet?!?!

These easy appetizers are perfect at any time of year, for any type of party.

In fact, our family loves it so much we often eat large appetizer platters as our full meal — especially during the holiday season and during pool season!

easy appetizers

My Favorite Easy Appetizers

I think the “success” of these easy appetizers is due to the fact that I break it down into 5 main parts… all of which can be easily customizable based on your tastes, preferences, budget, guests, and the time of year. 

Let me show you how I set it up! 

easy appetizers

Part 1 = Meats

Meat can sometimes be tricky for appetizers (especially if it needs to stay really warm or really cold) but I feel that SOME type of meat is essential for a well-rounded appetizer platter.

My go-to, super-simple meat options are:

  • sliced summer sausage (sometimes a few different varieties and flavors)
  • pepperoni and/or pepperoni bites (turkey or regular)
  • salami rolls (thinly sliced salami from the deli, rolled up and held with a toothpick)
  • shrimp cocktail

Of course, I love hot meat options as well (meatballs and these bacon-wrapped sausage links are 2 of my favorites) but those aren’t always practical and can’t always be transported well.

For a quick appetizer, I usually stick with the cold cut meats. I always have them sliced and prepared well in advance so there’s no last-minute work besides setting the meat on platters for my guests to grab!

sliced meat and cheese appetizers

Part 2 = Cheeses

This is probably my favorite part of my easy appetizers  — our whole family LOVES cheese!

Plus, there are so many amazing varieties of delicious cheese available at most grocery stores that it’s very easy to get creative and prepare a gourmet-looking appetizer tray with minimal effort or expense.

NOTE: our Aldi store has a huge variety of fancier cheese for pretty reasonable prices!

I usually try to have at least 3 or 4 different cheese varieties, and I slice/serve them differently as well.

  • medium or sharp Cheddar cut into small cubes
  • Colby Jack sliced thinly for crackers
  • Mozzarella in little balls
  • the mini Babybell cheese pods (these are always a big hit with kids!)
  • string cheese cut into small chunks
  • a cream cheese spread or savory cheese ball for crackers or raw veggies

There are endless possibilities when it comes to delicious cheese!

Get as fancy or stay as frugal as you want with cheese — even the spray cheese in a can could go over well depending on your crowd and the type of party you’ll be serving the food at.

The beauty of all these different cheese options is that they can all be sliced, cubed, or prepared in advance and simply stored in separate air-tight containers until you’re ready to serve them.

cheese platter

Part 3 = Crackers, Nuts and/or Seeds

When it comes to crackers, nuts, and seeds, there are more options than I could ever list! Just pick a handful of your favorites and keep them in your pantry (or freezer) and you’ll always be ready to throw a quick appetizer platter together.

Here are some of my favorite very simple options:

  • Wheat Thins
  • Club crackers
  • Some sort of “grain” cracker (like a thicker, more substantial cracker)
  • Goldfish or veggie straws (for the kids!)
  • Pretzels
  • Cashews (my favorite!)
  • Pistachios
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Pumpkin seeds (especially great in the fall)
  • Chex mix
  • Popcorn
  • Candied walnuts, pecans, or peanuts

I usually decide on my cracker choices after I know what types of meats and cheeses I’ll be serving.

I will also include chunks of crusty bread if I think it works (or even homemade rolls).

crackers and bread

Part 4 = Fruits

My main objective with fruit is to choose varieties that can be eaten without utensils (no peaches!) and that won’t turn brown or taste bad after sitting out in the open (no bananas).

I also try to pick fruits that go well with the meat and cheese I’m serving.

  • Grapes (I serve them in small clumps on basically every appetizer tray).
  • Sweet Cherries (I like these in the summer, but they are a bit messy if you don’t pit them first)
  • Thinly sliced Granny Smith apples (the tangy flavor pairs well with cheese, and if you soak them in Sprite or lemon juice for a few minutes, they won’t turn brown as quickly)
  • Berries (blackberries and strawberries are favorites because they are big enough to just pick up and eat, but small enough that they don’t need to be pre-sliced)
  • Dried Fruit (almost any variety could work). My favorites are Craisins, Raisins, Cherries, Apricots, Banana chips, and Papaya.

