5 Creative BBQ Appetizer Ideas for Your Next Cookout

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Cookouts are super chill and relaxed, right? So, you’d think the food prep would be more like a buffet than a multi-course meal. Then, you might be wondering: why should there be appetizers?

I’ll tell you why. 

Naturally, if you set up your party at, say, 3 PM, not all of your guests will arrive on time. Some of them may get to your house earlier. In that case, you need to have some food ready for them to snack on.

The key word there is “snack,” so don’t serve them anything that will fill them up just yet. Save your main course for when all of your guests are in attendance. 

In the meantime, serve the early birds some of your BBQ appetizers, which are finger foods or light treats that will just prep their tummies for your grilled entrées.

And if you’re trying to think of some awesome appetizers to serve, I’ve got a few ideas for you.

1. Grilled Melon With Serrano Ham

I know that prepping for a cookout can take hours (if not the whole day). So if there are some dishes that you can make in as fast as 10 minutes, you’ll take it, right?

Well, here’s one quick recipe you can whip out within that timeframe: grilled melon with Serrano ham. 

You only need two ingredients, mainly half a ripe honeydew melon (with the seeds and rinds removed) and 12 slices of Serrano ham.

To make this recipe, first, cut your melon into cubes. Then, place them on the grill for around two minutes per side until you get nice grill marks. 

So, grab your grilled melon and wrap your ham around it. You can serve it as is, or you can skewer the ham-wrapped fruits onto BBQ sticks. How quick is that? 

2. Grilled Stuffed Mushrooms

One appetizer is not enough for a cookout, of course. You want to give your audience variety. So, if you’re looking for a “fancy” dish that’s pretty simple to make? Look no further than these grilled stuff mushrooms. 

These delicious delights are made with portobellos stuffed with sun-dried tomatoes and goat cheese. Plus, they’re topped with crunchy panko that just makes everything a whole lot better.

I’m telling you, this recipe is SO simple and yet SO good that you won’t believe how easy it is to make. 

The entire process of making this dish only involves four steps. These include (1) cleaning the mushrooms, (2) mixing the filling, (3) stuffing the mushrooms., and (4) grilling. 

Once you pop them on the grill, you just have to wait 10 minutes before you can get your hands on these fancy (yet simple) appetizers.

Now that you know what you’re in for, let’s take a look at the ingredients you’ll need to turn this recipe into a reality. 

Since mushrooms are our main ingredient here, I’m going to give you two options.

You can either go big with regular portobello mushrooms to fill in as much flavor as possible, or you can choose the baby portobello mushrooms that are bite-sized and better for portion control. 

Once you’ve selected your main veggie, you can move on to the filling. For this step, you’ll need to mix half a cup of goat cheese, a quarter cup of chopped sundried tomatoes, and a tablespoon of olive oil.

Now, if you want to make your filling extra tasty, don’t forget to add your seasonings. These are a quarter teaspoon of Italian herb seasoning, and some salt and pepper. 

After mixing your filling, add a dollop onto your mushroom and top it all off with your crunchy panko before grilling it (stuffed side up). 

Seven to eight minutes later, you have a delicious appetizer that everyone will want to take a bite of.

3. Mini Deep-Dish Pizza Bites

Speaking of bites, mini pizzas are bite-sized treats that are just as good as their normal-sized counterparts. They have your favorite toppings, like pepperoni, cheese, some veggies, and many more.

But what’s great about this recipe is that it isn’t just your regular mini pizzas. These are deep-dish pizza bites that have a savory marinara filling. 

To make this recipe, get one and a half cups of marinara sauce, a third cup of Parmesan, 8 oz. of shredded mozzarella cheese, a pack of mini pepperonis, and four flour tortillas (cut into 3” to 4” rounds).

Then, you’ll need half a teaspoon of dried oregano, a teaspoon of red pepper flakes, and some salt and pepper to taste. 

Once you have all the ingredients you need, start by mixing your marinara sauce, Parmesan cheese, salt, and oregano before setting it aside. 

Meanwhile, grab your 12-cup muffin tin and coat it with nonstick spray or brush some oil over each muffin cup — or, in this scenario, pizza cups. 

Now, take your tortilla rounds and put them inside each of the cups. When they’re nice and snug, scoop about a tablespoon of your marinara inside.

Cover them with your mozzarella cheese, and add mini pepperonis (or whatever toppings you want) before putting them inside the oven and bake for around 10 to 12 minutes. 

When the timer’s up, just wait for the pizza bites to cool down a bit. You wouldn’t want to burn your tongue before the main dish arrives. 

4. Thai Basil Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Incorporating Thai flavors into a BBQ dish is such a fun and interesting way to spice up the cookout grind! 

