Labor Day

32 Labor Day Appetizers for a Sizzling Summer Send-Off

From zucchini fritters to tomato toasts to corn quesadillas.

August 28, 2023
Photo by James Ransom

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 zucchini, 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 32 best appetizers for Labor Day use so many incredible, seasonal fruits and vegetables, you can build an entire menu from these starters alone.

Our Best Labor Day Appetizer Recipes

1. Tomato, Nectarine & Mozzarella Salad

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.

2. Tomato Salad with Grilled Corn, Feta & Hazelnuts

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.

3. Bruschetta

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.

4. Moroccan Stuffed Tomatoes

Fill large tomatoes with garlic, thyme, toasted pistachios, and chile-sautéed zucchini (though any summer squash will do), then bake until soft and sweet.

5. Gazpacho

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.

6. Heirloom Tomato & Cornbread Panzanella

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.

7. Sriracha-Lime Corn Salad

Sriracha and lime-slicked corn salad begs to be eaten outside with a very cold beer (or two).

8. Sourdough Corn Fritters

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.

10. Elote-Style Quesadillas

These gooey quesadillas are inspired by Mexican street corn. Picture: extremely melty Monterey Jack and a zesty lime crema for dunking.

11. Eggplant Miso Tahini Toast

Bake (or grill) eggplant slices till squidgy, then smash them with miso paste, tahini, and maple syrup. Serve this spread with Greek yogurt for slathering on toast.

12. Grilled Marinated Tomatoes

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.

13. Warm Eggplant & Mint Salad

This zingy, fragrant eggplant salad is just waiting for toasts, pita chips, crackers, or fingers to shovel it into eager mouths.

14. Grilled Eggplant & Peach Caprese Salad

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.

15. Eggplant Caponata

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.

17. Canal House’s Marinated Zucchini

Marinating in vinegar and olive oil is perhaps the best way to treat charred zucchini. It’s just a simple truth.

18. Zuni Cafe Zucchini Pickles

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.

19. Roman Zucchini Fritters

Essentially battered and fried zucchini slices, these fritters should be served with a pile of Parm and plenty of cold white wine.

20. Extra-Cheesy Spinach-Artichoke Dip

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.

21. Mark Bittman’s Minimalist Buffalo Wings

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.

23. Dill Pickle Potato Salad

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.

24. Homemade Potato Chips

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.

25. Spicy Watermelon With Tomatoes, Prosciutto & Salted-Lime Yogurt

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.

26. Zahav's Hummus Tehina

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.

6 More Labor Day Appetizers

More from Food52

This story was updated in August 2023 with more appetizers and products from our Shop.

How will you be celebrating Labor Day this year? Let us know in the comments below!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • cucina di mammina
    cucina di mammina
  • Lisa
Rebecca Firkser is the assigning editor at Food52. She used to wear many hats in the food media world: food writer, editor, assistant food stylist, recipe tester (sometimes in the F52 test kitchen!), recipe developer. These days, you can keep your eye out for her monthly budget recipe column, Nickel & Dine. Rebecca tests all recipes with Diamond Crystal kosher salt. Follow her on Instagram @rebeccafirkser.


cucina D. September 5, 2020
Grazie tante for including my zucchini fritters recipe in this great article ~ I love Food52 and hope you are all safe & healthy ~ Happy Labor Day weekend 2020❤️✌️
Lisa September 4, 2020
Love all of these recipes, right for the seasons. Some I already have made in the past. Some are new to me. It helps me to refresh my memory. Thank you!