Thanksgiving Appetizers

Yummy Tummy Teasers

I know what you're going to say: How can you possibly serve Thanksgiving appetizers with all of the food that's coming? Have everyone arrive three hours prior to dinnertime, that's how. There are parades and football games to watch, photographs to share, card and board games to be played, and generally lots of catching up to do.

When it comes to vibrant conversation, no need to wait until dinnertime. Get the ball rolling early with your fabulous Thanksgiving food ideas.


Cheese Balls

thanksgiving appetizer cheese balls in various colors

Let's expand on the Autumn Theme Menu from our Thanksgiving Menu Ideas page and add still more color and texture. Cheese balls covered in nuts are perfect for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner menu where you want to highlight the colors and flavors of the season. The crunchy outside paired with the creamy inside is a real palate pleaser.

Start with a blend of cream cheese and shredded cheddar or pepper jack cheese. If you're like me and like your food spicy, then go for the pepper jack. Better yet, make two platters: one with the kick of pepper jack, the other for milder tastes.

Prep is ridiculously easy. Form the cheese mixtures into balls approximately 1" in diameter. Then coat the balls in seasonal colors by rolling them in your choice of the following:

  • crushed pistachios
  • dried cranberries
  • crushed pineapple
  • chopped pecans
  • grated carrots
  • chopped jalapeno peppers
  • chopped scallions
  • chopped basil
  • crushed bacon
  • jellies and jams
  • chopped horseradish
  • chopped parsley


Crazy About Nuts

whole chestnuts spread on table

This is a fun appetizer. What's not to like about having your very own pouch of munchies? Roll up stiff paper to make paper cones. Fill them with the standard holiday nut: roasted chestnuts, a nut so special it has its own Christmas song!

But don't stop with only the chestnuts. Try something a little different with this Thanksgiving appetizer. After all, nuts are so versatile: you can make them spicy or sweet, serve them hot or cold, eat them sitting down or on the go.

It all adds up to the perfect first course for the Football Theme Menu from our Thanksgiving Menu Ideas page. Here are a few suggestions for what you can add to your cones of roasted chestnuts:

  • brown sugar
  • cinnamon
  • yogurt-covered raisins
  • toasted coconut
  • dried fruits
  • sprinkles
  • sea salt
  • chocolate
  • caramel

And let's not forget the standard Thanksgiving appetizer of spiced pecans. They make a welcome addition to your Thanksgiving table decorations when you place one cone at each person's place setting. An even bigger plus is they're so easy to make.

  • 3 cups shelled pecans
  • 6 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 Tbsp coarse salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground white pepper

Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl and spread out on a cookie sheet. Bake for 15 minutes at 350 degrees F. Let cool and serve in your paper cones.


Hummus and Vegetables

Everyone loves hummus and vegetables. To have this healthy appetizer fit the holiday motif, all you need to do is pay attention to the look, feel, and texture of your doctored-up spread. Fill some cute leaf-shaped bowls with the following hummus mixtures to create the warm colors of autumn:

  • curry
  • basil
  • garlic
  • sun-dried tomatoes
  • calamata olives
  • pine nuts
  • roasted peppers
  • spinach
  • roasted eggplant


red, yellow, and orange bell peppers

Now as for what to dip into the hummus Thanksgiving appetizers, think autumn, think texture, think...

  • yellow, orange, red, and green bell peppers
  • carrots
  • jicama
  • broccoli
  • endive
  • sugar snap peas
  • zucchini
  • yellow squash


Grilled Fruit Kabobs

If you are lucky enough to try a grilled fruit kabob you're unlikely to forget it. It's simply delicious. And since it's fruit, you're eating healthy, right? So go ahead and have a few of these guilt-free Thanksgiving appetizers.

Soak your bamboo skewers in water for a half hour prior to adding fruit and grilling. Use the following fruits for your grilled kabobs—approximate grilling times are in parentheses:

  • pineapple (5 minutes)
  • pitted nectarines (10 minutes)
  • bananas (5 minutes, slightly unripe)
  • apples (all colors, 25 minutes)
  • pears (15 minutes, slightly unripe)
  • pitted peaches (15 minutes)

Keep turning the kabobs. Not only do you want both sides to cook evenly, you want those great grill lines on both sides of these mouth-watering Thanksgiving appetizers.

Fruit can be grilled as is, or for a little extra punch create a glaze:

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • juice from 1 fresh lemon

Mix all the ingredients in a small saucepan. Cook on medium heat, stirring until the sauce comes to a boil. Keep warm. Brush on your fruit as it cooks, and pour a little over the kabobs before serving.


Sweet Potato Fries

sweet potato fries in checkered paper cone

How perfect are sweet potato fries as a Thanksgiving appetizer while you're watching the big game? You could make regular fries, but for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner menu you really have to go with sweet potatoes. These Thanksgivng appetizers are delightfully easy and can be used as one of your Thanksgiving side dish recipes too.

  • 1 large sweet potato per 3 people
  • coarse sea salt
  • fresh coarsely ground black pepper
  • olive oil

Peel and cut sweet potatoes into strips about 1/2" wide. Spread them out on a cookie sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper; drizzle olive oil over them. Cook for 15 minutes on 450 degrees F. Turn them over and cook another 10 minutes.

Here's where the fun starts. Create the following dipping sauces for your fabulous sweet potato fries:

  • honey-mustard thyme mayonnaise
  • dill lemon mayonnaise
  • rosemary garlic mayonnaise
  • cranberry chutney
  • mango chutney
  • sundried tomato mayonnaise

To serve the fries, pile them in rolled up paper. Supply the dipping sauces in little plastic containers. Now fries and sauce are easy to transport to the den (or wherever you have the largest flat screen TV).


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