Easy appetizer recipes for your New Year’s Eve party

Easy appetizer recipes for your New Year’s Eve party
(Scott Suchman for The Washington Post/food styling by Lisa Cherkasky for The Washington Post)


It’s a busy time of year for many of us. We’re often juggling who we’re spending time with and where we’re going, and picking priorities can be difficult. Sometimes our desire for festivity runs up against reality.

New Year’s Eve is a prime example. We’ve just survived weeks of gathering with family and friends, probably with a lot of cooking. And now we’re supposed to do it all again?

To make it work, we suggest putting out a few of these festive, fun, flexible and foolproof snacks from the Voraciously team. These are the kinds of bites that take little in the way of ingredients, time and effort. Some require no cooking at all. Add a beverage or two — or recruit your guests to pitch in — and you’ll be set to greet the new year with a smile on your face.

Goat Cheese and Jam Phyllo Cups

Want to serve a fancy-looking hot nibble fast? This little gem from my friend and fellow food writer Suzy Leonard to the rescue. The frozen phyllo shells make the bite-size treats look a little elegant. You can fill them with goat cheese, which is my preference, or any soft or crumbly cheese you like, such as brie or feta. For the topper, consider pepper jelly (my favorite), fig jam or orange marmalade — or any flavors you like. Slip them in the oven for about 10 minutes and you’ll have bites of golden, crisp phyllo with a melty sweet-and-salty filling. One caution: Let them rest a minute or two. The topping will be hot.

All you need is: 15 frozen phyllo cups; 15 teaspoons soft chevre or goat cheese; and 8 teaspoons jam, jelly or marmalade.

To make it: Position a rack in the middle of an oven or toaster oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Place the phyllo cups on a baking sheet. Add 1 teaspoon of goat cheese to each cup. Top with about 1/2 teaspoon of jam, jelly or marmalade. Bake for 10 minutes, or until cups start to brown and the jam begins to bubble. Allow to cool for at least 2 minutes. The jam will be hot. Serve warm.

Potato Chips With Sour Cream and Salmon Roe

Years ago, my husband and I were invited to a New Year’s Eve party, and I volunteered to make a sweet potato lasagna (long story) and buckwheat blini with sour cream and salmon roe. Well, I managed to slice a tip of my finger off and almost ended up in the ER. We showed up with a finished lasagna — and a heavily bandaged hand that I had to keep elevated for hours — but the blini had to be jettisoned. Instead, I grabbed a bag of ruffled potato chips, and we made the best of it with dollops of sour cream decorating each chip, and a few jewel-like salmon roe orbs atop each creamy mound. This high-low appetizer is fun to assemble, even more fun to eat and pairs beautifully with any sparkling beverage. It’s so good that it’s become our go-to New Year’s appetizer. It takes minutes to throw together — and it doesn’t hurt that it comes with a story!

All you need is: A bag of lightly salted potato chips, preferably with ridges; an 8- or 16-ounce container of sour cream (it’s your party and I am not telling you how much sour cream to have); a 7-ounce jar of salmon caviar; and fresh chives for sprinkling.

To make it: Using a dessert spoon, dollop small mounds of sour cream on a number of potato chips (depending on how many people you’re serving). Top those mounds with a few salmon roe orbs and garnish with minced fresh chives. Serve with a bubbly — champagne, beer, hard cider or nonalcoholic libation — of your choosing.

Pepper, Olive and Anchovy Skewers

One of the most popular pintxos in Spain’s Basque region is known as Gilda, after the 1946 film starring Rita Hayworth, presumably because the snack is, like the femme fatale, salty and spicy. Designed to be eaten in a single bite, the brassy skewer proves the perfect companion to an aperitif or sparkling wine.

All you need for 8 skewers is: 16 manzanilla or other green pitted olives; 8 oil-packed Spanish anchovies; 8 pickled guindilla or other pickled green chile peppers; and extra-virgin olive oil (optional).

To make it: Trim the stems of the guindilla or other pickled green chile pepper, and if they’re large, cut in half. Thread an olive toward the bottom of a toothpick or other skewer. Follow with an anchovy, doubled over, and a pepper, also bent if it’s large. Finish with the second olive as a topper. Repeat with remaining toothpicks. A light drizzle of olive oil lends sheen and richness to the pintxo.

Roasting grapes, even ones that have started to go soft, gives them new life and flavor — and makes them nice enough to serve to company. They are also a fitting New Year’s Eve snack, given the Spanish tradition of eating 12 grapes at midnight. Roasted grapes work well as a snack on their own, but they pair especially well with cheese (or Ann’s goat cheese phyllo cups). Depending on how you want to serve them, you can remove all the grapes from the stems before roasting or separate them into small bunches still attached to the stems to let people grab a few at a time. Hat tip to the simple recipe on the Kitchn from Nora Singley, which inspired my approach.

All you need is: Up to 2 pounds seedless grapes, preferably a mix of green, red and black (Moon Drop are especially nice); olive oil; salt; black pepper; and sprigs of fresh herbs, such as thyme or rosemary (optional).

To make it: Position a rack in the middle of an oven or toaster oven and preheat to 425 degrees. Toss the grapes with 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil (use the higher amount for more grapes) and season with salt and pepper. Nestle the herbs among the grapes, if using. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, depending on how soft and jammy you want the grapes. Serve warm, at room temperature or cold.

This dead-simple dish comes from the don’t-knock-it-till-you-try-it files. When I first reported on the social media phenomenon of people spreading softened butter onto cutting boards and topping the whole thing with Insta-friendly garnishes — and then dipping bread into the concoction — I thought it sounded a little silly. Why not just, uh, butter some bread? But then I needed a quick cocktail snack for visiting friends, and while scanning what ingredients I had, my eye landed on the butter dish. It’s not so much a recipe as a formula, and you can top it with whatever you have on hand. I tried fresh thyme, drizzles of honey and olive oil and a shower of Maldon salt. The result was a pretty and pleasing low-lift of a pantry appetizer — just don’t be surprised if guests tag you in their ’Gram of it.

All you need is: At least two sticks of butter, softened; toppings can be whatever you have around: honey, oil, nuts, capers, citrus zest, jam, figs, radish, pickled vegetables, capers, fresh herbs, dried fruit, roasted garlic, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, flaky or kosher salt, spice mixes and red pepper flakes. For dipping, crackers or crusty bread.

To make it: Spread the butter onto a cutting or bread board, leaving at least an inch around the edges (an offset spatula helps, but a regular knife does just fine). Top however you like, and serve with crackers and bread (I like to cut the latter into cubes to discourage double-dipping).

Cherries Stuffed With Hazelnuts

Here’s an easy appetizer born out of my own pantry grazing. We didn’t have trail mix, but we always have the elements: several types of nuts, several types of dried fruits. So I took my favorite combination, hazelnuts and dried cherries, and mashed them together — literally — and immediately knew I’d build on this idea for my next dinner party. A drizzle of pomegranate molasses brings some sticky tartness, and a sprinkle of ground chipotle powder adds a touch of heat. The hardest thing is finding the largest whole (not sliced) dried cherries possible, but even if you can’t, this still works.

All you need is: 1/2 cup toasted hazelnuts (don’t worry about peeling them); 1/2 cup large dried whole cherries, preferably tart (Whole Foods 365 brand is good); pomegranate molasses; ground chipotle powder; and flaky sea salt.

To make it: Press each hazelnut into a dried cherry, smushing the cherry around the bottom of the nut as needed, and set them on a platter. Drizzle with a little pomegranate molasses, then sprinkle with chipotle powder and flaky salt.