Are you looking for some fresh ideas on how to wow your guests with amazing appetizers this Thanksgiving? Well, you’ve come to the right place. Appetizers are such an important part of the Thanksgiving meal. They’re the first bites your guests will enjoy, so you want them to start things off on the right foot! A beautiful, bountiful appetizer spread also sets the tone for the rest of your feast. When done right, it’s a feast for the eyes as well as the tastebuds.
In this article, I’ll walk you through lots of fun, creative ways to present your thanksgiving appetizer plates. From stunning platter presentations, to interactive small plates, to crowd-pleasing bites, we’ve got you covered. I’ll also share tips on choosing the perfect appetizer recipes to complement your main meal.
Get ready to wow your guests right from the start! Let’s dive in.
Thanksgiving Appetizer Plates With Purpose
One of my favorite ways to serve appetizers is on large, stunning Thanksgiving appetizer plates. There’s something about a bountiful platter overflowing with delicious bites that really says “Thanksgiving!”
When planning your platters, think variety, color and abundance. You want to include an array of textures, flavors and colors to please all different palates. Here are some of my go-to ideas for amazing appetizer platters:
Cheese, Fruit and Nut Platters
You can’t go wrong starting your meal with a hearty cheese platter. Cubes of cheddar, brie, gouda and other favorite cheeses pair perfectly with sliced apples, pears, grapes and other seasonal fruit. Add some nuts like pecans, walnuts or almonds for crunch. Arrange it all artfully on a large platter or charcuterie board. Provide little picks so guests can easily spear their favorite bites.
Add some dried fruits like apricots, dates or figs for even more options. You can also include jams, chutneys, crackers and sliced baguettes to round it out. A cheese and fruit platter makes a fantastic first course or can be served casually throughout the event.
A vegetable crudité platter is always a crowd pleaser! Fill your platter with a vibrant rainbow of fresh, crisp vegetables cut into slices or bite-sized pieces. Carrots, cucumber, bell peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, snap peas and celery are all fantastic options.
Serve with a luscious dip or two like ranch, hummus or baba ganoush. I also love this crunchy veggies and cheese ball dip combo. Arrange the vegetables artfully around the dips so guests can easily dip and munch.
Add some olives, marinated artichokes and roasted peppers to the mix for more flavor and variety. Your veggie platter will be a hit!
Smoked Salmon Display
Looking for an elegant appetizer option? A smoked salmon platter is sure to impress your guests! Arrange beautiful slices of smoked salmon on a platter garnished with capers, sliced red onions, hard-boiled eggs and fresh dill.
Serve with lemon wedges, crackers, toast points or little bagels and cream cheese on the side for spreading. Your guests will love mixing and matching all the tasty salmon platter components. A decadent way to kick things off!
Charcuterie and Antipasto Spread
Charcuterie and antipasto platters are always crowd pleasers! Layer cured meats like salami, prosciutto and sopressata with cheeses, roasted vegetables, olives, artichokes hearts, nuts and crisp crackers. Add some dried fruits, mustard, jams and fresh herbs like rosemary or oregano to spice it up.
You can also include picks and small spatulas so guests can easily serve themselves. A meat and cheese board makes a satisfying appetizer that feels abundant and celebratory.
Fresh Garden Crudité
For lighter fare, make a fresh garden crudité platter focused on raw, seasonal vegetables and herbs. Include favorites like carrots, radishes, cucumber, grape tomatoes and snap peas.
Sprinkle in fresh herbs like parsley, basil, dill and cilantro. Serve with a bright lemony hummus, ranch or tahini dipping sauce on the side. So fresh, vibrant and healthy!
The key with platters is mixing colors, textures and flavors that appeal to a variety of tastes. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box and get creative with your own combinations. Your guests will be excited to dig in to your tasty platter creations!
