Dip, Savor, Celebrate: The Art of a No-Cook Holiday Feast

For many of us, the holidays are synonymous with stacks of dishes, saucepans on the stove, and a sink full of cutlery. Although a testament to joyful gatherings, the quiet aftermath of wine-stained countertops (and overflowing dishwashers!) is a headache for the next day. Fortunately, there’s an alternative: no-cook finger foods for parties, gatherings, or a weeknight when you can’t cook another thing. Okay, minimal-cook. With that in mind, leave the bubbling pots of mashed potatoes for another day. Instead, bring loved ones together over antipasto spreads, artisanal meat boards, and artful displays of dips. ‘Tis the season to work smarter, not harder.

Edie Horstman

Edie is the founder of nutrition coaching business, Wellness with Edie. With her background and expertise, she specializes in women’s health, including fertility, hormone balance, and postpartum wellness.

Think Beyond the Oven

Imagine a holiday gathering where you can actually mingle—idyly—with your guests, rather than being tethered to the oven. Sound too good to be true? It’s time to think outside the box. Bid farewell to constantly monitoring cooking times while juggling multiple pots and pans. By embracing a no-cook holiday feast, you’re (mostly) liberated from the kitchen. Hooray! Cured delicacies, charcuterie, and no-fuss appetizers is the stress-free simplicity we all need.

Woman cooking_no-cook finger foods for parties

A Cleaner Kitchen, a Happier Host

One of the primary advantages of emphasizing no-cook finger foods for parties? The blissful absence of a chaotic kitchen. With minimal cooking and virtually no need for elaborate cleanup, you’ll find yourself with more time to enjoy your home’s ambiance (and your loved ones in it). This approach is two-pronged: it reduces stress and also allows you to be a more relaxed host. In turn, everyone can savor the true spirit of the season.

Yes, Your Guests Will Be Satiated

Gone are the days of worrying if you’ve overfed (or underfed) your guests. By serving a no-cook holiday feast, they’re free to graze at their own pace. They’ll be thrilled. Trust. Plus, your friends and family will be totally satisfied—thanks to the variety of dips, charcuterie, and appetizers. Best of all, you’re catering to diverse tastes, leaving your guests impressed with the thoughtfulness of your menu! It’s a win-win.

Holiday no-cook finger foods for parties

Redefining Traditions

Ultimately, this strategy isn’t just about convenience. No-cook finger foods for parties is a bold move toward redefining traditions. You’re embracing a more modern approach to celebration. As you venture beyond the oven and the conventional Christmas dishes, you open the door to a world of culinary possibilities. This holiday season, let innovation be your guide.

The Art of No-Cook: Dips, Charcuterie, and Appetizers

Ready to start planning your feast? Here’s everything you need to know.

Dips: A Little Bit of This, a Little Bit of That

Dips are the unsung heroes of the holiday table. From this smoky eggplant spread to our go-to carrot turmeric hummus, these add a touch of sophistication (and fiber!) to your spread. Arrange an assortment of dippable delights—pita chips, veggies, and crackers—and watch as your guests gather around to savor the communal experience.

Charcuterie: An Elegant Affair

Everyone loves a centerpiece charcuterie board. A carefully-curated selection of cheeses, meats, and olives is a stunning alternative to the predictable main course. Plus, assembling a charcuterie board is a work of art. Showcase your creativity and culinary flair with this beginner’s guide.

Appetizers: Bite-Sized Bliss

Small bites, big impact. That’s the magic of hors d’oeuvres. From our burrata, fig, and pesto appetizer to this addicting ricotta board with pears and honey, there’s no more last-minute kitchen chaos. Instead, revel in the joy of sharing savory and sweet bites with your loved ones.

heirloom tomato and burrata gallete_no-cook finger foods for parties

How to Create a Delightful and Nutritious Spread

Offering satisfying appetizers isn’t rocket science. But it does involve a thoughtful selection of ingredients, balanced flavors, and a variety of textures. Below is our step-by-step guide to help you check all the boxes.

1. Start with fresh and colorful veggies

Include a variety of fresh veggies—jicama, cucumber slices, carrot sticks, bell pepper strips, and snap peas. Arrange them near your dips and cheeses.

2. Add wholesome dips

Craft healthier dip options, like hummus, tzatziki, or guacamole. These can easily be made homemade! Additionally, incorporating Greek yogurt-based dips add a protein boost.

