The Best Store-Bought Appetizers for the Holidays, According to Chefs
When it comes to holiday hosting, I like to focus on cooking the three things I do well and run to the grocery store for everything else.
Are you like me? Well, so are some professional chefs. From puff pastry to frozen rolls, those with serious kitchen credentials know it’s strategic to serve some foods straight from their packaging. And the four chefs below are here to tell you specifically about store-bought appetizer finds — both ones you’ll spot in the freezer aisle and others you can plate in just a few minutes — that you should consider adding to your shopping list this year.
Here are four chef-approved appetizers straight from stores that require, at most, some heating.
1. Frozen Appetizers
Trader Joe’s is a real-life wonderland for frozen shortcuts. “Our favorite easy holiday hack is to take Trader Joe’s Caramelized Onion and Feta Pastry Bites [and] jazz them up,” says Kaiy Smith-Biesman, chef, sommelier, and food stylist of Stems in Pasadena, California. “I top them with chopped pears, brown sugar, and a little bit of nutmeg and butter before baking.” Short on time? Smith-Biesman says you can also serve the bites as is.
2. Spreadable Cheeses
There’s no heat required when you go the cheese platter route. Joe Schafer, chef of Electric Hospitality Concepts in Atlanta, is partial to Boursin. “Boursin is a great option for a quick holiday appetizer,” he says. “It can be served as is, as a spread, or whipped to soften and dip crackers, breads, and vegetables.”
3. Tinned Fish
When you serve tinned fish as an appetizer, basically your only step is to open and empty the packaging. “Straight from the tin, white anchovies, mollusks, or octopus make for a fun addition to holiday apps and entrees,” says Juan Cassalett, chef of Malagón in Charleston, South Carolina. Cassalett counts Ortiz products, which Malagón sells in its mercado, as favorites. “My go-to for the Ortiz white anchovies is with Espaniler whole piquillo peppers served with Los Aljibes olive oil for a simple, shareable tapa with toasted sourdough bread or crackers,” he adds.
4. Bite-Sized Breads
Let’s be real here: Good bread makes for a great appetizer. And you can absolutely buy said appetizer bread premade. “A quick snack I often make is Pepperidge Farm’s Party Rye Bread, spread with Palmetto Pimento Cheese,” says Newman Miller, chef of Mr. Tubs in Bardstown, Kentucky. “I then quickly toast it under a broiler and top it off with a touch of country ham.”
Another deliciously bready possibility: Trader Joe’s Cheddar Jalapeno Pull Apart Bread, which has a fan club of sorts on Reddit.