Small Bites, Big Impact
In addition to platters, I also love serving appetizers as passed small plates or in individual portions. This gives your meal a fun, interactive feel while also letting picky eaters easily customize their choices. Here are some small bite ideas perfect for serving:
Deviled eggs are a Thanksgiving must! They’re easy to make ahead of time and are the perfect one-bite appetizer. Play with different fillings like classic egg yolk mixes, curried yolks or creamy avocado yolks. Dust with paprika or topping with bacon bits for extra flavor.
Serve deviled eggs in an egg tray or lined up artfully on a platter. Your guests will be coming back for seconds!
Prosciutto Baked Figs
For an elegant yet easy small plate, try baked figs wrapped with prosciutto. Cut the stems off fresh figs, wrap them loosely with thin slices of prosciutto and bake until the prosciutto is crispy.
Serve them warm on a platter or skewer them with toothpicks so guests can easily pick them up. The sweet figs paired with the savory prosciutto is a match made in heaven!
Roasted Brussels Sprout Skewers
Brussels sprouts are amazing roasted. For a fun presentation, thread roasted Brussels sprouts onto skewers with bits of bacon or pancetta.
Roast them until crispy and serve warm. Your guests will love this tasty seasonal twist on a veggie appetizer. You can also thread other roasted veggies like squash or potatoes for variety.
Mini Twice Baked Potatoes
Twice baked potatoes are comfort food at its finest. Make them mini by scooping out small potatoes, mixing the insides with cheese, bacon, green onions, etc. and stuffing them back in the skins.
Top with extra cheese and bacon and bake until melty and irresistible. Your guests will love getting the entire experience of a twice baked potato in just a bite or two.
Caprese skewers are the perfect way to enjoy fresh mozzarella, tomatoes and basil. Construct little skewers with cherry tomato, fresh mozzarella ball and basil leaf combos. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic reduction.
The flavors of Italy will shine through with this simple yet satisfying appetizer. You can even add some prosciutto or salami for extra protein. Bellisimo!
Corn and Bacon Mini Muffins
Savory mini muffins are an easy make-ahead appetizer option. I love mini corn muffins flecked with bacon and cheese. They’re a perfect bite-sized way to savor sweet corn and smoky bacon.
You can also do mini sandwiches on slider rolls, butter rolls or pretzel buns for an easy hand-held appetizer.
Loaded Potato Bites
Crispy loaded potato bites are irresistible! Slice small new potatoes into wedges. Toss with oil, salt and pepper and roast until crispy. Top with all your loaded baked potato favorites like cheese, bacon, sour cream and green onions.
Your guests will be coming back for seconds of these tasty loaded bites!
Small plates and passed appetizers are great because they feel more interactive and let your guests customize their choices. It’s also less overwhelming than one huge platter.
Be sure to provide small plates and napkins so guests can easily enjoy these hand-held nibbles. Get creative with your own fun bite-sized appetizer ideas!
Of course, the holidays are also crazy busy. Some years you just need easy peasy appetizers that require minimal prep and effort. Here are some fun ideas for fuss-free appetizers:
Baked Brie En Croute
Baked brie is always an instant crowd pleaser! Pick up a wheel of brie cheese and puff pastry. Wrap the brie in puff pastry and bake until golden and bubbly.
Serve warm with crackers, apple and pear slices, toasted nuts and jams or chutneys for dipping. The melted brie also pairs perfectly with a fresh baguette. So rich and impressive!
What’s a party without meatballs? Pick up a bag of frozen meatballs and simmer them in your favorite tangy sauce like bbq, cranberry chili or grape jelly.
Keep them warm in a slow cooker and provide toothpicks so guests can easily grab them straight from the pot. Cheesy and nostalgic, meatballs always make people happy.
Chips and Homemade Dip
It’s hard to beat a bowl of crunchy chips paired with a creamy, flavorful dip. Whip up your favorite dip recipe like buffalo chicken, rotel or bean dip.
Set it out in a bowl surrounded by your favorite chips. Quick, easy and guaranteed to go fast!
