Unique Appetizers You'll Wish You Knew About Sooner

When you've got family and friends coming over to visit, it's easy to throw together a bowl of guac and open a bag of chips as a pre-dinner snack, but appetizers don't always have to be quite so predictable. If you're looking to level up your pre-dinner game or you want to "wow" your friends with a unique snack during a cocktail hour, there are plenty of delicious recipes waiting for you to test-drive them. And remember, it's easy to turn recipes that might normally work as a main dish into appetizer-friendly options with cute, individual servings and bite-sized presentations. 

Also, think about the types of appetizers served at restaurants, especially those that aren't typical chain restaurants. These are the items you might order at a Thai, Indian, or Greek restaurant that offer flavor profiles that are a little more interesting than your standard Applebee's or Chili's apps. Best of all, these appetizers don't even have to be fancy or difficult to make, and they don't have to be totally "out of the box," either. They just need to be different, allowing for a new experience for you and your guests. 

Serve up individual calabacitas for a fresh starter

"Calabacitas" means zucchini in Spanish, and this quick-and-easy zucchini recipe is the perfect fresh starter for a spring or summer get-together. You can cook up a big pot in just 15 minutes that's packed with good-for-you ingredients like zucchini, yellow squash, corn, cilantro, onion, and garlic. When it's ready to serve, offer up cute, individual serving dishes for your guests. Simply top with queso fresco (or your other favorite cheese) and you have the perfect appetizer to pair with white wines or cold sparkling ciders. 

Start your guests off with a spicy Thai soup

Who says soups don't work as appetizers? If you think of an appetizer as the first course in a series of courses, soups actually make an excellent "first taste" of whatever cuisine you're serving up. Plus, you can make a giant pot of soup, then dish out small, individual portions in cups or bowls, making it an easy way to serve a crowd. This Thai curry soup may look complicated, but it only takes 45 minutes from start-to-finish and makes seven full-sized servings. If you're doling out smaller portions as an appetizer, you can likely stretch it to 10 to 14 servings, or simply double the recipe of this flavorful soup.

Skip the mini sandwiches and opt for collard wraps instead

When you're looking to surprise your friends with a new type of appetizer, these falafel collard wraps will do the trick on a couple of levels. First, by ditching the standard bread wrap and replacing it with collard leaves, you're serving up something colorful, full of nutrients, and unique for many palates. Second, these falafel and hummus-filled wraps work especially well with other Middle Eastern dishes that can star in your dinner party. Of course, you can use collards to make wraps of different flavors and styles, so don't be afraid to experiment and serve up a whole platter of these colorful, interesting, bite-sized wraps.

Spanakopita makes for a delicious appetizer

Spanakopita is a savory Greek pastry consisting of phyllo dough, spinach, onions, Greek yogurt, feta cheese, and assorted spices. This spanakopita recipe can be made ahead of time, frozen, and then reheated and served in delightful little triangles. It may look a little intimidating to make, but don't let that deter you. If you're worried, you can practice the recipe a couple of times first but, ultimately, a whole pan only takes about 45 minutes to make. So, with a touch of practice, it's really not that hard at all. 

Shrimp rolls are a quick and easy appetizer

Shrimp cocktail is a classic appetizer, but if you're looking to serve shrimp in a slightly different package, consider whipping up these easy shrimp rolls. In addition to the shrimp itself, your guests will enjoy a mix of fresh veggies and vermicelli noodles, wrapped up nicely in rice paper and served with a tasty, homemade peanut butter sauce. The recipe takes just 20 minutes to make, yielding 10 rolls, but you can always double or triple the recipe to serve to a larger group of guests. 

Choose a healthier appetizer option with Buffalo cauliflower

If you're looking for a vegetarian-friendly appetizer, these Buffalo cauliflower bites make for an excellent alternative to Buffalo chicken wings. The taste isn't exactly the same as chicken, but your guests are unlikely to complain (and they may actually love taste-testing a new way to enjoy veggies). If you can, serve up a platter over a warming dish so your guests can keep going back for more, and don't forget a side of ranch dressing, which is practically a requirement anything served with Buffalo sauce.

Crab-stuffed mushrooms are a bite-sized appetizer delight

These crab-stuffed mushrooms look and taste fancy, but they only take 40 minutes to make, serving 20 individual hand-held appetizers. Plus, the prep is simple. All you have to do is wash and hollow out the mushroom heads, then whip together the filling in a flash, fill the mushrooms, and bake. All you need is cream cheese, crab meat, green onions, breadcrumbs, and seasonings. These appetizers will make you look like an accomplished chef, but even those with almost no experience in the kitchen can pull this recipe off.

Start your guests off with coconut shrimp

When you're looking for another shrimp appetizer option, especially in the summer months, consider this coconut shrimp recipe that you can whip up in less than 30 minutes. You simply triple-coat the shrimp before frying, with the top coat consisting of bread crumbs and coconut to give the shrimp a nice, crispy consistency. A pound of shrimp makes roughly four servings, so if you're cooking for a crowd, you may want to double or triple the recipe. 

Skip the chips and salsa and opt for easy crab cakes

Crab cakes are almost always a crowd-pleaser, making an excellent starter or pre-dinner snack when you're expecting company. This crab cake recipe only takes 25 minutes from start to finish. You can even turn them into mini crab cake sliders by serving them on rolls with a cocktail or tartar sauce. Plus, you can elect to broil or air fry the crab cakes, cutting down on the added fat that the recipe takes on when frying them the traditional way. 

