Holiday Entertaining

Our Best Goat Cheese Appetizers for One Heck of a Party

Bake it, fry it, spread it—the possibilities are endless.

December  3, 2021
Photo by Rocky Luten

We've partnered with California cheese maker Cypress Grove to highlight creative ways to incorporate one of our favorite ingredients—goat cheese, like their award-winning Humboldt Fog—into your holiday party spread.

I am a cheese person. Put a plate of gooey macaroni and cheese, a slice of pizza with extra mozzarella, or creamy cheese dip in front of me and I'll choose that over just about anything else. So when the holiday season rolls around, it's only natural that I turn to my most beloved ingredient when planning a party menu. But while all cheeses are equally perfect in my eyes, during the more festive months, one in particular stands above the rest for its versatility: goat cheese.

With a tangy, earthy flavor and creamy yet stable texture, goat cheese is like the food world's equivalent of a multi-sport athlete. Mix it into a batter or dough to lend a savory bite, blend it into a smooth, silky dip, spread it on a piece of toasted bread with toppings such as roasted red pepper, fig jam, or butternut squash, or let it shine at the center of your cheese board—the possibilities are endless, making it the ultimate holiday party secret weapon, especially for easy appetizers.

This year, I plan on buying up a bunch of my favorite creamy goat cheese (a citrusy and herbaceous variety from Northern California that has just the right amount of that goaty twang) and using it to make a slew of crowd-friendly dishes, like the ones below. From light bites and easy cheese appetizers all the way to dessert recipes, here are some delicious ideas (many of which come together in under 15 minutes) to work goat cheese into your seasonal spread.

You Can Spread It

Ah, the crostini. These little bite-sized pieces of toasted bread topped with any toppings you please make the easiest of make-ahead holiday party appetizers. My favorite way to make crostini: Toast slices of olive oil-drizzled bread (from a baguette, for example) in the oven; let them cool; spread a healthy dollop of tangy goat cheese over every piece; and top with sautéed or roasted vegetables and herbs (like jammy red onions and basil, or sautéed morel mushrooms) or fresh, seasonal fruit (like soft, sweet persimmons).

You Can Bake It

There are many ways to bake goat cheese, each more delicious than the next. You could start with these crunchy semolina crackers, which are baked with goat cheese and thinly sliced shallots right on top; you might even serve them along side your cheese board for some serious goat cheese-on-goat cheese action. Or you could make this easy baked goat cheese and ricotta; it feels and tastes like comfort food, but the addition of candied tomatoes makes it worthy of a magazine spread. If you're feeling ambitious, you might want to try this stunning herbed goat cheese and vegetable galette; the punchy goat cheese mellows as it bakes to bring out the earthy, rustic flavors of the seasonal root veggies.

You Can Toss It Into Salads

In a season chock-full of hearty, carb-heavy foods, it's nice to have something green on the table every now and then. That doesn't mean you should skip the goat cheese, though. Goat cheese's bright, citrusy notes and rich texture is the perfect complement to the peppery arugula, buttery pistachios, and crisp pears in this autumn-friendly salad. If you want to take any plain-old salad up a few notches, transform goat cheese into these crispy, melty-centered fritters and gently place them atop a field of fresh greens.

You Can Whip It Up

There are plenty of ways you could use a batch of whipped goat cheese—as a dip for crudités, dolloped over roasted beets, topped with crispy prosciutto, or spread on toast—but I am only going to share one with you here, since it is my all-time favorite: drizzled over Alon Shaya's whole roasted cauliflower. The dinner table show-stopper is first poached in a broth of wine and spices before being browned to crispy perfection in the oven. This cauliflower wouldn't be complete, however, without a decadent, zingy sauce of whipped goat cheese, feta, cream cheese, and cream. Serve it as a main dish for your vegetarian guests, or pass it around the entire table as a shared side.

You Can Turn It Into a Tart

Tarts, galettes, quesadillas—these free-form, crowd-friendly savory pastries can be a main course, but you can just as easily cut them into small portions for a bite-sized appetizer. This Herbed Goat Cheese and Root Vegetable Galette is perfect for holiday entertaining, because it makes use of seasonal ingredients like carrots, sweet potatoes, and turnips. Tangy goat cheese is mashed together with fresh herbs like rosemary and thyme for an earthy cheese mixture that’s spread over whole-wheat pastry dough. And though you may be thinking quesadillas are reserved exclusively for breakfast or dinner, slice this pear, bacon, and goat cheese quesadilla into individual wedges for an appetizer.