Here’s a fun retro appetizer that’s endlessly customizable. Spread cream cheese or herbed goat cheese onto slices of dill pickles. Top with sliced deli meat, smoked salmon, Everything Bagel seasoning – anything that sounds tasty!
Roll up and slice into pinwheels. The tangy pickle combined with the creamy cheese makes a mouthwatering flavor combo.
Pimento Cheese Spread
Pimento cheese is a Southern staple for good reason – it’s downright addictive! Blend together shredded cheese, pimentos, mayo and spices. Chill overnight to let the flavors meld.
Serve with crackers, celery, carrot sticks or slices of fresh baguette. Your guests will go crazy for this cheesy, retro dip.
Upgrade cheese and crackers by serving them in edible waffle cones! Fill the cones with cubed cheeses, rolled up meats, olives, nuts and fruits.
Let your guests walk around and nibble their cone of goodness. It adds a fun touch to classic appetizers. Kids especially get a kick out of these savory ice cream cones!
Appetizer Inspo from Apps
Picking the actual appetizer recipes to serve is so important. You want a variety of flavors and textures to please different palates. Here are some tasty Thanksgiving appetizer ideas to get you inspired:
- Bacon-Wrapped Dates
- Goat Cheese and Honey Crostini
- Corn and Zucchini Fritters
- Butternut Squash Tartlets
- Cranberry Brie Bites
- Pumpkin Chili
- Caramelized Onion Dip
- Baked Brie with Cranberry Relish
- Maple Pumpkin Hummus
- Turkey, Brie and Cranberry Pinwheels
- Spiced Nuts
- Pear, Prosciutto and Gorgonzola Flatbread
- Mini Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes
- Roasted Autumn Vegetable Soup Shots
Think seasonal ingredients like squash, cranberries, nuts, sage. Combining sweet and savory flavors also makes for fun appetizers. And don’t be afraid to add a touch of Thanksgiving inspiration to classics, like the pumpkin chili or turkey pinwheels.
Below are full recipes for some of my personal favorite appetizers to give you an idea of how you can incorporate seasonal flair:
Butternut Squash and Sage Tartlets
- 1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
- 1 small butternut squash, peeled and diced
- 1 shallot, diced
- Fresh sage, chopped
- 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 400°F. Cut the puff pastry into 12 equal squares. Gently press the squares into a mini muffin tin, letting the pastry come up the sides.
- Poke holes in the bottom of each tartlet shell with a fork. Bake for 10 minutes until lightly browned. Let cool.
- Sauté the squash and shallots in olive oil for 5 minutes until tender. Remove from heat and stir in sage. Season with salt and pepper.
- Scoop the squash mixture evenly into the pre-baked tartlet shells. Top with grated Parmesan.
- Bake for 10-15 minutes more until the Parmesan is melted and the edges are golden brown.
- Allow to cool slightly before removing from the pan. Garnish with fresh sage leaves to serve.
Cranberry Brie Bites
- 1 wheel of brie, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1 cup fresh or thawed cranberries
- 1/4 cup chopped pecans
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1 pkg puff pastry squares, thawed
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In a small bowl, mix together the cranberries, chopped pecans, brown sugar and cinnamon.
- Place one cube of brie onto each puff pastry square. Top with cranberry mixture.
- Fold the corners of the pastry up around the filling to enclose it like a package.
- Bake for 12-15 minutes until the pastry is golden brown.
- Transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly. Serve warm.
Turkey, Brie and Cranberry Pinwheels
- Flour tortillas
- Creamy brie spread
- Sliced turkey
- Cranberry sauce
- Fresh spinach
- Spread a thin layer of creamy brie onto each tortilla.
- Layer sliced turkey, cranberry sauce and fresh spinach on top of the brie.
- Tightly roll up the tortillas. Slice into pinwheels.
- Secure with toothpicks if needed and arrange pinwheels on a platter.
- Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Hopefully these recipe ideas help spark your creativity for making signature Thanksgiving appetizers!
Appetizer Perfection: Avoiding Common Pitfalls
Serving a delicious spread of apps seems easy, but there are some common pitfalls to look out for. Follow these tips to help your appetizers shine:
Choose the Right Recipes – Pick appetizers that can be easily eaten while standing and mingling. Avoid messy or difficult foods. Focus on finger foods and small plates that are easy to handle.
Consider Dietary Needs – Offer a good mix of appetizers so there’s something for every guest, including vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free and dairy-free options.
Prep Ahead – Do as much prep work as possible in advance so you’re not stressed on the big day. Chop, assemble and cook what you can ahead of time.
Keep it Simple – Stick to recipes you know and that don’t require tons of last-minute fussing. Overly complex apps usually don’t impress guests more.
Watch the Heat – Make sure hot foods stay hot with chafing dishes, slow cookers or warming trays. Have a plan to keep cold foods properly chilled as well.
Replenish – Check appetizer platters frequently and replenish anything that’s running low. You don’t want guests staring at empty trays.
Provide Plates and Napkins – Make sure guests have everything they need to easily enjoy appetizers with minimum mess.
Give it Some Space – Spread out appetizers in different areas so people aren’t crowded around one table. Create appetizer stations if you have room.
Clean as You Go – Stay on top of cleaning dirty platters and replenishing fresh ones to keep the spread looking bountiful.
5 Helpful Appetizer Tips
Here are a few more handy tips for appetizer success:
- Look for make-ahead options – Choose appetizers that can be prepared 1-2 days before and easily reheated if needed. Saves you time on the big day!
- Skewer and slice – Foods on skewers or sliced into bite-size pieces are easier for guests to eat while mingling. Bonus – they look fun and festive!
- Set the mood – Use festive napkins, serving pieces and garnishes to make your spread look extra special. Light candles nearby to encourage guests to linger.
- Provide small plates – Let guests easily grab appetizers buffet-style with small appetizer plates. No messy juggling act required.
- Pair cocktails and apps – Offer signature drinks that complement the flavors of your appetizers. They’ll love sipping and savoring in tandem.
How many appetizers should I plan per guest?
As a general rule of thumb, plan for 5-8 appetizer portions per guest if apps are the main focus. Reduce to 3-4 portions per guest if they are just a pre-dinner nibble.
When should appetizers be served?
Guests will likely arrive hungry, so have apps ready as soon as the door opens! Keep them coming until you sit down for the main meal.
Should appetizers complement the main dishes?
Definitely – choose appetizers that feature different flavors and textures than the main courses so there’s still an element of surprise.
How far in advance can I prepare appetizers?
Most assembled appetizers keep for 24-48 hours in the fridge. Cold apps can be prepped up to 5 days before. Baked or hot appetizers are best made the day of.
What are easy last-minute appetizers?
If you’re in a time crunch, grab a rotisserie chicken and whip up a tasty dip or bruschetta. A veggie tray with hummus takes just minutes to assemble. Pick up a cheese platter from the store and garnish with nuts and fruit.
Well, there you have it – lots of tips and ideas for impressing guests with fantastic Thanksgiving appetizer plates! The key is choosing a variety of crowd-pleasing recipes that complement your main meal. Present them creatively in platters, boards and small bites. And don’t stress about making everything from scratch. Store-bought shortcuts help make your life easier.
Transform your dining room into a festive wonderland with twinkling lights, elegant centerpieces, and cozy holiday-themed decor. Most importantly, have fun with it and get creative! Just as appetizers set the tone for a delightful Thanksgiving feast, let your Christmas decorations create a warm and inviting atmosphere that will leave your guests raving about the festive ambiance all season long.
I hope this guide gave you plenty of inspiration for appetizer success this Thanksgiving! Let me know if you have any other appetizer questions. Now, get ready to wow those guests with your sensational, festive spread. Happy Thanksgiving!