40 Christmas Party Appetizer Ideas (Tried & True)

Host the perfect holiday soiree with these Christmas party appetizer ideas. This is my go-to list of finger foods, dips, cheeses, mini sandwiches and skewers that I’ve been serving at our annual cocktail party for over 2 decades! They’re all easy, delicious, and stand the test of time.

photo collage of Christmas party appetizers.

I’ve made these appetizer recipes over and over for my Christmas cocktail parties which means they’re proven crowd pleasers! Plus, there are lots of make-ahead options to help make hosting stress-free.

Follow my tips for a festive and successful menu, and pair it with one of our festive Christmas cocktails.

Appetizer Menu Formula

Wondering how to plan your appetizer menu? I’ve got you covered! Follow my proven formula for a heavy hors d’oeuvres buffet that has something for everyone.

The blueprint includes 3 groups that cross-reference each other. For instance a cheese option can also check the boxes for the dip category and the cold category.

  1. Meat + seafood + cheese + vegetarian. The meat can be beef, pork, or chicken. The cheese can cover a charcuterie board, a cheese ball, or a cheesy dip. Seafood is typically cold shrimp but can also include a dip. Vegetarian includes a vegetable tray, or spinach and artichoke appetizers & dips.
  2. Finger food & picks + dips & spreads + sandwiches + cups & crostini. Finger foods or food on party picks or toothpicks covers a wide variety of options that you can eat in a couple of bites. Dips or spreads can be hot or cold. Party sandwiches are easy to make ahead and help fill you up. Food in cups includes phyllo shells, wonton cups, or pastry cups, while crostini has tasty toppings on top of baguette slices.
  3. Hearty + light + hot + cold. Serve a variety of hearty options to help soak up the alcohol, as well as lighter bites that are less filling. Include some hot appetizers in chafing dishes, and cold appetizers that can be left at room temperature for a couple of hours.

Where to Begin

Here’s the starting point for every Christmas party menu, and how they fit into the formula above.

  • Meatballs – meat, hot, hearty
  • Shrimp – seafood, cold, light
  • Crudité platter – vegetarian, cold, light
  • Dip or Cheese ball – hot or cold, vegetarian
  • Party sandwiches – meat, hot or cold, hearty
  • Finger food (pastry shell cups or crostini) – hot or cold, meat or cheese, light or hearty
charcuterie board with Christmas cards and greenery on the side.

Expert Tips

  • Make what you can ahead of time, up to 2 days ahead for things that store well. Cut vegetables, make caramelized onions, bake sausage balls. Try to have everything prepped as much as possible the night before the party so all you have to do is assemble or bake the day of.
  • Plan on a menu that uses different methods of preparation. Some baked, some slow cooker, some cold, some individually prepared, some large batch recipes.
  • Double up on simple recipes that don’t require a lot of steps: puff pastry pinwheels, chicken salad cups, crock pot meatballs, baked brie or brie bites, cheese balls.
  • If you feel like the guest list is too large for individual portions, serve things that are easy to make in bulk. My go-to choices are cocktail meatballs or Little Smokies in sauce, beef or pork tenderloin, or spiral-sliced ham served with rolls and condiments so guests make their own sandwiches. Or, cook a box of penne pasta, mix in a jar of vodka sauce and shredded parmesan, and bake in a chafing dish so it can stay warm on the buffet.
  • For finger food that is cold or hot, serve them in batches and replenish when necessary.
mochi balls on white platter in the shape of a Christmas tree.

Best Holiday Party Appetizers

For the holidays I tend to stay away from rustic dishes like chicken wings or other football party food. I also tend to stay away from too many “cute” items that can take up a lot of time to make.

To make the menu more festive I like to serve things in the shape of a wreath or Christmas tree on a white or silver platter. Garnish with fresh rosemary and cranberries.

photo collage of meatballs and sausage appetizers.

Hot & Hearty Meat Appetizers

  1. Cocktail Meatballs. This classic appetizer is the number 1 item I start with. It’s hot and hearty and everyone just loves it! Bourbon sauce meatballs elevate the traditional jelly and chili sauce recipe making it great for the holiday.
  2. Smoke Sausage. Sliced smoked sausage in easy barbecue sauce.
  3. Kielbasa Medallions. kielbasa appetizers in easy sauce with just 2 ingredients.
  4. Chicken on Sticks. Serving chicken appetizers on a 4 or 6-inch skewer is reminiscent of catered affairs. Try teriyaki chicken skewers with peanut dipping sauce or jerk seasoned chicken skewer appetizers. Keep warm using a chaffing dish or warming tray.
photo collage with shrimp cocktail and appetizer skewers.

Easy Cold Items

  1. Shrimp Appetizer. Cold shrimp is the second item that always shows up on the menu. I go back and forth from year to year serving the marinated shrimp appetizer inside of a DIY ice bowl, or simple shrimp cocktail. There’s always an empty bowl at the end of the night.
  2. Vegetable platter. As basic as it may seem a simple vegetable platter is always a crowd pleaser. Sometimes I’ll add these stuffed cherry tomatoes to it, or make stuffed cucumber cups.
  3. Charcuterie skewers. Food on sticks is instantly festive and these charcuterie skewers are irresistible! Make them the day before so they have time to develop the full flavor. Place them in a circle to resemble a wreath and tuck in fresh rosemary.
  4. Fruit Skewers. Level up the fruit skewers with these ham, cheese & fruit kabobs. These delicious and light skewers are another favorite as it combines fruit and cheese with salty ham bites. Display them in a circle to look like a Christmas wreath.
photo collage with brie appetizer and cheese on picks.