If you don’t mind using utensils, then you can include cubed melons, other berries, peaches, pears, pineapple, etc.

And again, you can be as simple or as extravagant as you want. We ALWAYS have dried fruit in the house, and almost always have grapes and apples — so if I’m in a pinch, grapes, apples, and craisins are what I serve.

Oh, and I usually do NOT serve fruit dips like caramel, marshmallow dips, or cream cheese-based dips because I personally just never make them or have them in the house. However, these dips would be delicious additions to your easy appetizers, as long as you have large enough plates and plenty of silverware for your guests.

fruit, crackers, and cheese

Part 5 = Veggies

Although there are so many options when it comes to raw veggies, I try to stick to more “common” varieties when I make my appetizer platters.

  • Baby carrots
  • Grape or cherry tomatoes
  • Sliced sweet or bell peppers
  • Small chunks of broccoli and cauliflower
  • Cucumbers
  • Sugar snap peas

I like to choose at least 3-5 different veggies, and I try to make sure they are all different colors so the platter looks nicer. I usually DO include some type of vegetable dip and hummus.

Olives and pickles often go over well on these types of trays. My homemade refrigerator dill pickles are often requested at our holiday parties! 

raw vegetables

 

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That’s it – my favorite 5-part foolproof easy appetizers!

It might seem like I listed off a lot of food above, but that’s simply because I want to share a variety of options for you to consider.

When I actually make up an appetizer platter, I often only choose 2-3 options from each category (sometimes less if I know everyone likes the same things.)

You can get as fancy as you want with presentation too — sometimes I just put out plastic food storage containers with the different types of food in it. Other times, I break out all sorts of cool serving trays and platters to display everything nicely.

easy appetizers platter

easy appetizers platter

easy appetizers for dinner

As I mentioned above, this 5-part easy appetizer platter can work for almost any party and almost any time of year. Just mix up the contents based on in-season fruits and veggies, whatever meats and cheeses you have in the house, or whatever is on sale at the grocery store.

The great thing about including 5 different food groups in these easy appetizers is that almost everyone should be able to eat something (regardless of their dietary restrictions).

  • Vegetarians can eat everything but the meat
  • Gluten-free can eat everything but the crackers
  • Nut-free can eat everything but the nuts
  • Dairy-free can eat everything but the cheese
  • Anyone on a whole-foods diet can pig out on the fruits, veggies, and nuts

There’s a little something for (almost) everyone on this easy appetizer platter!

What are your go-to easy appetizers? 

Follow me on Instagram for more behind-the-scenes peeks at my holiday entertaining! 

crowd-pleasing easy appetizers

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33 comments

  1. Jen

    12/11/2019

    Great as always! For my family, we MUST also have LOTS of olives!

    [Reply]

  2. JJ

    12/11/2019

    Oh, Sprite with apples! I need to try that. I had used lemon juice or pineapple juice, but both didn’t go well with my kids’ stomachs. I will try this!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    yes, the sprite doesn’t carry over nearly as much of a taste as the pineapple juice or lemon juice

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  3. Marva

    12/13/2018

    Thanks for this great idea – just solved my dilemma for Christmas Eve with very finicky grandkids!

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    Andrea Reply:

    haha — you’re welcome! I’m certain your grandkids will love this option!!

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  4. Debbie

    12/12/2018

    Do you find that it costs less to buy these items for a party as opposed to making a meal? I’m guessing the cheese, nuts, and different varieties of sausage would add up.

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  5. Lorrie

    12/12/2018

    Excellent article, and beautiful photos!!

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  6. Georgia

    07/27/2017

    This is such a great idea, it is a saver for sure.

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  7. Fleur

    07/27/2017

    Hi Andrea, This was a great post – TFS! I really like your white crockery. I was wondering if you could tell me the brand and where you got it x

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    it’s JCPenny Home brand — purchased many years ago on clearance. We LOVE it too!

