Everybody loves a good party. And while we all go for the conversation, the comradery and getting caught up on what all your friends have been up to, let’s be honest, part of what we enjoy most about the gathering is the food (and a drink or two.) For us, there's something that even trumps showing up at a party and seeing a table laid out for a four-course meal — It's walking in and seeing a table laid out with finger foods!
What Are Finger Foods?
Finger foods are everything you want in a sit-down meal that still fits between your fingers. It’s brilliant, and it’s also a lot less work. You need far less prep and cleanup time because you’re not pulling out every single piece of cutlery and serve ware you have. There's no more time wasted wondering which fork goes where and “Is this a soup or a stew?”
To top it all off, finger foods are a ton of fun. You can make each "dish" a different color and texture. Seriously, they are a party on the table at a party! Finger foods, which are also called heavy appetizers, are the perfect choice for serving at a wide variety of occasions. Consider serving finger foods when:
Types of Finger Foods
You’ll want to have a diverse sampling of the finger foods because they're all bite-sized and you can afford to offer more. Timing is everything. If you’re having a party around the normal lunch or dinner times, you must provide something heartier than just cheese, fruit and crackers. Consider a menu of handheld delicacies from these categories:
- Healthy — A veggie or fruit served raw, cooked or stuffed
- Starch — This is the “heavy” in heavy appetizer and examples include mini sandwiches, pizza, rolls, dumplings and breadsticks
- Protein — Meatballs on sticks, shrimp, deviled eggs and deli meats give your guests good protein
- Snacks — When you are hosting grazers who will return repeatedly, offer nuts, chips, crackers and popcorn
- Dips — Salsa, ranch, queso and spreads like mustard, cream cheese and cocktail sauce all bring a table together
- Desserts — Cookies, brownies, candies, cupcakes and chocolates all do the trick
How Much Do I Need?
The worst party to attend is the one that runs out of food. You also don’t want so much left over that you can’t possibly eat it all before it goes bad. We’ve got some head count to finger food portion guidelines for you:
- 10-15 guests = 6 appetizer selections
- 15-30 guests = 9 appetizer selections
- 30-50 guests = 12 appetizer selections
- 50-plus guests = 13 appetizer selections or get a caterer
Keep in mind each guest will eat about 12 appetizers over the course of a party. In general, people eat five appetizers the first hour and three each additional hour they are there. Plus, they graze on snacks in between. If you know your son’s football buddies will double that number or if your husband comes from a family of big eats, then plan for more, accordingly.
The Perfect Party Food
Choosing the perfect food for your party can make you break into a cold sweat. There is no one perfect party food, but there is food perfect for each party. Food for a Super Bowl party will differ from say, an engagement celebration. Think about the theme of your party and how you want the food to represent that theme.
Different events will require a different theme of food. Consider these pairings of finger foods at the following parties:
- Sporting events: Nachos, pizza, cookies, pretzels, popcorn, nuts
- New Year’s Eve: Bruschetta, antipasto, shrimp cocktail, meatballs
- Birthday: Finger sandwiches, fruit-and-cheese platter, cupcakes
- Bridal and baby showers: Veggies and dips, canapes, blondies
- Kid’s parties: Pizza sticks, chips and dips, brownies
You want your food to be delicious and in keeping with your theme. An English tea party would have cucumber sandwiches, scones and clotted cream not nachos and pizza. You can do internet searches for specific themes like the 80s, Irish and New Orleans, all ideas that require region-specific or time frame-specific foods. You also can find platters and plates at thrift stores to add to the theme and set the atmosphere of the night.
If you have a guest attending who has a severe allergy to a food item, like nuts, make sure you don’t serve any at all. The last thing you want is someone going into anaphylactic shock because a stray almond made it into their spoonful of dip.
If you have one friend who is a vegan and nobody else is, make them a small dish of something special. A small salad just for them coupled with a veggie and hummus platter will go a long way toward making them feel welcome.
10 Best Finger Foods for Events
Whether you’re bringing a dish to an outdoor barbecue, going tailgating with friends or hosting your very own Oscar watch party, any of these finger foods will keep people coming back for more.
