As summer comes to a close, you may start to feel a bit down. Don’t! Take a trip to the farmers market or the produce aisle and put together a Labor Day feast you’ll still be thinking about well into autumn.
If you're planning to grill for the main event—simple and painless—you can spare some creative energy for the appetizers in recipes chock-full of tomatoes, corn, eggplant, and summer squash, with plenty of stone fruit in the mix. Since it's peak season for so much produce, many of these appetizer recipes skip the cooking and let the stars shine on their own, while others get fried, sautéed, or grilled.
Our 27 best appetizers for Labor Day use so many incredible, seasonal fruits and vegetables. Pass the wine, please (preferably rosé)!
For a riff on the classic caprese salad, pair perfectly ripe tomatoes (try a mixture of colors and sizes for even more fun!), fresh mozzarella, and basil with crisp, tart nectarines.
You definitely need tomatoes here, but don’t feel like you have to stick to this salad recipe explicitly—let the market dictate which summer veg you’ll grill (zucchini! eggplant! peppers!), which salty cheese you’ll crumble, and which crunchy nut you’ll scatter.
Crunchy-yet-juicy bruschetta doesn’t need more than good summer tomatoes (and maybe a peach if you have one), garlic-rubbed toast, and fresh basil.
Fill large tomatoes with garlic, thyme, toasted pistachios, and chile-sautéed zucchini (though any summer squash will do), then bake until soft and sweet.
Blend your market haul—tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers, red onion, jalapeño—with a bit of stale bread and you get gazpacho, a raw soup served chilled or at room temperature. You can eat it properly with a bowl and spoon, but I prefer to sip it straight from a glass, preferably outside.
Traditional panzanella calls for stale sourdough or another chewy bread, but this one asks cornbread to do the heavy lifting. Just make sure the bread is at least a day old, or dry it out first in a low oven.
Sriracha and lime-slicked corn salad begs to be eaten outside with a very cold beer (or two).
These fritters are as simple as one (corn), two (eggs), three (sourdough starter). But definitely don’t skip a shower of flaky salt before bringing that platter to the table.
9. Corn Ketchup
Bake up some frozen French fries, sweet potato fries, or tater tots, and plop them next to this delightful corn ketchup.
These gooey quesadillas are inspired by Mexican street corn. Picture: extremely melty Monterey Jack and a zesty lime crema for dunking.
While tomatoes are still in season (we’ll hold on as long as possible), grill them until they’re charred and crispy. Just before serving, spoon a spicy glaze made with fish sauce, chile peppers, and shallots over each of them.
This zingy, fragrant eggplant salad is just waiting for toasts, pita chips, crackers, or fingers to shovel it into eager mouths.
Eggplant may not be the first thing you’d think of when you hear “caprese salad,” but when partnered with peaches and burrata, it gives tomatoes a serious run for their money.
Eggplant, tomatoes, caramelized onions, capers, raisins (don’t skip them!), and vinegar make a topping for crostini you won’t be able to stop snacking on.
16. Zucchini Butter
Serve this zucchini butter with lots of crispy crackers or potato chips. It also makes a mean addition to a cheese plate.
Marinating in vinegar and olive oil is perhaps the best way to treat charred zucchini. It’s just a simple truth.
These quick-ish pickles will be just as welcome on an appetizer platter with cheese and crackers as they are draped on top of a burger.
Essentially battered and fried zucchini slices, these fritters should be served with a pile of Parm and plenty of cold white wine.
Is it really a Labor Day party without spinach dip? Another reason worth celebrating—it only requires 20 minutes of prep work, so that you can get back on the patio and enjoy the last of the summer sun.
Buffalo wings may strike you as more of a Game Day appetizer than a quick and easy Labor Day recipe, but frankly we don’t think anyone will complain when they make an appearance.
22. Crab Cakes
We’re all about seafood in the summer (it’s kind of a given, right?) and this recipe for crab cakes is the ultimate Labor Day appetizer to celebrate the end of the season. We use an entire pound of jumbo lump crab meat, which is tossed with a light amount of mayonnaise, a touch of Dijon, a dash of Old Bay seasoning, and a little bit of freshly squeezed lemon juice.
There’s no heavy mayonnaise dressing in this potato salad. Instead, it gets a sharp, tangy flavor from both chopped dill pickles and pickle juice, plus a little bit of white wine vinegar and Dijon mustard.
If you want to wow (and we mean really wow!) Labor Day party-goers, skip the store-bought chips and make your own. Our secret to better-than-ever chips is seasoning them with a custom blend of powdered buttermilk, dried mustard, chives, fried bacon, salt, and freshly ground black pepper.
A thick wedge of watermelon on a hot summer day is as good as it gets. But wait...watermelon with prosciutto and juicy tomatoes? Maybe this is actually as good as it gets.
Hummus is an easy-going, crowd-pleasing appetizer for a Labor Day party. What makes this recipe special is soaking dried chickpeas and then cooking them with baking soda. Yes, it’s a little extra work than if you were to use pre-cooked canned beans, but the result is a smoother-than-ever dip.