20 Vintage Christmas Appetizers That Never Fail to Impress

Cocktail Meatballs in white spoons for serving
Photo: lutzflcat

Holiday party season is coming up, and whether you're hosting or attending, homemade party food is sure to be on the menu. This year, switch up your holiday spread or host gift with something all partygoers can enjoy: nostalgia. Festive cheese balls, cocktail meatballs, party snack mixes, and shrimpmas trees (yes, really) brought a lot of spirit to holiday parties back in the day, and there's no reason why they wouldn't now. These vintage Christmas appetizer recipes will bring a dose of retro flair to your holiday season.

01 of 21

Bacon Wrapped Smokies

Bacon Wrapped Smokies

Cocktail wieners were a big hit at dinner parties in the 1950s and 1960s, and it's easy to see why. These sweet and savory smokies are so delicious people will eat them up like candy, and they only require three ingredients.

02 of 21

Christmas Tree Cheese Ball

Christmas Tree Cheese Ball
Brian Beck

Back in the day, people loved a good cheese ball, and this Christmas tree cheese ball is a fun way to add some holiday spirit to your spread. You get a lot of servings out of this recipe, so it's perfect for a big office party or family reunion.

03 of 21

Classic Savory Deviled Eggs

Classic Savory Deviled Eggs

These deviled eggs are tangy and easy, and the yolk gets an irresistible flavor from an unexpected ingredient: rice wine. Sprinkle some paprika over the finished product — along with the flecks of dill — to give the eggs a more Christmasy appearance.

04 of 21

Sausage Balls

closeup of a row of crispy-looking golden brown meatballs made with sausage, biscuit mix, and cheese with a fork on the side

Whether you prefer them on Christmas morning or as an hors d'oeuvre at a festive party, the fact remains that it's just not the holidays without sausage balls. Simple sausage balls like these have been a mainstay holiday appetizer for years thanks to their easy cooking process and savory, cheesy taste.

05 of 21

Easy Rumaki with Pineapple

Easy Rumaki with Pineapple

Polynesian-themed restaurants in the United States served rumaki appetizers as far back as the 1940s, and they quickly became symbols of Mad Men-era cocktail culture chic. Traditionally made by wrapping bacon around chicken livers and water chestnuts before broiling with a sweet sauce, rumaki can also be made minus the chicken liver. For this iteration, the livers have been swapped out for pineapple bits.

06 of 21

Best Spinach Dip Ever

spinach dip with crackers
Charlie Brown

There's a reason people have been serving dips at parties for decades — they're delicious, easy, and perfectly sharable. Water chestnuts give this spinach dip an unexpected bit of crunch, while real mayonnaise and dry leek soup mix add lots of savory flavor.

07 of 21

Mary's Christmas Shrimp Tree

Mary's Christmas Shrimp Tree
Jeanne Becktel

A Christmas shrimp tree may seem extravagant, but this classic appetizer is incredibly easy to make. Additionally, people can't help but giggle at a Christmas tree covered in shrimp, so it'll help make spirits bright.

08 of 21

Sweet, Salty, Spicy Party Nuts

Sweet, Salty, Spicy Party Nuts in a glass dish

Sure, it's easy to buy a bag of spiced nuts for a party, but making your own at home only requires a little more thought. Chef John's method for these roasted nuts ensures that everything is evenly coated, and the combination of cumin, cayenne pepper, salt, and sugar will have everyone coming back for more.

09 of 21

Olive Puffs

olives rolled in puff pastry on a plate

Old-school happy hours usually featured savory snacks like stuffed olives, and this 2-ingredient version takes it one step further by rolling them up in flaky pastry to make a more elegant presentation. Recipe contributor Syd says, "You can make these ahead, and freeze; allow 30 minutes for the pastry to thaw before baking. Another advantage: the kids like to make them and eat them."

10 of 21

Cheese Fondue

Cheese Fondue
Photo by Denise Sakaki.

The fondue trend swept the 60s and 70s, and frankly, we think it's time for a revival — is there ever a bad time for hot cheese? Of course not! This fondue recipe is super simple and delivers in the flavor department. Squeeze half a lemon into the wine before adding the cheese to help break the fondue down and avoid clumps.

11 of 21

Nutty Puppy Chow

bowl of homemade Nutty Puppy Chow snack mix

Tell the kids that Santa needs a break from the cookies and whip up some of this snack mix instead. It's an affordable treat that's just a little bit different, and the family can help put it together. "My Grams would always make this recipe for Christmas," says recipe contributor Becky Beckmann.

12 of 21

Sarah's Ambrosia Fruit Salad

Sarah's Ambrosia Fruit Salad

Love it or hate it, ambrosia, among other marshmallow salads, is an undeniable classic. Make a big batch and set it out with serving spoons for a potluck, or serve it alongside other sharable appetizers like dip and meatballs. If you like, you can make this using fresh fruit instead.

13 of 21

Grandma's Stuffed Celery

close-up of grandma's stuffed celery

Tasty and simple, stuffed celery makes an ideal finger food that will always be appreciated at holiday parties. This appetizer stands out in a world of crackers and chips, and is crunchy, juicy, and creamy all at once.

14 of 21

Candied Pecans

Candied Pecans
Candied Pecans | Photo by Baking Nana.

If you're scrambling to find a host gift for an upcoming holiday party, these homemade candied pecans are a great option. You can even make two batches and divide them at the event — one for the guests, and another for the host.

15 of 21

Pine Cone Cheese Ball

cheese ball shaped like a pine cone with almonds
Chef John

Decorated cheese balls are an easy way to impress your guests — they maintain an artful and intricate appearance, but are so easy to put together. This cheese ball by Chef John is savory and tangy, and the array of herbs and spices makes a taste that people know is special.

16 of 21

Cocktail Meatballs

Cocktail Meatballs
Photo by lutzflcat.

Cocktail meatballs debuted in the 1960s, and after all this time they still haven't disappeared — except, that is, from your plate. This cocktail meatball recipe mixes cranberry and chili sauces for a sweet, slightly spicy, and savory flavor that guests won't be able to ignore. If you like, you can use frozen meatballs for a shortcut.

17 of 21

Cheese Straws

Cheese Straws on a baking sheet
danny k

This is a safe space, and it's okay to admit that your favorite part of the holidays is snacking on cheese straws. But if you've never made them from scratch before, definitely give it a try — they're surprisingly simple to prepare and taste way better, and this recipe yields enough cheese straws for a crowd to snack on.

18 of 21

Perfect Crab-Stuffed Mushrooms

Perfect Crab-Stuffed Mushrooms recipe on a serving plate
Mackenzie Schieck

"These little goodies are the perfect addition to your next holiday gathering or even the perfect appetizer to serve before a cozy dinner at home," says creator Lisa Felton Nash. "Everyone will be dazzled by every delicious bite (they won't be able to keep their hands off of them!) You can smile while you think of how easy they were to toss together! And the best part - I usually end up with leftover stuffing, which freezes beautifully until the next carry-in!"

19 of 21

The Best Smoked Salmon Spread

bowl of homemade Smoked Salmon Spread garnished with minced dill

Salmon spread (or salmon mousse) was such a hit at dinner parties in days gone by, and it's easy to understand why. Mixing smoked salmon with cream cheese, herbs, capers, cream, and other flavor boosters is a smart way to stretch a pricy ingredient into an affordable party spread to feed a crowd.

20 of 21

Crab Rangoon I

fried Crab Rangoon appetizers on a tray with dipping sauce
Melissa Goff

What self-respecting mid-20th-century cocktail party failed to pass around trays of Crab Rangoon? These crispy parcels of crab meat and cream cheese sealed in wonton wrappers and fried to a golden brown were the pinnacle of chic and deserve to be included on your retro holiday party menu.

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