3. Opt for wholegrain crackers and gluten-free bread

Choose whole grain or multigrain crackers/bread for slower-digesting carbs. And don’t forget gluten-free options for those with dietary restrictions.

4. Select lean protein

High-quality proteins, like store-bought rotisserie chicken, nitrate-free salami, and smoked salmon are fabulous charcuterie options. Additionally, consider lighter cheeses—goat cheese, cottage cheese, or feta—for unique flavors.

5. Integrate fresh fruit

Fresh fruit slices (figs, apples, and pears) balance the savory elements and add natural sweetness. Berries can also be a delightful addition, providing antioxidants and vibrant colors.

6. Sprinkle on nuts and seeds

Include a mix of nuts and seeds. We gravitate to almonds, walnuts, and pistachios for added crunch and healthy fats. Roast them with a touch of spices for extra flavor.

7. Elevate with herbs

Fresh herbs elevate any spread. Our favorites? Basil, cilantro, and mint.

8. Include pickled and fermented options

Opt for pickles, olives, or pickled vegetables to introduce tangy and probiotic-rich elements.

9. Remember, presentation matters

Arrange your spread aesthetically, considering different heights and textures. Keep in mind that labeling cheeses is helpful for guests as well!

10. Set up a hydration station

Last but not least, set up a hydration station. Think: infused water, herbal teas, or sparkling water to keep your guests refreshed. Holiday mocktails are the new holiday cocktails.

bruschetta board_no-cook finger foods for parties

5 No-Cook Finger Foods for All Your Parties

Need more inspo? We have you covered.

1. Bruschetta Board

This rustic (but elegant) bruschetta board will wow every guest. Dinner is served.

Raddichio-citrus-prosciutto-salad_no-cook finger foods for parties

2. Radicchio Citrus Prosciutto Salad

A total stunner, this prosciutto salad is sweet, salty, savory, and seasonal.

ricotta board recipe with pears and pistachios on casa zuma gathering board, fruit, winter appetizer_no-cook finger foods for parties

3. Ricotta with Pears and Honeyed Pistachios

Any recipe with ricotta and fresh fruit is bound to be a hit, and nothing is simpler than this delicious board. The flavor and texture are unmatched.

burrata toast with walnuts, figs, and pomegranate seeds_no-cook finger foods for parties

4. Burrata Toasts With Caramelized Walnuts and Mint-Pomegranate Pesto

Consider this appetizer a love letter to burrata. Simply toast your favorite loaf, spread over the burrata, drizzle with pesto, and top with figs, walnuts, and pomegranate seeds. The only remaining challenge? Not indulging before your guests arrive.

Smoked salmon flatbread_no-cook finger foods for parties

5. Smoked Salmon Flatbread

Everything Bagel seasoning meets lemony cream cheese, smoked salmon, and flavorful flatbread. It’s essentially salmon lox—in appetizer form. This protein-forward nibble is as mouthwatering as it looks.

“Cooking Incredible Food Can Be Simple and Fun”—Heidi Baker on the Art of Gathering

How I Gather

Bringing people together around a table is our greatest passion in life and we believe food is one of the most powerful tools for connection. In our series, How I Gather we go behind the scenes with our favorite foodies to see how they do it. See All

There’s a certain art that exists in collaboration. It’s a careful, but free-falling dance between extending your own perspective while also embracing the creative acumen of others. Collaboration is proof that anything beautiful and note-worthy can’t exist in a vacuum. Instead, it’s a testament to our most basic understanding of creativity: the use of imagination, in conjunction with external inspiration, to create something that didn’t exist before. And while we use concrete representations of art—books, music, objects, and the like—to understand this, it’s in thoughtful, cohesively curated gatherings that this partnership of talent and expertise most clearly comes to life.

That sort of humble and curious collaboration was on display last month, when Heidi Baker, founder of sustainable womenswear brand, OZMA, gathered friends and family for an al fresco backyard celebration at her Los Angeles home. The entire evening was grounded in Baker’s organic, wabi sabi ethos, with the surrounding oasis serving as a haven for the like-minded community of creatives from near and far.

And while many of us host and gather simply for the joy of sharing good company, conversation, and food, there was also a through-line of intention woven into the evening Heidi crafted. Just as her designs balance refinement with an understated sort of elegance, all components of the gathering drew upon a new understanding of luxury that’s steeped in simplicity and imperfection.