Small servings of moussaka make for a filling appetizer

If you're looking for an international dish that most of your guests haven't ever tried before, you might want to whip up a casserole of moussaka. This popular dish has various renditions in the Middle East, Greece, Turkey, and the Balkans, with layers of eggplant, lamb, potatoes, onion, tomatoes, cheese, and other hearty ingredients. As such, when serving it as an appetizer, you may want to slice it into smaller pieces or even adjust the recipe to make it in muffin tins instead of in a typical casserole dish. 

Individual dishes of pierogies make for a fun appetizer

Never considered serving dumplings as an appetizer before now? After you try this pierogies recipe, you'll be asking yourself why you aren't doing that right now. You can serve one or two of these cheese-and-potato-filled pockets of dough to each guest with a dipping sauce or topping of sour cream. The recipe makes 40 pierogies, making it perfect for a big party. To be clear, it's not a fast recipe, but you can make these pierogies ahead of time, blanch them in boiling water for 30 seconds, and then pop them in the freezer for later use.

Choose fried zucchini for a new appetizer option

When you're setting up an appetizer buffet for grazing, skip the fried cheese sticks or onion rings and opt for fried zucchini instead. It'll take about 25 minutes to make six servings, although there's no reason you can't just slice up a few more zucchini and make a towering plateful. These make a particularly good option if you're hosting a party where people are likely to taste-test all the items available, so they won't grab more than a few slices (although they're probably going to want to go back for seconds). 

Who needs garlic bread when you can make naan?

Garlic bread, corn muffins, and rolls are all great, but why not mix things up and try your hand at making homemade naan? This Asian flatbread is easy to make, with most of the two-hour prep time entirely hands-off as the dough rises. That said, you'll want to double, triple, or even quadruple the recipe if you're serving a crowd, as the original recipe only makes four flatbreads. Serve with hummus, plain Greek yogurt, or the dip of your choice. 

Try a twice-baked potato bar for a big party appetizer

Twice-baked potatoes are an excellent appetizer for big parties, especially when you know you'll be serving a crowd. Simply choose small potatoes to make individual-sized portions. Then the rest is simple. Aside from the baking itself, the hands-on prep time is only about 15 minutes. The resulting appetizer includes all the best flavors, including cheese, sour cream, butter, salt and pepper, and, if desired, cilantro and jalapenos. 

Serve up pre-dinner spice with spicy chicken potstickers

Potstickers consist of a wonton wrapper packed with tasty fillings, including ground chicken, shredded cabbage, scallions, sweet potato vermicelli, carrots, and mushrooms, along with a slew of seasonings and spices. This recipe for potstickers is particularly spicy, which makes them great as an appetizer. People will love the one or two they eat, but may not want to wolf down a whole plateful. They take about an hour and a half to make but easily serve 10 guests. 

Surprise guests with a bloomin' onion appetizer

Fried onion "blossoms" are popular appetizers at chain restaurants, but outside of this setting, you're less likely to find them on the typical appetizer table. But the reality is, the bloomin' onion isn't that hard to prepare at home after all. It's an easily-sharable hit when people want to pick at different foods before the main meal. It'll take about 20 minutes to prep and fry the sweet onion and have it ready to serve alongside a sauce of mayonnaise, ketchup, horseradish, and a few spices. 

Try an asparagus tart for a new appetizer option

Skip the quiche and opt for a different type of savory appetizer by making homemade asparagus and gruyere tart. The bright green asparagus makes for a beautiful dish. Cut into smaller pieces, it's also easily served for a group. It's even the perfect brunch option served up alongside a bellini or mimosa as a refreshing drink. This appetizer will take about 45 minutes to make, but rest assured knowing that 35 of those minutes are reserved for baking it in the oven.

Taquitos are a fun alternative to chips and salsa

Store-bought taquitos are a familiar tactic to keep teenage hunger at bay before dinner, but if you're looking for a more adult option to have on hand before dinner, you can easily make homemade taquitos that taste a whole lot better than the boxed variety. Plus, they only take 20 minutes to make, assuming you use pre-cooked shredded chicken. They're perfectly served next to a variety of dipping options, like salsa, sour cream, guacamole, queso, and even ranch dressing. 

Okonomiyaki are a delicious way to get your veggies

If you've never heard of okonomiyaki, then your guests probably haven't either, which makes this simple, Japanese "pancake" the perfect quick appetizer to sub in for more traditional pre-dinner snacks. But don't assume you're serving an actual pancake. Instead, think of these as more of a savory snack featuring cabbage, eggs, green onions, and bread crumbs. When pan-fried, you can whip up four okonomiyaki in about 25 minutes, but you can double or triple the recipe as needed. Just serve with sriracha dressing and sesame seeds to add a spicy finish. 

Hand-held fried crab rangoon makes the perfect appetizer

Any handheld pocket of bready goodness filled with a savory interior makes for the perfect appetizer option, and this recipe for crab rangoon is no different. You can make 12 wontons in about 25 minutes, so it's the perfect grazing option. Since you're actually using imitation crab meat for this dish, increasing the number of ingredients won't drastically affect your grocery bill. And, other than the imitation crab, you really just need green onions, cream cheese, and garlic, all stuffed inside the delicious wonton wrappers.