People who have never tried Thai food before might feel overwhelmed by all the spices and flavors. But fortunately, everyone in my circle of friends and family loves anything with a Thai twist.

And these Thai basil chicken lettuce wraps have become a crowd favorite. 

Aside from the taste (obviously), what I love most about this dish is that it’s budget-friendly and super easy to make because it only takes 30 minutes to put this appetizer together.

So, let’s get on with the recipe.

For starters, grab your ingredients, which are a pound of ground chicken, two tablespoons of sesame oil, three garlic cloves (chopped), half a teaspoon of ginger, and half a cup of Thai sweet chili sauce.

On top of those, grab a quarter cup of tamari or soy sauce, a quarter cup of water, half a cup of chopped basil, a pack of lettuce leaves, and some lime wedges for serving. 

Some of these ingredients — particularly the Thai sweet chili sauce and the tamari — may be difficult to find at a regular grocery store.

So, I suggest you drop by your nearest Asian market to get your hands on those products. 

Once your ingredients are ready, the next step is to cook your chicken. Get a skillet and sauté your garlic until fragrant. Then, add your chicken and season it with salt and pepper. 

You don’t want your ground chicken to stick together, so use a wooden spoon to break it apart. When the chicken is separated, continue cooking for about seven minutes. 

When the meat starts to get brown, that’s the right time to add your ginger, sweet chili sauce, tamari, and water. Bring everything to a light boil, then lower the heat to simmer. 

Leave the mixture on heat until the sauce starts to thicken. Now, just toss in the chopped basil and give it a good mix.

Grab some lettuce cups, lay them out on a plate, and add a spoonful of your Thai chicken concoction. Sprinkle on some peppers and more basil (if you’re into that). Oh, and don’t forget the lime wedges!

If you’re craving some heat, you can also drizzle some sriracha. 

Since I know some of my guests don’t have a tolerance for spice, I usually just leave a bottle of hot sauce on the table. That way, those who want to add some spice to their appetizer can do so freely.

5. Vegan Tofu Stay With Special Peanut Sauce

I can’t get enough of this tofu satay with peanut sauce! It’s a yummy Thai-inspired appetizer that I could eat for days. Plus, it’s vegan and loaded with protein, which is a total win for me!

So, if you want to make this at home, the first thing you’ll need is 16 oz. of firm tofu. 

Then, you have to marinate it with a sauce made of two tablespoons of soy sauce, a tablespoon each of peanut butter and brown sugar, and a teaspoon each of dried basil and garlic powder. 

Now, to make the rich peanut sauce (which would be your dip), you’ll need a whole lot more than just a tub of peanut butter. 

On the contrary, making the peanut sauce includes all of these ingredients:

Half a small onion (either white, yellow, or brown is fine), a teaspoon each of crushed garlic, sesame oil, and red curry paste, a tablespoon of soy sauce, and a teaspoon of tamarind paste.

Don’t forget: you’ll also need two tablespoons of brown sugar, half a cup of canned coconut milk (full-fat or unsweetened), a third cup of peanut butter, and the juice of half a lime to make the rich peanut sauce!

Now that you have your many, many ingredients laid out, start by pressing your tofu for 30 minutes using a tofu press.

If you don’t have that device, you can just sandwich your tofu between two plates while placing something heavy on top — say a water jug or a pile of books. 

While the tofu is being squished, make your marinade sauce by mixing the necessary ingredients. Then, set it aside.

Now that your tofu is nicely compact, take it out of the plate and cut it into strips or cubes. Then, place them in your homemade marinade, making sure to cover every inch.

Let your tofu marinate for at least 20 minutes. When it’s time to grill, line your grates with parchment paper and place the seasoned tofu on top. Cook for about 25 minutes, flipping halfway through.

While your tofu is cooking, get the peanut sauce ready. 

Start by chopping and sautéing onion with garlic, sesame oil, and red curry paste. After a few minutes, add soy sauce, tamarind paste, brown sugar, and coconut milk to the mix and stir well to combine.

Now, add your peanut butter and whisk until everything is smooth. When your sauce is thick enough, remove it from the heat and squeeze some lime juice.

At this point, your tofu strips/cubes should be ready, so take them off of the heat and let them rest a bit before skewering them onto your sticks.

Because I know just how good this dish is, I try to make extra batches for everyone to try. And when I have leftovers, I just reheat them the next day as my afternoon snack. 

It’s a win all around!

Grill Up Some BBQ Appetizers With Small Bites and Big Flavors

Seriously, appetizers are super important at a BBQ. They set the tone for the whole event and make everything more fun. 

I mean, who wants to go to a backyard get-together without light snacks and finger foods? Not me, and you shouldn’t too!

With these five impressive BBQ appetizer ideas, you can give yourself and — more importantly — your guests something to look forward to!

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