43 Thanksgiving Appetizers to Get Your Feast Started

For many, the star of the show on Thanksgiving is the turkey; the sides are a close second and the desserts are essential for finishing off the feast. But, what about something exciting to nibble on before the big meal?

It may seem like an overabundance of eats, but if done right, serving a few little bites before the feast won’t spoil any appetites and has a bounty of other benefits. Setting out snacks will keep guests occupied, ensures they don’t get too hungry, gives people a place to congregate — which helps keep them out of the kitchen — and gives the holiday host extra time to put the finishing touches on a show-stopping turkey day dinner.

Remember, though, the only thing that should be stuffed before dinner is the bird. So, try to keep the offerings light and avoid any foods that would be too filling. Try following the two-bite rule when planning the pre-supper offerings. Think hors d’oeuvre-sized items and other small, snackable foods. Opt for items that are crunchy, savory, salty and/or airy that will pique the palate but not weigh anyone down.

These excellent appetizers feature terrific toasts, delicious dips, crisp crostini and savory spreads from entertaining experts like Ina Garten, Bobby Flay, Joy Bauer and many more. No one will be able to resist gobbling up these fun soups, salads and finger foods!

Finger foods and dips

Courtesy Robin Ventress

Everything bagel spice gives these pigs-in-a-blanket a more grown-up vibe. This is a great recipe for family snacks any time of year but is especially fun for the holidays to counter the abundance of sweet snacks. The cranberry mustard is also great served with roasted turkey or pork and added to turkey sandwiches.

Giada's Grappa-Poached Pear Crostini

Giadzy

Giada De Laurentiis likes to whip up these crostini when guests stop by. “The poached pears are especially comforting as the weather gets cooler,” she says. “They’re easy to make and always delight a crowd.”

Bobby Flay's Baked Ricotta with Sun-Dried Tomato Sauce

Bobby Flay

Bobby Flay’s baked ricotta is a great easy-to-prepare and shareable starter for a crowd. “It works well as a center-of-the-table appetizer, served with grilled toast,” says Flay. “The fontina and cream cheese help solidify the creaminess of the ricotta and the sun-dried tomato sauce gives the flavors a well-deserved contrast of sweet acidity.”

Fancy Gougères

Nathan Congleton / TODAY

It is so easy to enhance a traditional Pate a Choux recipe by simply adding grated cheese and pepper to the dough. It’s the perfect vehicle for an easy, elegant appetizer. Be sure to brush the tops of the puffs with egg wash before baking for a beautiful, glossy crust.

Pumpkin, Brussels Sprouts and Bacon Flatbreads

Nathan Congleton / TODAY

The opposing flavors and textures of the crispy, salty bacon and sweet, smooth pumpkin butter actually complement one another perfectly. The savory Brussels sprouts round out the autumnal flavor profile of this seasonal dish.

Spicy Crab Dip

Getty Images/Cavan Images

Alex Guarnaschelli’s crab dip is such a great option for gatherings and get togethers because it is so versatile. “I really like to maximize an expensive ingredient like crab and dip is a smart and tasty way to do just that,” she says. “Buy really great quality crab meat so it is front and center in the dish. But, if you do not like crab, swap it for chicken! If spicy isn’t your thing, omit the cayenne pepper and Tabasco.”

Goat Cheese Toasts

Quentin Bacon

Whenever Ina Garten has leftover baguette, she likes to slice it diagonally and keep it in the freezer. “This way I can make these cheesy toasts in minutes,” she says. “Toast the bread slices, then add the garlic and goat cheese. They’re perfect to serve with drinks or as a crouton to float on top of a bowl of soup.”

Party Pumpkin Cheese Ball

This cheesy party pumpkin is the perfect edible showstopper for any festive fall gathering. With just a little mixing, some quick molding and a chill in the fridge, this savory centerpiece comes together with ease. Serve it with cracks and crudité for an easy, interactive appetizer.

Fried Squash Rings with Pear, Dried Cherries and Feta

TODAY

This elegant appetizer consists of delicata squash rings, roasted then tempura-battered and fried, then stuffed with a simple salad of raw pear, dried cherries, feta cheese and a few sprigs of arugula. The result is a sweet yet savory wonder, perfect for a starter or perhaps a decadent side dish on a holiday table. Feel free to substitute apples for the pear, golden raisins or dried cranberries for the dried cherries, grated Parmesan or pecorino for the feta and/or walnuts for the hazelnuts.