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  8. Debra

    07/26/2017

    Great post. Simple. I’m keeping this forever since I always stress about what everyone will like and it seems everyone has a dietary issue nowadays. We are planning a girl’s wine tasting/picnic afternoon and the combinations are perfect and will be easy to pack. There are 6 of us, so this addresses all the dietary issues, and each person can bring a couple of items from each “part” to share, and one can bring something sweet or chocolate to round it out. Perfect timing, thanks for making it so easy.

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    Andrea Reply:

    sounds like a great plan — simple and not stressful. Enjoy your wine tasting picnic!!

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  9. Vickie

    07/26/2017

    I soak apple slices in water with a little salt in it, and they don’t turn brown. Works great, too, if you need apples for a sack lunch, etc.

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    Andrea Reply:

    and the salt taste doesn’t bother you? I do this when I can applesauce and it doesn’t affect the taste of the sauce, but if you I eat an apple slice raw, I can really taste the salt.

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  10. Jo

    07/26/2017

    This is my favorite food, quite a few of our friends as well so we will just do a giant one of these for a shared meal, nothing else (some nice chocolate for the dessert). I even had this for our wedding rehearsal party (one relative was quite upset that there was nothing else – he needed to have a hot meal!) – it was perfect.

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    Andrea Reply:

    Yes, Dave and I love appetizer platters (as long as there’s a decent variety!) We will gladly eat it as a full meal every once in awhile!

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  11. Michelle

    07/26/2017

    For our appetizer trays we like to make ham roll-ups. Not quite as simple as just cutting up summer sausage or placing pepperoni on the tray but if one wants to spend a little extra time they’re tasty and go over very well.

    We take a slice of deli ham, spread softened cream cheese on it, place a green onion on one of the sides, roll it up, and slice it into approx. 1 inch pieces.

    I am hostess for our large family for Thanksgiving and Christmas every year. We end up with approximately 25-30 people for each of these events. With so many people there’s always a problem coming up with a menu. Something that someone wants, someone else doesn’t…EVERY YEAR! It’s quite frustrating.

    Most of us want the formal, delicious, sit down meal for Thanksgiving but would rather have a less formal Christmas dinner opting for appetizers and finger foods instead. But my mom is old-school and wants a formal dinner for both. The larger our family gets the harder it is to get everyone seated and served and it gets chaotic. By the time the last person gets their food the first person is going back for more.

    Unfortunately renting a bigger venue isn’t in our budget at that time of year and it’s been discussed how that wouldn’t feel cozy like being at one of our homes.

    Would you have any solutions for this delimma? Any input would be greatly appreciated.

    Thank you for these wonderful appetizer platter ideas. Makes me want to throw a party! Or at least go to one.

    [Reply]

    Jamie Reply:

    Our family is getting larger also and we too face the dilemma of what type of meal to have with such a large group. Both sides of the family are near us so all need to be invited. This past Christmas we hosted at my house and we just had everyone bring an appetizer and I made several simple desserts. It worked out great as everyone was able to hold a small plate and stand or sit where they could find a place. We let the little kids all sit at the table and then everyone else either sat in the living room, patio or hung around the kitchen. Our rooms are all open so we were all still close to everyone. We have a large 8 seater table but no way could we have a formal sit down dinner with 20 something people. I thought it worked out well and everyone had a good time. We only had one person complain that she couldn’t bring a turkey. She ended up cutting it up before into small pieces. Another suggestion might be a local park with picnic type foods. Depending on where you live, this might not be a great idea that time of year. I’m in South Florida. Some years it is too hot even at that time of year for an outdoor event.

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    Andrea Reply:

    This sounds perfect — and we do something similar with our group of friends every holiday season (although we are definitely INDOOR due to snow and freezing temperatures!)

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    Annette Silveira Reply:

    I would love to attend an appetizer and dessert party! With that many people Iā€™m sure you had plenty of variety too. After the big turkey meal on Thanksgiving, I usually make Mexican food for Christmas. We love it.

