Labor Day

18 Appetizers We're Eyeing Up for Labor Day

From zucchini fritters to tomato toasts to corn quesadillas.

August 18, 2020
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 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 18 best appetizers for Labor Day are organized by produce, so you can cook around whichever fruits and vegetables you find. Pass the wine!

Juicy Tomatoes

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.

Crunchy Corn

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.

Creamy Eggplant

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. 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.

13. 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.

14. 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.

Sweet Zucchini & Other Squash

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.

16. 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.

17. 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.

18. 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.

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. Her writing has appeared in TASTE, The Strategist, Eater, and Bon Appetit's Healthyish and Basically. She contributed recipes and words to the book "Breakfast: The Most Important Book About the Best Meal of the Day." Once upon a time, she studied theatre design and art history at Smith College, so if you need a last-minute avocado costume or want to talk about Wayne Thiebaud's cakes, she's your girl. She tests all recipes with Diamond Crystal kosher salt. You can 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!