I love driving up the Oregon coast with my cousins on the Fourth of July weekend, fishing poles and huge beach blankets packed. Most years we rent a big house, with an extra-large kitchen and a long dining table where we can all sit together for meals: not just for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but for little bites throughout the day, as well. But regardless of where I am, the holiday weekend is, for me, really 100 percent about that CGL (Chill Grazing Lifestyle).
Whether I'm dipping crunchy vegetables into my favorite dips (hummus, nori sour cream, garlicky spinach and yogurt) or snacking on BBQ-friendly finger foods (deviled eggs, chips and guac, fish-sauce chicken wings), you can bet I'll be grazing on lots of yummy bites. Here are Food52's best Fourth of July appetizers to get you snacking like a champ, too.
These cheesy fried zucchini slices are the perfect summer appetizer; a sprinkle of fresh basil at the end adds a nice touch. "I like to retain some texture in my cooked zucchini so I sliced them 1/2-inch thick, which worked perfectly," says recipe author cucina di mammina. "Since it makes quite a large batch, it's perfect for entertaining!"
I'm never above a frozen pea—in fact, it's one of my favorite ingredients year round. I always keep this minty pea puree up my sleeve (the recipe, not the actual puree) for those nights when I need a quick, light starter before the main dish.
This sour cream dip has saved me on many an occasion. It's got that slight "Hm, what's that?" intrigue (i.e., the roasted seaweed snack and sesame oil), which is great to pull out when you want to serve something comforting and familiar but still interesting. Pile on the crunchy, bitter vegetables here, or serve with Ruffles (my favorite).
4. Deviled Eggs
These world-famous deviled eggs have a teensy bit of butter, which, according to Genius columnist Kristen Miglore, "rounds and smooths over the more acidic ingredients and renders the filling creamy without overtaking it." Mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, and cayenne "hover at the edges," Kristen says, allowing the flavor of the golden yolks to shine.
I like to make a gargantuan Caesar salad at the start of the weekend to make sure everyone packs in some roughage before the junk-food grazing commences. Use dark, Tuscan kale in place of watery romaine and you'll be gold.
"Take a peek in my fridge," Food52 favorite Dorie Greenspan writes, "and you’ll find the usual staples—milk, butter, eggs and yogurt, and my favorite plus-one: 'ricotta spoonable.'" Ricotta, fresh herbs, lemon, olive oil, and "plenty of salt and pepper" come together into a dangerously spoonable...dip? Sauce? Appetizer? (All of the above.)
Mandy Lee of Lady and Pups has created an easy-to-follow recipe for these incredible Taiwanese street pancakes with multi-laminated scallions and scallion oil. But she doesn't just stop at scallions. "There’s no reason why the awesomeness of this flatbread can’t be expanded to other herbs besides scallion," she encourages. "Think basil, a little rosemary, thyme, or garlic and parsley."
Garnished with sharp feta, fresh English cucumber, and a Greek yogurt dipping sauce, these light and herby chicken meatballs are perfect for chill grazing over the weekend.
9. Basic Hummus
If you're looking for a classic hummus, then this one's it. It may start from dried chickpeas (which, let's be real, taste better than canned), but the cook time is significantly less than most other from-scratch recipes thanks to a little baking soda in the cooking water. Dip away!
This creamy, garlicky dip—aka borani—is a classic Iranian appetizer that you can serve with lavash or pita, or a colorful medley of crunchy vegetables.
Everyone thinks their guacamole is the best—but dang it, mine is! I don't claim this for many things, but when it comes to guac, I do think it tastes better when all of your ingredients are roughly chopped (not smashed). The real clincher here is the little bit of tomatillo I use in place of more lime juice.
12. Spicy Shrimp
This spicy shrimp appetizer is one of our most popular recipes on Food52. "We love Sriracha's heat, which is warm, lasting, and assertive without being overbearing," Amanda and Merrill write. "Helen (the recipe's author) combined the hot sauce with a few everyday ingredients—olive oil, Worcestershire sauce, sugar, and cilantro—to create a sublime marinade for shrimp."
A Food52 favorite (and winner of Your Best Street Food), okonomiyaki is a Kyoto-style savory pancake stuffed with plump shrimp, cabbage, and scallions. Note to self: Bathe it in the Sriracha-soy-mayo dipping sauce before taking a bite.
This easy appetizer recipe comes from one of my favorite restaurants in Atlanta: Ecco. They're famous for these gooey-tart goat cheese balls, which pair beautifully with the sweet, floral honey. Make these and you will not be sorry.
Have fun with your watermelon this Fourth of July: Douse the fruit with tequila and lemon juice, dust with chile powder and salt, and grill. A cooling cilantro-lime crème fraîche takes this party starter to new heights.
I could eat this onion dip by the spoonful—and often have. Though, according to Amanda and Merrill, "patience pays off here" (i.e., caramelizing the onions), the reward is massive in regard to flavor and comfort.
Lindsay-Jean Hard's artichoke appetizer is super smart, super fun, and super tasty. I especially love how it came to fruition: "Years ago, Tara Duggan mentioned roasting artichoke leaves," she writes, "and the idea stuck in my subconscious until recently when I had a dream about artichoke nachos and woke up determined to make them."
South Koreans adore the flavor combo of corn, ranch, and cheese, and the flavors really do work well together. (Don't knock it till you've tried it!) These are individual flatbreads (which you can cut up further), making them the perfect Fourth of July appetizer or snack bite.
Sometimes, "appetizer" for me means a quick assembly job of fantastic ingredients. Here, nigella and sumac-spiced burrata and citrus star, while pomegranate seeds and pistachios support with lovely crunch.
For this satisfying, hearty dip, "roasted red peppers are blitzed with toast, then spiced with the usual Levant suspects: pomegranate molasses, cumin, and Aleppo pepper," writes recipe author Kitchen Butterfly. "Make a lot, you won't regret it!"
"This silky and refreshing chilled gazpacho soup originated at the Elite paladar in Havana, where the head chef Javier Gomez takes inspiration from the food of Spain," writes Yasmin Khan. "The winning combination of creamy avocado and tart apple makes for an elegant and no-fuss starter, perfect to serve on a warm day."
July is peak corn season, and there are few better ways to make this crunchy-sweet summer staple sing than tossing it on the grill and dousing it in a salty-herby basil butter. My only recommendation: Make a double batch.
I challenge you to eat just one handful of these crispy fried chickpeas spiced with smoked paprika, thyme, lots of garlic, and a dash of lemon zest. They're exactly what you want to munch on in between sips of a sparkling ice beverage, like this citrusy ginger-mint soda.
These pillowy pretzel bites need little more than a sprinkling of coarse salt and a dollop of mustard (or your condiment of choice) on the side. Even better, they don't require too much work—you'll need just an afternoon (or if you're more of a morning baker, a few early hours) to pull 'em off.
When you're in a pinch and need a snack-y something ASAP, this potato chip tortilla Española is here you for you. It's ready in just 15 minutes and is totally unfussy, thanks to a Genius swap: substituting the slowly fried potatoes and onions (which are traditional) for your favorite thin potato chips. Serve it warm or at room temp—either way works.
" You wouldn't be doing anyone a disservice by topping this, warm from the oven, with a big spoonful of ricotta," Absolute Best Tests columnist Ella Quittner writes of this "pizza" focaccia that we'd happily snack on all day long—with or without the cheese.
This Fourth of July appetizer is last on the list but so not the least. Why? Because it's the absolute best thing I've ever eaten out of the Food52 test kitchen.
These vermicelli and pork–stuffed chicken wings are a labor of love (most notably the deboning step at the start of the recipe), but should you be up for the challenge, your friends and family will go crazy over them. The fish-sauce caramel ties everything together and will make you smack your lips dreaming about them for days afterward. (Consider this your reward for making it to the end of this list.)
This article has been updated in May 2020 by the Food52 editors to include more snack-y Fourth of July recipe ideas.