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    Andrea Reply:

    they are so fun and casual! Make sure to have the food spread out throughout the house to keep people mingling and not just crammed in the kitchen around the food šŸ™‚

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    Andrea Reply:

    In my opinion, you can NEVER please everyone so I don’t even try. I know that might sound snotty — but it’s true. People will always complain no matter what you do, so if I’m doing the work to host, I do what Dave and I want to do. If someone is that upset about it, they can offer to host the next time!

    My mom’s side of the family (ALLLLLLL my aunts, uncles, cousins, spouses, and cousins’ kids) rent one of our churches for a Christmas potluck. It’s not as “cozy” as a home but you can’t have “cozy” with 60+ people unless you live in a mansion!! It works well, it’s easy, and everyone brings a hot and cold dish to pass so there is TONS of food!

    I’d say, if you’re willing to host and you can fit everyone in your home, do what YOU want to do. You could even send an email out well in advance explaining that you are willing to host (and what you’d suggest for the menu) but then open the door to anyone else who might want to host instead. If no one offers, you are free to do what works best for you.

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    Shan Reply:

    Andrea, a great recommendation to offer extended family in advance with what you’re willing to do. Plus a gracious way to eliminate potential complaints.

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    Andrea Reply:

    well, it might not “eliminate” complaints, but at least you know they aren’t justified!!

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  12. Sam

    07/26/2017

    Great post! I’m an unconfident hostess and really appreciate this. Would love to see more ideas for easy, make ahead meals for entertaining!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    I would say 85% of the recipes on my blog are recipes that can be made ahead and would work for entertaining!

    [Reply]

  13. Meghan

    07/26/2017

    Great post that should help readers feel more confident when hosting! We often have guests out on our boat, and I usually have these same items for a snack!
    I completely agree about having the food prepared ahead of time for any gathering! I learned this from my mother – she even makes things days in advance and freezes it until the party. This is terrible to admit, but I’m actually annoyed when someone invites us over for a meal and they are prepping and cooking it while the guests are there. I’m convinced that those who don’t like entertaining feel like that because cooking in front of hungry people is stressful!

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    Andrea Reply:

    yes, Dave and I are always amazing how often people are still cooking when guests arrive (and simply things that could have easily be done WELL in advance. I know some people think it’s more “inviting” to cook WITH your guests, but with 3 little kids, I don’t want everyone to be hanging out in the kitchen or to be expected to “help” finish a meal when I go to someone’s house.
    When we have people over, everything is done in advance, the kitchen is fairly clean already, and we can sit and chat when our guests arrive until we’re ready to eat.

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    Meghan Reply:

    Exactly!

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    Alison Reply:

    Yes, now that I’ve been hosting for close to 20 years, I’ve realized that my Mom’s staying in the kitchen for the entire holiday has more to do with introversion and martyrdom than necessity! I hate being chained to the kitchen for a holiday or dinner party. We might spend 45 minutes doing last minute things right before we serve, but otherwise we are enjoying our company because we planned and prepped in advance!

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    Andrea Reply:

    yeah, I can relate to the introvert wanting to stay in the kitchen LOL šŸ™‚
    And we have many “martyr” relatives who think making lasagna and salad deserves a top chef award because it’s just “SO much work” šŸ™‚
    Glad you’ve found a way to enjoy your guests and your party!

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  14. Ann

    07/26/2017

    Yum! Yellow delicious apples stay fresh looking for a long time. For some reason, they do not brown quickly. (They aren’t as tasty as Granny Smith but I haven’t had complaints!)

    I know you only shop at Meijer but Aldi has MANY affordable gluten free crackers, pretzels, chips, etc that are yummy even for those of us that eat wheat. Keeping some in the house has helped me be able to serve those with sensitivities easier.

    If children are a big part of the group, even 100% fruit fruit gummies might be a treat!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    yeah, I’ve never been a fan of Golden Delicious apples — I think maybe they are too soft for my preference (I like REALLY crunchy apples). Although it’s good to know that they don’t go brown as fast. I would have never realized that as I never buy them šŸ™‚

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