It’s no secret that appetizers can make or break a dinner or gathering. Different guests have various tastes and appetites, so it’s always smart to have a few options on hand. Starters and small bites are the perfect way to get any party started. Whether you’re hosting a small dinner party, family gathering, or friendly get-together, you’re sure to find the perfect appetizer for any occasion. Read on for an array of starters and small bites for your next gathering.

Why Have Appetizers?

From providing a bit of anticipation to the main meal to serving as an ideal way to liven up a gathering, there are many reasons why appetizers are always a great idea.

  1. Stimulate Appetites: Preparing a tasty starter dish will definitely get everyone’s appetite stimulated. Think outside of the box with a unique or exotic dish that no one’s ever tried.

  2. Keep Guests Entertained: Let’s face it–some gatherings can seem bland and uninspired. Plus, guests can feel uncomfortable waiting for the main course. Serve up a scrumptious appetizer to distract guests, help them to stay entertained, and make them feel more comfortable in a new space or with unfamiliar people.

  3. Experiment With New Recipes: If it’s been a while since your last hosting gig, why not invest in some new recipes? If you’re an experienced chef, then challenge yourself to whip up a difficult appetizer dish. Or, make it a fun family activity and let everyone help with the prep work.

Choosing the Best Starters & Small Bites

Now, let’s look at all the options when it comes to starters and small bites.

  1. Finger Foods: Everyone loves the convenience and easy assembly of finger foods. Plus, there are so many delicious items to choose from. Consider bite-sized veggie or fruit skewers, finger sandwiches, mini quiches, empanadas, stuffed mushrooms, and sliders.

  2. Baked Goods: Aren’t we all suckers for fresh-baked treats? Biscuits, crostinis, cheese straws, and mini pies are all fantastic options. If you’re in a rush, keep it simple with store-bought mini croissants or puff pastry.

  3. Bar Snacks: Who doesn’t love noshing on bar snacks? Get creative with the ingredients and mix up unique savory flavors such as cheesy bacon popcorn, roasted peanuts mixed with garlic, or spicy garlic fries.

  4. Dips & Spreads: Everyone knows that chips and dips are always a hit. Why not whip up a few bowls of guacamole, hummus, tzatziki, and salsas? Don’t forget to serve a few breads, crackers, and pita chips, too.

  5. Cold Starters: Cold starters are perfect for hot summer days. Serve up cold soups, salads, or fattoush. Or prepare small bites of smoked salmon, avocado, or pimento cheese.

  6. Hot Small Bites: Whether you’re hosting a winter event or planning a cozy night in, there’s nothing like hot starters. Keep it classic with mini quiches, stuffed mushrooms, deviled eggs, and mini calzones. If you’re feeling more daring, try out exciting dishes such as mini stuffed peppers, chorizo bites, or salmon rillettes.

Storing & Transporting Appetizers

You don’t have to limit yourself to appetizers, but it’s important to consider a few things when storing and transporting your starters and small bites.

  1. Keep Cold Items Cold: If you’re making any cold starters, you’ll need to keep them chilled. Put the colder ingredients into bowls or containers and keep them on a bed of ice in a cooler or in the fridge with ice packs or cooling blocks.

  2. Keep Hot Items Warm: For hot appetizers, use a chafing dish, slow cooker, or a warming oven. Be sure to pack your warmers in an insulated container to keep the items safe and warm.

  3. Use Different Containers: Keep your appetizer items in different containers or dishes. This will help to keep your items from getting soggy, help to keep flavors from mixing, and keep everything in place for easy serving. For example, if there are vegetables that need to be prepped, some may contain a bit of moisture and will benefit from being served in individual containers instead of a large bowl.

  4. Separate Frozen Items: If you’re preparing an appetizer that requires frozen ingredients, be sure to keep them in a separate container from thawed items. This will keep the frozen items from melting, and also protect the thawed items from getting icy and soggy.

  5. Use Utensils: Some dishes require utensils or serving pieces, such as turkey stuffing or bruschetta. Be sure to recharge any utensils before you transport them.

Serving Important Tips

When it comes to serving your perfect starters and small bites, here are a few key tips to keep in mind:

  1. Set Up Stations: Place your starters and small bites in dishes or on trays, and set up multiple stations around the gathering area. This way, guests can grab their snacks quickly and easily.

  2. Consider Messiness: Be mindful of how messy an appetizer is going to get. Avoid anything that can easily become a big mess, such as tacos and corn pets or anything with a lot of sauces or condiments.

  3. Stick to Simple Ideas: When you’re hosting a big party, you may think that fancier dishes will be the most impressive. But remember: the most important factor is the taste. Crave-worthy appetizers don’t have to be complicated.

  4. Factor in Guests’ Preferences: Before serving up your appetizers, make sure you know what your guests can and cannot eat due to dietary restrictions or food allergies so there’s something for everyone.

No matter the gathering or occasion, appetizers are a great way to feed your guests and get the party started. Select from a variety of starters and small bites, from classic to exotic dishes, to keep everyone occupied and excited for the main event. Keep your items stored safely and warmly for easy serving, and factor in dietary restrictions for everyone. With the perfect appetizers, your gathering will be the talk of the town!