Salt & Wind Travel

Chic But Easy Appetizers That Will Rule Your Next Cocktail Party

The holiday party detail that separates the women from the girls? Having a few chic homemade appetizers that are elegant but oh-so-easy to prepare.

It’s tempting to go all Martha Stewart at your party and overdue the homemade food. But as we’ve gotten wiser about our party hosting, we’ve learned to buy some excellent cheeses, and superb charcuterie and concentrate on a handful of homemade appetizers that knock it out of the park.

Here are more than 30 recipes that fit the bill:

gougeres fontina cheese puffs recipe v scaled

{Gougères} Pancetta Fontina Cheese Puffs


Souffles, Croque Monsieurs, omelets, when it comes to making cheese reach regal heights, the French are total masters. So it’s no wonder that these Gougères, aka cheese puffs, are always a hit at our cocktail parties.

aida mollenkamp caramelized onion grape blue cheese mini focaccia recipe v 1600

{Schiacciata All’Uva} Grape Blue Cheese Focaccia

nut-free, vegetarian

Another no-brainer? Making some freshly baked bread topped with all sorts of deliciousness. We vote for this sweet-pungent grape and blue cheese mini focaccia that pair well with anything from bubbles to a classic cocktail.

smoked salmon rillettes recipe v

{Salmon Rillettes} Smoked Salmon & Herbed Creme Fraiche Spread

gluten-free, nut-free

Imagine your favorite lox and schmear combo did a semester abroad in France, and you’ve got an idea of how this effortlessly elegant Smoked Salmon & Herbed Creme Fraiche Spread tastes.

meyer lemon crab bites v

Meyer Lemon Crab Chive Bites

gluten-free, nut-free

When you’re looking for something elegant, easy, and doable for everyone from your gluten-free friends to the low-carb people? These crab bites are a perfect choice.

citrus pickled shrimp recipe v 2

Spicy Citrus Pickled Shrimp

dairy-free, gluten-free, nut-free

Why do we love the South? Because they pickle things we’d never imagine pickling — from watermelon rinds to shrimp — and it always tastes amazing. This riff on a classic pickled shrimp recipe is a bit citrusy, spicy, and way more interesting than any storebought ring of shrimp and cocktail sauce.

bresaola quince manchego bites recipe v

Manchego Arugula Bresaola Hand Rolls

dairy-free, gluten-free, nut-free

Like the little black dress of cocktail appetizers, we turn to these Bresaola Hand Rolls over and over and never tire of them.

taiwanese night market popcorn chicken recipe v2

Night Market Popcorn Chicken

dairy-free, gluten-free, nut-free

Yes, we make this because it’s an excuse to eat popcorn chicken without seeming all trashy about it. But also because this Taiwanese version has tons of spices and fried basil for a twist that’s totally unexpected but equally crave-worthy.

potato chorizo bites

Baby Potato Bites with Chorizo

gluten-free, nut-free

Yes, these are just an excuse to eat potato skins in a fancy setting, but they’re also a perfect appetizer recipe because they can be made way ahead.

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{Supplì al telefono} Mozzarella Tomato Basil Risotto Balls

nut-free, vegetarian

Normally we’re anti-fried food or anything that keeps you in the kitchen for a dinner party (unless it’s popcorn chicken, of course), but these risotto balls are a major exception. You can 100% make them ahead (even fry them) and then reheat them in the oven right before serving!

caramelized onion squash danish recipe v8

Caramelized Onion & Butternut Squash Danish Recipe

nut-free, vegetarian

The best thing about this recipe? If you have leftovers (you probably won’t, btw), they’re as tasty for breakfast with a cup of coffee as they are as a cocktail party app.

salt and wind coconut kettle corn recipe v 1

Toasted Coconut Kettle Corn Popcorn

gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free, vegetarian

It is our firm belief that any party with popcorn is only made more delicious. This stovetop kettle corn takes a second to make and gets eaten even faster!

salt wind carrot harissa hummus recipe v

Carrot Harissa Hummus

gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free, vegetarian

A veggie-filled, slightly smoky twist on hummus, we keep this around for everything from a healthy gift wrapping session snack to cocktail parties.

pumpkin hummus recipe 6 1

Roasted Garlic Pumpkin Hummus With Toasted Pepitas Recipe

vegan, vegetarian, nut free, dairy free, gluten free

Another welcome twist on classic hummus is this version made by whirring together roasted garlic, herbs, pumpkin, and maple syrup. It has all the best fall flavors and is completely comforting all whiile being totally healthy.

beet caviar recipe v

Walnut Beet Caviar Spread

gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian

Not so much caviar as a smooth, sweet, nutty beet dip, we first tried a version of this on a trip to Israel and recreate it whenever beets are in season.

salt wind fennel puff pastry bites v

Mascarpone Fennel Puff Pastry Bites

nut-free, vegetarian

Slowly caramelizing the fennel and pairing them with creamy mascarpone cheese makes these little puff pastry bites totally carve-worthy.

friends who fete last minute holiday party cranberry brie bites recipe v

Pear Cranberry Brie Mini Tartlets With Hot Honey

nut-free, vegetarian

We’ve all had that classic holiday appetizer of cranberry brie bites, yes? Well, here we modernize it with just 5 minutes extra cooking time by adding in sage-scented pears, pomegranate seeds, and a hot honey garnish.

