25 Make-Ahead Hors d'Oeuvres

Deviled-Egg Crisps
Photo: Greg DuPree

Hosting a party is stressful, whether it's a small get-together or a holiday fête for a crowd. The key is making as much food ahead of time as possible, so all you have to do as guests arrive is reheat and complete a little last-minute prep. From crunchy spring rolls to bubbly spinach-cheese dip, here are terrific make-ahead hors d'oeuvres.

01 of 25

Fancy Clam Dip

Fancy Clam Dip Recipe
Justin Walker

This classic white clam dip ⁠— filled with cream cheese, crème fraîche, and, of course, canned clams ⁠— is salty, cheesy, and craveable. Some generous splashes of hot sauce and plenty of fresh dill add brightness and cut through the rich, indulgent dip.

02 of 25

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. You can also prepare these make-ahead meatballs with ground beef or a plant-based meat alternative, such as Impossible.

03 of 25

Mushroom Conserva

mushroom conservation on toast
Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Chelsea Zimmer / Prop Styling by Audrey Davis

Marinated in a blend of Champagne vinegar, olive oil, toasted fennel seeds, garlic, and thyme, these tender mushrooms are a winning appetizer waiting to happen. Spoon them over ricotta-topped toast or gooey baked Brie, or add them to a cheese board with plenty of crusty bread for sopping.

04 of 25

Eggplant Compote

Eggplant Compote. Photo © Tina Rupp
© Tina Rupp

The late, great French chef Joël Robuchon ingeniously softened spongy eggplant by steaming it instead of sautéing it in oil. "Usually, cooked eggplant absorbs so much oil and becomes full of fat," he said.

05 of 25

Ham and Cheese Puff Pastry Tart

Ham-and-Cheese Puff Pastry Tart
© Oddur Thorisson

Blogger Mimi Thorisson spreads store-bought puff pastry with mustard-shallot bechamel, then layers it with ham and cheese before baking it into a crisp, rich, croque monsieur–like tart. The assembled, unbaked tart can be refrigerated for up to six hours if you'd like to prepare it in advance.

06 of 25

Spinach Maria

Spinach Maria with toasted baguette
Photo by Jennifer Causey / Food Styling by Ali Ramee / Prop Styling by Christina Daley

Spinach Maria is made with lots of spinach, Monterey Jack cheese, and crushed red pepper. The cheese sauce is rich with warmth from the cayenne and nutmeg, and the extra layer of melted cheese on top makes it perfectly indulgent. You can prepare it pre-party and store it in the fridge, then bake the dip off as guests arrive (though it may require a few extra minutes in the oven).

07 of 25

Quick Buckwheat Blini

Quick Buckwheat Blini
© Fredrika Stjärne

Called oladyi or blinchiki (the diminutive of blini), these mini blini get their nutty flavor from buckwheat flour. They can be stored in an airtight container overnight; serve warm or at room temperature.

08 of 25

Crudités and Fermented Soybean Dip

Crudites and Fermented Soy Bean Dip
Greg DuPree

For her Crudités and Fermented Soybean Dip, 2018 F&W Best New Chef Katianna Hong keeps it simple, pairing just-picked vegetables with a thick, tangy soy dip. This starter is the perfect way to show off whatever fresh vegetables you can get your hands on.

09 of 25

Black Olive Tapenade with Figs and Mint

Black Olive Tapanade with Figs and Mint
© David Malosh

What makes this tapenade from chef Jacque Pépin special is the clever mix of oil- and brine-cured olives and the surprise of sweet, fresh, and tangy notes from the dried figs, mint, and capers.

10 of 25

Thai-Style Shrimp Cocktail

Thai-Style Shrimp Cocktail
Aubrie Pick

Chef Kris Yenbamroong of Night + Market invites a quick garlic aïoli and super-spicy fish sauce–based dip to the shrimp cocktail party. Serve the shrimp alongside ramekins of aïoli and nam jim seafood sauce for dipping, or arrange the shrimp around the rim of a coupe glass filled with nam jim for more intense flavor. 

11 of 25

Caramelized Onion Dip

Caramelized Onion Dip
Tina Rupp

For our version of this classic dip, sliced onions are first caramelized in pure butter, then stirred into a tangy mixture of sour cream, cream cheese, and seasonings. It can be made ahead and refrigerated for up to three days.

12 of 25

Pimiento Cheese and Bacon Crostini

Pimento Cheese and Bacon Crostini.
© Burcu Avsar

There’s nothing more indulgent than melted and browned pimiento cheese topped with crispy bacon. 

13 of 25

Muhammara (Roasted Red Pepper and Walnut Dip)

Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Margaret Monroe Dickey / Prop Styling by Lydia Pursell

Smooth, thick, and layered with flavor, this mildly spicy dip of roasted red bell peppers and toasted walnuts is thickened with finely ground crispy breadsticks. Pomegranate molasses adds a piquancy that plays off the sweetness of the juicy roasted bell peppers, and spicy pepper paste brings just a touch of heat.

14 of 25

Deviled Egg Crisps

Deviled-Egg Crisps
Greg DuPree

Missy Robbins, chef at Lilia in Brooklyn, makes a deviled egg toast that's topped with bottarga. This riff from F&W culinary director at large Justin Chapple, served on crisp artisan crackers, is topped with smoky-sweet Urfa biber and shaved jalapeño.

15 of 25

Shrimp and Pork Spring Rolls

Shrimp-and-Pork Spring Rolls
© Michael Turek

Malaysian designer Zang Toi's supremely crispy spring rolls are filled with a mix of marinated shrimp, ground pork, and a handful of colorful julienned vegetables like carrot, jicama, and beans. The fried shallot rings add alluring flavor and crunch to the spring rolls, too, but they're optional. Toi even makes his own chile sauce to serve as an accompaniment.

16 of 25

Green Peppercorn-Marinated Feta

Green Peppercorn Marinated Feta
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; drain off the brine before marinating.

17 of 25

Herbed Chickpea Bruschetta

Herbed Chickpea Bruschetta
© John Kernick

The key to this delicious bruschetta from chef Nancy Silverton is lots of olive oil. After she bakes the chickpeas with a variety of flavorings — including onions, pancetta, and carrots — she purees them with a good amount of oil, spreads the puree on toasts, and drizzles with a little more oil.

18 of 25

Bacon-Wrapped Dates

Bacon-Wrapped Dates
Abby Hocking

A perfect cocktail party snack, bacon-wrapped dates are chewy, crispy, sweet, savory, and smoky all at once. Plump and tender Medjool dates are stuffed with a mixture of blue cheese and cream cheese, and a toasted walnut stands in for the pit. Fresh goat cheese could easily be swapped for the blue cheese, and roasted, salted almonds can replace the walnuts.

19 of 25

Roasted Cauliflower and Sesame Spread

Roasted-Cauliflower-and-Sesame Spread
© Joseph de Leo

Chef Jerry Traunfeld toasts and grinds whole coriander seeds before pureeing them with roasted cauliflower, tahini paste, lemon, and cilantro. At home, use ground coriander to season this bright, tangy recipe.

20 of 25

Gougères with Smoked Salmon, Caviar, and Prosciutto

Smoked Salmon and Caviar Gougeres
Photo by Fred Hardy II / Food Styling by Ruth Blackburn / Prop Styling by Christina Brockman

These cheesy puffs look fancy but come together in minutes to make any snack feel like an occasion. We topped ours with slivers of prosciutto and smoked salmon and dollops of caviar and crème fraîche, but any toppings will do. Or, simply eat them plain — they shine on their own. 

21 of 25

Three-Cheese Mini Macs

Three-Cheese Mini Macs
© Kana Okada

Anything big made small is ultrafun 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 25

Pan-Fried Oysters with Creamy Radish and Cucumber Salad

Pan-Fried Oysters with Creamy Radish and Cucumber Salad
© John Kernick

Chef Paul Kahan loves the intense flavor of oysters, and like most chefs, he adores anything fried. Here he serves the crunchy oysters with a creamy raita-like cucumber mixture.

23 of 25

Goat Cheese-Stuffed Mushrooms with Breadcrumbs

Goat Cheese-Stuffed Mushrooms with Bread Crumbs
© Frances Janisch

For these texturally satisfying bites, creamy chèvre is stuffed into cremini mushrooms and topped with crispy herbed breadcrumbs. You can make these a day ahead and refrigerate them without the breadcrumbs, then sprinkle the topping on before serving.

24 of 25

Zucchini-Tomato Verrines

Zucchini-Tomato Verrines. Photo © Kate Mathis
© Kate Mathis

Most Paris bistros serve at least one verrine: a multi-textured salad or dessert layered in a glass. This one comes from French-born food stylist Béatrice Peltre of the blog La Tartine Gourmande.

25 of 25

Cauliflower Fritters

Cauliflower Fritters
© Akiko Ida & Pierre Javelle

To create these wonderful tapas, chef José Andrés makes a batter with crunchy nubs of chopped cauliflower florets, fries spoonfuls in a skillet, then tops the fritters with yogurt sauce and a dollop of caviar.

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