When you have a holiday party or dinner, you can’t give every dish equal attention. Appetizers can keep your guests sated while you focus on the main course, so you don’t want to spend too much time on them. For appetizer-only parties, well, some of those hors d’oeuvres will still need to sit on the back burner while you focus on others. Enter the Crock-Pot (or other slow cooker). Typically tasked with breaking down tough cuts of meat, a slow cooker can also be your secret weapon in the appetizer realm. And we’re not talking just meatballs or chili. We mean to make something fancy-schmancy or unexpected. Next time it’s your turn to host cocktails at home, bust out the recipe for one of these appetizers.
1.French Onion Dip
Caramelized onions are so sweet and succulent, and you get them that way like nothing else when you put them in a Crock-Pot for seven hours. This is a crazy good dip. Get our Slow-Cooker French Onion Dip recipe.
2. Duck Confit
Making duck confit legs in a slow cooker is as easy as combining the melted fat and cured duck legs and walking away, only to return a few hours later to meltingly tender, flavorful meat. When it’s done, shred the meat, season it, and pile it on toasts with goat cheese and a bit of cranberry preserves for a great holiday app. Get our Slow Cooker Duck Confit recipe.
3. Slow Cooker Bacon Compote
A spoonful of rich, sweet, and smoky bacon compote spooned onto crostini or mini biscuits spread with goat cheese is one of our all-time favorite appetite stokers. Nothing could be simpler—you start by frying lots of bacon and draining, then cooking onions with vinegar, garlic, molasses, and coffee for 3 ½ or 4 hours, till everything is luscious and dark. Get our Slow Cooker Bacon Compote recipe.
4. Slow Cooker Bourbon Ribs
Small, succulent baby back ribs are fantastic appetizers, especially when there’s a couple of hours of football to watch before Thanksgiving dinner starts. Here, you start by making a barbecue sauce flavored with bacon. Add the ribs (previously dry-rubbed with an herb, salt, and sugar mix) and simmer up to 5 hours, till the meat is falling off the bones. Get our Slow Cooker Bourbon Ribs recipe.
5. Hot Wings
The secret to these wings—which can skew Buffalo-style, Asian, or Latin, depending on your choice of hot sauce—is crisping them in a preheated oven at the very end for a browned color, flavor, and texture. Get our Slow Cooker Hot Wings recipe.
6. Steamed Artichokes
For a healthy snack or starter, try steaming whole globe artichokes in your crock pot. Serve them with red wine vinegar and olive oil for dipping. Get The Kitchn’s Slow Cooker Artichoke recipe.
7. Cocktail Meatballs
Cocktail meatballs feel appropriate for any occasion, whether you’re throwing a tailgate or a highbrow holiday fete. Bonus idea: Prep and freeze, then defrost and pop ’em into the cooker when it’s go time. Get Every Little Thing Blog’s Slow Cooker Cocktail Meatballs recipe.
8. Party Mix
The best party mixes are evenly seasoned, and leave your fingers a little sticky with spice. Achieve this by combining a medley of bite-sized crackers with butter, spices, and liquid smoke, then heating the party mix in the crock pot until dry and warm. Get our Slow Cooker Party Mix recipe.
9. Boiled Peanuts
Boiled peanuts, a Low Country favorite, are simple to make but require a watchful eye. Eliminate the caveat here by cooking peanuts in the slow cooker instead. Get Add a Pinch’s Slow Cooker Boiled Peanuts recipe.
10. Cheese Fondue
Here’s a dirty secret that specialty kitchen stores don’t want you to know: You don’t need a fondue pot to make great fondue. Use a crock pot for our Alpine-inspired version; just make sure to stir the dip often. Get our Cheese Fondue recipe.
11. Cocktail Sausages
Use your slow cooker to warm toothpick-friendly cocktail sausages, and infuse them with a sweet-tangy-spicy mix of brown sugar, Dijon mustard, and Sriracha sauce. Get Damn Delicious’s Slow Cooker Cocktail Sausages recipe.
12. Roasted Garlic
There’s hardly a more gratifying pleasure than the simple act of smoothing a clove of roast garlic on toast; step away from the oven in favor of the lower-maintenance slow cooker instead. Get Shockingly Delicious’s Slow Cooker Roasted Garlic recipe.
13. Marinated Artichoke Hearts
Marinated artichoke hearts is a classic antipasto, but with a slow cooker, the artichokes develop a deep, complex flavor that you don’t normally enjoy. Get the recipe.
Related video: How to Make a Beautiful Hummus Appetizer