In our New Year’s Eve Party Planning Challenge, we touched on serving appetizers and desserts at your party. But I really wanted to return to the topic of party appetizers, and go into that in a little more depth. How much do you need to serve? How do you choose what to serve? Hot or cold? How do you mix flavors?

33 New Year's Eve party appetizers and party tips by The Party Teacher

Let’s assume your party will be 8 p.m. to midnight. You can skip serving dinner, but that’s a long party and your guests will need to nosh. You’ll want to serve heavy appetizers and a variety of desserts.

The thing about planning appetizers is that it’s really easy to lean towards what you really like. For instance, when I began making the lists below, it was heavy on the cheese, because I looooove cheese. And not ALL the appetizers can be on little wonderful toasty slices of French bread. Sad, but true. So I’ve divided up these ideas into a few food groups to encourage you to serve a variety of appetizer types.

Here’s another wonderful, magical thing about appetizers: they are sold in grocery stores. Buy them frozen at Target or your warehouse club. Buy from fresh from Whole Foods. Make one or two yourself, sure — but don’t run yourself ragged trying to do it all yourself. (Remember: Martha Stewart has staff.)

Appetizer Ideas – Meats

Appetizer Ideas – Cheese

Appetizer Ideas – Fruit

Appetizer Ideas – Vegetables

Appetizer Ideas – Dips

Appetizer Ideas – Kid-Friendly

Tips for Choosing Your Appetizers

In addition to choosing one item from each of the categories above, you may want to offer:

When you make your appetizer choices, keep these tips in mind:

  • Balance what you will make vs. what you will buy.
  • Create a buffet with a variety of colors.
  • Balance hot and cold appetizers. You don’t want to be cooking right up until your party, and keeping hot foods warm may require chafing dishes and sterno.
  • What can you make a day ahead of your party?

Traditional New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day Foods

You may want to work traditional New Year’s Eve food into your party.

  • It would be easy enough to put out skewered grapes (Spaniards eat 12 grapes at midnight for good luck).
  • Pomegranate seeds bring prosperity, which sounds like a great excuse for a pomegranate cheese ball.
  • Long noodles are supposed to bring longevity. My family’s traditional New Year’s Day meal is chili over spaghetti with cornbread muffins (they represent gold), so we cover the “traditional” foods on January 1.
  • And here in the South, I’m supposed to love black eyed peas and collard greens. I don’t. If you do, knock yourself out! I’m not sure they have a place on an appetizer table.

How Much Should You Serve?

Better Homes & Gardens offers a handy serving guide for serving appetizers BEFORE dinner. Since you’re hosting an appetizers and desserts only New Year’s Eve party, and since it’s a long party, I’d double the number of appetizer selections offered.

  • 10 or fewer guests = 3 appetizer selections before dinner or 6 for appetizers only
  • 10-20 guests = 5 appetizer selections before dinner or 10 for appetizers only
  • 20-40 guests = 7 appetizer selections before dinner or 14 for appetizers only
  • More than 40 guests = 9 appetizer selections before dinner or 18 for appetizers only

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