6 Cheese Appetizers Your Holiday Party Is Incomplete Without

Appealing appetizers are paramount to a successful dinner party, especially during the holiday season. Nothing whets a dinner guest’s appetite quite like cheese does, and that’s why cheese plates, cheese and crackers, and crostini often steal the show before diners even sit down at the table.

It’s hard to go wrong when cheese is involved, but some cheesy recipes are more luxurious and sophisticated than others — those are what we’re highlighting today. As you’re preparing your menu, consider nixing cheese and crackers and instead trying one of these appetizer recipes that err on the side of cosmopolitan.

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1. Baked Brie With Cranberry Sauce

First up is this recipe for Baked Brie with Cranberry Sauce from The Kitchn. Tart cranberries coupled with soft brie cheese yields the perfect sweet and savory combo, and the orange zest, hazelnuts, and fresh rosemary give this recipe a fun seasonal twist.

Ingredients:

  • 8-ounce round brie cheese, at room temperature
  • ⅓ cup cranberry sauce
  • 2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼ cup hazelnuts, unroasted and roughly chopped
  • Fresh rosemary, to garnish

Directions: Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Peel or slice off the top rind of the brie and scrape out a small amount of cheese to form a shallow hollow in the center. Place the cheese in a small baking dish. Mix the cranberry sauce, brown sugar, vanilla, zest, and nutmeg. Top the brie with cranberry mixture and sprinkle the hazelnuts over it.

Bake for 8 to 12 minutes or until the fruit is bubbling and the cheese is gooey. If desired, lift the parchment paper and use a spatula to carefully slide the cheese onto a prettier serving dish. Garnish with a rosemary sprig and serve immediately with assorted crackers.

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2. Warm Honey Fig Dip With Blue Cheese and Garlic Pitas

Here’s another appetizer recipe from How Sweet It Is that is guaranteed to wow your guests. While you are busy prepping dinner in the kitchen, keep your guests busy with this Warm Honey Fig Dip with Blue Cheese and Garlic Pitas. This recipe capitalizes on another sweet and savory combo, this time with honey, figs, and blue cheese.

Ingredients:

Dip

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 4 ounces mascarpone cheese, softened
  • 8 ounces gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
  • 1 cup dried figs, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons honey, plus more for drizzling

Pitas

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 6 pita breads
  • Freshly grated nutmeg
  • Flaked salt for sprinkling

Directions: Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. In a bowl, mix together the cream cheese, mascarpone, and gorgonzola with a spatula until creamy and combined. Fold in the figs and honey, stirring until evenly distributed and combined. Spoon the dip into an oven-safe bowl. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until warm and golden on top and bubbly. Top the dip with figs for presentation and a good drizzle of honey.

While the dip is baking, heat the butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat and add garlic. Cook just until the butter is bubbling, then remove from the heat. Brush the pitas liberally with the garlic butter. Grate some fresh nutmeg over the top, then sprinkle with flaked sea salt. Slice each pita into 4 or 6 triangles, depending on their side. Place on a baking sheet and stick in the oven for 5 to 6 minutes, until just warmed through and fluffy.

Serve the dip immediately with the warm pita.

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3. Three-Cheese Crostini

Here’s another appetizer recipe that stars cheese, and lots of it. The formula for Three Cheese Crostini can be found on FoodNetwork.com, and we’re highlighting it today because we believe it’s both simple yet sophisticated enough to be featured on your appetizer menu this year.

Ingredients:

  • 1½ cups quartered cherry tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons thinly sliced shallots
  • 2½ tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • ½ tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • ¾ cup ricotta cheese
  • ¼ cup crumbled blue cheese, loosely measured
  • ¼ cup prepared basil pesto
  • ¾ teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel, loosely measured
  • 16 slices French or artisan-type baguette, cut ¼-inch thick on the diagonal
  • 2 to 3 grinds black peppercorns
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil leaves
  • ¼ cup finely shredded fresh Pecorino Romano cheese, loosely measured

Directions: Position an oven rack 5 to 6 inches from the broiler element. Preheat the broiler to high. Line a baking sheet with heavy-duty aluminum foil. In a small bowl, gently toss the tomatoes, shallots, ½ tablespoon of olive oil, and vinegar together. Spread out the mixture on the prepared baking sheet. Set the baking sheet on a rack under the broiler element. Broil until the tomatoes begin to show a few black spots, about 4 minutes with oven door closed. Turn the mixture, using a spatula, and broil 3 minutes longer with the oven door closed. Remove from the oven and transfer the mixture with a slotted spoon to a small bowl; set the bowl aside until needed. Retain the broiler heat on high.

