22 Comfort Food (Party) Starters

Shrimp Pakora Sliders
Photo: Photo by Jennifer Causey / Prop Styling by Julia Bayless / Food Styling by Ruth Blackburn

When entertaining, why not satisfy your guests with what they're craving most? This recipe roundup features some of our favorite rich, homey appetizers, from fried cheese curds with ranch dip to spicy shrimp sliders and potato-stuffed taquitos. Consider it a collection of comfort foods to get the party started.

01 of 22

Cheddar Rillettes

Cheddar Rillettes
Greg DuPree

Unlike traditional rillettes — such as pork or duck — which rely on fat to preserve and flavor the meat, this pimiento cheese–inspired version made with cheddar incorporates rendered bacon fat to create the perfect texture and lend a pleasant, smoky flavor. Sprinkle the crisp bacon on top for crunchy contrast.

02 of 22

Spicy Lamb Meatballs with Green Goddess Dip

Spicy Lamb Meatballs with Green Goddess Dip
Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Rishon Hanners / Prop Styling by Claire Spollen

Inspired by merguez, a North African lamb sausage, these meatballs are loaded with cumin, garlic, and paprika for the ideal one-bite nosh. Harissa gives them a fiery heat that's tempered by the herby dip. Not a fan of lamb? Try preparing these make-ahead meatballs with ground beef or a plant-based meat alternative, such as Impossible.

03 of 22

Bollitos de Papa y Elote (Potato Elote Bites)

Bollitos de Papa con Elote
Emily Kordovich

Crunchy, cheesy, and a little bit spicy, these potato elote bites are pastry chef Paola Velez's take on bollitos, one of her favorite snacks in the Dominican Republic. She makes a spiced corn filling based on elote, the classic Mexican street food, then wraps it up in spiced mashed potatoes, and deep-fries it. Garnished with lime-flavored crema and fresh cilantro, the bites are as pretty as they are delicious.

04 of 22

Crispy Smashed Potatoes with Pickles and Gin-Spiked Sour Cream

Crispy Smashed Potatoes with Gin-Spiked Sour Cream
Photo by Dan Perez / Food Styling and Prop Styling by Nurit Kariv

These extra-crispy potatoes are boiled and then smashed and baked on a sheet pan. Dollops of gin-spiked sour cream; sprinkles of salmon roe, chives, dill, and parsley; and quick-pickled turnip, beet, and cauliflower make these colorful bites a blast to eat.

05 of 22

Cheesy Sausage Cocktail Toasts

Jennifer Causey

For these tasty toasts, cookbook author Andrea Slonecker borrows from the nostalgic flavors of her childhood and swaps creamy mascarpone and robust Taleggio for the Velveeta in her grandmother's original version. "The topping can be made a few days ahead, and it's as straightforward as browning some Italian sausage and melting in the cheeses," she writes. 

06 of 22

Fried Boudin Balls with Creole Mustard Dipping Sauce

Fried Boudin Balls with Creole Mustard Dipping Sauce

Photo by Frederick Hardy II / Food Styling by Ali Ramee / Prop Styling by Christina Brockman

These Fried Boudin Balls boast pork, rice, liver, and seasonings that are shaped into balls and fried for a crispy exterior and a light, almost creamy interior. We use chicken livers instead of pork livers and panko breadcrumbs instead of crushed crackers, but swap in pork liver and crushed crackers if you prefer. 

07 of 22

Chile Crisp-Glazed Bacon Bites

Chile Crisp Glazed Bacon Bites
Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Rishon Hanners / Prop Styling by Claire Spollen

For this party snack, meaty bites of slow-roasted slab bacon are tossed with a homemade chile crisp that's studded with freshly toasted chunks of dried chiles, fresh ginger, and garlic. For an even easier version, try this with your favorite store-bought chile crisp.

08 of 22

Spinach Dip Hot Bread

Spinach Dip Hot Bread
Photo by Jennifer Causey / Food Styling by Margret Monroe Dickey / Prop Styling by Christina Daley

The classic spinach dip appetizer achieves new heights in this irresistibly cheesy appetizer from Mr. Digby's in San Francisco. This gooey, cheesy appetizer is perfect for watching the game, alongside a salad or bowl of soup, or on a lazy weekend afternoon. The toasty sliced sourdough boule is filled with buttery bechamel sauce and spinach, but the real star is the Calabrian chiles, which lend each bite a gentle kick of heat.

09 of 22

Fried Cheese Curds with Buttermilk Ranch Dipping Sauce

Fried Cheese Curds
Photo by Huge Galdones / Food Styling by Christina Zerkis

White cheddar cheese curds are battered and deep-fried until they're golden brown for an irresistible appetizer or snack. The batter includes white rice flour, which is the secret to extra-crispy frying. It's spiked with lager and gets a subtle zip from yellow mustard.

