The Best Store-Bought Appetizers for the Holidays, According to Chefs

updated Dec 7, 2023
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Beautifully decorated catering banquet table with different food snacks and appetizers on corporate christmas birthday party event or wedding celebration
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Make holiday entertaining less frantic and more fun with our guide to the best hosting hacks and tips. This content is presented in partnership with Shipt; it was created independently by our editorial team.

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 this year. 

Here are four chef-approved appetizers straight from stores that require, at most, some heating. 

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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.

Of course, you can find great frozen foods at any grocery store, like The Kitchn’s Grocery Essentials winner Bagel Bites Hot Dogs. If you’re at Target, consider the Good & Gather Frozen Petite Quiche Collection. Heading to Costco? Try Cuisine Adventures Spanakopita.

Credit: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

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. “, as a spread, or whipped to soften and dip crackers, breads, and vegetables.” 

If you want to turn your cheese platter into a cheese board, you could add some additional quick and easy grocery store cheeses to your cart (think: Cabot cheddar and fromage d’Affinois).

Credit: Photo: Chris SImpson; Food Styling; Jessie YuChen

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. 

For another option, you could go with Scout Ontario Trout with Dill. Erin Keene, owner of Second Bottle in Richmond, Virginia, previously told The Kitchn that this trout “sits in a bed of dilly oil that requires nothing more than a hunk of fresh baguette.” 

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn

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.

Editor’s note: Pepperidge Farm’s Party Rye has been discontinued, but as a substitute, you can make Chef Miller’s pimento cheese appetizer with S. Rosen’s Cocktail Rye Bread.