20 Southern Appetizers for Holiday Entertaining

Tasty Starters to Please a Celebratory Crowd

Grape jelly meatballs

The Spruce


The South may be best known for its comforting entrées and indulgent desserts, but plenty of noteworthy starters come from below the Mason-Dixon Line, too. For example, Benedictine spread was developed between 1893 and 1925 by Jennie Benedict, a caterer and restaurant hostess in Louisville, Kentucky. The cucumber-cream cheese spread is often tinted with green food coloring and served as a dip or on bread rounds for a festive Christmas appetizer

Many Southern appetizer recipes make use of convenient ingredients and simple preparations. With tortilla roll-ups, dips and spreads, meatballs, mushrooms, and more, Southern starters add tasty variety to your holiday table.

  • 01 of 20

    Southern Pimiento Cheese Spread

    Pimiento Cheese Spread

    The Spruce / Diana Rattray

    An iconic Southern dish with some variation in nearly every kitchen repertoire, this cheese spread makes a satisfying addition to your holiday appetizers. Serve it with pickles, olives, and baguette slices or on your favorite crackers or sturdy chips.

  • 02 of 20

    Basil Walnut Spread

    Basil Walnut Spread on Toast Rounds

    The Spruce / Diana Rattray

    This easy spread takes just a few minutes to make and tastes fantastic on toasted baguette slices or crackers. Reminiscent of pesto, it can be adjusted to ingredients you have on hand, for example, substituting another nut for the walnuts and adding parsley or mint.

  • 03 of 20

    Celebration Cheese Ball

    Celebration cheeseball with pecans

    The Spruce

    With maximum appeal for minimal effort, this tasty cheddar and cream cheese ball rolled in chopped pecans makes a good addition to a holiday appetizer potluck. Serve it with crackers, sliced baguette, or celery sticks.

  • 04 of 20

    Baked Spinach Balls

    Baked Spinach Balls

    The Spruce / Diana Rattray

    These baked spinach balls make an excellent appetizer for the vegetarians on your guest list. Many packaged stuffing crumbs include chicken broth, so be sure to check labels if you intend this dish as a vegetarian choice. Serve them with a marinara sauce for dipping.

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  • 05 of 20

    Classic Cheese Straws

    Cheese Straws

    Ian O'Leary / Dorling Kindersley / Getty Images

    A generous amount of sharp cheddar cheese and a dash of spicy cayenne pepper flavor these Southern cheese straws. Serve them with a dip such as hummus or just on their own.

  • 06 of 20

    Cheddar Bacon Puffs

    Bacon and Cheddar Puffs in a serving dish

    The Spruce / Diana Rattray

     These airy little puffs deliver a hearty cheddar and bacon flavor. They also freeze well for make-ahead convenience.

  • 07 of 20

    Dilly Deviled Eggs

    Deviled egg on a dining table

    The Spruce / Diana Rattray

    This classic deviled egg recipe combines chopped dill pickle and some dried dill weed. Add a little dill pickle juice to enhance the deli flavor.

  • 08 of 20

    Marinated Roasted Bell Peppers

    Marinated Roasted Bell Peppers in a serving bowl

    The Spruce / Diana Rattray

    These peppers make a nice Christmas-themed red and green topping for French bread slices. You can also add them to salads or pile them on sandwiches.

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  • 09 of 20

    Tortilla Pinwheels With Cream Cheese Filling

    Tortilla pinwheels on a serving platter

    The Spruce

    Serve these easy tortilla roll-ups with your favorite salsa, guacamole, or ranch dressing. You can easily customize the basic recipe for variety or to match the flavors of the main meal.

  • 10 of 20

    Clam Dip With Cream Cheese and Mayonnaise

    Clam Dip With Chips

    The Spruce / Diana Rattray

    This dip makes use of canned minced clams, cream cheese, and mayonnaise. You can put together this tasty dip in less than 10 minutes, and you can easily scale the amount up or down to fit the number of servings you need.

  • 11 of 20

    Easy Shrimp Dip

    Quick and easy shrimp dip

    The Spruce 

    This shrimp dip takes just a few minutes to fix, so keep the ingredients on hand during the holidays, and you'll be ready to impress in the event of unexpected guests.

  • 12 of 20

    Macaroni and Cheese Croquettes

    Macaroni and Cheese Croquettes With Sriracha Mayo

    The Spruce Diana Rattray

    Serve these deep-fried delicacies with a spicy sriracha mayo or aioli. They taste best hot, so plan ahead—you can keep them warm in a 200 F oven.

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  • 13 of 20

    Crab-Stuffed Mushrooms With Parmesan Cheese

    Crab Stuffed Mushrooms

    The Spruce / Diana Rattray

    The stuffing for these fancy mushrooms includes crabmeat, breadcrumbs, and Parmesan cheese. You can use the regular button or cremini mushrooms for bite-size hors d'oeuvres or larger portobellos for a sit-down starter.

  • 14 of 20

    Fontina, Spinach, and Bacon-Stuffed Mushrooms

    Spinach, Bacon, and Fontina Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms
    Diana Rattray

    Melted fontina cheese throughout the simple fresh spinach and bacon filling makes these stuffed mushrooms as delicious as they are easy. They're a great option when you want a gluten-free item on the menu.

  • 15 of 20

    Bacon-Wrapped Scallops

    Easy Bacon-Wrapped Scallops

     The Spruce

    This impressive appetizer is deceptively easy to prepare, but it tastes best just out of the oven, so it's a better choice for a sit-down dinner than a buffet. Try bacon-wrapped shrimp for a variation.

  • 16 of 20

    Party Ham Rolls

    Party Ham Roll Sandwiches

    The Spruce

    Using Hawaiian sweet dinner rolls, these slider-style sandwiches are a snap to prepare and bake. They add a more filling choice to an appetizer spread.

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  • 17 of 20

    4-Ingredient Appetizer Meatballs

    Meatball Appetizers

    The Spruce

    Jazz up your favorite frozen meatballs with this easy currant jelly barbecue sauce. You can prepare and serve these right from the slow cooker.

  • 18 of 20

    Southern Grape Jelly Meatballs

    Grape Jelly Meatballs

    The Spruce


    The secret's out about these meatballs, one of the South's favorite appetizers. Grape jelly, the surprise ingredient, adds sweet stickiness to the savory ketchup base in this sweet-and-sour-inspired sauce.

  • 19 of 20

    Tangy Slow Cooker Cocktail Franks

    Cocktail franks in barbecue sauce in a slow cooker

    Paul Poplis / Getty Images

    Crudités may look pretty, but you know your guests really want meat. These cocktail franks come together in the slow cooker, so you can prepare and serve without dirtying any extra dishes, leaving you with more time for socializing.

  • 20 of 20

    Baked Sugared Pecans

    Sugared Pecans

    The Spruce / Diana Rattray

    Add these sugared pecans to your selection of savory appetizers for palate-pleasing variety.