How To: Make-Ahead Appetizers

By TBSP Angela
Created March 9, 2017
Skip the frozen appetizers and make your own”ahead of time! MORE+ LESS-

Whether you’re having a cocktail party or a full-fledged dinner party, both mean you’ll need some appetizers so why not save time on the day of the event by making them ahead?

With so many choices for every season, appetizers aren’t hard anymore. In fact, you can be proud of these creations. Yep, go ahead and call them hors d’oeurves.

Appetizers by Season

Create your appetizer mix based on the time of year and what foods are in season. Think hearty for winter months, a little lighter for the spring, cold and refreshing in summer and the imaginative for the fall to get ready for the upcoming holidays.

Summer Appetizers

Summer has to be the easiest season for appetizers because your guests want something light and airy. Fruit cups and veggie trays are easy to make ahead of time and serve when the crowd arrives.

Place some thin meat cuts, including steak or chicken, on a stick and pair with red or green peppers. You can also make these in advance, then simmer on the grill until juicy and tender, and serve with cold dill dip.

Speaking of dips, these are the easiest (and tastiest) way to entertain. You can put out a variety for your guests to enjoy. Whether you're going for something fresh and creamy like a Creamy Spinach Dip, or spicing things up with a Jalepeno Popper Dip, they're sure to hit the mark!

Lettuce wraps full of rice, beans, and cooked ground meat are also a treat for the hot summer day. Include some dipping sauces like mustards of all kinds and sweet or hot sauces.

If you’re taking your party to the beach, check out my post on beach party snacks for quick and easy recipe ideas.

Fall Appetizers

I love fall appetizers because making them gives me inspiration for the holidays. I like to be a little more adventurous with these options. You can too by experimenting with mushroom caps, crab meat, and various cheeses. Even Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms are quick and easy to throw together. The preparation isn’t hard and they cook up quickly in the oven.

Buy some Pillsbury ® dough, and fill with apples and cinnamon or cooked chicken, beans and cheese. Fold them up , cover and refrigerate. These stay nice in the fridge until baking time and if you used cooked meats, they only take about fifteen minutes to heat up.

Fall appetizers make me think of delicious desserts including favorites like pumpkin pie. Mix up canned pumpkin, blend in some pumpkin spice and pour the mix into pastry cups. Pop them in the oven for twenty minutes before the guests arrive and serve with some whipped cream. There's also a delicious Pumpkin Pie Dip that you can serve in a pumpkin to make your table colorful and festive.

Cheese and wine parties are the rage this time of year, so make platters full of various cheeses, grapes, and olives—a crowd favorite. Jackie Fo. wrote a great Wine and Cheese Party post full of fun decoration and serving ideas.

Don't forget about game day! While chips and salsa are good to have on hand, serving up a warm appetizer will always make the fans happy. Check out the Tablespoon's Game Day Party Recipes collection for fall football party ideas. Many of these can be made a day or two ahead of time.

Winter Appetizers

Winter appetizers should be warm and comforting. Some ideas for make ahead appetizers for this particular season include a little preparation and a pop in the oven before guests arrive. Use mini-muffin pans and buy some puff pastry cups. Fill them with things like black beans or chick peas, top with a little Old El Paso® salsa and cheese, and bake in the oven until hot. Or use Pillsbury® Grands!® to make these fabulous Mexican Appetizer Cups.

You can also scramble up some eggs with chopped green and red peppers and onions, drop into the pastry puffs and cook at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for ten minutes or so.

If you want to get a little meatier, try Easy Meatball Poppers or substituting cheese sauce for shredded cheese to make Cheese 'n Bacon Biscuit Flatbread.

Let your imagination go wild with ingredients, but choose those that will cook up fast.

Spring Appetizers

Spring is a time of renewal and you can reflect that in your appetizers. One of my favorites is using the tortilla—think yummy nacho cheese pinwheels! Spread cream cheese and thin slices of ham with some chopped black olives and roll them up. Store in the fridge and cut in slices right before the party. If you're looking for more variety, here are some other delish pinwheel recipes on Tablespoon:

If cream cheese isn’t your game, try cheese spreads or fresh cheeses and different types of luncheon meats (make some cheese only for the vegetarians) and in a snap—you’re done.

Almost anything can be wrapped, refrigerated and sliced for a light appetizer that’s perfect for spring.


Appetizer Fun

The best part of appetizers you can make in advance is getting others involved, whether it’s chopping up veggies, whipping some eggs or spreading tasty cheeses and meats on tortillas for sandwich roll snacks.

Whatever appetizers you decide to serve, consider making your party platters more fun with seasonal paper shapes and favors.