10 of 22

Salmon Croquettes with Creole Aïoli

Creole Salmon Croquettes
Photo by Greg DuPree / Food Styling by Melissa Gray / Prop Styling by Christina Daley

A homemade Creole spice blend adds a piquant kick to these salmon croquettes, which have a crunchy exterior and tender, flaky interior. The aïoli — starring finely chopped cornichons and their brine, Creole mustard, and a hint of sugar — is an irresistible combination of creamy, crunchy, and salty, and an ideal match for the croquettes.

11 of 22

Shrimp Pakora Sliders with Coconut-Cilantro Chutney

Shrimp Pakora Sliders
Photo by Jennifer Causey / Prop Styling by Julia Bayless / Food Styling by Ruth Blackburn

These sandwiches inspired by Indian street food feature crunchy fried shrimp topped with a smear of herbal coconut chutney on a soft bun. The shrimp are seasoned with mildly spicy Kashmiri chile powder; they get their crunch from a batter of besan (chickpea flour) and cornstarch. The tangy chaat masala sprinkled on top of the fried shrimp and the coconut-cilantro chutney adds even more bright flavor to these burgers.

12 of 22

Salsa Asada de Aguacate (Avocado Salsa)

Salsa Asada de Aguacate

Eva Kolenko / Food Styling by Carrie Purcell / Prop Styling by Nidia Cueva

This creamy and spicy salsa blurs the line between guacamole and salsa verde. Tart tomatillos, lightly charred on the grill, are mellowed by buttery mashed avocados. Scoop it up with tortilla chips.

13 of 22

Mini Panamanian Beef Empanadas

Mini Panamanian Beef Empanadas
© Quentin Bacon

Ground beef and cilantro fill these flaky, savory small-scale pastries. They can be baked instead of fried if you prefer.

14 of 22

Pigs in a Blanket

Pigs in a Blanket with Black Pepper Pastry
© Abby Hocking

Chef Jen Pelka loves serving Champagne with playful bite-size foods like pigs in a blanket. To take them up a notch, she brushes the puff pastry with a tasty mix of honey, mustard, and fresh black pepper before rolling up with the hot dogs and baking.

15 of 22

Potato Rösti with Pastrami

Potato Rosti with Pastrami
Victor Protasio

Gail Simmons re-created this comforting appetizer from Daniel Humm, chef-owner of New York City's Eleven Madison Park. "Once finished, you can blanket it in smoked salmon and crème fraîche or layer it with pastrami and whole grain mustard," she says. "Even simpler: Enjoy it under a gently fried egg for breakfast. It doesn't get much cozier than that."

16 of 22

Tater Tot Nachos (Tatchos) with Kimchi Cheese Sauce

Tater Tot Nachos (Tatchos) with Kimchi Cheese Sauce
© Kay Chun

Tater Tots on their own are good. Tater Tots dipped in cheese sauce are even better. Tater Tots turned into nachos are THE BEST.

17 of 22

Deviled Eggs with Country Ham

Deviled Eggs with Country Ham

© Wendell T. Webber

Chef Ford Fry's deviled eggs get their terrific flavor from goat cheese, Dijon mustard, and cornichons, plus a topping of country ham.

18 of 22

Potato and Poblano Taquitos

Potato and Poblano Taquitos
Victor Protasio

Taquito means “little taco” in Spanish and will delight any snack lover. Roll a corn tortilla around your favorite filling, fry until crispy, and serve as a party snack with crema or other salsa. Any leftovers will freeze and reheat beautifully.

19 of 22

Two-Bite Parmesan Biscuits

Two-Bite Parmesan Biscuits
Caitlin Bensel

These biscuits are baked on a bed of grated Parmesan cheese, resulting in a crispy, cheesy crust around the bottom of each biscuit. Perfect on their own, try them drizzled with a bit of honey, or improvise by tossing a few handfuls of fresh thyme or chives into the dough to take them over the top.

20 of 22

Buffalo Chicken Dip

Buffalo Chicken Dip
© Abby Hocking

This crowd-pleasing dip from F&W culinary director at large Justin Chapple has all the punchy flavors of buffalo chicken wings. It gets its creamy texture from a combination of cream cheese and sour cream. Serve it with tortilla chips and celery sticks.

21 of 22

Three Cheese Mini Macs

Three-Cheese Mini Macs
© Kana Okada

Anything big made small is always fun for cocktail parties, and these quick, one-bite mac and cheeses are the ultimate example. Cooked in mini muffin pans, the mini macs can be assembled early and baked just as guests arrive.

22 of 22

Mini Brioche Lobster Rolls

Mini Brioche Lobster Rolls
© Kana Okada

These rolls, which are a delightful play on the traditional lobster roll, are quite substantial, so one per person is plenty, especially if you're serving additional hors d'oeuvres. Cooked shrimp or lump crab is a fine alternative to lobster.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles