Make-Ahead Hors d'Oeuvres

Cool Ranch Kale Dip
Photo: © CHRISTINA HOLMES

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 day-of is reheat and do a little last-minute prep. From crunchy shrimp-and-pork spring rolls to goat cheese-stuffed figs, here are terrific make-ahead hors d'oeuvres.

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Fig-and-Stilton Squares

Fig-and-Stilton Squares

After baking flaky squares of puff pastry, Melissa Rubel tops them with sweet fig preserves and pungent blue cheese.

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Grappa-Cured Striped Bass

Grappa-Cured Striped Bass

Grappa, an Italian spirit, is made from grape pomace (the skins, seeds and stems left over from winemaking). Its slight earthiness and high alcohol make it perfect for curing fish, as in David Page's meaty striped bass fillets here, delicately scented with fennel.

03 of 27

Shrimp Cocktail with Singapore Hot Sauce

Shrimp Cocktail with Singapore Hot Sauce

Susan Feniger likes to quickly simmer raw shrimp in broth or sauté them with garlic and ginger, but you can certainly use precooked shrimp to save time. This sweet-and-spicy sauce was inspired by the ones Feniger sampled at street stalls throughout Singapore.

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Cauliflower Fritters

José Andrés (minibar by José Andrés, Washington, DC)

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

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Whipped Feta with Cucumbers

Whipped Feta with Cucumbers
© Seth Smoot

The taste of the Mediterranean shines through in this airy feta spread that's served with olive oil-marinated cucumbers.

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Goat Cheese-Stuffed Roasted Figs

Goat Cheese-Stuffed Roasted Figs

Serve the roasted figs drizzled with warmed honey.

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Greek Salad Skewers with Anchovy Aioli

Greek Salad Skewers with Anchovy Aioli

For a playful presentation, slide a fat, flat slice of cucumber onto the bottom of each skewer so these hors d'oeuvres can stand upright on a serving platter.

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Pan-Fried Oysters with Creamy Radish and Cucumber Salad

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

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.

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Chicken-Liver Mousse with Pickled Red Onion

Chicken Liver Mousse
© John Kernick

A good recipe for chicken-liver mousse is critical, says Shawn McClain, "because when a recipe's bad, it's really bad." His version is supremely silky and light, with a lovely hint of apple from Calvados. He serves the mousse with pickled red onion and toasted baguette slices alongside, so guests can assemble their own crostini.

10 of 27

Zucchini-Tomato Verrines

Zucchini-Tomato Verrines
Photo © 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.

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Eggplant Compote

Eggplant Compote. Photo © Tina Rupp
© Tina Rupp

Joël Robuchon ingeniously softens spongy eggplant by steaming it instead of sautéing it in oil. "Usually, cooked eggplant absorbs so much oil and becomes full of fat," he says.

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Pimento Cheese & Bacon Crostini

Pimento Cheese & Bacon Crostini
BURCU AVSAR

The cookbook Down Home with the Neelys has inventive Southern-inspired recipes like these irresistible crostini.

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Fromage Blanc Custards with Radish Salad

Fromage Blanc Custards with Radish Salad. Photo © Kate Mathis
© Kate Mathis

Chef Ludo Lefebvre adores radishes, and he's always looking for new ways to feature them. Here, he turns them into a colorful, spicy salad, served on top of a divine custard that's really a savory panna cotta.

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Fried Parsnip Ribbons

Fried Parsnip Ribbons

Fried parsnip make for an and crunchy vegetable snack.

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Boiled Shrimp with Spicy Mayonnaise

Boiled Shrimp
QUENTIN BACON

Mustard and white pepper amp up the heat in this homemade mayo for shrimp.

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Shrimp-and-Pork Spring Rolls

Spring rolls dim sum recipe

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.

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Roasted-Cauliflower-and-Sesame Spread

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

Use ground coriander from a bottle to easily season this bright, tangy recipe.

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Tomato Tartlets

Tomato Tartlets

These luscious little tarts are filled with fresh ricotta. The trick to making the cheese silky is to puree it before spreading it on the flaky pastry and topping it with oven-roasted tomatoes.

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Prosciutto-Fontina Pinwheels

Prosciutto-Fontina Pinwheels

Melissa Rubel rolls buttery puff pastry around salty prosciutto and melty Fontina to create deeply savory hors d'oeuvres.

20 of 27

Smoked Mozzarella Spread with Flatbread Crackers

Smoked Mozzarella Spread with Flatbread Crackers
© Lucy Schaeffer

F&W's Marcia Kiesel likes to whiz smoked mozzarella in the food processor with sun-dried tomato pesto and olive oil.

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Smoked Shrimp

Smoked Shrimp

One bite of these shrimp and a swig of vodka will instantly transport you to Scandinavia.

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Caramelized Onion Dip

Caramelized Onion Dip
Tina Rupp

This savory onion dip, a classic addition to any gathering, can be made ahead and refrigerated for up to three days.

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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.

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Pepper-Glazed Goat Cheese Gratin

Pepper-Glazed Goat Cheese Gratin

This warm, sweet-spicy goat cheese dip is an easy alternative to a cheese plate.

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Goat Cheese-Stuffed Mushrooms with Bread Crumbs

Goat Cheese-Stuffed Mushrooms with Bread Crumbs

Here, creamy chévre is stuffed into antioxidant-rich mushrooms and topped with crispy herbed bread crumbs.

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Black Olive Tapenade with Figs and Mint

Black Olive Tapanade with Figs and Mint
© David Malosh

Jacques Pépin's sweet and tangy dip is ready in just 15 minutes.

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Cool Ranch Kale Dip

Cool Ranch Kale Dip
© CHRISTINA HOLMES

Serve this tangy buttermilk dip with a mix of fresh crudité (such as cucumber spears, radishes, carrots, endive, etc.) and pita chips or seeded breadsticks. Wash and cut your veggies the day before and store in the fridge for easy day-of assembly.

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