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Beyond breadsticks: 15 {simple} gluten-free appetizers

There is always plenty of opportunity for munching over the holidays. Whether it be at parties, open houses or church functions, trays of finger food are constantly inviting us to nibble. It’s easy to fill up fast but not really eat anything substantial.

One culprit that is responsible for that bloated, overstuffed feeling at the end of the night is bread and bread products. Now I love bread – and pita chips, tortillas, crostini, crutons, and all the other wonderful carb-crazy snacks, but in moderation. All too often the breadsticks, bruschetta and crackers take center stage and I ultimately fill up on starches instead of fresh ingredients.

This holiday season, I’m making a conscious effort to avoid serving finger food that includes bread and instead am being creative with seafood, vegetables, dried fruit, cured meat, cheese, and nuts. Once your eyes are opened to the possibilities, the options are really endless! And your gluten-intolerant friends will love you all the more for changing things up.

Read on for plenty of  inspiration for keeping your hors d’oeuvres fresh – while still staying simple.

15 {simple} Ideas for Gluten-Free Appetizers

1. Greek Salad Skewers

Why not feature a popular salad on a skewer? If crunchy and salty are your thing, then skip the chips and make these instead.

  • Black olives, pitted
  • Feta cheese, cubed
  • Cherry tomatoes, washed
  • Mini Cucumbers, sliced into 1/2 inch rounds
  • olive oil
  • dried oregano
  • short wooden skewers
  1. Toss feta with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of dried thyme.
  2. Assemble skewers by sliding an olive, cucumber round, and cherry tomato onto the stick. Finish with the square of feta so that it stands upright; here the feta acts as a base. Repeat until you have the desired amount of appetizers.
  3. Drizzle with more olive oil if you like and serve.

2. Vegetables & Dip

A pre-dinner snack can be as simple as a bowl of fresh-cut crudités with a tangy dip. Around the holidays I love to keep the selection fairly monochrome for a pretty effect: celery, mushroom caps, Belgian endive, raw turnip, white asparagus, cauliflower and white radish.

3. Gingered Clementine and Pomegranate Shrimp

These vibrant shrimp featuring seasonal citrus and pomegranate were posted recently by Simple Bites contributor Shaina of Food for My Family.

“These gingered clementine and pomegranate shrimp make fantastic appetizers. They come together quickly, cook even quicker, and then you’re left with tasty little shrimp covered in a sweet and spicy glaze. What’s not to love?”

Head to Shaina’s post to get this seasonal recipe.

4. Kettle Chip Scoops with Smoked Salmon & Dilled Cream Cheese

Babble contributor Brooke McLay boasts that her Potato Chip Scoops with Smoked Salmon & Dilled Cream Cheese are a two-minute appetizer. These bite-sizes morsels are simple, yet elegant enough for any holiday get-together.

5. Cheddar & Hazelnut Stuffed Apricots

This easy, three-ingredient appetizer comes together quickly with no mess. Choose apricots that are soft, buy the oldest cheddar you can afford and be sure to toast the hazelnuts; your guests will be talking about these stuffed apricots until the new year.

To assemble: Use a sharp knife to open up the apricot. Place a small slice of aged cheddar and a toasted hazelnut inside the apricot. Place on a serving tray and repeat. Serve at room temperature.

6. Portobello Mushroom Skewers

Cubed, roasted portobello mushrooms and soft bocconcini cheese come together with beautiful contrasting colors and flavors in these elegant Portobello Mushroom Skewers from Guilty Kitchen.

7. Bacon Wrapped Water Chestnuts

It’s no secret that pretty much anything wrapped in bacon is a hit at parties. I wrap apricots, dates and prunes in Italian bacon (pancetta), bake them and serve with toothpicks, and they disappear very quickly.

Alice of Savory Sweet Life has a much more original take on this popular appetizer: Bacon-Wrapped Water Chestnuts. Crispy bacon and crunchy water chestnuts (from a can) with a sticky-spicy glaze and you’ve got yourself the perfect appy for New Year’s Eve.

8. Cherry Tomato Pesto Bites

These ingenious little tomato bites from Bakers Royale are mighty festive with their bright red colors. They’re also a perfect vegetarian option to offer those guests who aren’t heading straight for the bacon-wrapped goodies.
Head HERE to get Naomi’s recipe; just three ingredients!

9. Endive with Blue Cheese and Toasted Almonds

Here is another vegetarian simple bite that packs a punch. Garnish fresh (festive red or pale yellow) endive leaves with a smear of creamy blue cheese and topped with toasted almond slices. Choose a mild, creamy blue cheese such as Saint Agur and these will disappear faster than you can make them. Head HERE for the recipe.

10. Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus

The lovely Wenderly shows up how to make Proscuitto-Wrapped Asparagus with just three ingredients and a lot of love.

11. Almond & Cream Cheese-Stuffed Olives

These are my new favorite quickie appetizer because the only take three ingredients and I always have those ingredients on hand during the holidays.
Head HERE for my short vlog where I show you how to quickly turn green olives, toasted almonds, and cream cheese into a pretty canapé.

12. Prosciutto & Melon

If you are fortunate enough to live in a climate where melons actually taste like something in December, then perhaps one of the simplest routes to go for finger food is to wrap a piece of cured Italian ham around a wedge of cantaloupe and secure with a toothpick.

13. Chile Lime Deviled Eggs

Deviled eggs are not just for summer barbecues and Babble contributor Shaina Olmanson proves that with her decidedly sophisticated Chile Lime Deviled Eggs.

14. Roasted Figs, Salami, and Stilton

At the risk of upstaging the main dish, try these delightful Roasted Figs, Salami, and Stilton canapes from The Meaning of Pie.

15. Dates Stuffed with Parmesan Slivers & Walnuts

Last but not least, I bring you these beautiful stuffed dates from Smith Bites. Once again, dried fruit, sharp cheese and nuts combine into the perfect bite.

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Are you entertaining over the holidays? Which of these appetizers strikes your fancy?

Reading Time:

4 minutes





  1. Rebecca

    Thanks so much for this! I have two friends who have to eat gluten free so this is perfect for me this holiday season as it is the first time I’m having to think about this. Any ideas for deserts that are gluten free?

    • Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship

      We had to go totally grain-free for a spell this fall, so I feel like I am ready to answer this question! Coconut macaroons are an easy option, and pretty on a platter if you add cocoa powder to half of them. Apple crisp – without the flour, just GF oats – or baked apples with chopped almonds and spices on top are wonderful too. You can also find some yummy cookies make with ground almonds and no flour. I shared a few of our grain-free wanderings here: and more the following week (linked to from this post). Enjoy! 🙂 Katie

      • Aimee @ Simple Bites

        Thanks, Katie! You obviously have some experience in this area!

  2. Angela @ Homegrown Mom

    I am way too dependent on bread! I love these ideas, and many of my friends now have kids that are gluten-free so I will definitely be adding some of these to my lists. Thanks!

  3. Casey

    From a Celiac mom with a Celiac son, THANK YOU for this post! So many wonderful ideas for our Christmas Eve family party!

  4. Wenderly

    These all look amazing!

  5. Sarah Park

    Wow, thank you so much for these amazing and SIMPLE appetizer ideas! The Greek salad skewers and the kettle chip scoops look right up my alley. We’re having both sides of the family come to us this Christmas, so I’m in need of entertaining help!

    • snotnose

      The greek skewers were tasty with 1 major problem: the feta kept breaking off. Second time I made them I used the same ingrediants but just tossed them into a bowl and combined. Just at tasty, and 5 minutes vs 30 minutes.

      Third time I made it I added a handful of walnuts and some cut up fresh basil. I think I’ve perfected it now 🙂

  6. Kristen

    I’m a bread lover – but these look like great alternatives for those guests who can’t or even for something in addition!

    • Aimee @ Simple Bites

      Kristen, I’m a bread lover too! But sometimes that’s all I eat, so this list was more of a reminder to myself of other options. 😉

  7. Cookbook Queen

    I am a bread and starch lover, but I agree–bread appetizers are too filling!! I often avoid appetizers for this very reason. I love them, but I hate missing out on my meal because I am too full to eat. I love all of your appetizer suggestions…they are beautiful and look really yummy!!

  8. Kelli @ 3 Boys and a Dog

    OMG, too bad I can’t eat shrimp! The Gingered Clementine and Pomegranate Shrimp looks FABULOUS! I am saving this page so I can try some of the NON-SHELLFISH recipes. LOL!

  9. CherylK

    Well, they ALL look scrumptious. I’d have a hard time choosing just one or two! I’m for sure going to try the Gingered Clementine and Pomegranate Shrimp. I love that first one, too…with the feta as a base for the vegetables.

    The veggies and dip is a standard in our house…I have a great recipe for a sassy curry dip that’s great with vegetables.

  10. Sarah

    For all celiac and gluten intolerant hosts/guests:

    Please check the ingredient lists on the following before buying or ingesting:
    -Flavoured Cream cheese and chips
    -Deli meats (Prosciutto, Salami.etc)

    MANY of these items do contain gluten! I have family and friends who are celiac/gluten intolerant who have gotten ill on the above!!!!

