Birthday Party Appetizers – A Guide

Organizing the appetizers 

When organizing appetizers for a birthday party, the first thing to consider is how many guests you’re expecting.

The next consideration is the sort of occasion you’re plannng. Will it be a casual gathering in the evening, with snacks and drinks, or will the appetizers be the first course of a sit-down dinner? 

It’s convenient to provide some cold appetizers, and some hot. The guests can help themselves to cold foods while the hot are heating up in the oven.

You’ll want to provide a little variety, with a few nut-free, lactose-free and gluten-free appetizers that guests with food sensitivities can choose from.

You may want foods that reflect the birthday person’s family background. Or foods that the person is especially fond of, served in appetizer portions.

Finally, consider your budget. We list some budget-friendly appetizers among those listed below. 

Calculating how many appetizers per person

If planning on a meal to follow the appetizers, choose 2 or 3 types of light appetizers and plan on having 6 per person. 

For smaller parties of 8-10 guests, 3 kinds of appetizers are enough. For 14-16 guests, plan on 4 to 5 types. 

For a cocktail party, plan on 8-12 appetizers per person. What’s Cooking America advises that guests usually eat about 5 appetizers on arriving at the party, and about 3 for each hour afterward. 

Caterers use a standard formula to calculate the number of appetizers to get from each recipe. Figure on 12 pieces per person, multiplied by the number of people, then divided by the number of individual appetizer types.

So let’s say you want to offer 6 types of appetizers for 25 guests. That’s 12 appetizers X 25 people (300), divided by 6 (50). You’ll need 50 of each kind of appetizer.

For fewer than 45 people, plan on serving 6 types of appetizers.  For more than 45 guests, plan for 8 different types.

Don’t be intimidated by those numbers. You can always adjust the number of different types of appetizers. 

And there are a lot of frozen and pre-cooked foods in the market that serve as appetizers and can easily be prepped at home.

For a few examples, frozen meatballs can be heated up and served in a crockpot. Frozen foods in pastry shells, like pigs in a blanket, take two baking sheets in a hot oven. Easy.

Note that all recipes suggested below are easily found on the Internet.

Read Related Article: Best Party Food for Large Groups – A Guide


Foods laid out on flat platters or boards

birthday party appetizers

Vegetable platters

A platter of mixed raw and cold, cooked vegetables makes health-conscious guests happy, and adds a light note to the appetizer choices. Provide cocktail forks for guests to spear them up.

Carrot, cucumber, tiny radishes, different colors of bell peppers and raw zucchini sticks are always favorites, especially with those watching their weight who don’t want to feel deprived of a birthday party nosh.

Note: Vegetable platters are budget-friendly. 

Roasted vegetables also make an excellent appetizer platter.

Toss some or all of the following vegetables with a little olive oil to lightly cover them, plus salt, garlic powder and pepper: wedges of sweet potatoes, green beans, asparagus spears, whole mushrooms (halve or quarter the mushrooms if very large), peeled cubed beets, and baby carrots.

Heat the oven to 425 F. 

Line a large baking sheet with baking parchment or foil.

Roast the vegetables for 20-30 minutes. Take care to remove the more delicate vegetables as soon as they’re tender: the asparagus may need no more than 10 minutes, while sweet potato wedges, carrots and beets may take ½ hour.

You need to keep checking and removing the vegetables that are done.  

To serve a vegetable platter, put some of these dips on the side and let guests worry about their calories as they will.

Hummus. Guacamole. An easy onion dip: beat 6 oz sour cream with 1 package onion soup and dip mix.

Bean and Artichoke Dip 

Bean and Artichoke Dip 

This is good for raw vegetables and also to serve with crackers or tiny toast squares as a spread.

1 can (15 oz.) cannellini or butter beans

1 can (14 oz.) artichoke bottoms

1 small clove garlic, minced

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling on top

3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

1 teaspoon minced fresh sage or rosemary 

Salt and ground black pepper to taste

Sweet paprika for garnish


Drain and rinse the beans. Drain again thoroughly, in a sieve or colander.

Drain the artichokes.

Process the beans, artichokes, garlic, and lemon juice until the mixture is smooth.

Add the olive oil while the food processor is running.

Add Parmesan, and finely chopped sage or rosemary. Pulse 10 times to blend.

Season with salt and fresh ground pepper.

