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How Many Appetizers per Person To Serve at a Dinner Party?

How Many Appetizers per Person To Serve at a Dinner Party?

So, you're having a dinner party. Appetizers are essential to your gathering, and you want to get them right! But how many appetizers do you need? Too many might spoil your guests' dinner - but not enough is even worse!

Serve 4 to 6 appetizers per person at a dinner party. It depends on when you serve them and your dinner's content. An early or heavy dinner means you can aim for fewer appetizers per person. A late or light dinner means you should aim for more appetizers per person. 

This article will explore several topics in the realm of dinner party appetizers. This includes how many appetizers are too many, how many varieties to serve, and more. 

How Many Appetizers Are Too Many?

More than 6 appetizers per person are too many. You don't want to fill your guests' bellies before dinner. Generally, you will need enough for each guest to eat 2 of each type of appetizer you serve. For very large parties, you can lower this to 1.5 servings per person per appetizer. 

However, for high-protein appetizers such as mini sliders, deviled eggs, or bacon-wrapped shrimp, you can plan for 1.5 servings per person. This holds true for smaller parties as well.

You can do the same for starchy appetizers for parties of 20 or more guests. This includes things like garlic bread, dumplings, rolls, and pastries. Aim for 1.5 servings per person. 

For appetizers that cannot be separated into single servings (like chips and dips), aim for 1 oz (30 g) per guest in total. You can lower this to ½ oz (15 g) per person for large parties if desired. 

How Many Appetizers To Serve

It'sIt's best to serve at least 3 varieties of appetizers for a basic dinner party. However, the more people you have, the more variety you need. For larger parties, you should serve more than 3 varieties. Some people have dietary limitations, and some will not enjoy certain appetizers. You want to have enough variety so that everyone can eat something before dinner is served. 

  • 10 guests or less: serve 3 different appetizers.
  • 10 - 20 guests: serve 5 different appetizers
  • 20 - 40 guests: serve 7 different appetizers
  • 40 guests or more: serve 9 different appetizers

Now, this should give you an overall idea of how many (or how much) appetizers you need per person. But the more interesting question is how you can serve the appetizers without a table. Check my article on hosting a dinner party without a table for some clever and resourceful tips and tricks. 

Types of Appetizers

Appetizers come in several categories, including protein (meats), starch (bread and pasta), fresh (fruit and veggies), snacks (chips and crackers), and Dips/spreads. Regardless of the size of your party, choosing the right variety of appetizers is essential.

Choose a mix of these varieties to appeal to different tastes and dietary needs. Always have at least one protein appetizer, one starch appetizer, and one fresh appetizer. Providing variety will also help you avoid overfilling your guests' bellies before dinner while not leaving them hungry and impatient. 

Finally, consider allergies and dietary restrictions by asking your guests if they require anything special. Alternatively, you can choose at least one vegan and allergen-free option and/or label each appetizer with allergen information. That way, your guests will know what is safe to eat should they be vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, or have a food allergy.  

Fresh, Vegan, and Allergen-Free Appetizers

As I mentioned, some guests will have dietary restrictions. The most common include vegetarian, lactose intolerant, and gluten-free. Nut allergies are also a consideration. However, you can choose a vegan, gluten-free, nut-free appetizer to cover all your bases.

Below is a list of suggestions, all of which appeal to guests without dietary restrictions as well. These appetizers are almost exclusively in the "fresh" category. However, some overlap in the dips/spreads and snacks categories.   

  • Crudité platters.Veggie platters are an excellent choice for anyparty and will fulfill your fresh appetizer selection needs. 
  • Fruit platters. Another good fresh appetizer selection. Who doesn't like fresh, ripe fruit?
  • Dips. Pico de gallo, hummus, guacamole, and bean dip are good dairy and allergen-free choices. However, many popular dips include dairy ingredients, so check the label if you're buying from the store!
  • Rice crackers and corn chips. Many gluten-free crackers have nuts, and some corn chips may include wheat ingredients. Choose your brand carefully if allergies are an issue. 
  • Cowboy caviar. A popular recipe, much like a cross between salsa and salad. It is made with corn, beans, onions, tomatoes, peppers, and other fresh ingredients dressed in a light citrus sauce and eaten with chips. 