Mustard-Maple Meatballs

Kelly Harrison

It’s cloudy with a chance of mouthwatering meatballs! If you’re looking for a new saucy spin on the beloved meatball, this recipe from Joy Bauer is it. “The meatballs are moist and scrumptious, but it’s really the sauce that takes these up a notch. While it’s a combo of simple ingredients, it hits just the right notes — the Dijon brings zip, the mayo lends creaminess and the maple syrup provides a touch of gentle sweetness along with the light and flavorful broth,” she says. “Everything comes together lickety-split, and it’s ready to be served over pasta, skewered with toothpicks for pass-around hors d’oeuvres or you can make a meatball grilled cheese!”

Queso Fundido (Melted Cheese) in a Pumpkin

Nathan Congleton / TODAY

What could be better than a gooey dip with three kinds of melted cheese? That dip served in a hollowed-out pumpkin! The rich queso is flavored with fresh and dried herbs, but also gets infused with loads of pumpkin flavor while it cooks.

Shrimp Cocktail with Dilly Horseradish Cream

Molly Baz

Shrimp cocktail and a martini so cold it hurts your fingers: It simply does not get much better than that. Shrimp are sorted and sold by size and marked according to about how many pieces of shrimp comprise 1 pound. I like the larger size of U10/15 for shrimp cocktail (meaning, 10 to 15 pieces shrimp per pound), but if you can’t find them, go for slightly smaller ones (16/20). Most importantly, make sure they are shell-on — this is crucial when poaching shrimp, as the shell acts like a protective barrier for the flesh.

Spicy Bacon-Cheddar Deviled Eggs

Courtesy Will Coleman

Appetizers are a staple for any gathering, and these deviled eggs are a perfect pre-meal snack to whip up. Classic deviled eggs can feel a bit a played-out or outdated. With this garlicky, cheesy and bacon-packed recipe, deviled eggs become exciting again. If you’re ever left tasked with bringing an appetizer, these come in handy because you can make them ahead of time, they take under 30 minutes to put together and you can customize them to your own tastes.

Siri's Butternut Squash, Leek and Ricotta Toast

Mike Smith / TODAY

This is one of Siri Daly’s go-to appetizers for holiday entertaining. “I love to pair roasted butternut squash with creamy ricotta and caramelized leeks and serve the combination on crusty toast. Drizzled with thick, balsamic glaze for a little edge, you are left with a satisfyingly rich appetizer that will certainly please all,” she says. “You could try this with sweet potatoes instead of squash, or goat cheese instead of ricotta. If you don’t have leeks, shallots would be a nice alternative.”

Spinach-Artichoke Dip

American Bar / American Bar

Classic spinach and artichoke dip gets a flavorful revamp. Chicken seasoning and queso fresco add extra savory flavor and rich texture to this comforting dip. It still packs in all the creaminess and nostalgic flavors of the original, but with a pepped-up taste everyone will love.

Smoked Mac and Cheese Egg Rolls

Nathan Congleton/TODAY

Egg rolls are one of the all-time most versatile foods! It’s so fun to change up the fillings and switch around the flavor profiles. And it’s always a great surprise to bite into a crispy roll and find a smoky, cheesy filling inside.

Ricotta Crostini

Joy Bauer

This dish is ideal for parties because it is fast, easy to make, affordable, super light, full of flavor and perfect for any time of day. The flavors are subtle and elegant giving the crostini a sophisticated flair. The toasty hazelnuts, creamy ricotta, sweet honey with earthy truffles and piney rosemary make these perfect for autumn entertaining.

Brussels in Blankets

Nathan Congleton / TODAY

Joy Bauer makes Brussels sprouts are so cute, they’re nearly irresistible. “I’ve served them to super finicky eaters, and even they wind up popping more than a few in their mouths. This can be a side dish or an appetizer, and it’s a cinch to make — only three ingredients (and one of them is turkey bacon!). You can’t beat that,” she says.