Place the dip in a serving bowl. Sprinkle paprika over it. Dribble a little olive oil over all.  

Charcuterie And Cheese Board

birthday party appetizers

This impressive assembly of meats, cheeses, crackers, nuts and fruit serves 12. Set out several platters for everyone to have some if you’re planning on more guests than 12.

Any attractive flat surface works well as a charcuterie/cheese board. Large platters, wooden chopping blocks, 


10 oz. spreads or jams. Try fig spread, pesto, apricot jam, hot pepper jelly, chutney, and for something savory, a paté.

16 oz. grapes of different colors, or two varieties of apples, thinly sliced and not peeled

8 oz. strawberries, trimmed and halved

6 oz. raspberries and/or blueberries

12 oz. good quality crackers and/or toast triangles

10 oz. soft cheese such as fresh mozzarella, blue cheese, brie, and camembert

10 oz. sliced semi-hard cheeses such as cheddar, monterey, gouda, and provolone. You can offer the cheese sliced, cut into cubes, or as little cheese balls. Cubed cheeses and cheese balls should be served from small bowls.

8 oz. sliced cured or smoked meats. Ham, salami, several kinds of sausages, smoked turkey.

10 oz. dried fruits like dates, apricots, and cherries

8 oz. nuts, like whole almonds, pecans, pistachios, walnuts.

5 oz. cornichon pickles

5 oz. stuffed olives


Spoon the dips, preserves, paté, nuts, olives and pickles into small bowls. Place them around the board.

Add the meats and cheeses to the board. Place the larger pieces on the board first.

Place the crackers or toast triangles on the board. Leave some room between them. 

Place fresh and dried fruit where there are empty spaces. 

Garnish the platter or board with fresh herbs: mint, rosemary, basil, a sprig of sage.

If not serving right away, chill the platter until time to serve.

Provide toothpicks for spearing cubes of cheese, and have a couple of serving knives handy for guests to cut off slices of cheese or for spreading preserves on the crackers.

Platter of marinated cheeses

Platter of marinated cheeses

Choose other cheeses if you prefer, but make sure you have at least two firm cheeses and one soft one.

Each block of cheese should weigh about 8 oz.

Present the cheeses as slices. Provide toothpicks for guests to mix and match them as they want.

Ingredients (marinade):

1 block of monterey jack

1 of cream cheese

1 block of cheddar

1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 cup red wine vinegar

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoon chopped parsley

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper flakes

Kosher salt and ground black pepper


Slice cheeses into ¼” thick slices. Place them in a shallow dish or in a large plastic container. 

Mix the marinade ingredients and taste it. Adjust salt and pepper if needed.  

Pour the marinade over the cheeses. Chill 4 hours minimum to overnight.

Turn the cheeses over in the marinade several times while chilling. 

Arrange the cheese slices attractively on a platter. Spoon the marinade over them and serve. 


Put up a soup in a crock pot or Instapot, or buy frozen soup. You can even offer two kinds of soup, each very different from each other.

Since this is an appetizer, set out small bowls for guests to serve themselves. Place toppings such as grated cheese or tiny croutons on the side, but don’t make it very filling, or people won’t have room for the other goodies.

Crowd-pleasing soups are tomato, chicken noodle, clam chowder, French onion and black bean soup.  

Cold soups for warm weather are tzatziki (Greek yogurt and cucumber soup) and vichyssoise (potato and leek soup). Soup is budget friendly.

Something Fishy

Mini salmon or crab cakes get gobbled up fast. Put a bowl of tartar sauce on the side, or mayonnaise dressed up with lime juice and minced chives.

Sushi makes great appetizers, but are time-consuming to make. Consider buying prepared sushi. 

Salmon can be combined with many different condiments and vegetables, and served on toast. You can also stuff mini croissants with smoked salmon, cream cheese and scallions.

Consider smoked salmon on rye toast with cream cheese, capers, and thin rings of red onions. 

Or the classic New York bagel stuffed with lox (brined salmon), cream cheese, and a thin slice of tomato or cucumber plus sliced onion.

Fish taco bites based on fish sticks, coleslaw and an easy home-made salsa are a treat for a birthday party. A budget friendly appetizer.

