These festive apps have dinner covered.

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Carrots en Croute
Credit: Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Rishon Hanners / Prop Styling by Claire Spollen

My favorite part of any dinner party is its preceding cocktail hour. Because of the drinks? Yes. For the conversation? Definitely. But what do I find most satisfying? The appetizers. When you’ve got those three things perfectly balanced, there’s nothing better. Now that parties are temporarily off the menu, I'm leaning into those special snacks to make the holidays feel festive. Here, I’ve put together a completely make-ahead spread that's fun to share—whether you're nibbling with loved ones under your roof or doing virtual holiday happy hour with family and friends.

Green Peppercorn-Marinated Feta

Green Peppercorn Marinated Feta
Credit: Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Rishon Hanners / Prop Styling by Claire Spollen

Marinating cubed feta is a low-effort move with big-flavor results. Pair it with crackers and fruit to anchor your cheese board. Feta’s slightly airy texture makes it perfect for soaking up bold flavors, such as these briny, piquant peppercorns. For the best results, look for feta in brine, and drain off the brine before marinating. Save the feta brine to marinate chicken or pork chops.

Get the Recipe: Green Peppercorn-Marinated Feta

Spicy Lamb Meatballs with Green Goddess Dip

Spicy Lamb Meatballs with Green Goddess Dip
Credit: 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.

Get the Recipe: Spicy Lamb Meatballs with Green Goddess Dip

Carrots en Croûte

Carrots en Croute
Credit: Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Rishon Hanners / Prop Styling by Claire Spollen

This filling appetizer stars curry-and honey-roasted carrots wrapped in flaky puff pastry. For best results, look for carrots that are 5 to 6 inches in length. Pre-roasting carrots with curry and thyme balances their natural sweetness with rich, savory flavor, making them a satisfying stand-in for sausages.

Get the Recipe: Carrots en Croûte

Spiced Sweet-and-Sour Ribs

Spiced Sweet and Sour Ribs
Credit: Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Rishon Hanners / Prop Styling by Claire Spollen

Rubbed with toasted ground spices then lacquered with a sweet and tangy glaze of maple syrup and a duo of vinegars, these meaty ribs have a deep flavor and an irresistibly crackly crust. To work ahead, you can roast the ribs the day before then glaze and broil them just before serving. Trimming the meat away from one end of each rib lets the meat pull away during cooking, creating handles that make for mess-free nibbling.

Get the Recipe: Spiced Sweet-and-Sour Ribs

Chile Crisp-Glazed Bacon Bites

Chile Crisp Glazed Bacon Bites
Credit: 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. Native to Mexico, slender and spicy dried Japones chiles lend their heat to this quick and easy version of the popular Chinese condiment. For an even easier version, try this with your favorite store-bought version of chile crisp.

Get the Recipe: Chile Crisp-Glazed Bacon Bites

Caramelized Five-Onion Dip

Caramelized Five Onion Dip
Credit: Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Rishon Hanners / Prop Styling by Claire Spollen

A mix of five different alliums—shallots, scallions, and sweet, yellow, and red onions—upgrades this classic caramelized onion dip with layers of flavor. Yellow and red onions give it bite, while Vidalia onion and shallots lend a pleasant sweetness. Taking the time to cook the onions low and slow concentrates their flavor, while adding scallions halfway through cooking keeps them just fresh enough to serve with chips, toasted bread, or vegetables like endive, steamed fingerling potatoes, and roasted Broccolini.

Get the Recipe: Caramelized Five-Onion Dip