If you just nabbed a last-minute invite to Friendsgiving, or your original family plans fell through and your pals are graciously bringing you into the fold, you still have time to contribute something more than a bottle of wine (although that’s almost never unwelcome). These easy recipes for party food, and suggestions for gussying up store-bought items, will ensure everyone is extra-glad to see you when you walk in.
Some of these require a minimal bit of cooking, while others are more a matter of assembly, but they’re all ready to eat upon arrival, because you do not want to be making demands on your host’s oven (or encroaching on their kitchen in general). Be sure to bring anything you need to serve your dish as well—like toothpicks, a nice platter or bowl, a cheese knife, or a pie server, so you don’t require any special accommodation. As a bonus (even if you don’t also leave the serving vessel behind as a host or hostess gift), you’ll be even more esteemed for your thoughtfulness, and likely to be invited back to all the good parties!
There is a certain school of thought that says you shouldn’t bring anything edible—so as not to upstage the host or interfere with their carefully curated menu plan—but if you’re headed to a more casual Friendsgiving feast, especially if it’s a potluck, it should be more than a-okay.
A classic appetizer that’s infinitely adaptable and ridiculously easy to make (though it does benefit from at least a few hours in the fridge for the flavors to meld), a cheese ball is always a worthy option. If you have the time, you can make our massive and multi-layered Turducken of Cheese Balls recipe for a real showstopper, but a simpler version is totally fine—and faster.
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You could simply make mini cheese balls—or you could make mini cheese balls with a surprise inside. All you have to do is roll sweet red grapes in a soft cheese like Boursin or chevre (flavored with herbs, spices, or pepper, perhaps). Then roll the “truffles” in finely chopped toasted nuts or fresh herbs for extra flair and flavor. Get the Goat Cheese Covered Grapes with Pistachios recipe.
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The veggie tray is another time-honored option, but do one better than picking up a party platter from the store and assemble your own from the pick of the produce section, with a quick homemade dip alongside. Cutting up fresh veggies means they’ll be prettier and tastier, and you can assemble a more interesting selection than just cauliflower and baby carrots. Try including some crisp fennel, jicama, kohlrabi, or radishes in addition to the usual bell peppers, cucumbers, and broccoli. You can also just bring your dip with a bag of chips if that’s easier to transport.
If you have time to roast red bell peppers (and find Aleppo and Urfa pepper if you don’t already have them in your pantry), you have time to whip up this cheesy, sweet-hot, addictive dip. Get our Whipped Feta with Sweet and Hot Peppers recipe.
Otherwise, you could go with classic hummus, but bump it up with add-ins like spinach and basil for something special. A good quality store-bought brand can also work. Get our Spinach and Basil Hummus recipe.
For the least amount of effort, simply stir some scallions and fresh herbs (try sage for the occasion) into cream cheese and sour cream. Quick, easy, eternal. Get our Cream Cheese and Herb Dip recipe.
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A classic chip and dip set may seem old-fashioned, but it comes in handy on many occasions.
Cheese plates are the answer to so many questions (like “What should I eat for dinner/get my BFF for Christmas?”), and they’re surprisingly easy to put together last-minute as long as you have access to a store with a decent selection. Just pick up three to five types of fancy cheese, plus some high-quality accompaniments, like roasted nuts, nice crackers, fresh fruit, olives, honey, and/or other condiments. (See tips on building a perfect cheese plate if you’re not sure exactly what to get.) Ideally, bring along some sort of plate, board, or platter on which to array your finds, in case your host doesn’t have one available. Ditto knives, picks, and other necessary accessories—but don’t stress too much if that’s not an option, because it’s the thought (and the cheese) that counts. Besides, you don’t want or need to get too elaborate, since this is just meant to be a group nibble before a big meal.
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Pretty much any nuts plus any herbs plus a hit of salt = snack perfection. Buy your nut of choice (or a mix) from the bulk bins—make sure they’re raw and unsalted—and toss them with your desired seasonings on a baking sheet, then toast carefully in a low oven so they don’t burn. Bring them along in a bowl and bask in the warm glow of adoration.
Rosemary is a classic Thanksgiving flavor, and it holds up well in the heat of the oven, so it’s a natural choice for flavoring whatever type of nuts you like. Get our Roasted Rosemary Walnuts recipe.
If you want to go the salty-sweet route, these buttery pecans are coated in sugar, kosher salt, a little pepper (black and cayenne), and thyme. Get Donald Link’s Spiced Candied Pecans recipe.
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Bonus points if you bring your own cute serving dish. Extra bonus points if you leave it with your host.
These lacy crisps almost make themselves, especially if you use pre-shredded cheese. Simply form rough piles of it on a baking sheet (with additional seasonings or not) and bake until they melt; they crisp up as they cool, for a perfectly elegant and delicious (and keto-friendly!) nibble, either along with other snacks or on their own to offset a pre-dinner drink. Get the Baked Cheddar Parmesan Cheese Crisps recipe.
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Buy some olives, chop up some other tasty things like garlic cloves and oranges, and mix them all up with oil, vinegar, and spices. Ideally, they’d mingle in the fridge overnight, but 15 to 20 minutes will do in a pinch. You could also throw some bocconcini into the mix if you’ve got a dairy-loving crowd.
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Even better than bringing yet another bottle of Prosecco all by itself? Bringing all the ingredients you need for a simple cocktail—think seasonal mimosas or a three-ingredient concoction like classic White Russians or whiskey gingers (just choose high-quality brands, of course). They should be drinks you can build in a glass without need of a shaker or anything else, including ice just in case there’s not a ton to go around (so make sure your booze and mixers are well chilled ahead of time).
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Unless you have specifically been assigned pie, you probably need to know your crowd (and especially your host) before you go with this option; if someone’s a serious baker and is already providing perfect pies, they may not warm to a store-bought sweet, even if they pretend to (and even if it’s from a really fantastic bakery, which might just make them feel outdone). If you’re confident it would go over well, though, you can sweeten the deal even further by bringing along homemade whipped cream to dollop on top. It’s incredibly easy, especially if you have a stand mixer or electric beater, and you can add a bit of booze or flavored extract if you wish. Get our Easy Whipped Cream recipe.
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This serrated-edge pie server makes dishing up dessert neat and easy.
Bringing along a homemade treat that’s not a direct competitor to the pumpkin and/or pecan pies that are already likely to be present may be a safer and more widely appreciated move—and if you choose a quick no-bake dessert, it won’t be too much harder on you, either. Get our No-Bake Chocolate Ganache Tart recipe. (You have the option of baking the shell if you prefer homemade pastry, but the filling is just melt-stir-and-set.)
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If you do want to make your own crust, this classic tart pan makes it easy.
Even easier than that? Dessert dip! They’re pretty much all fabulous, and most are a cinch to mix up in a matter of minutes. You’ll probably spend more time deciding which cookies, fruits, and biscuits to buy to serve with it. Get our Tiramisu Dip recipe.
And if all else fails, you can always bring a couple cans of cranberry sauce—you’re sure to find at least a few fans in the group!
Related Video: The World’s Fastest Pumpkin Pie
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