Fish taco bites


1/2 cup green salsa (salsa verde)

4 oz. cream cheese

2 tablespoons lime juice, divided

2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro leaves

1 teaspoon runny honey

Dash salt

12 frozen breaded fish sticks

1 tablespoon taco seasoning

36 tortilla chip scoops

1-1/2 cups shredded coleslaw mixture

3/4 cup cubed avocado

3/4 cup chopped tomato

Lime wedges and additional minced fresh cilantro


Soften cream cheese.

Blend the salsa with the cream cheese and 1 tablespoon lime juice. Add the cilantro to the blender and then the honey and the salt. Blend until smooth.

Bake the fish sticks at 425° F for 10 minutes. 

Sprinkle half the taco seasoning over the baked fish sticks.

Turn the fish sticks over and sprinkle with the rest of the taco seasoning.

Bake for a further 9 minutes or until the fish sticks are crisp.

Slice each fish stick into thirds.

Combine the coleslaw, cubed avocado, chopped tomato, 1 tablespoon lime juice and ½ cup salsa. 

Spoon the coleslaw mixture into the tortilla chips. 

Put a piece of fish stick on top of each coleslaw-filled taco. 

Top each taco with ½ teaspoon salsa/cream cheese blend.

Garnish as desired with lime wedges and whole cilantro stalks with leaves.

Seafood spread is budget friendly, easy to make and can be served from a big platter, with crackers on the side. 


8 oz. cream cheese

1/2 cup sour cream

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1 cup seafood cocktail sauce

12 oz. frozen cooked salad shrimp

2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

1 medium green pepper

1 small tomato

3 green onions 


Have the cream cheese softened and the frozen shrimp thawed out.

De-seed and finely chop the green pepper, tomato, and green onions.

Mix the cream cheese, sour cream and mayonnaise.

Spoon the cheese mixture into a deep platter. Top with the seafood sauce, then layer the shrimp, mozzarella, green pepper, tomato and green onions on top. 

Chill until just before serving. Guests serve themselves.  

Chicken Wings!

Who can resist a hot, spicy chicken wing? Here are 3 recipes. Have plenty of napkins handy for guests to use, and maybe a package of wet wipes, too.

Sticky Crockpot Chicken Wings

Sticky Crockpot Chicken Wings


3 lbs chicken wings

1/3 cup red wine vinegar

1/3 cup soy sauce

2 teaspoons hot sauce

2 tablespoons honey

1/3 cup brown sugar

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

2 tablespoons cornstarch

2 tablespoons water

Sesame seeds to garnish


Place the chicken wings in your slow cooker.  In a medium bowl, whisk together all the other ingredients except the cornstarch, water, and sesame seeds. 

Pour the sauce from the medium bowl over the wings. Stir to coat the wings.

Cover the slow cooker and set it to high. Cook for one hour, then stir the wings.

Cover the wings again and cook one hour longer. 

Mix the cornstarch and water in a separate small bowl. 

In a small bowl, stir together the cornstarch and water. Stir the mix into the slow cooker.

Cover again and continue cooking for 15 minutes. The sauce should be thick.

To thicken the sauce faster, use a large spoon or turkey baster to remove the juices from the slow cooker to a saucepan. Stir the cornstarch mix in and cook over medium heat.

When the sauce is thick, pour it back into the slow cooker.

Put the wings under the broiler for 4 minutes to make them crisp. Drizzle some sauce over over them.

Serve garnished with sesame seeds.

Baked Tomatoey Chicken Wings With Ranch Dressing

Baked Tomatoey Chicken Wings With Ranch Dressing

Ingredients for Wings:

1 large bag of frozen chicken wing pieces (about 20 wings), thawed

½ cup melted butter

½ cup red pepper sauce 

8 oz. can of tomato sauce

1½ tablespoon chili powder

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste

Ingredients for Ranch Dressing:

1 cup buttermilk

½  package of ranch dressing or dip mix. Add more mix if a stronger flavor is desired.

¼ teaspoon black pepper

½ teaspoon garlic powder

⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper flakes


Line a baking sheet with foil or baking parchment. Bake the wings according to the instructions on the package, until cooked and crisp. 

Combine the butter, red pepper sauce, tomato sauce, chili powder and cayenne pepper.  

Dip the baked wings in the sauce, then return them to the baking sheet.  Broil the wings for 2 minutes.

Baste the wings and turn them over. Broil another 2 minutes. 

Do this again once or twice, or until the wings are to your taste. 