Other popular vegan and gluten-free options include baba ganoush and 'Bitchin' Sauce, but neither are nut-free. Baba Ganoush contains tahini, which is made from sesame seeds and may trigger nut allergies. Bitchin sauce is made from almonds. 

Protein Appetizers

Most people consume at least some sort of meat regularly, and providing a bit of protein will help tide your guests over until dinner. For this reason, you will also want to have at least one protein-rich appetizer alongside your fresh and starchy options. These can be meat or seafood appetizers.

  • Charcuterie board.You can choose from several varieties of cheese, cured meats, pates, crackers, and bread.
  • Antipasto platter. This is a traditional Italian version of a charcuterie. It contains cheeses, cured meats, olives, herbs, veggies, and fruits.
  • Meatballs. These can be traditional Italian-style beef and pork or even turkey meatballs. You can buy them fully cooked from the freezer aisle of any grocery store. Throw them into a slow cooker with your chosen sauce, set it to ""warm,"" and provide your guests with toothpicks or disposable forks to eat with.
  • Shrimp. Whether served with cocktail sauce, marinated and grilled, wrapped in bacon, fried popcorn style, or baked on a mini tostada, shrimp is always a winner at parties! 
  • Deviled eggs. Anyone who's served these at a gathering knows there are seldom leftovers! Plus, the classic recipe can be altered in various ways for a little extra appeal. For example, use chipotle, buffalo, or hot sauce instead of traditional seasonings. Add dill or jalapeno, and top with bacon or cheese crumbles. 
  • Canapés.These are classic appetizers, and any meat or seafood will make them perfect choices for your protein appetizer. Smoked salmon never disappoints, but other options include beef and caramelized onion, shrimp, tuna salad, pancetta and goat cheese, and more
  • Prosciutto and goat cheese dates. Stuff some dates with goat cheese. Wrap them in slices of prosciutto. Voila! A delicious and decadent protein appetizer. 

Lastly, remember that many vegetarians will eat bread, cheese, seafood, and eggs. Therefore, most of the above appetizers are excellent choices, as they usually appeal to meat-eaters, too. 

Starchy Appetizers

Another appetizer staple is the starchy type, made up of bread or pastry. These can be anything from dumplings to mini croissants to garlic knots. They may be stuffed with meat, cheese, or vegetables. Below are a few popular suggestions, but starchy appetizers come in the widest of varieties! There are hundreds of alternatives and variations for every item on this list.  

  • Crostini.These are a classic choice, as these crusty slices of bread can be topped with just about anything, including dips, salsas, spreads, and deli meats. In addition, they pair perfectly with just about any cheese, including fondue.
  • Breadsticks.Breadsticks are always a crowd-pleaser, whether cheesy, garlic-y, or crusted with seasonings. They can be soft Italian style, crispy grissini, fluffy pizza style, or even gluten-free.
  • Sausage-stuffed croissant bites. You can also use puff pastry-wrapped sausages.
  • Cream cheese wontons.Nothing like a creamy, crunchy, flaky wonton treat!
  • Crab puffs.Delicious, decadent, and filling! You can even make them with shrimp or lobster. 
  • Mini pizzas.Shrink your favorite pie into a bite-sized form! What could go wrong?
  • Fried dumplings. They come in chicken, pork, and veggie varieties, so there's something for everyone. 

Dips, Spreads, and Snacks

Although dips/spreads and snacks can be considered two different categories of appetizers, they are inseparable. What would dips and spreads be without snacks to eat them with, after all?  

Appetizers from these categories are optional for small dinner parties but are among the easiest to provide. They require little to no preparation (unless you like to make everything from scratch!). However, for larger parties with more than 3 varieties of appetizers, dips, spreads, and snacks can help bulk up your options easily. 

