One of the best parts of the holiday season (in addition to giving thanks and being with loved ones, of course), is the appetizers.
With plenty of family gatherings and dinners with friends, everyone needs to enter this wonderful time of year equipped with a few easy dishes to prep the tastebuds for the meals ahead. Whether you're hosting an intimate December dinner or going to a family member's for Thanksgiving, TODAY Food has rounded up some of our best Thanksgiving appetizers and holiday hors d'oeuvres.
Crostini and bruschettas
Crostini are the perfect thing to whip up when guests stop by. The poached pears soaked in Italian grappa are especially comforting as the weather gets cooler. They're easy to make and always delight a crowd.
It's hard to beat the timeless pairing of earthy, sweet figs and fragrant goat cheese. Inspired by a restaurant in Provence, France, Ina Garten infuses this simple bruschetta with vanilla and orange zest.
Tease the tastebuds for those roasted Brussels sprouts with Bobby Flay's inventive combination of creamy ricotta, Brussels and a decadent maple bacon.
Savor the season with hearty root vegetables. 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.
Candied bacon, or “pig candy” as Elizabeth Heiskell call it, is always a home run. She loves to keep the bacon strips whole, wrapped around crunchy breadsticks and stuffs them into a mint julep cup to make the perfect nibble for any cocktail.
Curtis Stone's appetizer is savory, rich and yet has a delicate balance of crunch and bitter arugula. They're so tasty, don't be surprised if they're the first thing to go.
Would it be a Thanksgiving party without a pumpkin party cheeseball. No, probably not. This festive cheese dish made with creamy smoked cheese is easier to make than one may think.
A single show-stopping cheese — a gooey baked brie — is perfect for cocktail hour. Start with store-bought puff pastry (a great timesaver!) and roll in ground pecans, which add a nutty note to this mouth-watering appetizer.
Wow guests with a fun platter of melty cheese they can use to dip an assortment of breads, crackers, pretzel bites or even veggies.
"This dip is downright addictive — you just cannot stop eating it! I have never taken it to a party without at least three people requesting the recipe," Heiskell says of her holiday hit recipe.
This soup skirts the line between sweet and savory in the most perfect way. Traditional dessert ingredients like honey, apples and vanilla bean play off the natural sweetness of the squash, while the aromatic onions and vegetable stock keep it grounded in a savory flavor profile.
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!
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.
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.
A naturally sweet soup gets a salty touch from parmesan cheese and herbs. It's so comforting, impressive and only takes five minutes to prep (and 30 minutes to hit the table!).
Inventive vegetables and salads
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
Finger foods (toothpicks are good, too)
Potato pancakes are a favorite holiday dish of Ina Garten's husband Jeffrey. Her secret for the crispiest and creamiest ones is to combine both grated and mashed potatoes.
These super sprouts are so cute, they're irresistible. The recipe can be a side dish or an appetizer, and it's a cinch to make — only three ingredients. The best way to get a picky eater to eat their vegetables? Wrap 'em in bacon!
These crab-stuffed mushrooms may look totally decadent, but they're actually light and airy, which means they're an ideal way to start a holiday celebration. And don't be shy about making a big batch — even if they're just for you and your loved ones.
Packed with a little sweetness and a lot of punch, these adorable, bite-sized meatballs are fun to serve as a finger food (though some festive toothpicks might help cut back on saucy fingers).
Flaky, crisp phyllo dough, tender asparagus with a cheesy, salty filling — this easy-to-make appetizer will definitely be a hit at any holiday dinner.
Who knew that the humble new potato could be turned into shell casing for a bullet of flavor? These little bombs of cheesy, buttery flavor are a great way to fuel up for the holiday season.