Appetizers: Are They Essential or Can You Do Without?

During my early years of entertaining I took pride in planning a 5-6 course meal. I say pride, because that is when I was in to: “impressing,” and unnecessarily so. (You can read more about this in my book, The Reluctant Entertainer.)

Here’s what I take into consideration when deciding whether to serve appetizers or not:
– the cost of the meal
– how I’m delegating the entrees
– the amount of food
– the time frame of the evening
– how many people are coming
– if wine is being served

Appetizers aren’t always essential, only because we are trying to eat LESS food these days. But they can still be served, and a “light” appetizer is nice. But they don’t have to be elaborate. Having a little something to munch on (like nuts or chips and a dip or crackers and cheese) is perfect for this course.

When our friends came for dinner last weekend, I didn’t put much thought into what I served because I already had the ingredients.

To be prepared, keep these ingredients on hand:
– cheese
– crackers
– fruit
– nuts
– chutney (Harry & David chutney is always stocked in my pantry)

With a simple display and some small plates and cocktail napkins, create an intimate setting and ENJOY a few bites, but I say let’s save our efforts for the main meal, right?

Do you think appetizers are essential, or can you do without?

(I served a Mozzarella Log Wrapped In Prosciutto and Honey Crisp apples with crackers.)

23 comments on “Appetizers: Are They Essential or Can You Do Without?”

  1. We always have appetizers and they’re always simple. I also don’t put a lot of thought or creativity into them (usually nuts, olives, peppers, something like that) but I don’t know if people are starving when they walk in our door or not. If they missed lunch or whatever, I want to make sure they get something to eat as soon as they get to our place. Someone also mentioned that this is nice for people who are early or on time while they’re waiting for the inevitable late comers.

  2. My biggest fear is not having enough food. So I always have appetizers even if its just cheese and crackers and vegetables and dip. I always go over the top with food. I come from a very large family and we always had get togethers growing up and it always centered around lots of food. After getting married, I realized we may not be normal :) But I don’t care, there will never be a hungry guest at my house.

  3. Pingback: Strength of Friendships: Sweet Maple Butternut Squash! — Reluctant Entertainer

  4. I love the nibblies! We will often have a platter of cheese, salami, olives and sundried tomatoes etc out just because we can. We just reduce the size of our main meal to accommodate the extra calories :D
    And when we’re entertaining, we normally do quite a large spread of both hot and cold appetizers.
    I guess we don’t entertain that often, so when we do we kinda go all out.
    I’d choose nibblies over dessert any day of the week! (unless the dessert was a pavlova… then I’d just have to eat both…)

  5. We always like to serve a little something. Often times we are also serving wine, so it’s always good to have something for guests to munch on. I need to get better about keeping things on hand, so thank you for the ideas! Love your blog and your book!

  6. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! This is one area that I feel so inadequate. I did not grow up with an entertaining family…and I just don’t recall being served appetizers. However, in the area in which we now live…food seems to be more important….and many people serve appetizers. And seriously….I scoured the zines….everything seemed like so much work….I never knew what to serve….what was okay? And seriously…I really wanted the guests to focus and eat my meal. Sandy…you just made it sooo easy for me. And thanks for giving me permission to follow your example. Hugs!!

  7. We are definitely appetizer ONLY folks too–the variety, simplicity, and casual feel of serving them is a favorite. The only time we think of having appetizers with a full meal is if the amount of entertaining time is spread over more than 4 hours.

  8. Forget the meal…I LOVE appetizers! Love your blog girl…you are so the best!

  9. I would sometimes like JUST appetizers…

  10. Great post. I have to agree with Amanda. I am such a huge fan of appetizers and variety that I often opt to just serve appetizers…and plenty of them!

  11. You know what I love to do? Have people over FOR appetizers. I love to have a pre-party. It breaks the ice for the evening. It’s easy to arrange and plan, and I have still opened up my home to my friends.

  12. I do love appetizers but if I’m serving a big meal I don’t like to fill up before. Since I’m known for enjoying the appetizers and still eating the big meal it makes more sense for me to abstain serving appetizers.

  13. It’s nice to have something out as people come in….just seems more “hostess like” to me. My Mother was a southern gal and you knew if you walked into her home…she had lots of little things to eat….oh, and you never left her home without a goodie bag…..always great food.

  14. Essential? Well, probably not–but they’re my favorite part of the meal! And I love the way they get people to relax and visit together even if dinner is still being prepared.

    We always keep nuts (have you tried Costco’s Marcona almonds?) and cheeses and crackers on hand. Add some grapes and you’re in business!

  15. We always have something out for people to nibble on, be it brie with crackers, fresh fruit and cheese with wine before dinner. Nothing to heavy , just something to get the evening started. I like be able to start the evening off slow and then have dinner about an hour after our guests arrive, so it does take the edge off…..
    Blessings to you and yours
    Curtis & Sherrie

  16. I rarely do appetizers. I will sometimes have nuts, or veggies, something simple. I suppose it would all depend. When we have leaders parties we do all appetizers (finger foods). It is just too much food to have appetizers, main dish, dessert…unless there’s a good time span between the them.

  17. I am actually trying to avoid appetizers when I plan a “dinner.” I tend to fill up on them, still eat dinner, and hate myself afterwards for overeating. Even when I have a party where the food consists of just appetizers, I try to limit them. I’ve been to gatherings where everyone brings something, which is nice, but then you end up tossing a lot of the food. Or in my case, overeating.

    So when I am planning dinner, it’s usually just that. After all, it’s about all I can do sometimes to get all of the food on the table, much less an appetizer along with it!

  18. I can definitely do without them but if you have a guest list where some people will most likely arrive late it’s nice to have something for the people who are on time or early to nibble on…

  19. I love appetizers! Sometimes when I’m out, I’ll even order one for dinner. And we, too, have had many parties where that’s all we serve. But when I am doing a big dinner, then I do tend to put out something simple. I like your ideas, and I need some things always on hand because ever since we moved, people are always popping in!

  20. we do lots of grazing in our house when we entertain and i have been known to throw only finger food bashes. a LOT. It’s just easier – especially in the summer for some reason. We do lots of brie, hard cheeses and salamis, olives and yes, chutneys. I think i keep costco in business by buying tons of crackers – it’s kind of a weakness here.

    • I love this idea! Appetizers can be so much lighter than a heavy dinner…unless you totally pig out on them (C: but I love it…especially when you mention salami!! I LOVE SALAMI!

  21. It seems anymore that if we have appetizers, that’s all we serve for that gathering (and dessert)!

  22. Like you said. It depends on the number of people etc. If we are bbqing I like to have munchies out because we are usually outside playing and it’s good to have a little something on the belly while burgers are cooking. Other than that I probably wouldn’t serve appetizers at a formal dinner because I wouldn’t want people to fill up before the good stuff comes out. LOL!

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