Butternut Squash Fries with Lemon Aioli

Mike Smith / TODAY

Swapping butternut squash for potatoes makes these fries more nutritious and flavorful. The savory citrus lemon-Parmesan aioli pairs perfectly with the natural sweetness of the crispy squash. An impossibly light and crunchy coating will keep guests coming back for more.

Big Festive Holiday Dip

Nathan Congleton / TODAY

This dip is downright addictive — it’s impossible to stop eating it! An ultra-creamy base of mayo and cream cheese gets mixed with zesty cheddar and aromatic green onions. Then the blend gets topped with crushed buttery crackers, salty bacon and sweet pepper jelly. Everyone will want to get their hands on this dip and the recipe.

Crostini with Ricotta, Brussels Sprouts and Maple Bacon

Samantha Okazaki / TODAY

Bobby Flay’s crostini are perfect served warm or at room temperature. “They can be made 8 hours in advance and just stored lightly covered at room temperature. You can pop in the oven for 2 minutes just to reheat or crisp up, if needed just before serving,” he says. “Bacon can be made several hours in advance. Use parchment paper on your baking sheets for easy clean-up for the maple bacon glazed bacon. Use the shredder attachment for food processor to shred the Brussels sprouts, as it is safer than a mandolin and faster than a chef’s knife.”

Cranberry and Rosemary Glazed Pecans

Nathan Congleton / TODAY

Sunny Anderson spices up nuts with cranberry and rosemary for the holidays. A simple glaze and quick roast elevate the flavors of toasty pecans. It’s a simple snack to set out any time and also makes a great edible gift.

Root Vegetable and Feta Bruschetta

Nathan R. Congleton / TODAY

Set out a selection of breads and crackers, whipped feta and caponata, so that guests can make their own fun bites. Its interactive snacking at its best! The layers of flavor from the caponata are simple but great, while the salty bacon and capers and sweet raisins provide a variety of textures.

Ina Garten's Fig and Goat Cheese Bruschetta

TODAY

Ina Garten tops goat cheese toasts with homemade fig preserves. “OMG, this may be the best thing I’ve ever made!” she says. “Whenever I serve these at a get together, my guests always insist on taking the leftovers home!

 Bacon Maple Pecan Sweet Potato Chips

Nathan Congleton / TODAY

What could possibly make crispy sweet potatoes better? How about a topping of candied bacon (AKA “pig candy”)? The mingling of smoky, sweet, salty and savory flavors is so good it’s almost intoxicating.

Bloody Mary Dip with Focaccia Skewers

Discovery+

These inventive bites turn a classic bloody mary cocktail into a delectable appetizer. They’re a refreshing departure from the usual party fare, are so fun to dip and they’re vegan-friendly. The skewers and dip can be prepped ahead which is always a wonderful time saver.

Twice-Baked Potato Bites

Daniel Krieger / The Laws of Cooking…and How to Break Them

Who knew that the humble new potato could be turned into shell casing for a bullet of flavor? In this powder keg, the surly nature of the cheddar cheese roughhouses the creamy new potatoes, not to mention some butter and sour cream. These little bombs of sharp versus subtle are a perfect snack or party treat. Bacon shrapnel provides some flavor backbone but minimal textural resistance, so I like to top mine with more cheese, some potato chips and fresh chives. You can keep the hulled potato shells and potato mixture, covered and refrigerated, for up to 6 hours. A touch of balsamic vinegar will add a fruity and zippy note. It may seem weird on paper, but salt and vinegar chips are the best chips.

Curtis Stone's Steak Crostini with Arugula Pesto

TODAY

These meaty bites are one of Curtis Stone’s favorite appetizers. “They’re so easy to put together but still include super fresh and flavorful ingredients,” he says. “They’re so satisfying and perfect for a lighter lunch or a great starter to an evening meal.”

Candied Bacon Breadsticks or Grissini

Hector Manuel Sanchez

Candied bacon is always a home run. Keep the bacon strips whole and stuff them into a mint julep cup to make the perfect nibble for any cocktail party or festive occasion. The whole process, including cooling, will take no more than an hour. Just make sure you remove the bacon-wrapped bread sticks from the foil immediately after removing from oven or they will stick like glue to the foil.

