There are all kinds of foods that can be served hot from the crockpot – it's not just for soup or stews! When you're going to entertain, think outside of your usual appetizer box. Instead of sweating in the kitchen by yourself while your guests are having a drink, free your time, and hands, by using one of our easy crockpot appetizer recipes.
Our collection of slow cooker appetizers ranges everywhere from meatballs, hot dogs, and chicken wings to hot dips, fondues, and spiced nuts to give you plenty of ideas for how to throw a stress-free party.
If you're taking your slow cooker to another location for a picnic or potluck, start with hot food and keep the slow cooker in a larger container well-wrapped in towels so the food will stay hot. Plug it in when you get to the party and enjoy one of these tasty recipes.
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Meatballs are the perfect appetizer-sized morsels of food. Loved by guests, meatballs also make great leftovers for hoagies and pasta dishes. Plus, they're a breeze to present. Just buy cute little skewers and matching paper plates and you're done. Here are some of our favorite beef meatballs for you to try:
- Sweet Sticky Meatballs with currant jelly and barbecue sauce. They're ready in 3 1/2 hours.
- BBQ Beef Meatballs with homemade barbecue sauce and flavored with onion soup mix. They cook in 5 hours and 20 minutes.
- Apricot Appetizer Meatballs made of half ground beef, half pork sausage, and covered in a sweet and savory sauce that you can spice up with chili flakes. Cooks in 6 hours and 45 minutes.
- Betty's Meatballs cooked in grape jelly, ketchup, and chili sauce. You need 4 hours to serve this. Similarly, Southern Meatballs use grape jelly but also a touch of mustard for some kick.
- Tangy Party Meatballs use beef and sausage and cook in a Worcestershire sauce mixed with ketchup, brown sugar, and vinegar. After a 30 minute bake, put them in the crockpot for 3 to 4 hours.
- BBQ Beer Meatballs with white vinegar, ketchup, and beer sauce. These bites take 15 minutes to prep and cook for 10 hours in the crockpot.
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Chicken and Pork Meatballs
Maybe not everyone on your guest list is a beef eater, so think about these white-meat alternatives when preparing your menu. If you're offering red meat as an entreé, it would be a generous idea to offer seafood or white meat with your appetizer so everyone's preferences are covered:
- Hoisin Chicken Meatballs are glazed with a hoisin sauce mixture. Coat these meatballs with garlic, rice vinegar, ginger, orange marmalade, and sesame oil after 15 minutes in the oven. They need 2 additional hours in the crockpot.
- Chile Meatballs can be made with frozen turkey or chicken meatballs. They're cooked for 5 hours in a spicy sweet and sour poblano and garlic sauce. The apple jelly makes them absolutely finger-licking good.
- Porcupine Meatballs are made out of beef and pork (use just pork for a milder flavor). The meatballs are bound with egg and rice, and a tomato-basil sauce makes them moist and juicy. Cook for 6 hours.
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Cheese Vegetarian Dips
For a less formal gathering than a sit-down dinner, dips, chips, and crudités are always a great idea. You'll use fewer plates and more napkins when serving these cheesy dips:
- Broccoli Cheese Dip is made with frozen broccoli, cream of mushroom and Velveeta cheese. It goes amazingly with toasted bread and cooks in 2 hours.
- Velveeta Cheese Dip needs just cheese and salsa (cilantro is optional). Add some onions or bacon for crunch. Cooks in 2 hours.
- Spinach Dip is a classic American dip. Our creamy version adds Parmesan for extra tang. Cooks in 2 hours and 15 minutes.
- Mexican Cheesy Dip uses taco seasonings, Ro-tel tomatoes, and Velveeta cheese for a Mexican-inspired tasty dip. Use this recipe if pressed for time because it cooks in just 1 hour!
- Refried Bean Dip with taco seasoning, Monterrey cheese, onions, and tabasco is filling and creamy. Cooks in 2 hours.
For vegan guests, we recommend a tofu barbecue recipe. It's a sweet and savory dish that uses brown sugar, soy, and apple cider vinegar to create crunchy bites of tender tofu.
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Dips With Meat and Seafood
If a cheese-based dip doesn't cut it for you, try one of these recipes, in which meat or seafood makes the preparation hearty and filling. Serve with bread, chips, or place tortillas on a large flat plate and cover with any of these dips for a meaty nacho extravaganza:
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- Beef Dip with onions, mushroom, Velveeta, and beef cooks in under 1 hour.
- Cheesy Pizza Dip is made with classic pepperoni pizza ingredients and cooks in 2 hours. Add any other pizza topping your family loves, like mushrooms or sausage.
- Reuben Dip brings the flavor of the famous sandwich to a thick and chunky dip. Corned beef, sauerkraut, cream cheese, and Havarti make a creamy dip in 4 hours.
- Seafood Cheese Dip uses lobster, crab, and shrimp. Use any combination of seafoods as long as it totals 2 1/2 cups. Cooks in 2 hours.
- Cheese and Beef Taco Dip is flavored with a can of no-bean chili, Velveeta cheese, and browned ground beef. Cook for just 1 hour in the crockpot.
- Hamburger Dip is flavored with cumin, jalapeño, tomato sauce, and cream cheese. It cooks in 2 hours and goes ideally with sturdy chips or even served in mini buns as a sloppy Joe.