You Can Stuff It

Okay, I understand that doesn’t sound like the most appetizing description, so let me explain. You can use goat cheese as a filling for party-ready appetizers like Prosciutto Goat Cheese Stuffed Dates. Medjool dates are filled with goat cheese, then each are wrapped in a fresh basil leaf and thin slice of prosciutto and baked until the cheese melts and pork gets crispy. You can also fill grape leaves with a combination of brown rice and creamy chevre.

You Can Fry it

In the world of hors d'oeuvres, there are few things better than a bite of crispy-on-the-outside, creamy-on-the-inside fried goat cheese. If you've never had one, you've got to give this fried goat cheese with honey and black pepper recipe a shot. Not only does it make the perfect grab-and-go appetizer, but you can also prep the batter and goat cheese in advance so that all you have to do when guests come knocking is fry them up. For a more savory take, try these Italian goat cheese-stuffed olives, which are fried until crisp in a coat of breadcrumbs and egg, and sprinkled with a finishing touch of Parmesan and lemon juice.

You Can Use It in Dessert

Wait, put goat cheese in dessert, you say? Absolutely. Goat cheese's fluffy texture lends itself well to being mixed into batters and doughs, while it's punchy flavor pairs nicely with fresh fruits and flavors like vanilla and chocolate. The flaky, almost savory crust of this blackberry galette and hazelnut-chocolate rugelach both get a boost from goat cheese to the pastry dough. For a dessert that's even more goat cheesy, make a batch of this luxurious goat cheese ice cream and let your guests choose their own toppings, like roasted figs or sautéed dates. Or try these Goat Cheese & Thyme Snacking Cookies, which are like a savory version of jammy thumbprint cookies.

You Can Eat It Right Out of the Package

Ok, I know what you're thinking: "Duh, a cheese board! I could have thought of that myself." And you're right. But here's what you maybe didn't think of: Make goat cheese the star of the show; you're probably most familiar with the soft, creamy version of goat cheese, but there are aged, fresh, semi-firm, and hard goat cheeses you can also bring to the board. Choose from whipped goat cheese or a sliceable log of goat cheese. Since putting together a cheese board is fairly simple, you could make a batch of roasted fig jam (apricots or cranberries also work well) or herb-infused honey (I'd start with lavender or rosemary) for a fancy homemade pairing.

When Mary Keehn first started making goat cheese, she had just two goats (Esmeralda and Hazel) and no experience. But after perfecting a fresh goat cheese over her stovetop, which quickly caught on in her Humboldt County, California community, she launched Cypress Grove Chevre in 1983. Today, Cypress Grove has over 1,000 goats and produces a variety of award-winning goat cheeses, like Midnight Moon, Truffle Tremor, and its most popular, Humboldt Fog. In partnership with Cypress Grove, we're excited to share unique ways to bring goat cheese to your holiday table this season, from dips and spreads to fancied-up cheese boards.

What is your favorite way to serve goat cheese? Let us know in the comments below!

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Erin Alexander

Written by: Erin Alexander

Erin Alexander is the Managing Editor of Brand Partnerships at Food52, covering pop culture, travel, foods of the internet, and all things #sponsored. Formerly at Men’s Journal, Men’s Fitness, Us Weekly, and Hearst, she currently lives in New York City.


judy December 22, 2018
Try it with that left over Thanksgiving Cranberry sauce. 1 package goat cheese, pour over your homemade cranberry sauce (I particularly like the cranberry orange version -but both work). sprinkle on some chopped walnuts for a little crunch. Serve with a nice water cracker or some lightly crisped slices of sourdough bread. So good....
Sandy A. December 16, 2018
Is there anything goat cheese can’t’s everything! 😊
HalfPint December 13, 2018
One of my friends served a crostini spread with tapenade and these a smear of chèvre. The goat cheese tempers the saltiness, creating a mellower flavor.