Divine Dinner Party

Make Ahead Appetizers for
Thanksgiving, Christmas, or any Dinner Party

For Thanksgiving, Christmas, or any special dinner, nothing makes life easier than make ahead appetizers. The more you can have prepared ahead of time, the more time you get to spend with your guests. And, um... that's kind of the point of having them over in the first place, right?

Thanksgivng appetizers recipes with champagne

The Christmas and Thanksgiving appetizers on this page are scrumptious, elegant, and make a great presentation. And, even better, you can make them up a day or so in advance, freeing up time to babysit the turkey and share a glass of wine with your guests. So set out some of the following make ahead appetizers along with glasses and a few bottles of wine, and watch your guests get warmed up for the evening ahead.

Here, you'll find recipes for:

  • Toasted Pecans with Honey Chipotle Coating
  • Wild Mushroom Pate
  • Shots of Creamy Garbanzo Soup with Herbes de Provence
  • Shrimp Remoulade
  • Carmaelized Vidalia and Creamy Blue Cheese Dip

Each recipe is light, flavorful, and the perfect start to a large, rich dinner like Thanksgiving. And if you're looking for more make ahead appetizers for the holidays (or whenever!), here are a few great ideas that always go well at any holiday dinner:

  • Olive Tapenade with toast points and crackers
  • Cheese spread or a Cheese Ball with crackers
  • Hummus with Pita Chips and Crudites
  • Assorted Olive and Relish Tray
  • Variety Cheese Tray
  • Shrimp Cocktail (always a winner!)
  • Baked Brie
  • Cranberry Salsa with Tortilla Chips
  • Smoked Salmon Canapes on Buttered Brioche (but only set out a few, they're rich!)
  • Light Soups Served in Espresso Cups

Toasted Pecans with Honey Chipotle Coating

Honey Chipotle Pecans for a Holiday Buffet AppetizerThese little make ahead appetizers are an addictive combination of sweet and spicy. My advice is to always make more than you think you'll need-- they go quickly! If you don't have or can't fine chipotle powder, you can sub regular chili powder. You won't get that same distinctive, smokey taste, but they'll still be wonderful.

This make ahead appetizers recipe makes 2 cups of nuts and can be prepared up to a week ahead of time. Store in a sealed container.

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2 tbsp. honey
1 1/2 tsp. dried chipotle powder
3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 C. pecan halves (choose the nicest-looking ones!)
2 tbsp. granulated sugar (or golden brown sugar)
3/4 tsp. salt

Instructions: 1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

2. In a medium microwave safe mixing bowl, combine the honey, chipotle powder, and ground cinnamon. Warm through. (You can also do this on the stove. Use a skillet over low heat.)

3. Stir nuts into warmed honey mixture. Still well to coat.

4. On a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, spread honey-coated nuts in a single layer.

5. Bake until toasted and fragrant, about 15 minutes.

6. Remove from oven and allow to cool only slightly (no more than a minute or two-- you want them to still be sticky.)

7. In a clean, medium sized mixing bowl, combine the sugar and salt.

8. Dump the hot, coated nuts in the bowl and toss to combine.

9. Spread nuts on cold waxed or parchment paper and let dry. It's best if they don't touch each other.

10. Serve or store until ready to eat.

Wild Mushroom Pate Recipe

Wild Mushroom Pate Christmas Appetizers RecipeThis is one of the most impressive make ahead appetizers you'll ever prepare. Or eat. If you have any mushroom lovers in your group, they'll go crazy for this vegetarian pate recipe. The wild mushrooms in this (especially the morels) are a bit on the pricey side, but believe me... this pate is worth it. Don't want to spring on the most expensive mushrooms in the place? You can use a variety of less expensive mushrooms. It won't be exactly the same, but will still be heavenly.

Found enough make ahead appetizers recipes and want something to accompany them? If you love mushrooms, you'll love our Wild Mushroom Stuffing with Hazelnuts.

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3 tbsp. unsalted butter
1/2 C. minced shallots
2 tsp. garlic, minced
8 oz. shiitake mushrooms, chopped
8 oz. fresh morel mushrooms, chopped
8 oz. fresh chanterelle mushrooms, chopped
1/2 C. dry white wine
1 1/2 tsp. fresh thyme
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/4 C. chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 tsp. truffle oil (or sub olive oil, if necessary)
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
4 oz. soft goat cheese, softened

Instructions: 1. Be sure that all mushrooms are trimmed and cleaned before you chop them. The stems on your morel mushrooms should be removed completely. Chop mushrooms coarsely.

2. Melt butter in a large skillet. Add the shallots and garlic. Saute, stirring often, over medium-high until tender, about 2-3 minutes.

3. Stir in the mushrooms and saute, stirring often, until starting to brown, about 5 minutes.

4. Stir in the wine, thyme, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring, until the wine has cooked almost completely away.

5. Stir in the parsley and truffle oil.

6. Remove skillet from heat.

7. Spoon mushroom mixture into a large food processor or blender. Process until semi-fine.

8. Add cream cheese and goat cheese. Process until fine and well mixed. Taste and add additional salt and pepper, if needed.

9. Place in a serving bowl and chill, covered, at least 3 to 4 hours, and up to two days.

Creamy Garbanzo Soup with Herbes de Provence

Shot of Garbanzo Soup for a Party Appetizer IdeaA lot of people don't think of soup as a party appetizer... but it can be a great one! This recipe works well as a first course. But it's also a great appetizer idea when served in little espresso cups with little spoons, or in shot glasses. When served the right way, "soup shots" make great make ahead appetizers. Just prepare the soup the morning of, and warm it up when it's time to eat. As far as make ahead appetizers go, that's pretty simple, right?

