our everyday life

Easy 4-Ingredient Appetizers

by Alissa Pond Mentzer, studioD

Entertaining should be fun, not stressful. Easy, healthful appetizers made from just four ingredients are quick to prepare whether you are hosting a big party or a spur-of-the-moment get-together. They also save time when you need to bring an appetizer to a potluck. Appetizers stimulate the palate and easy ones allow you to spend more time with your guests or family, rather than in your kitchen.

Dips and Spreads

Dips and spreads are quick to make and just right for casual gatherings with kids. An easy bean dip made from canned beans pureed with cumin, lime juice and garlic tastes great with baked tortilla chips. Combine a modest amount of smoked salmon, chives, light cream cheese, and light garlic-herb cheese spread, or mix the cream cheese with a salad dressing mix for instant flavor. Serve warm or cold as a spread for crackers. For a sweet treat that doubles as a dessert, blend light cream cheese with raspberries, and add a bit of sugar and lemon juice to taste. Use as a dip for apples, pears or pretzels.


Flavorful ingredients wrapped up and sliced make an easy and colorful appetizer. Start with a flour tortilla or a sheet of lavash, a Middle Eastern flatbread. Spread with light cream cheese and top with flavorful combinations such as smoked salmon and fresh dill, or deli ham and arugula. For a Tex-Mex version, spread tortillas with fat-free refried beans, and top with salsa and shredded low-fat cheese, or green onions and black olives. Roll, slice and serve immediately, or refrigerate for later.

Combination Platters

Allow guests to customize their own appetizers by presenting a platter of individual components. A simple presentation of cheese, fruit, crackers and nuts makes a satisfying and healthful appetizer. Try combinations such as cheddar and apples or blue cheese and grapes with whole grain crackers and walnuts. Allow guests to assemble bruschetta with toasted bread rounds, chopped fresh tomatoes, fresh basil, and a dispenser of vinaigrette.

Tidbits and Nibbles

A can of salted nuts becomes party fare when glazed with sugar or honey and tossed with chili powder and cumin, or sweet touches of vanilla and cinnamon. Transform plain olives in a marinade of olive oil, balsamic vinegar and an herb or seasoning such as rosemary, oregano or garlic.


  • “Hors D’oeuvres: Simple, Stylish, Seasonal”; Gillian Duffy; 1998
  • “The Dinner Doctor”; Anne Byrn; 2002
  • “Still Life with Menu”; Mollie Katzen; 1998

About the Author

Alissa Pond Mentzer worked in biotech research and educational publishing before becoming a freelance writer in 2005. She has contributed to textbooks for The Mcgraw-Hill Companies and National Geographic School Division and writes science articles for various websites. Mentzer earned a Bachelor of Arts from Rutgers University in anthropology and biological sciences.

Photo Credits

  • George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images