Dips and Spreads

  • Guacamole
  • Creamy avocado dip
  • Bean dip
  • Pico de gallo
  • Mango salsa
  • Spinach dip/spinach artichoke dip
  • Ranch dip
  • Cheese dip/queso
  • Cheese spread / pimento
  • Cheese fondue
  • Garden vegetable cream cheese
  • Cowboy caviar / black bean and corn salsa / Texas caviar
  • Cranberry jalapeno cream cheese spread
  • Buffalo chicken dip
  • Sweet onion and bacon dip
  • Hummus
  • Babaganoush
  • Bitchin sauce


  • Corn tortilla chips (gluten-free)
  • Flour tortilla chips
  • Potato chips
  • Sweet potato chips
  • Pita chips
  • Cheese crackers
  • Rice crackers (gluten-free)
  • Nut thins (Gluten-free)
  • Triscuits
  • Wheat thins
  • Pretzels 
  • Flatbread crackers
  • Butter crackers (such as Ritz crackers)
  • Peanut butter pretzels
  • Nuts and nut mixes - salted peanuts, almonds, cashews, etc. (gluten-free)

Sweet Appetizers

Though not typically considered its own category of appetizers, sweet options deserve an honorable mention! They add a nice variety when paired with spicy, fresh, or savory flavors. They're great for holiday parties, too. 

Usually, sweet appetizers involve a rich, creamy cheese element, a sweet fruit element (often a jam), and a crunchy, savory bread or cracker element. Toasted or candied nuts are also a great addition! Below are some examples that are sure to please even the most discerning palate!

  • Goat cheese and sweet jam crostinis. This can be served in several variations. Use fig jam, peach jam, apple butter, cranberry sauce, marmalade, or even caramelized onions.
  • Feta-stuffed dates. These are great alone or with an added savory element like prosciutto, bacon, toasted nuts, or salted crackers.
  • Cream cheese and sweet chili sauce or sweet pepper jelly. Served with crackers, this is a sweet, creamy, spicy treat.
  • Triple creme brie and fresh pear slices on crostini. The richness of the brie perfectly complements the fresh sweetness of the pear. Add in a savory crostini crunch, and this appetizer is almost incomparable.
  • Fig jam, bleu cheese, and candied pecans. This can be served using fig jam or dried figs. You can also use black currant, peach, or red onion jam in place of the fig element. Pile onto a crostini, cracker, or even a piece of French bread, and enjoy.
  • Fresh figs, mascarpone, honey, and candied walnuts.This is an excellent variation on figs and bleu cheese, but with an extra fresh crunch from the figs and an added bump of sweetness from the honey. Serve with bread or crackers of your choice. 


Salads are another classic addition overlapping the fresh, protein, and starch appetizer categories. They come in endless varieties, including green salads, fruit salads, seafood salads, and pasta salads. They can even be hot or cold! Serve them in a large bowl and provide guests with disposable plates and cutlery. 

Below are a few suggestions to give you ideas, but there are hundreds, if not thousands, more possibilities out there! 

  • Traditional Cesar salad
  • Green salad with apple cider vinaigrette
  • Warm kale salad topped with toasted nuts and fresh fruit. 
  • Persimmons and pomegranate salad with a citrus vinaigrette
  • Baby spinach salad with pear, onion, roasted chestnuts, and cranberries.
  • Summer fruit salad with spiced honey syrup.
  • Blood orange avocado salad
  • Pear-blueberry ambrosia with creamy lime dressing
  • Macaroni salad
  • Garden pasta salad with a creamy sauce
  • Greek pesto pasta with kalamata olives, artichoke hearts, and cherry tomatoes. 
  • BLT pasta salad with diced bacon, lettuce, and tomato
  • Tuna salad served with crostini or crackers
  • Salmon salad
  • Egg salad
  • Seafood salad (shrimp, crab, or even lobster!)

For more help throwing a dinner party your guests will always remember, sign up for our free Ebook: Our Delicious World: Favorite Dinner Party Recipes from Around the World.

Final Thoughts

Throwing a great dinner party doesn't have to be complicated or strenuous! Choose at least 3 types of appetizers and serve about 6 servings total per guest (or about 2 servings per guest per type of appetizer). Choose at least one appetizer from the protein, starch, and fresh categories, and remember to consider your guests' allergies and dietary restrictions. Finally, and most importantly, have fun!