Room-temperature appetizers

Updated 1/31/2009

I was recently looking for ideas for appetizers that can be held and served at room temperature. As part of my research, I asked for advice on the Worldwide Recipes bulletin board. I received many great responses, which are compiled in this article. Thanks to everyone who made suggestions and gave me recipes.

The most frequently received suggestion was “hummus and pita chips.”

Convenience is nice, but you must also keep food safety in mind. Skip the mini quiche, seafood, or dishes with cream cheese. “Dairy products sitting outside refrigeration/not served promptly after cooking should not be eaten”, says Leah Stewart, a pastry chef in Louisville, KY.

Linda Larsen offers these food safety tips: No food should be left at room temperature for more than two hours. Keeping hot appetizers hot is easy if you use chafing or fondue dishes, slow cookers, or heating trays. Replenish cold foods that have been sitting out for two hours with fresh foods from your fridge. Larsen lists several ideas for “Make Ahead Appetizers” on her site.

Stuffed mushrooms may also be served cool, but they taste best when they are piping hot.

The following appetizers may be served at room temperature:

  • Assorted baked goods: breads, brownies, muffins, donut holes, and cakes. Marie recommends beer bread, lemon pound cake, or white chocolate cranberry bread (something a little sweet).
  • Banana roll ups (spread tortilla with peanut butter, roll up a banana in it. Slice and serve.)
  • Beef jerky or turkey jerky
  • Cheese trays can usually be out several hours without a problem. Sue recommends this combination: 1) Balsamic-marinated goat cheese with rosemary crackers, 2) Brie, and 3) aged Irish cheddar drizzled with honey (lavender honey if you can find it). Serve it with mixed nuts and grapes, which stay fresh better than sliced apples.
  • Chex Mix or other snack mix. As Chris notes, “You can make them ahead, they can be stored and served at room temperature, and they can sit out for hours and still be good. The Chex Web site has a bunch of variations, but the original Chex Mix still gets eaten first.”
  • Chicken nuggets, skewers, or chicken wings
  • Chocolate-covered “anything” (nuts, dried fruit, or pretzels)
  • Cucumber tea sandwiches
  • Fresh fruit plate with strawberries, pineapple, grapes, and apples
  • Granola bars
  • Hummus, roasted red pepper dip, and toasted pita. Geri in RI says, “serve red pepper humus with soft Sahara pita bread pockets cut in wedges and with Nabisco Shredded Wheat and Bran cereal. They are like small unsalted Triscuits and really pick up the flavor of humus!”
  • Kielbasa slices in BBQ or other sauce (combine a 16 oz can whole cranberry sauce, 12 oz jar chili sauce, and 1 T lemon juice for 2 lbs kielbasa).
  • Kielbasa Bites from Barb in TX: Place kielbasa slices in a pan; add equal parts raspberry-chipotle salad dressing/marinade and chicken or vegetable stock. Simmer about 20 minutes (watching liquid). Drain as needed and serve.
  • Lunchmeat cubes. Sherrill buys 3/4″ slabs of ham, turkey, and rare roast beef from the deli. She cuts them into cubes, spears them on add toothpicks, and serves with a small dish of horseradish sauce and a spoon (keeps guests from dipping cubes directly in the sauce).
  • Meatballs, any variety, beef or turkey
  • Mini sandwiches on croissants or sliced bread (cut with cookie cutter). Spread a split mini corn muffin with cranberry sauce and top with sliced turkey (but hold the mayo).
  • No-mayo tuna salad on crackers (link)
  • Olive tray with sun-dried tomatoes, marinated artichoke hearts, and roasted peppers
  • Oven-roasted vegetables (another recipe): Heat oven to 375°F. Toss sliced vegetables (asparagus, bell pepper, carrots, eggplant, green beans, red onion, and yellow squash) with olive oil. Sprinkle with sea salt and cook for 20 minutes. Prepare portabello mushrooms and garlic cloves in the same way. Add them to the veggies and cook all for another 10 minutes.
  • Peanut butter power balls (recipe)
  • Popcorn and pretzels
  • Roasted chickpeas, 30 minutes at 425F (recipe)
  • Salsa and blue corn chips
  • Spiced nuts: either savory or sweet, such as Cajun mixed nuts (nuts, Cajun spice, and a little butter or oil) or candied nuts (butter and sugar)
  • Tortilla roll-ups — Beans and Salsa (vegan): Mix 11 oz Mexicorn (drained), 15 oz black beans (drained), and 16 oz chunky salsa. Spread 1 tortilla with 2 T vegetarian refried beans. Top with 1/3 c salsa mix. Roll and slice into 8 pieces.
  • Tortilla wraps — Hummus and Roasted Veggies: Spread 1 tortilla with 2 T low fat hummus. Leave a one-inch margin around the tortilla edge. Top with roasted vegetables. Fold sides in and roll up from the bottom (burrito method).
  • Vegetable tray. Sherrill recommends making a bouquet of colored bell peppers, celery sticks, green onions, and cherry tomatoes on long skewers for accent. Serve sauce on the side.