women serving small bites for appetizers party

Skip the Dinner, Bring on the Appetizer Party!

While traditional dinner parties have their charm, I’ve learned that starting with hors d’oeuvres can be a risky move. Guests often arrive hungry and fill up on appetizers, leaving little room for the main event. But fear not … I have a stellar solution: an appetizer party!

women serving small bites for appetizers party

I’ve learned the hard way just how risky it can be to kick off a dinner party with hors d’oeuvres. Generally, guests arrive hungry, fill up on the appetizers, and soon become less than interested in the main event.

Does this mean we should forget about the appetizers? I’m not ready to do that. Instead, I have a great idea!

Make It an Appetizer Party

Make it an appetizer party, followed by dessert. By skipping the dinner part, you’ll save time and money, and ensure your guests enjoy a guilt-free feast of delectable bites.

Here are some crowd-pleasing small bite recipes to get you started with planning your next appetizer party.

Savory Baked Bacon and Clam Dip (Print Recipe →)

sourdough bread bowl with savory clam and bacon dip appetizers

  • 1 pound jack cheese, grated
  • 2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 2 cups sour cream
  • 1 pound cooked bacon, crumbled
  • 1 bunch green onions (scallions), chopped
  • 1 or 2 cans minced clams, drained
  • 2 round loaves sourdough bread

In a mixing bowl, combine the first six ingredients until well blended. Cut off the tops of the sourdough bread loaves and set them aside. Hollow out the loaves. Pour the mixed dip into the hollowed-out loaves and replace the tops. Wrap the filled loaves in foil and bake at 300°F for 2-3 hours. Serve with the bread pieces on the side, cut into large cubes for dipping. Serves: 16-20.

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Creamy Garden Vegetable Dip (Print Recipe →)

appetizers sour cream dip creamy garden vegetable dip

  • 1 cup mayonnaise (Hellmann’s or Best Foods)
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onions (scallions)
  • 1/4 cup minced parsley
  • 1/4 cup chopped canned water chestnuts
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

In a medium bowl, combine mayonnaise, sour cream, green onion, parsley, water chestnuts, soy sauce, garlic powder, and salt. Mix all ingredients until well combined. Chill the dip in the refrigerator for several hours to allow the flavors to meld. Serve with crisp fresh vegetables for dipping. Serves: 6-8.

This versatile recipe can easily be multiplied to accommodate larger gatherings.

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Bacon-Wrapped Smokies (Print Recipe →)

appetizers bacon wrapped smokies sausages with toothpicks

  • 1 pound bacon, cut into thirds
  • 1 14-ounce package smoked beef cocktail wieners
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar, or to taste

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Refrigerate 2/3 of the bacon until needed; it’s easier to wrap the wieners with cold bacon. Wrap each cocktail wiener with a piece of bacon and secure it with a toothpick. Place the wrapped wieners on a large baking sheet and sprinkle generously with brown sugar. Bake in the preheated oven for about 40 minutes or until the sugar is bubbly and the bacon is crispy. Serve immediately, or transfer to a slow cooker set on the warm setting to keep them hot. Serves: 16 (or fewer—these go fast).

This recipe is easily scalable for larger gatherings.

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Creamy Sun-Dried Tomato Basil Dip (Print Recipe →)

appetizers creamy sundried tomato basil dip

  • 1/4 cup oil-packed, sun-dried tomatoes, drained and chopped
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • hot pepper sauce (Tabasco or Frank’s), to taste
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil

In a food processor, combine the sun-dried tomatoes, cream cheese, sour cream, mayonnaise, minced garlic, hot pepper sauce, salt, and pepper. Process until the ingredients are well-blended and the mixture is smooth. Add the fresh basil to the mixture and continue processing until the basil is fully incorporated. Transfer the dip to a serving bowl and chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour before serving. Serve with fresh vegetables, crackers, or pita chips for dipping. Serves: 16.

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Party Squares (Print Recipe →)

  • 1 (8-ounce) package refrigerated crescent rolls
  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • 1 (1-ounce) package dry Ranch-style dressing mix (or make your own)
  • 2 carrots, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh broccoli
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Roll out the crescent rolls onto a large non-stick baking sheet. Stretch and flatten them to form a single rectangular shape. Bake for 11 to 13 minutes or until just golden brown (avoid overbaking). Allow to cool. In a medium bowl, mix the softened cream cheese with half of the ranch dressing mix, adjusting to taste. Spread the cream cheese mixture evenly over the cooled crust. Arrange the chopped carrots, bell peppers, broccoli, and green onions on top of the cream cheese, pressing them gently into the mixture. Chill the prepared squares in the refrigerator for approximately 1 hour. Once chilled, cut the squares into bite-size pieces. Best served immediately. Yields: 24 squares (or fewer depending on how you cut them).

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Japanese Chicken Wings (Print Recipe →)

appetizers japanese chicken wings

  • 3 pounds chicken wings
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, for coating
  • 1 cup butter

For the sauce:

  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Cut the chicken wings in half and dip each piece in the beaten egg, then coat with flour. Heat the butter in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. Fry the wings until they are deep brown on all sides. Place the fried wings in a shallow roasting pan. In a small bowl, combine the soy sauce, water, sugar, vinegar, garlic powder, and salt to make the sauce. Pour the sauce over the wings, making sure they are evenly coated. Bake the wings in the preheated oven for 30 to 45 minutes, basting them with the sauce occasionally. Once cooked through and sticky, transfer the wings to a slow cooker set on the warm setting for serving. Serves: 6.

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Serve Your Appetizers in Style

When it comes to serving appetizers, presentation is key. Elevate your appetizer party game with a chic appetizer serving platter set that will impress your guests. Pair it with cocktail toothpicks for easy serving and a touch of elegance. With these essentials, you’ll not only delight your guests’ taste buds but also elevate the ambiance of your appetizer party.

Because Life Is Too Short to Skip Dessert!

Unlike the multi-course dinner party, where guests often struggle to find room for dessert after indulging in appetizers and mains, hosting an appetizer party ensures your guests can save ample space to indulge guilt-free in dessert. And trust me, unlike those guests, I never have trouble finding room for dessert!

Consider pairing these savory appetizers with my Instant Pot New York Cheesecake, 4-Ingredient Cranapple Dump Cake, Banana Pudding, or The Best Apple Pie in the Whole World. These make-ahead dessert recipes are not only delicious but also practical, allowing you to spend more time enjoying the company of your guests and less time in the kitchen.


Question: What’s your go-to appetizer recipe for entertaining guests? Comment down below and share your tips with us!

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2 replies
  1. Mary says:

    This is an old recipe for an appetizer that nearly always was on an appetizer tray. Several years ago, I spent several hours helping a friend make hundreds of these for her daughter’s wedding reception.


    1 – 8 oz can water chestnuts, drained
    1/4 cup soy sauce
    1/4 cup brown sugar
    8 slices of bacon cut in half crosswise

    Marinate the water chestnuts in soy sauce for at least an hour. Dip one side in brown sugar. Wrap each one in a slice of bacon and secure with a toothpick.

    Bake at 400° for 30 minutes or until bacon is cooked on a rack in a baking pan. Drain on paper towels. Can be made ahead and stored in refrigerator until ready to cook.

    Makes about 16-18.

    • Luisa says:

      Thanks, Mary, for the recipes in this column. And thanks, reader Mary, for this bacon and water chestbut recipe. I used to make these, too. 😉


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