While the tomatoes are broiling, combine the ricotta, blue cheese, pesto, ½ teaspoon salt, lemon juice, and lemon peel in a medium bowl. Arrange the baguette slices on a large baking sheet and brush with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Put the baking sheet on the rack under the broiler element and broil until golden, about 1 minute or so per side, watching carefully. Remove from oven.

To assemble, season the tomato mixture with remaining ¼ teaspoon salt and peppercorns, then stir in the basil. Spread some of the ricotta mixture over each crostini. Top with the tomato-onion mixture, then sprinkle with shredded cheese, dividing all the ingredients equally among the slices. Transfer to a serving plate and serve.

Source: iStock

4. Goat Cheese Appetizer

Next up is an appetizer recipe that looks complicated but actually only requires one step, and the oven does all the work for you. Have you ever tried baking your goat cheese? If not, now is the time. Follow Martha Stewart’s instructions for her Goat Cheese Appetizer and prepare to be amazed.

Ingredients:

  • 8 to 12 ounces marinated goat cheese or feta, broken into large chunks
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons olive oil
  • 4 to 5 sprigs fresh thyme
  • ½ teaspoon whole pink peppercorns
  • Sliced baguette or crackers, for serving

Directions: Place cheese in a small ovenproof dish and bake at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden-brown. Remove the dish from the oven, drizzle with olive oil, and garnish with fresh thyme (if desired) and whole pink peppercorns. Serve with sliced baguette or crackers.

Source: iStock

5. Pumpkin, Bacon, and Goat Cheese Dip

This appetizer recipe from Living Locurto also uses goat cheese but kicks things up a notch by bringing the seasonal flavor of pumpkin into the mix, along with bacon (which is always in season). This dip is perfect no matter what vessel you pair it with — whether it be apple, crackers, or bread — and it’s seasonally appropriate, tapping the pumpkin craving that everyone is now fostering.

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 4 ounces goat cheese
  • ¾ cup pureed pumpkin
  • 5 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts or pecans
  • ½ cup chopped Granny Smith apples
  • ¼ cup honey, for drizzling
  • Crackers or baguette slices

Directions: Mix cream cheese, goat cheese, and pumpkin in a small bowl. Add pepper and ¾ of the crumbled bacon to the mixture. Save some bacon for garnish. Spread the dip onto a cracker or toasted baguette slice. Sprinkle with nuts, apples, and bits of bacon, then drizzle with honey before serving.

Source: iStock

6. Artichoke Mascarpone Dip

Last but not least is this Artichoke Mascarpone Dip from Spicy Southern Kitchen. Start things off with this dip that combines rich mascarpone, mozzarella, parmesan, and artichoke, along with a handful of seasonings, and you’ll get your holiday dinner party kicked off on the right foot.

Ingredients:

  • ½ small onion, diced
  • ½ tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 cups baby spinach
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 (10-ounce) jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • 1 (8-ounce) container mascarpone cheese, softened
  • ⅓ cup mayo
  • ½ cup shredded mozzarella
  • ½ cup shredded Parmesan
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon dry mustard
  • 2 tablespoons Panko crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 loaf French bread, cut into ½-inch slices

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Heat olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion and sauté 2 minutes. Add garlic and sauté 1 more minute. Add spinach and sauté 30 seconds. Turn off heat and stir to wilt spinach evenly. Season with salt and pepper. Let cool and then press paper towels down on top to remove excess moisture. Place chopped artichoke hearts in a medium bowl. Add mascarpone and mayonnaise. Stir to combine. Add onion/spinach mixture to bowl along with both cheeses, red pepper flakes, thyme, paprika, and dry mustard. Fold everything together. Spoon into a 1-quart baking dish, sprinkle with Panko crumbs, and bake for 20 minutes.

Combine butter and olive oil in a small microwave-safe bowl and microwave until butter is melted. Brush both sides of bread slices with butter mixture, place on a baking sheet, and bake 8 to 10 minutes, until lightly toasted. Serve dip warm with bread slices.

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