An appetizer, starter, or hors d’oeuvre (which means “out of work” in French), refers to a small serving of food or drink. Oftentimes served at the start of a multicourse meal, between meals, or before the meal even begins.
At dinners or family gatherings, appetizers are brought to the table as the first course. However, they can also be served to guests as a snack at parties or wedding receptions before seating.
How formal an occasion is will decide how appetizers are served, and how intricate or elaborate they are.
If a sports party is what you’re planning, chips and dips or buffalo cauliflower nuggets would be a more than suitable crowd pleaser. Complex recipes such as stuffed mushrooms, meatball skewers, or mini quiches are more appropriate for formal gatherings.
There are so many different options available that you will always be able to find something appropriate for any occasion.
Types of Appetizers
Appetizers can also be influenced by culture and tradition. In general, they are small in size, but packed with flavor and often beautifully plated.
Here are a few popular types of appetizers that you’re likely to encounter at a restaurant, party, or reception:
Savory chips and dip: Dips make a delicious finger food when paired with potato chips, crackers, or crunchy raw vegetables.
Salad: Small portions of salad can be served at the start of a meal. This is sometimes followed by a soup course.
Soup or consommé: Soup comes in many varieties, while consommé is a type of clear soup often made with clarified stock or broth. They are popular appetizers in many cuisines and are often served at the beginning of a meal.
Canapés: Canapés are a bite-sized, pastry-based finger food that can be devoured in one or two bites. They are small in size, but mighty in flavor.
Hors d’oeuvres: Similar to canapés, hors d’oeuvres are a type of finger food appetizer served before a meal. However, they don’t have to be bite-sized or have a pastry base.
Cocktails: Cocktails can be a sweet, alcoholic drink to pair with hors d’oeuvres. Or, they can refer to bite-sized pieces of seafood or fruits served with a dipping sauce.
Relishes: Appetizer relishes are pickled crunchy vegetables served raw. They can be mixed with other raw veggies, or served as is with crackers or alongside chips and dips.
Can Salad Be an Appetizer?
Depending on the ingredients of a salad and portion size, it can either be an appetizer, a side dish, or a main dish.
A portion of appetizer salad is often small and contains a balanced combination of veggies, protein, seasonings, and a dressing. On the other hand, a side of salad often doesn’t contain meat and is served with the main dish.
A main dish of salad can be quite meaty, packed with protein and lots of vegetables to ensure the eater feels full and satisfied.
Can Soup Be an Appetizer?
Yes, it can be. As mentioned, soups are often served at the beginning of a meal, which make them a common appetizer in many cuisines.
When you’re dining at a restaurant, you can start your multicourse meal with a salad, followed by a soup. That being said, there’s no need to have both salad and soup. You can pick either of them, or even skip them altogether and go straight to the main course.
What Are the Best Appetizers to Serve?
There are suitable appetizers for every occasion, from your daily family dinner to well-planned, formal social events. To help you save time searching for the perfect starters, here are our favorite 45 easy appetizer recipes:
1. Appetizer Recipes for a Party
Buffalo Chicken Dip Recipe: This buffalo chicken dip recipe could be a massive hit at your next game day party! The recipe is simple but the chicken tastes phenomenal with each chunk being coated in hot buffalo sauce, cream, and cheese.
Egg Roll Recipe: Our egg rolls recipe is easy to make and can be the star of any party. This recipe needs a handful of ingredients, many of which you may already have. The result is a flavor-packed Asian classic that everyone will love.
Guacamole Recipe: There are thousands of different guacamole recipes circulating around the net, and deciding which one to choose is a task and a half. Today, we’d like to share our simple, authentic recipe for a creamy dip served with crispy chips. If you have a lot of guests, you may want to double or triple the recipe as this stuff goes fast!
Cauliflower Nuggets Recipe: Your guests will be surprised to learn that these are made of cauliflower instead of chicken! And unlike takeout veggie nuggets, these are crunchy in every bite but not saturated with oil.
Cauliflower Tots Recipe: Today’s cauliflower tots recipe is a unique take on the classic, using cauliflower rice instead of potatoes. Seasoned to perfection and healthy as anything, we have yet to find someone who doesn’t like them!
