This Summer Snack Plate is part of my Happy Hour at Home Series - a month filled with tips and recipes meant to inspire you to slow down and enjoy a summer happy hour at home.
I’m always a big fan of cheese boards, meat boards or charcuterie platters when it comes to an appetizer but sometimes I want to venture a little past just cheese and meat with a snack platter.
Consisting of lots of little bites and bits of this and that, snack plates are perfect for enjoying a casual happy hour at home. They are customizable, able to feed just a few people or a crowd and can contain whatever makes your heart & stomach happy.
Truthfully, there’s really not a right or a wrong way to put together a snack plate (or a cheese board or grazing table for that matter). In fact, especially for a relaxing happy hour at home, I think you should focus on a few key items that you really love (and have readily available) rather than try to fit some sort of theme or template.
I do, however, have a few very loose guidelines for putting these snack plates together. For the most part, these guidelines relate to making sure I cover a few different areas of flavor and texture:
Fresh & Seasonal
While not every plate will have something from each of these groups, I usually aim to include at least 2-3. And don’t forget, some foods on your snack plate will fall into a few categories which is absolutely okay. For instance, if you include some roasted cherry tomatoes you’re checking off both the sweet and fresh/seasonal categories. And while almonds are a nice salty addition, they also are a great element of crunch! Below I’m sharing some more easy ideas on what to include from each group.
There are two other things I like to keep in mind when putting together my snack plate. First, be sure to create a plate that’s sized appropriately. If it’s just you and one other person, no need to go all out and fill a whole platter. Perhaps something like the below smaller plate is more what you need. And if you’re expecting a few more people or may want something a little more substantial to eat then incorporate a few more foods on your plate.
Next, I always suggest going through your fridge and pantry FIRST to see what you can use from there before you go out and buy anything new. The whole point of enjoying happy hour at home is to slow down and actually relax which is pretty hard to do if you’re out shopping for specific ingredients. In my suggested foods to include below I’m also sharing ways that you can take pantry staples or fridge leftovers and breathe a little more life into them with some quick tricks.
Also, a note about presentation. While you can certainly arrange your snack plate on the regular dinner plates you use, sometimes its fun to get creative! One of my favorite things to use for my snack plates is my Nordic Ware Baker’s Half Sheet.
Lastly, remember - perfection is the enemy of good! Don’t worry about choosing the right or wrong foods for your snack plate or making it look picture perfect. When you use foods you love, especially those that are in season, you are sure to create something beautiful.
FILL UP YOUR PLATE!
Examples: Cheeses (goat cheese, cheddar, blue cheese, brie, etc), hummus, dips, spreads, hard-boiled eggs.
Of course, cheese is a natural place to start when thinking about something creamy to add to your snack plate. Even the harder cheeses lend a creamy flavor and texture. But there are other options too! Think of hummus, bean dips even meaty pâtés.
Now, yes, many of these items need to be kept refrigeratoed, but here are a few tips to use what you already have on hand.
Cheese Leftovers?: Have a little extra goat cheese in your fridge? Let it soften slightly and roll it into ball. Then roll it in fresh herbs, seeds or my favorite, everything but the bagel seasoning!
5-Minute Dip: I always find it helps to keep a a jar of white beans in the pantry to quickly put together a white bean dip. You only need 5 ingredients: canned white beans, garlic (clove or powder), olive oil, salt! Full recipe at the bottom of this post.
Examples: Seasonal fruits, honey, roasted tomatoes, jams, dark chocolate squares, cherries, figs
Salty & sweet is one of my favorite flavor combinations so it’s no surprise that I almost always serve my snack plates with a little bit of honey. In the summer, it’s also a prime time to fill up your plate with fresh fruits such as peaches, cherries and figs.
Seasonal & Sweet: Have a few cherry or grape tomatoes rolling around your kitchen counter (remember tomatoes don’t like the chill of your fridge!), use them to make quick and simple roasted tomatoes. They are naturally sweet and only requires 3 ingredients and 15-20 minutes.
Examples: Crackers, nuts, popcorn, breadsticks, baguette, kale chips, seaweed snacks, pretzels.
Everyone loves a little crunch! And of course, you always need some crackers or bread to dip and dunk into your favorite dips or spread with a generous layer of cheese.
Spice Up Raw Almonds: I usually always have a big bag of raw almonds, walnuts or cashews in the fridge (they stay fresher!) but that can be a little boring on a snack plate so try making your own roasted & seasoned nuts! On the plate at the top I’ve included some Thyme & Sea Salt Almonds (recipe below) or you can use my recipe for Cacao & Chili Dusted Almonds or Maple Glazed Rosemary Pecans.
From Scratch: Homemade crackers can actually be incredibly easy to make (and can stay fresh all week) but if you’re short on time, I love many of the Trader Joe’s crackers especially the sweet potato or beet crackers.
Examples: Pickles (and pickled vegetables), olives, capers, kimchi.
Okay, if I’m being honest, I could probably build a snack plate from this category alone. Give me a plate of olives & pickles and I’m one happy snacker.
Olive Bar Hack: While the olive bar is a great place to pick up a quick addition to your snack plate, for times when I can’t make it to the store I rely on jarred, pitted kalamata olives mixed with some olive oil and fresh herbs to brighten them up.
Try Quick Pickles!: Another easy addition you can make mostly from your pantry are quick pickles! But we’re not just talking about cucumbers. In fact, so many vegetables can be pickled making it the perfect addition to your summer snack plate. Plus, all you need aside from the vegetable is some vinegar, sugar (or honey), salt and spices of your choice. I’ve included a simple, customizable recipe at the bottom of this post to help get you started!
FRESH & SEASONAL
Examples: Cucumbers, zucchini, squash, peaches, radishes, peppers, green beans, snap peas, grilled potatoes, broccoli.
Seriously, some of the best things to include on your snack plate in summer are the freshest fruits and vegetables you can find. Not only are so many in season right now, which means they taste incredible but they also help balance some of the heavier things on your plate, something that is incredibly important once the temperature soars.
While these fresh fruits and vegetables don’t need really any prep to make them taste fantastic, I do like to make sure I cut them in a way that makes sense for how they’ll be used. Longer vegetables such as squash or cucumbers are either cut into spears or coin shapes for easy dipping while smaller foods such as sugar snap peas or green beans I like to keep in their whole form.