cocoa chile spicy sweet snack mix recipe v 1

Cocoa-Chile Sweet Spicy Snack Mix

gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian

If you combined your favorite chocolate mole and ChexMix, we imagine you’d end up with something like this spicy sweet snack mix!

persimmon goat cheese sage bites recipe v2

Persimmon Bites With Fried Sage and Goat Cheese

gluten-free, nut-free, vegetarian

If ever there was an appetizer that was as equally impressive as it was low fuss, this would be it. Fry the sage days ahead and then assemble when you’re party starts and you’re good to go!

friends who fete last minute holiday party persimmon speck bites v

Speck-Wrapped Persimmons With Balsamic Honey Glaze

dairy-free, gluten-free, nut-free

We don’t know about you, but we can never get enough of prosciutto and melon in our lives. When the melon is no longer in season, we switch to persimmons and top it with this inky sweet-tart balsamic honey glaze.

sw bridal shower gougeres tea sandwiches recipe v scaled

Gougeres Tea Sandwiches With Date Paste, Goat Cheese, and Mint


If you’re looking for a total curve ball of an appetizer, this is it. We take gougeres (aka French cheese puffs) and layer into them some fresh mint, whipped goat cheese, and a date spread for a sweet-salty bite that is an instant favorite!

aida mollenkamp blistered balsamic grape cheese plate v

Blistered Balsamic Concord Grapes

dairy-free, gluten-free, nut-free, vegetarian, vegan

Nothing screams chic like a gorgeous display of cheese and fruit! Spice up your appetizer platters with a batch of these impressive Blistered Balsamic Concord Grapes.

sweet potato chips whipped goat cheese recipe 5

Roasted Sweet Potato Chips with Whipped Goat Cheese Recipe

nut-free, vegetarian, gluten free

This sweet potato appetizer is essentially crisp sweet potato chips scattered across whipped goat cheese. It may just sound like a healthy plant-based appetizer, but that is discounting it. The smoky, crisp sweet potato combined with the ethereally light, sweet, peppery, herbed goat cheese is pure hors d’oeuvres magic.

scallop crudo v3 1

Scallop Crudo With Citrus Jalapeno Sauce

nut-free, dairy-free, gluten-free

Speaking of pulling out the stops, pulling out some uber fresh seafood pretty much always impresses guests. If you have access to great scallops, this crudo with a spicy tart topping is a must make.

pomegranate mignonette granita recipe v12 1

Oysters With Pomegranate Mignonette Granita Recipe

nut-free, dairy-free, gluten-free

Yes, great oysters are incredible with nothing more than a squeeze of lemon. But, when you want to up the ante, turn to this sweet, tangy, tart pomegranate mignonette granita that’s as tasty as it is beautiful!

aguachile verde recipe v

{Aguachile Verde} Chile Lime Marinated Shrimp

dairy-free, gluten-free, nut-free

For something a little more laidback, turn to this Mexican twist on ceviche known as Aguachile. Shrimp marinated in a bright herb and chile sauce and you serve it with tostadas!

shrimp watermelon ceviche

Shrimp and Watermelon Ceviche

dairy-free, nut-free

When it comes to simple and easy, ceviche is at the top of our list. With quality ingredients and just a little bit of patience, this recipe uses fresh shrimp and juicy watermelon to come together in no time.

kaffir lime peanuts recipe v

Spicy Kaffir Lime Peanuts

dairy-free, gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan

What’s the best way to keep your hands busy during a conversation? Peanuts! This spicy, Thai-inspired version is our go-to for a chic twist on the classic party snack.

savory palmiers recipe v1

{Palmiers Façon Provençale} Savory Olive and Tomato Palmiers

nut-free, vegetarian

We go for the roll of all-butter puff pastry sitting in our freezer whenever we want to impress. And trust us, this classic French pastry never disappoints.

potato chip tortilla recipe v3

Spanish Potato Chip Tortilla Bites With Bravas Sauce

nut-free, gluten-free

If you adore Spanish tortillas as much as we do, then you’ll love this version of the classic recipe made much easier thanks to storebought potato chips!

tinga tostada recipe v5 1

Chicken Tinga Tostadas With Radish Salsa

nut-free, gluten-free

ISO an app that’s more of a meal but still simple and make ahead? Then you’ll be all about this recipe of slow-cooked shredded chipotle chicken tostadas!

agrodolce fig burrata recipe v

Burrata and Agrodolce Fig Crostini

nut-free, vegetarian

Creative crostini? Check. Our version consists of creamy burrata topped with sweet & savory figs for a delicious party appetizer finish.

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Rosemary Grape Agrodolce With Prosciutto Crostini Recipe

dairy free

Another take on sweet-sour agrodolce that we adore? This grape version made with pine nuts, currants, rosemary, and shallots. It’s fabulous atop bread with curls of prosciutto but you could also add in cheese or use it as a topping for roasted salmon, grilled steak, or seared pork chops.


radicchio salad cups recipe v4

Pomegranate Pistachio Radicchio Salad Cups With Maple Lemon Cream Sauce

vegetarian, gluten-free

Healthy-ish, loaded with fall flavors, and totally elegant, these salad cups do take some time to assemble, but they’re well worth the effort. And the Maple Lemon Cream sauce is fabulous; we insist you make it even if you never make these salad cups!

olive oil polenta cake recipe whole v 6 1

Opening photo by Cameron Whitman

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