Homemade Hummus Recipe with Tahini: This hummus recipe will help you create a decadent dip that pairs perfectly with crisp chips or crunchy vegetables. It’s the most simple and affordable finger food for any party!
Zucchini Fries Recipe: These zucchini fries are crispy on the outside, and tender on the inside — it’s that perfect and addictive texture we all crave. It’s also a great way to add extra nutrients without even noticing.
Homemade Air Fryer Pizza Rolls Recipe: You can make delicious pizza pockets with crunchy crusts and creamy, savory filling from scratch using this recipe. These little turnovers are sealed tight to hold in all that delicious filling.
Shrimp Cakes Recipe: If you’re looking for crowd-pleasing finger foods for your next party, our shrimp cakes recipe may be the one for you. These delicious patties are also kid-friendly, making them the perfect munchies for a family event.
Falafel Recipe: This recipe may not be the most authentic rendition of this Middle Eastern staple, but it’s a close call. The chickpeas need to be soaked overnight before cooking, but the rest of the cooking process is simple and only takes three steps: mix, form into balls, and fry!
Thanksgiving Appetizer Recipes
Seven Layer Salad Recipe: Our seven-layer salad recipe can be a beautiful, delicious centerpiece for your dinner table. It’s vibrant in color and flavor and adds a fresh variation to a table full of rich, cooked dishes.
Instant Pot Asparagus Recipe: Fresh crispy asparagus combined with a few other simple ingredients makes a quick, nutritious, and flavorful side dish. Make it ahead of time and leave it in the Instant Pot to keep warm while you cook your main course.
Stuffed Mushrooms Recipe: These stuffed mushrooms can be a great finger food for everyone to enjoy before dinner starts. A luscious classic that combines…
Twice Baked Potatoes Recipe: This recipe proves that even the most basic ingredients and cooking methods can produce great results. These twice baked potatoes are so easy to make and you can finish them with any of your favorite toppings!
Scotch Egg Recipe: This recipe is a healthier take on the popular British delicacy. It’s delicious, kid-friendly, and will be the talk of your next party.
Pumpkin Soup Recipe: This winter squash soup is a must-have Thanksgiving appetizer and a favorite comfort food in the United States. Its smooth, velvety mouthfeel mixes beautifully with the buttery taste of heavy cream — a harmony of flavor that triggers your tastebuds.
Spinach Artichoke Dip Recipe: This simple dip is going to be a crowd pleaser at any party! It’s tweaked to be a healthier alternative than other cream cheese-filled spinach artichoke dips, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less appetizing.
Cauliflower Parmesan Recipe: Our recipe for cauliflower parmesan is simple. We soak cauliflower florets in our homemade tomato sauce. Then add a layer of cheese and bake to perfection, to give you a comforting and satisfying starter everyone will enjoy.
Instant Pot Scalloped Potatoes Recipe: In just 20 minutes, you can recreate this iconic dish with the help of your trusty Instant Pot. If you haven’t tasted this dish before, try it and we bet you can’t help but fall in love with these sumptuous creamy potato slices.
Loaded Cauliflower Casserole Recipe: Our 30-minute loaded cauliflower casserole is a comfort dish. It can be made ahead of time and sit in the turned-off oven to stay warm while you work on your main course.
Salad Appetizer Recipes
Caesar Salad Recipe: This recipe is the best option when you’re looking for a quick and easy appetizer. It just takes 30 minutes to prepare and is a classic combination of appetizing flavor and texture.
Kale Salad Recipe: This flavorful, crisp, and rich salad comes together in the blink of an eye. Packed with lots of different fruits and vegetables, this salad is diverse in flavors and textures — a delicious dish to munch on and give your body a boost in fiber and micronutrients.
Grilled Chicken Salad Recipe: This recipe offers a popular appetizer or side dish to serve at picnics, barbecues, potlucks, or any other gatherings. With a few basic ingredients, this delectable salad with fresh summer veggies will be ready in minutes.
Egg Salad Recipe: This egg salad is tasty, healthful, and easy to prepare ahead of time. It can be served as an appetizer for any meal, and the leftovers can be used as the filling for sandwiches for lunch.
