68 Christmas Appetizers Ideas to Deliver Joy at First Bite
Holiday entertaining looks very different this year, but even the smallest party needs easy, fun Christmas appetizers
Photo by Olga Ivanova
This holiday season will be unusual. So I don’t plan on throwing — or attending — any traditional holiday parties this year. My Jewish family’s Hanukkah get-together, usually a potluck, will happen over Zoom. So will my husband’s Italian-American family Christmas party. But that doesn’t mean we won’t be celebrating on our own, too. See, ever since my teenage son was born, our little family has rung in the New Year with an all-appetizers party, just the three of us. We’ll simply begin that tradition a little earlier this year, and with small plates galore for each virtual soiree.
Crispy, cheesy, and altogether perfect appetizers for Christmas
For each of our holiday gatherings, the families will all assemble DIY smorgasbords of small plates. We’ll choose a few easy Christmas appetizer recipes that everyone will make to enjoy together, apart. Beyond that, each family will add their own festive touch.
Appetizers, cheese dips and cheese balls, deviled eggs, antipasto… It’s hard not to feel holiday cheer when I’m looking at an array of nibbles. And the best part: Once things go back to normal, all those new appetizer ideas will become part of our family tradition. Christmas dinner may never feel the same again (same goes for our next party, post-Covid!) — and I mean that in a good way.
The best Christmas appetizers for your family holiday party
In regular years, anyway, when I’m choosing appetizer recipes to prepare for a party, I like to keep things balanced. So there’s always a vegetarian appetizer, there’s always something creamy and cheesy, there’s always a crunchy option, and there are always pigs in a blanket (my son would kill me if I dared to leave them off the menu). Then there are dip recipes to think about. And for good measure, I include a cheese board with charcuterie, fruit, nuts, olives, and crackers.
Jump ahead to:
Quick and easy Christmas appetizers
Nothing gets even a mini, Covid-safe party going faster than an appetizer you can pull together lickety-split. These four options are about assembly rather than cooking.
What happens when you strain the liquid out of plain yogurt overnight? You get labneh, a thick cheese spread kind of like cream cheese. Drizzle with olive oil, scatter some pomegranate seeds on top (they remind me of ornaments on a Christmas tree), and serve with crackers or veggies.
Easy Christmas appetizers: finger foods
Whether you’re feeding kids or adults, everyone loves party appetizers you can eat with your fingers. Christmas hors d’oeuvres fall in this category, of course; though the definitions get a little fuzzy, some people think of hors d’oeuvres as appetizers, only smaller. Each one should take just a bite or two to eat.
Crostini are miniature open-faced sandwiches—in my opinion, the perfect appetizer. This recipe has two parts: First you top toasted baguette slices with a creamy combo of blue cheese and cream cheese. Then you add a spoonful of caramelized onion jam and a parsley leaf for contrast.
Cute Christmas appetizers
Generally speaking, I don’t like to get too fussy with my party appetizers. But I can’t resist making a few recipes in the shape of a Christmas tree. There’s even a Christmas tree cheese ball!
Talk about a show-stopper: Store-bought pizza dough gets topped with pesto, pancetta, mozzarella, and Parmesan. Then a little creative cutting turns it into a Christmas tree with “branches” to pull off and eat. It’s hearty enough for a main course at Christmas dinner, too — just add a salad.
Traditional holiday appetizers
Some appetizer recipes seem to appear at every Christmas party I attend. And with good reason: They’re delicious, easy crowd-pleasers. Shrimp cocktail definitely falls in this category. So does one of my favorites, cheesy baked brie recipes; I’ve included several options. Elegant but simple to pull off, a warm wheel of brie just begs you to dig in with a cracker (or two, or three). I’ve also included some other all-time favorite appetizer recipes here, such as spinach-artichoke dip and pigs in a blanket.
Gooey, cheesy, and gloriously messy: A honey-drizzled wheel of brie, encased in flaky phyllo dough and baked until the outside gets crispy and the inside gets melty. I think I’ll serve this with cranberry sauce for a sweet-tart contrast.