Heidi Baker on the Art of Gathering

As we spoke with Heidi Baker about where the creative stimulus for her brand and lifestyle comes from, it’s evident that she lives every day open to the learnings and guidance all around her. From her favorite cookbooks to “recipes” she’s garnered from friends over the years, every day, Heidi puts herself in the path of inspiration—ready and willing to learn from what comes.

Ahead, our conversation dives into the happenstance details that connected Heidi and her partner with their gorgeous home, her go-to dishes to serve for any gathering, and how she’s living each day with an effortless sort of ease that nonetheless feels special, treasured, and entirely her own.

I was lucky enough that my friend [LA-based chef, recipe developer, and food stylist] Chloe did the cooking at this gathering for us.

Her gorgeous menu was:

  • boquerones in vinegar over romesco 
  • anchovies with citrus
  • blistered snap peas & black salt 
  • gildas
  • potatoes with aoili + chives 
  • chickpeas with tomatoes, basil aioli + sherry vinegar
  • fried olives stuffed with herbed ricotta
  • greek salad
  • tomato galette 
  • smoked trout dip with trout roe + chips 
  • assortment of tinned fish 
  • mojo dip with crudités
  • ajo blanco dip with crudités

How did you learn to cook?

By doing a lot of eating and a lot of experimenting in my own kitchen. When I lived in San Francisco, I saw for the first time that cooking incredible food can be simple and fun. I had friends who were in the industry there, who I watched whip up the most incredible, but uncomplicated meals by heart. We used to have epic potluck parties, so I found recipes that weren’t too daunting and pushed myself slowly outside of my comfort zone.

The more I cooked, the more I trusted myself to only use recipes as a general guideline for a dish and let myself play around with my own ideas or substitutions. I got confident in intuitively knowing how to make great-tasting food. I’m still learning and playing and I love it. 

Florals by: Offerings

What informs your approach to food?

Simplicity and ease. I stick to things that require a short list of simple, whole ingredients.

How did OZMA come to be?

I started OZMA with my good friend, Mariah, in 2015. I’d worked for a few companies as a designer and I struggled to find much purpose in creating endless seasons of product for large brands. I wanted a feeling of excitement and creativity again, so I asked Mariah if she wanted to start a project with me. The idea was to create well-made clothing that traveled well and grew more beautiful with age.

She and I were both avid travelers and, aside from our vintage, we were missing the quality-driven, unique but non-precious or overly-designed pieces that we could truly live in. OZMA has evolved in style quite a bit since 2015, and soon after, Mariah went to pursue other projects and adventures. But that original inspiration still stands. OZMA is a name that we felt perfectly personified our woman: confident and free.

Tablecloths and napkins by: Madre Linen

Tell us about your home. What’s your favorite part of the space?

I live in a 1920s cottage in Eagle Rock, Los Angeles. We bought our house in late 2019, after unexpectedly needing to move out of the place we were renting. After a few months of a semi-desperate and disheartening search for a home, on a whim my partner, Dustin and I stopped by the open house on the way to the airport. We walked through the house together and in the backyard looked at each other and excitedly confessed that we thought it had potential. We put in our bid that day, me sending off our ‘please let us make a home here’ letter, just as the airplane was about to take off.

Outdoor space is really important to us, and this house is on a pretty big lot for Los Angeles. The backyard was a mess, with brick pathways that didn’t make sense, a creepy structure made of sheet metal, a tear-down garage with no door, and even a homemade concrete water feature.

Getting the backyard to be the inviting space we imagined has been our only major house project so far, and has definitely become my favorite part of our home. We were lucky to have had our friend Nicole at NKLA do the landscaping for us, and family help fix up the garage to a home studio and working storage. There’s a lot of love in the space as well.

What does a great gathering look like for you?

People I love smiling and having fun. A great gathering is about just relaxing and enjoying each other’s company. A good spread, great music, fun friends, and lots of laughs.

Wine by: Nomadica 

Walk us through a typical day for you.

I have a tiny human alarm clock, my 8-month-old son River, who wakes me up every day at 6 or 6:30 a.m. Each morning after feeding him, I take River, my coffee, and my dog Blue for a walk to our neighborhood park. For breakfast, I have a green smoothie or some yogurt with berries and granola/almonds/coconut… or some mixture of crunchy things.

