In compiling this list of the *best ever* summer appetizer recipes, two key guardrails guided my selections. The dishes that made the cut had to 1) reflect the beautiful, vibrant hues of the season and 2) be filled with a summery flavor. I’m talking spicy dips, crispy, crunchy and colorful salads and light but satisfying appetizers. Of course, I’m all for easy prep and make-ahead recipes, too. Essentially, the next 10 picks were supposed to be nothing short of perfection… and delicious perfection they certainly are.
From salads to spring rolls to veggie-packed nachos (yes, really), the following summer appetizer recipes are just what you need to spice up your taste buds before serving the main course. Of course I wouldn’t blame you if you eat these snacks and treats. They are so good.
Feature image by Alison Wue†
White bean and raddichi salad
Why we love it: It’s a hot debate, but I’m squarely on the side of yes, counting salads as an appetizer. Unless you’re French or eat like the French do, salads often precede meals, and after all, the definition of ‘appetizer’ is a small dish meant to stimulate the appetite.
OK, time to get off my technical high horse – in short, this salad is nothing short of stunning. Let it kick off the meal or enjoy this salad alongside grilled meat or fish. However it is served, light summer delicacies await you.
Hero Ingredient: Radicchio, a staple in Italian cuisine, is the star of the show. It is bitter, spicy and the perfect contrast to the sharp Parmigiano Reggiano and creamy cannellini beans.
Get the recipe for White Bean and Raddichi Salad.
Love & Lemons Ultimate Loaded Nachos
Why we love it: It took me a while to get to the concept of nachos. You either get a soggy topping-laden chip from the center or you pick from the side and you’re left with nothing more than a dash of queso. But this recipe offers the pro tip of distributing and layering the fixings evenly across your stack of chips, changing the nacho game forever.
Hero Ingredient: Shiitake Taco Meat† Vegans, vegetarians and meat eaters are swooning everywhere.
Get the recipe for Ultimate Loaded Nachos†
Crostini with artichoke & spring pea
Why we love it: These crostini take no more than 15 minutes of your time. Toast your baguette slices and blend your pesto components in the food processor. To assemble. Enjoying. The good news is that once you’ve served your crostini in front of a crowd, any leftover pea pesto pairs perfectly with crunchy summer crudités or is delicious spread on a vegetarian sandwich. TL;DR: The possibilities of pea pesto are endless.
Hero Ingredient: A garnish of artichoke leaves? Genius.
Get the recipe for Crostini with Artichoke and Spring Peas.
Vegan Jalapeño Poppers from Minimalist Baker
Why we love it: Polarizing perhaps, but I’ll say it anyway: It takes a lot to love a jalapeño popper. I can get quite warm and can’t get enough of a creamy cheese filled bite. But when an order of poppers comes to the table, the presentation and pairing don’t let me down. BUT, take a vegan approach, and the cashews and nutritional yeast yield a filling that will pay off your culinary efforts tenfold.
Hero Ingredient: Is it just me, or is cumin one of the most underrated spices in the game? This recipe will make you fall in love.
Get the recipe for Vegan Jalapeño Poppers†
Lemony White Bean Dip from Rainbow Plant Life.
Why we love it: Tired of your go-to hummus but still craving a creamy dip? Here’s your answer. While there are plenty of recipes that do justice to the flavor combination of lemons, white beans, and garlic, this one takes things to the next level. Also important to note: 10 ingredients and make-ahead.
Hero Ingredient: Pine nuts are tasty on their own. But roasted? Golden brown goodness.
Get the recipe for Lemony White Bean Dip†
Charlie Bird Farro Salad
Why we love it: Cereal salads come and go, but farro is forever. Really, the nutty flavor gives weight and body to an otherwise green salad. Recipe maker Jessie De Lowe likes to incorporate fresh finds from the farmer’s market, and this version makes the most of crispy radishes and sun-ripened tomatoes.
Hero Ingredient: Mild but with a crunchy punch (and salty if you like), pistachios are my number 1 salad ingredient.
Get the recipe for Charlie Bird Farro Salad.
Smashed Cucumber Salad With Feta + Pistachio From Alison Wu
Why we love it: Don’t believe what you’ve heard folks – it’s actually… is easily be green. A good example, this dream of a salad. Take a tip from recipe maker-extraordinaire, Alison Wue: “Crushing the cucumbers cracks the skin, releasing the water and seeds, and splitting the pulp into perfect bite-sized pieces.” So the next time you’re slicing your cukes, try this method.
Hero Ingredient: I’ve never met a block of salty feta where I didn’t drop a fork over a knife.
Get the recipe for Smashed Cucumber Salad With Feta + Pistachio†
Spring rolls with edible flowers from Live Eat Learn
Why we love it: Moment of appreciation for this awe-inspiring work of art. The garden vibes and eat-the-rainbow aesthetic make these spring rolls a must-eat in my book — and a must-make for any party from now through Labor Day.
Hero Ingredient: An array of edible flowers makes for a more than impressive presentation.
Get the recipe for Spring rolls with edible flowers†
Bruschetta with slow roasted tomatoes and ricotta
Why we love it: When Camille first came out with this recipe, I knew my craving for an over-the-counter recipe was finally satisfied. Sweet, slow-roasted tomatoes and creamy ricotta sit atop toasted slices of sourdough (a personal favorite). In other words, layer upon layer of summer goodness.
Hero Ingredient: A generous sprinkling of flaky salt balances all the flavors beautifully.
Get the recipe for Bruschetta with slow roasted tomatoes and ricotta.
Blistered Shishito Peppers by Cookie + Kate
Why we love it: Every time I dip into a plate of fried shishito peppers, my long-dormant affinity for risk is activated. What do I mean? Nine out of ten shishitos have a mild, almost sweet taste, while the remaining 10% will burn your mouth. But don’t worry, you can always make up for it with a little aioli.
Hero Ingredient: Essentially a single ingredient dish, shishitos are the answer.
Get the recipe for Shishito peppers with blisters†