Our top 10 favorite Southern appetizers to serve at a party
Whether you’re planning your next dinner party or hosting a small get-together, these appetizers, a.k.a. little bits of Southern goodness, will keep your guests happy before the big meal.
Appetizers and small bites are also the perfect alternative to a big dinner. Tell your guests they’re Southern small plates — they’ll think you’re fancy. To help you plan the menu, we’ve gathered our 10 absolute favorite apps that will totally steal the show.
Anne Byrn’s Cheese Straws
Cheese straws are a no-brainer: cheap, easy to make, and fun to snack on. They may not be originally Southern, but since you’ll find them on the table at most Southern parties, we’ve adopted them as our own. To keep things simple, our recipe calls for little more than cheese, flour and butter — you’ve already got those in your pantry, right? We balance out the bite of extra-sharp cheddar with some plain ‘ol sharp, and add a teensy shake of cayenne for just a touch of heat. (Feel free to leave it out if you’d rather your cheese straws stay pure.) Pro-tip: Don’t stress about making them perfectly; misshapen cheese straws are still cheese straws, after all. Pair them with tomato soup for extra credit.
Cheesy Grit Fritters with Hot Pepper Jelly
If you’ve got some leftover grits hanging around your kitchen, this is the perfect way to transform them into an appetizer. Make sure the grits are cooled down completely so that you can easily form the fritters and — most importantly — stuff them with cheese. These fritters can be served alone, but we recommend whipping up some hot pepper jelly to dip them in.
Coca-Cola Glazed Wings
Coca-Cola may sound like an unusual option to use as a glaze for chicken wings, but the sweetness of Coke paired with the heat of the peppers creates an incredible flavor profile. The glaze is simple: Brown sugar, lime juice, Coca-Cola and chopped jalapenos simmer together into a syrupy glaze. Once you’ve got that, all you need to do is grill, baby, grill.
Anne Byrn’s Fried Green Tomatoes
It’s a plain and simple fact: Southerners love frying green tomatoes. Between the crisp and crunchy exterior and bright and juicy center, it’s hard to find fault in this classic appetizer. Our best recipe comes, unsurprisingly, from Anne Byrn, who tested and tried many of the different ways to prep and fry the tomatoes in her Taste of a Place column. If you’re as big of a fan of these goodies as we are, we suggest trying them all.
Crab Hushpuppies with Avocado Aioli
These fluffy, golden brown hushpuppies are great as both an appetizer and a side dish. Adding crab meat to a traditional hushpuppy dough gives our recipe complexity not normally found in the plain ’ol corn variety. To add even more excitement to the dish, we like to serve the hushpuppies with a light(-ish) and spicy(-ish) avocado aioli.
Old-Fashioned Pimento Cheese
Pimento cheese, also known as the “pate of the south,” has been a part of Southern cuisine since the 1920s. Many variations of pimento cheese have made an appearance on Southern tables, but our old-fashioned recipe focuses on the basic flavors this appetizer is known for: cheddar cheese, peppers, mayonnaise and cream cheese. We’ve included a dash of cayenne pepper and diced pickled jalapeño pepper to add a little heat to the dish, but you can leave them out if you’re a purist.
Vidalia Onion Dip
Caramelized Vidalia onions, sour cream and spices blend together in this rich, totally Southern dip. And, good news for all you procrastinators, making onion dip from scratch is actually quite quick and easy. Do be sure to deeply caramelize the onions so that their complex sweetness will carry through the entire dish. We recommend serving the dip with plain potato chips to let the onions shine.
Baked Brie with Bacon and Apples
This sweet and savory appetizer is an upgrade to the classic baked brie spread you usually on an appetizer table. You’d be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t love melty baked brie cheese, regardless of what you put on it, but when you top it with cinnamon, apples and bacon? Perfection. This dish can stand alone or as an addition to a cheese board. Just be careful — it will likely steal the show.
Classic Deviled Eggs
You can’t go wrong with serving deviled eggs at a summer cookout, holiday gathering or cocktail party. Whether you stick with the classic recipe or spice up the flavor profile by adding yellow mustard, capers and pickle to the yolky filling, your guests will be excited to get their hands on them. Garnishes like bacon are unexpected additions that everyone will enjoy, but if you want to stick with tradition, this is the recipe to make.
Oysters with Muscadine Mignonette
We love serving oysters as an appetizer because they are already packaged up in the perfect serving vessel. To serve alongside, we’ve put our own Southern touch on a mignonette sauce by adding in muscadine grapes. The addition of the grapes to the vinegary mignonette gives them a pickled quality for a pop of flavor on top of the cold, briny oysters.