Cheese

  1. Baked Brie. Hot, melted baked brie with 3 toppings to choose from is rich and indulgent. You can make just one, serve the trio, or add another with homemade cranberry sauce on top. Keep the brie warm by placing the platter on top of the water bowl of the chafing dish.
  2. Cheese Bites. Easy cheese hors d’oeuvres are ridiculously simple and easy, but pack a punch of flavor. Because they’re on small picks they make a fun tray of passed hors d’oeuvres.
  3. Cheese Ball. This party staple has been popular since the 50’s! Some of my favorite combinations are a cheese ball with bacon and pecans, or cheeseball with ranch seasoning served as mini sizes.
  4. Layered Cream Cheese Spread. This festive red, white and green Mediterranean cheese terrine is the perfect color combination for Christmas. Plus, it’s delicious and a make-ahead recipe.
  5. Chicken & Cream Cheese Spread. Canned chicken and cream cheese dip is another dish you need to make the day before so the flavors can marry.
  6. Baked Brie Bites. If full rounds of brie aren’t your thing, try mini brie bites in phyllo shells with apple butter and bacon. I’m obsessed with this combination of ingredients and how simple it is to make. And, these are fine at room temperature.
photo collage of mini beef sandwiches and mini muffin sandwiches.

Party Sandwiches

  1. Roast Beef Mini Sandwiches. Sliced beef elevates an appetizer party and these roast beef sliders with blue cheese are the perfect way to showcase that. Plus, they don’t have to be kept warm!
  2. Mini Muffin Appetizers. These mini corn muffin & smoked turkey sandwich appetizers start with Jiffy mix, brie, and a cranberry spread. And they’re served at room temperature for easy planning.
  3. Ham and Cheddar Party Sandwiches. EVERY time I make these ham & cheddar sliders with brown sugar glaze on top, people are begging for the recipe! It’s a scrumptious combination of savory and sweet. They’re terrific kept warm in a chaffing dish but also hold up well at room temperature for a couple of hours.
  4. Ham & Swiss Party Sandwiches. Baked ham and Swiss mini sandwiches on Hawaiian rolls with poppyseed butter are classic and get devoured every time. Keep warm or at room temperature.
photo collage of bacon wrapped appetizer bites.

Finger Foods

  1. Bacon Wrapped Dates. If you like a little bit of blue cheese then you’ll love bacon wrapped dates. Just 3 ingredients combined for a sweet, salty and tangy bite.
  2. Bacon Wrapped Apricots. I actually love these bacon wrapped apricots even more than the dates. There’s no cheese but there is a crunchy almond inside!
  3. Bacon Wrapped Little Smokies. For the meat lovers, bacon wrapped weenies are a delicious duo with a sweet brown sugar coating.
  4. Simple Hors d’oeuvres. Make these easy elegant hors d’oeuvres that only have 3 ingredients each. There are two options that are simple to make and easy to eat.
  5. Sausage Balls. I think these sausage balls are better than the original recipe. They have just a couple of extra ingredients that make them even tastier.
photo collage of Christmas party hors d'oeuvres.
  1. Chicken Phyllo Cups. There’s so much flavor in sweet & sour chicken in phyllo shells. I suggest you prepare the filling the day before and them fill and heat when ready to serve. Keep them warm in a chafing dish, a heating tray, or pass them on trays while they’re still warm from the oven. 
  2. Puff Pastry Pinwheels. Everyone from adults to kids loves ham and cheese puff pastry pinwheels. You’ll love them because you can prep them ahead and even freeze for a couple of months! Serve warm or at room temperature.
  3. Chicken Salad Cups. Cold honey chicken salad in pastry cups is delicious and holds up at room temperature for a couple of hours. Or, these sesame chicken salad in puff pastry shells are equally tasty but with a little Asian flair.
  4. Cheddar & Bacon Crostini. Hot and gooey cheese and bacon crostini are delightfully filling and easy to make. They’re best served warm but are also fine at room temp.
  5. Ham & Cheese Crostini. A mouth-watering alternative to cheddar and bacon is this ham & cheese crostini. You could even serve them as a duo on the same platter. 
  6. Artichoke Crostini. Hot and cheesy, these chicken and artichoke bruschetta have texture and flavor in every bite.
baked spinach dip in white dish.

Dips

  1. Cold Spinach Dip. I never have an appetizer buffet without something with spinach or artichokes so this classic spinach dip in a bread bowl is one recipe I reach for time and again.
  2. Baked Artichoke Dip. For a hot variation try my baked artichoke dip served with a variety of crackers or crostini.
  3. Crab & Artichoke Dip. Baked crab and artichoke dip is a delightful dip!

Snacks & Nibbles

  1. Chex Mix. I set out small bowls of Chex snack mix on the bar and around the party space so guests can nosh at their leisure.
  2. Sweet & Spicy Pecans. These sweet & spicy pecans are the perfect blend of sweetness and heat. They’re positively addictive!
  3. Savory Pecans. Nibble on savory seasoned pecans that have soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce and a hint of Tabasco.
  4. Sugared Pecans. Sweet candied pecans are absolutely divine!
  5. Homemade Cheddar Crackers. Homemade cheddar coins crackers are a traditional Southern snack. They’re like savory, cheesy shortbread cookies.

We’ve been enjoying these Christmas party appetizers for 20 years, with rave reviews! I hope you and your guests love them as much as we do.

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