Macaroni Salad Recipe: Our macaroni salad is a healthier version of the popular American dish, with more vegetables, less mayo, and less cheese. It may not have the same amount of creaminess as other variations, but tastes wonderful and comes without all the excess fat.
Steak Salad Recipe: The highlight of this salad may be the beautiful pan-seared savory steak, but what brings the meat and crunchy veggies together is our homemade tangy dressing. Small portions served on salad plates are a fantastic way to awaken everyone’s taste buds.
Wedge Salad with Blue Cheese Dressing Recipe: This recipe features lettuce wedges topped with savory bacon crumbles and doused in a creamy blue cheese dressing. To elevate the flavor profile of the dish, we dotted the salad with sweet and juicy tomatoes and mildly pungent red onions and scallions.
Avocado Salad Recipe: This recipe is a combination of fresh fruits and vegetables, dotted with a simple dressing to make a light yet satisfying appetizer.
Spinach Salad Recipe: This recipe offers a beautiful summer salad that is both refreshing and nourishing. It is loaded with berries, almonds, and cheese; and all topped off with a sweet-tangy dressing.
Cobb Salad Recipe: This iconic salad is no stranger to American food lovers. The recipe is loaded with protein and veggies, making it a well-balanced and healthy appetizer.
Simple Appetizer Recipes
Healthy Pico de Gallo Recipe: This recipe uses only five ingredients to create a flavorful Mexican starter. With so few ingredients, you know it’ll be a quick appetizer, perfect for any party or a regular meal!
Tomato Bruschetta Recipe: Any Italian food enthusiast would love tomato bruschetta. It may be simple to make, but the flavor is exquisite.
Garlic Bread Recipe: The bread is delicious and garlicky, and goes well with everything else on the menu. Our recipe can help you master this classic, delectable starter and you’ll be surprised at just how simple the process is..
Healthy Deviled Eggs Recipe: Let’s get started on this easy deviled eggs dish. The elegant and enticing appearance may suggest that they are tricky to make, but they’re actually simple and require very little time to prepare.
Air Fryer Tofu Recipe: Our air fryer tofu is crispy on the outside and chewy and soft on the inside, making it a terrific appetizer for any meal. You can use it in salads and wraps, or just eat it on its own as a tasty snack.
Air Fryer Potato Wedges Recipe: With this recipe, you can make little wedge-shaped savory treats that can be paired with different dipping sauces to become appealing appetizers. All it takes is a few ingredients and barely any effort.
Instant Pot Zucchini Recipe: Cooking zucchini in an Instant Pot is a great way to keep the vegetable’s flavor. This recipe also offers you a quick and easy appetizer that you can put together in no time.
Appetizer Soup Recipes
Hearty Split Pea Soup Recipe: This split pea soup dish is perfect for those chilly winter gatherings. It’s possibly the most heartwarming soup that you’ve ever tasted.
Simple Potato Soup with Chicken Broth Recipe: In this recipe, we show you how to make your own potato soup using chicken broth. It’s a simple appetizer that takes very little time and effort to prepare but is wonderfully comforting.
Chicken Tortilla Soup Recipe: This chicken tortilla soup dish is made with tender chicken and vegetables cooked in a rich and aromatic broth. Perfect for…
Cauliflower Soup Recipe: With only a few simple ingredients, you can make this hearty and healthy soup in no time at all. You’ll be surprised how creamy the cauliflower texture is!
Instant Pot Mushroom Soup Recipe: This recipe is a combination of robust mushrooms, sweet shallots, onions, and a creamy base. It’s an excellent appetizer soup for when you’re in the mood for something hearty and savory.
Instant Pot Zuppa Toscana Recipe: With the help of the Instant Pot, this soup can be made with a few basic pantry ingredients and very little effort. Loved by all and a great way to start any meal.
Egg Drop Soup Recipe: The chicken broth itself is already rich and tasty. With a touch of sweet corn, and shiitake mushrooms, it offers you a sensational umami taste in every bite.
Instant Pot Broccoli Cheddar Soup Recipe: Rich, creamy, and cheesy — this soup is one of our favorite comforting appetizers. Serve this at the start of a meal and your guests will be more than satisfied.