I work at home often, so my getting properly dressed for the day sometimes happens at 9 a.m., sometimes at noon. I always go for comfort—99% of the time it’s OZMA and/or vintage. Right now, I’m rotating between our Juno Pant and Field Pant, plus a bodysuit or one of our raw silk t-shirts. 

Depending on whether I’m at my home studio or our studio in Frogtown and what time in the season we’re at, each work day can be super different. Last week, I worked on coordinating our winter shoot in Tofino, organizing a photoshoot happening this week in Biarritz for this coming summer, and choosing yarn for next fall’s sweaters. We’re planning our journals and events for fall at the moment now too, so I checked in on how those are moving along.

I keep my work day as short as possible so that I can spend time with River. Life is very simple and sweet at the moment with him. We play at home in the afternoons and walk Blue again at night, then make dinner as a family and go to bed very early. 

What products do you love for the table?

Ribete Mug by Perla Valtierra

Beautifully made with a unique and playful squiggle handle. Looks cute on my kitchen shelf and makes my morning coffee feel extra special.

Duralex Picardie Glass

Classic short tumblers that are great for everything. I use mine for water, wine, and ice cream. They are super durable and stacking, which I love in particular for hosting. I can bring 10 glasses out to guests in one hand and at the end of the night they are so simple to clean up. 

Mismatched Vintage China

The majority of my tableware is a lifelong collection of random things gifted and thrifted. My all-time favorite dishes are the one-off pieces of china that I thrifted years ago when I lived in San Francisco. They’re now half-cracked and chipped, but I still love them the most. 

What’s your must-have cooking tool?

My Wüsthof chef’s knife. Because it’s simply too frustrating to cook without a really good sharp knife.

What are your favorite cookbooks?

Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi. You can almost taste the images on each page. Everything in this book has such big, beautiful flavors. 

Tender by Nigel Slater. Great for finding comfort food for colder months and organized by vegetables, which is fun if I have something specific in mind from the market or in my garden.

The Chez Panisse Menu Cookbook by Alice Waters. Her recipes feel like short lessons in cooking which I really love. But most of all, I appreciate Alice Waters’s approach to food in its emphasis on simplicity and local, quality, ingredients. 

Tell us a few things we’ll always find in your refrigerator.

Yogurt, flat-leaf parsley, lots of berries, aged Gouda, a half-empty bottle of Gamay.

What scares you about entertaining?

I’m cautious about being too busy cooking that I won’t get to actually enjoy my own party. It’s happened to me in the past where I didn’t prep ahead of time or made a complicated meal and then I ran around the whole time stressed and didn’t really enjoy my guests. So now I’m hyper aware of the possibility and make sure I avoid making that mistake again!

Your signature dishes for gatherings?

I’m not sure that I have a signature per se, as I go through phases of what I’m liking to cook, but a few of my current go-tos are:

Dandelion green salad with radicchio, parsley, shaved parm, and a dressing of EVOO + either anchovy or preserved lemon. Finished with a dash of chili flakes, pepper, and Maldon [salt[. My friend Helen made it for me once and I don’t know if I make it the same, but in my head, it’s her salad. It makes a great simple meal with just rice and grilled meat. It’s become my go-to salad for sure.

Kofta kebabs with a Mediterranean spread of tzatziki, babaganoush or hummus, muhammara, homemade flatbread with za’atar, tomato, cucumber, and herb salad—or some variation of dippable and fresh things. This takes a little bit of prep, but it’s fun to do and most of the dishes are really easy to serve at room temp or pulled out of the fridge at the last minute.

Salmon and Mushroom Donabe with rice. This I reserve for a smaller group of girlfriends usually because only so much can fit into one donabe, but it’s really tasty and feels special.

Your go-to weeknight meal to eat at home?

Broiled salmon with yuzu kosho, brown rice, and sauteed kale with mirin and soy. Other than the rice, it’s incredibly fast, and fool-proof.

What advice would you share with someone who wants to host a gathering on a budget?

Host a potluck or delegate dishes for your friends to bring! Potlucks are super fun and everyone feels involved.

The perfect dinner party playlist includes:

Something jazzy, something folky, something Brazilian.

Go-to centerpiece solution:

Cut stems and branches from my yard.

What is your no-stress party rule to live by? 

Never make a complicated meal or a first-time recipe for a dinner party.

Dream dinner guests?

All of my closest girlfriends who live far away.

Fill in the blank:

A perfect meal should: be enjoyed and never rushed.

It’s not a dinner party without: cheese.

Every cook should know how to: improvise.