Make-ahead Christmas appetizers
Even a casual, immediate-family-only holiday party takes a little work, so I like to include at least one Xmas appetizer I can make ahead of time. My two favorite categories are cheese balls and meatballs. Cheese balls are the perfect holiday appetizer. They look impressive, but they’re so easy a child can make them. And I love eating teeny-tiny meatballs with toothpicks — I swear I could eat an entire batch myself. You can make meatballs and sauce days ahead of time, then combine to reheat before serving.
All the flavors of the holiday season come together in one beautiful ball. Cranberries, pecans, and parsley coat a sphere that features cream cheese, cheddar cheese, and scallions. Somebody pass me a cracker.
Christmas appetizers for kids
Now, I know I said that Christmas tree-shaped appetizers were cute. But if you want to thrill the kids in your life, it helps to get seriously cute. I dare you to make these recipes and not smile.
Who knew you could pack so much personality into a bite-sized tidbit with just four ingredients? Top a rectangular cracker with a piece of cheese and add a red pepper triangle. Pipe on some tiny cream cheese pompoms, and you’ve got Santa hats no kid can resist.
Crispy Christmas appetizers
It’s not really a party without something that crunches when you bite into it. Sometimes achieving a crispy texture means frying, but not always.
If there’s a better way to use crispy, scoop-shaped tortilla chips, I can’t think of it. These get filled with guacamole, spiced chicken, cheese, and cherry tomatoes. It’s impossible to eat just one.
Italian Christmas appetizers
Like I said, my husband’s family is Italian-American. He didn’t grow up celebrating the Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve, as some Italian families do, but man, does he know a thing or two about putting together an antipasto tray.
I don’t know about you, but I take one look at this gorgeous display and think “party.” I can totally see my son having a blast loading baby mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, salami, olives, and other Italian goodies onto skewers.
Healthy Christmas appetizers
They say that most Americans gain a pound every holiday season — and most never lose it. So I like to keep things in check by including a health-conscious option or two along with the cheesy indulgences. Check out these appetizers suitable for dietary restrictions including vegetarian and vegan, paleo, keto, and gluten-free.
Vegetarian and vegan Christmas appetizers
Whether you’re feeding someone on a plant-based diet or you just like Meatless Mondays, these vegan and vegetarian Christmas appetizers are a smart addition to your holiday table.
I love stuffed grape leaves, but I rarely make them at home. What better time than for a holiday party? We’re not vegan, so I might add crumbled feta to the filling for some tangy zing.
Paleo Christmas appetizers
Appetizers that focus on lean animal protein, fruits, and vegetables can be mighty tasty indeed.
Melon and prosciutto are a classic combination — the sweet fruit and salty ham play so nicely together. Make it bite-sized, served on toothpicks, and you’ve got a perfect party appetizer.
Keto Christmas appetizers
Just because you or a loved one is living low-carb, that doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate in style.
These are adorable and surprisingly elegant, considering how little effort they take. First, bake slices of salami in a muffin tin to make savory, crispy-edged cups. Then fill them with chopped artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, mozzarella, and basil.
Gluten-free Christmas appetizers
It’s crucial for people with celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity to avoid gluten. Each of these options is naturally gluten-free.
Is this not a thing of beauty? And it couldn’t be simpler: Lay down sprigs of herbs around the edges of a round platter, then top with a variety of olives, spicy-sweet peppadew peppers, and chunks of feta cheese.
Bonus #1: More puff pastry appetizer recipes
I always keep a box of puff pastry in my freezer. It’s so versatile! Seriously, you can make a lot of different appetizers with a sheet of frozen puff pastry.
Cute little rectangles of puff pastry sandwich creamy mango chicken salad. Mango chutney is the secret ingredient, and it adds such a delicious twist with so little effort.
Bonus #2: More holiday dip recipes
The fastest way to signal a celebration: Lay out some dips, chips, and crudites. A flavorful, scoopable dip puts everyone in a festive mood.
Spicy and cheesy from three different kinds of chiles (chipotle, jalapeño, and canned green) plus three kinds of cheese (cream cheese, mild cheddar, and white cheddar), this is a queso dip worth spending some time on.
Christmas gets creative
Good times and good food aren't canceled this year! On our Christmas landing page, and in the articles below, you'll find loads more ideas for making the holiday festive and bright, at home.