Combine all the ranch dressing ingredients in a small bowl.  Chill one-half hour to let flavors blend. 

Air Fryer Garlic Parmesan Chicken Wings

Air Fryer Garlic Parmesan Chicken Wings

You may need to cook this recipe in two batches, depending on the capacity of your air fryer.


2 lbs chicken wings

olive oil spray

1/4 cup unsalted butter

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated


Spray the air fryer with olive oil spray. Arrange the wings in a single layer.

Spray olive oil lightly over the wings.

Air fry the wings for 10 minutes at 400 degrees F. Turn the wings over and continue air frying for 10-15 longer, or until they are crisp.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan.  Add the remaining ingredients except the parmesan cheese.

Simmer the garlic butter for 5 minutes.

Put the wings in a large heatproof bowl. Mix them with the garlic butter, then the parmesan cheese.

Use tongs to transfer the wings to a platter. Scrape out any sauce stuck to the bowl and dribble it over the wings.  

Devilled eggs are always popular.

Devilled eggs have never gone out of style. All it takes is to boil eggs, then run cold water over them to make peeling easy.

Slice the eggs in half. Remove the yolks and mash them with a mixture of mayonnaise or sour cream, grated Cheddar, black pepper, a little cayenne, and a little prepared mustard.

Taste as you season the yolk mixture to judge saltiness and spiciness. 

Pile the yolk mixture back into the egg whites. Sprinkle finely chopped chives or paprika over the tops of the eggs. 

Keep the devilled eggs refrigerated until serving. This is a budget-friendly appetizer.

Stuffed baked potatoes make an easy and economical birthday party appetizer. Choose small potatoes, 2 per person.

Rub a little butter over each potato and bake them at 400 ° F for 20 minutes or until cooked through. Do not use baby potatoes; they are too small to stuff easily.

Allow the baked potatoes to cool, then cut each in half. Scoop the flesh out of them.

You can keep it simple by mashing the potatoes with butter or sour cream and grated Parmesan cheese, seasoned with salt and pepper.

Or cook broccoli until soft but not mushy, and mash it into the flesh of the baked potatoes. Add grated Parmesan, or tiny chunks of camembert or brie cheese. 

If the filling seems dry, add butter, a tablespoon at a time, until smooth. Season the filling with salt, pepper, and garlic salt.

Taste the filling and adjust seasoning if necessary. 

Reheat the stuffed potatoes in a 350° F oven and serve hot. Sprinkle the tops with chopped chives or finely chopped scallions.

Appetizers on Sticks

Put out platters of savory bites skewered with cocktail sticks, and watch everyone crowd around the table to get some. 

The recipe below makes mini cheese balls that are rolled in toasted pecans, and uses pretzel sticks for added fun and salty flavor.

Mini Cheese Ball Bites

Mini Cheese Ball Bites


8 oz. cream cheese at room temperature

3/4 cup (about 3 ounces) blue cheese crumbles

3/4 cup finely chopped, dried cranberries 

1 1/2 cups pecans

Pretzel sticks


Beat together cream cheese, blue cheese, and dried cranberries until smooth. 

With damp hands, roll the cheese mixture into about 24 balls. Chill, covered, for 2 hours or until the balls are firm.

Toast the pecans in a preheated 350°F oven until fragrant, 7 – 10 minutes. Set them aside to cool.

Chop the pecans finely. Roll the firm cheese balls in the chopped pecans. 

Skewer each cheese ball with a pretzel stick. Do this just before serving, so the pretzels stay crisp.

Barbecued Meatballs

Barbecued Meatballs

Cook the meatballs and sauce in advance and reheat them just before guests arrive. Makes about 36 small meatballs. 


1/2 cup dry bread crumbs

1/3 cup finely chopped onion

1/4 cup milk

1 large beaten egg

1 tablespoon minced parsley

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 lb. lean ground beef 

1/4 cup canola oil

1 bottle chili sauce

1 jar grape jelly


Combine the first 8 ingredients. Crumble beef and mix lightly but thoroughly into the mixture. 

Shape into 1-in. balls. Using a large skillet, brown the meatballs in oil.

Remove the meatballs. In the same skillet, combine chili sauce and jelly; cook over medium heat until jelly melts. 

Return meatballs to the pan; heat through.

Skewer the meatballs with long cocktail toothpicks and serve hot, in the skillet.