The holidays are just around the corner, and with that comes a good excuse for catching up with friends and family while eating the most delicious food you’ve had all year. 

What better way to kick off the festive season than trying some new Thanksgiving appetizer recipes to munch on before dinner arrives?

Thanksgiving Appetizer Ideas for Hosts

Having your nearest and dearest at your place for the holidays is a big responsibility. You’re in charge of at least a dozen dishes and most of your attention is going into making sure dinner is the best it can be. 

The good news is you can find plenty of easy Thanksgiving appetizers that are quick to throw together, aren’t too filling, and keep even the fussiest guest’s hunger at bay.

Simple Thanksgiving Appetizers

Avoid any complicated or time consuming dishes and look for low cost produce to stay within your holiday party budget. Brussel sprouts wrapped in bacon are a fun play on pigs in blankets, and save a few pennies using a seasonal vegetable.

Pink, orange, green and cream-colored dips in brightly colored bowls, on a table with chips for dipping.
Make as much food as you can ahead of time to stay a stress-free host. Still from Skillshare class Vegan Holiday Meals – Cooking for Family and Friends by Almond Tree Kitchen.

Particularly with appetizers, you want to keep things casual while everyone arrives and catches up with each other. Finger foods don’t require utensils so they  not only save on the washing up, but are also easy choices for kids to enjoy without an adult’s help.

Deviled eggs are a go-to party favorite for a reason—they’re quick to make and small enough to pop in your mouth in one or two bites. Small mac and cheese balls or store-bought hummus and dips are also light handhelds which easily fit on top of a napkin.

Make Ahead Options

Cut down your cooking time by preparing as much as you can beforehand. Anything you can put in the fridge or straight out on the table with minimal effort works.

A Thanksgiving charcuterie board can easily be made ahead of guests arriving by portioning out cheese and meat, sticking it in the fridge, then assembling a few minutes before the doorbell rings.

Eggs, flour and salt on a wooden cutting board before combining into a recipe.
Making your own pastry for sausage rolls or pies is incredibly rewarding. Still from Skillshare class How to Make Pastry Dough: An Easy Recipe for Beginners by Yvette Marquez-Sharnack.  

Homemade sausage rolls are another quick choice you can make weeks ahead. Prep a batch with homemade or store-bought pastry, cooking your sausage meat before you wrap them. Throw them in the freezer once they’re cooled, then simply defrost and cook on Thanksgiving.

Cute Thanksgiving Themed Appetizers for Kids

Your cooking prep list may be long, but it’s important not to forget about options for your tiniest guests too.

Bread and crackers are normally needed as a side for at least one appetizer, so instead of laying them out on board, turn them into a pre-dinner teaser of the main dish. A spoon of nut butter on a plate, some pretzels or pretzel sticks stuck on one side, and a pair of edible googly eyes quickly transform your appetizers into an adorable turkey.

Using a savory dip in a bowl with fruit fanning out around it can also make for a cute turkey design. Kids can help themselves to as much or little as they’d like and since it’s finger-food friendly, parents won’t need to assist.

Catering for Everyone’s Needs

Nothing feels better than silencing a well-fed crowd, save for a few hums of “mmm” around the table. To make sure everyone has something they can feast on, you always want to have at least one dish per course to fit any special dietary requirements your guests have.

Healthy Thanksgiving Appetizers

Canapes and appetizers are a perfect way to introduce some lighter options. You can’t go wrong with a veggie tray, so load up a board with classics like celery sticks, sliced bell peppers, broccoli and cauliflower. Olives and pickles on the side add a sweet and tangy compliment to any of your vegetables.

Cucumbers, radishes, olives and chips on a board as a healthy appetizer choice.
Cut veggies on a tray are a healthy option for your Thanksgiving appetizer table.

Slicing cucumbers and radishes into rounds and putting these on a separate plate from your veggie tray gives your carb-conscious guests an alternative to crackers and bread if they want to enjoy the cheese, meats and dips you’ve laid out. 

Vegetarian Starters

With turkey as the traditional star of the main course, having a few vegetarian Thanksgiving dishes as appetizers can be a welcome break for even your meat-loving guests. In most cases, many of the starting dishes you’re planning to make will already be vegetarian friendly.

Take inspiration from the TikTok-viral baked feta pasta and substitute the noodles for extra vegetables. Serve as a warm dip alongside a cold veggie tray and warmed bread. Stuffing peppers or mushrooms with cheese or mixed grains instead of meat is an easy trade if you’re already making a chicken or pork option.

Pumpkin, onions and garlic in bowls and mixers on a wooden cutting board.
Prepare your soup the day before Thanksgiving to give yourself more time with your guests. Still from Skillshare class Fall Classics in the Kitchen by Jon Williams.

For sit-at-the-table appetizers ahead of dinner, soups are a warming option to bring in the flavors of the season. Butternut squash, sweet potato and pumpkin all work well as soup bases for a thicker liquid, or can be cubed and added to a broth for a light starter.

Vegan Thanksgiving Appetizers

Finding vegan recipes can feel daunting if you’re not used to eating this way yourself. But it’s incredibly easy to switch out existing ingredients for ones your vegan guests can enjoy.

Build your vegan dishes around vegetables and nuts, making adaptations wherever necessary. Like with your vegetarian guests, many of the appetizers you already had in mind like veggie trays will be suitable for vegans too with no changes needed.

Vegetable quiche being sliced on a wooden board for a vegan Thanksgiving appetizer.
Vegan appetizers can be delicious for all your guests, not just the meat-free visitors. Still from Skillshare class Vegan Holiday Meals – Cooking for Family and Friends by Almond Tree Kitchen.

If you need to make substitutions, it’s simple to do. These days, you can find alternatives for almost anything. Dairy-free milks and creams are readily available and work just as well as their original counterparts in dips and soup recipes for a vegan-friendly Thanksgiving to remember.

Gluten Free Snacks and Starters

The best way to remember what contains gluten and what doesn’t is to determine if a grain is present. 

Prosciutto, figs and arugula being served as a gluten free Thanksgiving starter.
Gluten free appetizers typically don’t include grains. Still from Skillshare class Cooking for Your Date by Elena Maria Manzini.

Veggies, dairy, meat and nuts are usually gluten free naturally, so add more of these to your appetizer table. Fish is also a good option. Smoked salmon with dill or shrimp cocktail are classic party appetizers which can be served at the table or in small glasses ahead of everyone being seated.

Taking Thanksgiving Appetizers to Someone Else’s House

Being invited to another person’s home to celebrate the holidays takes the cooking pressure off you. But even if you’re not the one preparing the main meal, you can help out your host by bringing along a dish or two for everyone to share.

No Cook Thanksgiving Appetizers

Your host’s oven is likely going to be taken up with dishes they’re preparing, so any appetizers you bring should be ready to eat on arrival. While you can cook things in advance and serve them cold, the easiest option is usually a no cook recipe.

Melon, prosciutto and fresh mozzarella skewers take little time to prepare and can fit snugly in a storage container for transport to your host’s home. Apple and fig on crackers with a slice of cheese also needs no cooking, while also being small enough to enjoy as a finger food.

Get Ahead with Your Thanksgiving Prep

Appetizers are often an afterthought on holidays where dinner is the main event, but they don’t have to be. No matter how many guests you have over and what dietary needs they have, you can easily put together a few starting options to keep the munchies away until your turkey takes pride of place on the dining table.

Written by:

Holly Landis