1. Sweet Potato Bites
These don’t just add a ton of flavor to the table, they also add a huge pop of color. Cut 2-3 sweet potatoes into half-inch slices. Brush the slices with olive oil and sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Pop them in a 450-degree oven for 20 minutes, take out, flip and bake for another 10 minutes until they’re golden on both sides.
Now, go crazy! You can top them with:
- Smashed avocado
- Goat cheese
- Butter and brown sugar
The possibilities are endless, so get creative!
2. Goat Cheese Stuffed Apricots
Sound fancy and hard? Well, you’re right about the fancy part. Halve 6 apricots, drop in a dollop of goat’s cheese, drizzle with honey and sprinkle with toasted pecans for crunch. Boom! You're done and you’re a hero.
3. All Kinds of Cheese Balls
Listen, you only need a cute plate and a bunch of crackers for this party pleaser. The base will be cream cheese, the rest is up to you. We like cheddar and bacon. You can add ham, pineapple and chives, pear and pecan drizzled with honey. Again, the possibilities are only limited if your creativity is.
4. Bacon Endive Tomato Bites
You want to get a little swanky? Combine halved grape tomatoes, champagne vinegar, thyme, chives, olive oil, black pepper and salt, all depending on how many you need and your taste. Scoop a little into individual Belgian endive leaves and sprinkle with crumbled bacon. Your guests are sure to be in awe of your fancy finger foods.
5. Melon, Mozzarella and Prosciutto Skewers
Elegant and easy are the two E’s any party thrower wants. Cut bite-sized pieces of honeydew and cantaloupe and place them on small wooden skewers first. Fold a piece of prosciutto and skewer on top of the melon. Last, top it off with a mozzarella pearl. Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper. Keep half in the fridge until they snatch up the first batch.
6. Apple Cartwheels
These are perfect for a children's party. Mix peanut butter, a little honey, mini chocolate chips and a few raisins. Core four red apples, unpeeled. Fill the center with your sweet mixture. Cut each apple into quarter-inch rings and refrigerate until you’re ready to serve. These are super cute and a hit with kids.
7. Party Roll-Ups
Thinly spread a package of cream cheese over six tortillas. Add a thin layer of deli ham and six spinach leaves each. Sprinkle each with a layer of drained chopped green chilies. Roll-up in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm. Unwrap and cut each into 12 pieces. This is your hearty plate.
8. Classic Cheese Plate
Make this one pretty and colorful. Add a wedge of brie, cubed cheddar and pepper jack, and a roll of goat cheese. Add grapes on the vine, sliced pear, apple and mixed fresh berries. Couple this with water crackers and crispy pita chips. People will flock to this one.
9. Stuffed Cold Mini Peppers
Combine cottage cheese, diced ripe avocado, sliced green onion and a little garlic powder. Cut the tops off 20 sweet mini peppers. Stuff with your cheese mixture and sprinkle with salt and pepper. This colorful dish will liven up your table.
10. Party Shrimp
Combine a tablespoon of olive oil and heavy dashes of paprika, Italian seasoning, basil and black pepper with two teaspoons brown sugar, a diced garlic clove and a squeeze of lemon juice. Combine with a pound of large shrimp and refrigerate for 2 hours. Then broil for 3-4 minutes per side. It is delicious and easy to make.
These finger foods make your life easier and your party festively fun. Get out all the pretty or cool platters and plates you have to make these even more appealing to your guests. You can put dips into wine glasses or that rogue goblet you picked up at a thrift store years ago.
Add a bowl of salted nuts, party mix and hummus with pita chips and you have more than enough finger foods to keep a party going for hours. If you’re bringing one of these dishes to an event, just bring along some colorful cocktail napkins to show off not needing silverware to dig in.
To top off the night, mix up brownies or cookies and display them on a platter sprinkled with powdered sugar. Add a few raspberries to the plate and you can color everyone impressed. Once you’ve laid out all your finger foods, you get to enjoy the evening with everyone else instead of spending the whole night fussing around in the kitchen and cleaning up piles of dirty dishes. Live it up!