Martha Stewart's Baked Brie with Boozy Fruit Compote

Konstantin Kopachinsky / Shutterstock

Martha Stewart’s show-stopping, gooey baked brie is perfect for cocktail hour. “Your goal is to welcome guests with nibbles, not fill them up too much before the main event,” she says. “Start with store-bought puff pastry (a great time-saver!) and roll in ground pecans, which add a nutty note to this mouth-watering appetizer. Sliced baguette and tart apple wedges, along with a compote of fruit, balance out the buttery richness. Also, you get to express your artistic side with the pastry leaf decoration!”

Sausage-and-Pepper-Stuffed Mushrooms

Angie Mosier

This recipe takes cream cheese and sausage dip to a whole new level by stuffing it into bite-sized mushrooms. It’s a portable pick-up guests will love. For a vegetarian option, omit the sausage and add the chopped the mushroom stems to the dip mixture.

Roasted Olives with Orange And Rosemary

Nathan Congleton / TODAY

Lidia Bastianich coaxes the fruity flavor out of olives by roasting them. “Big green Castelvetrano olives are delicious prepared this way, but any meaty olive will do well,” she says. “Just change the baking time according to the size.”

Soups

Easy Butternut Squash Soup With Crispy Sage Leaves

Lucy Schaffer

Laura Vitale gives the classic, creamy butternut squash soup a fragrant, textural twist with crispy sage leaves.

Sweet Potato and Coconut Soup with Labneh

Nathan Congleton / TODAY

Fresh garlic, onions and ginger build the foundation of this nourishing sweet potato soup. The coconut milk brings richness, and the miso paste provides a well-rounded depth of flavor that can’t be beat!

Carrot-Ginger Soup

Courtesy Ed Harris

In addition to being a gorgeous, festive dish, this sweet, earthy carrot soup is really healthy and will boost your guests up with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory ingredients before a heavy meal.

Charred Cauliflower Soup

Courtesy Ed Harris

Charring the cauliflower gives this creamy, luscious soup a wonderfully smoky flavor. It’s easy to make and can even be made ahead of time and frozen so when it’s time to entertain, all you need to do is heat it up and ladle it out.

Spicy Chipotle-Maple Butternut Squash Soup

Make something that’s hot and sweet this season: butternut squash soup with fiery, smoky chipotles and sweet maple syrup to tame the flame.

Salads

Roasted Beets with Quinoa, Frisée and Queso Fresco

Nathan Congleton / TODAY

This salad hits on all the textural and flavor elements you want in a great side dish. It has tender braised beets, crunchy quinoa, crumbly cheese and crunchy sunflower seeds. It’s a little salty, slightly sweet and each bite keeps you coming back for more.

Sunny's Easy Holiday Brussels Sprout Salad

Rebekah Lowin / TODAY

Sunny Anderson’s Brussels sprout salad has the big flavors of the holidays — cranberries, pecans, rosemary, nutmeg — while still being fresh and light. It’s a refreshing reprieve from all the heavy eating of the rest of the meal.

Bibb Lettuce and Roasted Acorn Squash Salad with Feta and Walnuts

danny graham

A nourishing yet light salad, this easy side or main dish has protein-rich nuts, nutritious squash and a piquant vinaigrette that gently coats the tender greens.

Grilled Broccoli Caesar Salad

Karen Akunowicz

Forget the romaine and make this incredible salad with charred broccoli bits. This non-traditional dish borrows ideas from three different countries. The Caesar salad was invented in Mexico, the migas (toasted seasoned bread) hails from Spain and the dressing has a dollop of Japanese miso in it.

Ina Garten's Kale Salad with Pancetta and Pecorino

Quentin Bacon / Cooking for Jeffrey by Ina Garten/Clarkson Potter/Publishers

Hearty kale finely chopped, flecks of salty pancetta and sharp bites of pecorino cheese give this simple salad appetizer an inviting blast of savory flavors.

Siri Daly's Autumn Panzanella

Williams Sonoma

What’s better than a warm, bread salad on a crisp autumn night? Well, one that features fall ingredients, such as squash, sprouts, sage and maple syrup. This is a Daly family favorite to serve during the months before winter.

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