Serve this as a first course garnished with any combination of: chopped cilantro or parsley, creme fraiche or sour cream, chopped roasted peppers, chopped black olive, sliced jalapeños, bacon crumbles, and chopped tomatoes. Or serve plain in a shot glass. Or set up a little "soup bar," complete with a tureen of this soup, little espresso cups, and a variety of the garnishes mentioned here for your guests to choose from. Warm, elegant, and a lot of fun!

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3 tbsp. olive oil
3 tbsp. unsalted butter
3 med. white onions, chopped fine
3 Serrano chilies, unseeded and chopped
1 head garlic, cloves peeled and sliced
3/4 C. celery, chopped fine
6 (15 oz.) cans garbanzo beans, drained
3 tbsp. ground cumin
3 tbsp. herbes de provence
3 tbsp. onion salt
3 tbsp. freshly ground white or black pepper
salt, to taste (if needed)
2 - 3 tbsp. lemon juice, or to taste
1/3 C. cream sherry, or to taste (or plain dry sherry)
1/2 C. heavy cream, or to taste
2 - 3 quarts chicken broth, as needed

Instructions: 1. In a large soup pot, melt butter into olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, chilis, garlic, and celery. Cook until tender, about 5 minutes.

2. Add drained garbanzo beans. Cook, stirring, on medium heat, about 5 minutes, until veggies and beans are tender.

3. Add cumin, herbes de provence, onion salt, and pepper. Cook on low about 10 minutes more, til contents of pot are fragrant and somewhat carmaelized.

4. If using a traditional blender, cover pot and allow to cool about 10 minutes before blending. If using a stick blender, you can blend right away. (A stick blender works best, allowing you to blend all at once instead of in batches.)

5. Blend mixture until very smooth. It will be very thick. Add chicken broth a bit at a time until you get your desired consistency (if serving soup shots without spoons, you'll want a thinner soup). Taste for salt and add more if necessary. Pulse in the blender (or with immersion blender) after each addition of broth.

6. At this point, the soup can be refrigerated until you're ready to serve your make ahead appetizers.

7. To serve, heat soup to a low simmer. Add cream sherry. Add heavy cream. Heat through, and serve as desired.

Make Ahead Appetizers: Shrimp Remoulade Recipe

Shrimp Remoulade Holiday Make Ahead AppetizersShrimp cocktail is one of the most popular make ahead appetizers, like, ever. But we've all had it 100 times and it can get boring. (Though, who am I kidding? It's always delicious!)

If you're looking for an alternate to shrimp cocktail, or just want some like Thanksgiving or Christmas appetizers that won't get in the way of a big meal, this shrimp remoulade is perfect. It's light, it's tangy, and it's very flavorful. Serve with toast points or a baguette for dipping into the yummy sauce, or in little cups on a bed of shredded lettuce. This even makes a great first dish when served over a salad.

Serves about 10. The fresher the shrimp, the tastier this dish will be. You can use pre-cooked, peeled shrimp if you like, but it won't be quite as good as fresh- cooked.

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3 lbs. fresh shrimp
2 1/4 C. olive oil
1 1/2 C. red wine vinegar
1/3 C. chili sauce
3/4 C. grainy Creole mustard
1 1/2 C. finely chopped celery
1 1/2 C. chopped green onions (both green and white parts)
3 bay leaves
salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
chili powder, for garnish
paprika, for garnish

Instructions: 1. Steam or boil peeled, deveined shrimp just until cooked though. Don't overcook! Chill until needed.

2. In a bowl, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, chili sauce, and mustard.

3. Add celery and green onions. Stir in salt, pepper, and bay leaves.

4. Stir in cooked, peeled shrimp. Sprinkle with paprika and chili powder. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

5. Remove bay leaves and let remoulade come to almost room temperature before serving.

6. Watch your guests eyes light up when they taste these spicy, flavorful little make ahead appetizers.

Caramelized Shallot and Blue Cheese Dip Recipe

Dips make wonderful make ahead appetizers... after all, most dips taste better as they sit, not worse. This is the kind of appetizer dip recipe that will have your guests scrambling for the recipe-- and the last scrap of dip in the bowl.

Pretty much anything tastes good with this dip recipe, which comes from Bon Appetit Magazine. Serve it with crackers, toast points, crudites, and kettle style potato chips. Or just give your guests a little spoon and watch them fight over it. Makes about 2 cups.

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1 tbsp. olive oil
1 3/4 C. chopped shallots
3/4 C. good quality mayonnaise
3/4 C. creme fraiche or sour cream
4 oz. good quality creamy blue cheese, at room temperature

Instructions: 1. In a skillet, saute shallots in olive oil over medium-low, covered, until golden and carmaelized. This should take about 20 minutes.

2. Let shallots cool.

3. In a mixing bowl, blend mayonnaise and creme fraiche. Add softened blue cheese.

4. Mash mayo mixture and blue cheese together until smooth.

5. Stir in cooled, carmaelized shallots. Add salt and pepper to taste.

6. Cover and refrigerate until flavors mix, at least three hours, or up to two days. Best when made one day ahead.

Note: It's best to choose a blue cheese without too much blue veining. If the cheese looks too blue, the dip may develop a grey color. It'll still be delicious, though!

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The date for Easter falls on April 20th this year!

Take a look at Easter Dinner and Party Planning for recipes, edd dye tips, assembling Easter baskets, and more!

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It's so cute, it may be the best thing you do this Easter.


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