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Mini hot dogs are always one the most sought after appetizers at large parties because they're flavorful and filling. Easy to serve, they're perfect to accompany a cold beer or a drink. Our collection of slow cook hot dog recipes varies from sweet to spicy, but also in cooking times, depending on whether you have a lot of time or are in a rush:
- Grape Jelly Glazed Hot Dogs. You just need the hot dogs of your choice, grape jelly, and chili sauce. Mix and cook 4 to 6 hours.
- Little Smokies use brown sugar, allspice, white vinegar, apricot preserve, and ketchup. Simply put all the ingredients in a crockpot for 4 hours.
- Cocktail Franks with bourbon, ketchup, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, and BBQ sauce. Cook them for 2 hours.
- Maple Hot Dogs With Bacon are a fantastic appetizer. Sweet and smoky, the little hot dogs are wrapped in bacon and baked until crunchy (approximately 30 minutes), then transferred to a crockpot where they're cooked for 1 hour with spicy mustard, brown sugar, and maple sauce.
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Kielbasa and Sausage
Heavily seasoned and coarse, kielbasas make a filling appetizer. If this is the only dish you're offering as a starter, think of 2 to 3 ounces of meat per person because the heavy garlic and spice presence in kielbasa makes them very filling, and you'd want your guests to have room for more. Try one of our suggestions for a rustic appetizer:
- Kielbasa With Mustard cooks for 2 hours in spicy mustard and apple jelly. Cook it whole and place it in a baguette, slice it in mini sandwiches, or secure with party skewers.
- Kielbasa in Beer and Mustard is full of flavor and all the 8 hours of cooking time are worth the wait.
- Apple and Sausage can be appetizer-sized when sliced. A sweet and savory dish, it makes a filling main when paired with a creamy potato salad.
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Chicken wings are full of flavor but are mainly a lot of fun to eat. Buy some fun paper cups or plates, maybe some colorful paper bibs, and make a chicken wing party with one or more of our recipes. A great family-style appetizer could make an ordinary family party one for the books:
- Garlic-Ginger Chicken Wings offer an aromatic alternative. They're moist and flavorful, and the sesame seeds and green onions on top make them totally irresistible. The longest cooking time in our list of wings, these little bites need 6 hours.
- Teriyaki Chicken Wings use a combination of soy sauce, sambal, ginger, garlic, and brown sugar to glaze the wings. They need just 2 hours and 20 minutes in the crockpot.
- BBQ Chicken Wings are cooked to perfection in a honey and barbecue sauce. Add Tabasco or siracha for an extra kick. Transfer the wings to the slow cooker after 20 minutes under the broiler, add the sauce, and cook for 2 hours.
- Turkey Wings are naturally bigger than chicken, but you can still double or triple the amounts to serve one wing per guest on top of some crunchy greens. Cook for 4 hours.
- Sticky Slow Cooker Chicken Drumsticks is a wonderful recipe for kids and adults and the perfect dish for game day.
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Fondue parties are a great way of sharing food with family and friends. Dip cubed bread, fruits, and vegetables in a cheesy sauce. Fondue is great as an appetizer, or as a main when you offer cooked meats to dip in the fondue, like soppressata, shrimp, or beef. Provide a small plate per guest to avoid spillage, offer plenty of napkins, and keep the wine coming alongside one of these fondue ideas:
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- Classic Swiss Fondue has Kirsch, garlic, white wine, and Swiss and cheddar cheeses. It needs 2 hours in the slow cooker, enough time to cube your bread and prepare a bowl of red and green grapes, baked mushrooms, sliced apples, and meats.
- Crockpot Fondue is less French and more American, made out of Velveeta cheese, cheddar cheese soup, and a little hot pepper for a kick and a hint of smokiness. Cook in the crockpot for 2 hours.
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Nuts, Peanuts, and Party Mixes
Nuts and party mixes are great for vegetarian and vegan guests, but also favorites for anyone who enjoys the salty, fatty crunch of peanuts, tree nuts, pretzels, and chips. These recipes are great for parties, and just to have in the pantry as a yummy snack:
- Sugared Pecans are a sweet treat that's an excellent companion to cheese plates and charcuterie spreads. Try this no-hassle nut recipe with spices and butter. Our pecans are also a great topping for salads with gorgonzola or blue cheese. They need 3 hours and 15 minutes in the slow cooker.
- Boiled Peanuts have a beautiful appearance and are a great addition to a game day gathering. Put 1 cup of cooked peanuts each in individual brown paper bags for each guest to eat and use as a vessel for the shells. Similarly, these cajun boiled peanuts use the same method of cooking but consist of a much spicier tender peanut.
- Our savory party mix features a combination of peanuts, cereal, and pretzels with a variety of spices and seasonings. Try it as a base and add anything your family loves. Mix, cook for 4 hours, and eat!
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Always have a seafood option if throwing a large party. Besides giving non-meat eaters a choice, you're also providing a filling appetizer that will give you extra time to deal with the main dishes' final details:
- Shrimp with Garlic is super easy to make; the sauce mixture is slow-cooked and then the shrimp is added about 1/2 hour before you plan to serve. Cook in just 1 hour.
- Shrimp in Marinara Sauce is a classic, minus the spaghetti, used as a base to flavor the shrimp. Cook the sauce for 3 and 1/2 hours, then add the cooked shrimp for 20 more minutes before serving. Strain off the sauce and serve separately in a shrimp party bowl, blending the sauce before serving.