    It is better to be safe than sorry! And it is sorry if your guests have to rush to the bathroom and have a very uncomfortable night/hospital visit for the above foods and extremely embarassing as a host!

    The BEST rule of thumb on serving something celiac/gluten free is to MAKE IT YOURSELF, that way you KNOW, without a doubt, there aren’t any additives and/or preservatives that will harm you or your guests.


  11. Lori @ RecipeGirl

    Wonderful ideas! My Mom is recently GF so I’m always sending her links!

  12. Living the Balanced Life

    I have no gluten issues, but like someone else said, I am way too dependent on breads and other carbs. These are some great options!
    I love th Greek Skewers and the Bacon Wrapped water chestnuts!
    Thanks for sharing!

  13. Country Girl

    Thanks for sharing! I just started a gluten-free diet, and I’m incredibly overwhelmed by how many foods HAVE gluten. Seeing this list was like a breath of fresh air!


    congrats on avoiding recipes w/bread – all of these look fantastic and I would serve every single one of these on my appetizer table!!

  15. Crystal

    From a family of recently diagnosed Celiacs–thank you for helping us think outside the box of traditional (gluten filled) holiday appetizers. My preference is to eat foods that are naturally gluten free. These will be added to the list of new traditional foods in our house and I don’t anticipate any complaints at my Christmas party. Yea!

  16. RG

    Thanks for noting that Sarah. It’s true. Now there are many more varieties that have no gluten. Wise choices now will help my children in the future. I’m so excited to try these! Sam’s now has a rotisserie chicken that is a gluten free recipe, and that goes a long way with making appetizers too. Just a tip. Thanks so much for the ideas!

  17. Rebecca in Switzerland

    Thanks for this post. Am in the midst of furiously resisting and being upset about diagnosis of celiac (though on some level I’ve suspected or known for years) and this reminded me of all the wonderful things I *can* eat, not just all the things I’ll have to give up. Thanks!

  18. naomi

    Thanks for including my Tomato Pesto Bites, Aimee! I love your round-up!

  19. Bryony Boxer

    Wow. Great list and very timely for the season. Love the bacon wrapped water chestnuts!

  20. Lynn

    These all look really good and are great ideas. The shrimp and deviled eggs especially look good. I agree with Sarah though, it is really important to always read labels. Wheat and gluten are often hidden in foods like bacon, so it is always best to read all labels before serving to someone that is gluten free. There are more and more of us that are having to eat gluten free, so thank you for posting this and taking an interest in the gluten free world.

  21. bridget {bake at 350}

    This is such a great list….I have a friend who is gluten-free and all I can ever think to make involves bread in some way. 😉 Thank you!

  22. Amanda

    What a great list!

  23. Alicia Bayer

    I LOVE how simple these all are and they all sound delicious. Thanks!

  24. Kiran

    Great list of appetizers. And everything looks so simple to prepare, which is fabulous 🙂

  25. Julia

    LOVE the Greek salad skewers. So many wonderful ideas! Thanks!

  26. Jenna

    Other than entertaining a bunch of middle school girls last weekend, I’m not doing much for the holidays. But my go to holiday treat are dates, stuffed with peanut butter and rolled in sugar. Pretty much the best thing ever!

  27. Anita

    This is great!!! I was stuck for what to bring to a number of events this coming week – now I have a plan. Plus, they’ll look better with less effort than the things I had come up with.

  28. kristen

    these ALL sound amazing! i will definitely be including these in our holidays and beyond! thank you.

  29. Susy

    These look delicious. I have a relative with Ceoliac disease and I’ll defintiely show her these recipes! Thanks!

  30. Tiffany

    GREAT ideas! I also love things on skewers!

    Olives, cheese, bacon, etc…among my favorite things in life 🙂

    Thanks for the fresh take on things. (Can’t wait to try some chile lime deviled eggs.)

  31. Annette

    Wow these look great! Just one note….blue cheese has gluten in it….so if you are treating gluten free friends skip the Endive w/blue cheese and almonds.
    (blue cheese starts with a bread mold)

  32. Annette

    Okay, I need to back up…’s a maybe on the blue cheese….it does start from bread mold but…..they now say it is safe, less than 20 on the gluten scale….as for me , I will avoid it but….it may not have adverse affects on everyone.

    I can’t wait to make the shrimp!


    Your ideas are incredible! Awesome and simple snacks for the upcoming holiday parties!

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