Chances are, when you settle down to your festive starter, there’s still a whole lot going on in the kitchen. It’s certainly a challenge to produce a stunning dish while simultaneously grappling with steaming vegetables, resting meat and bubbling gravy, but it’s possible with careful planning and clever ingredients.


Our seasonal selection of starters ranges from creamy vegetable soups and opulent salads to meaty terrines and vegan spring rolls. There are plenty of make-ahead options, too, saving you time and effort on the big day. See our cookery team's best suggestions for how to prep your starters seamlessly.

Top tips for Christmas starters

  • All the dishes below can be prepared ahead as this is key to minimising stress. Unless you’re a picture of pure placidity, this is not a time for soufflés.
  • Try to serve up light bites. While the indigestion tablets will be on standby, it’s easy to spoil the main course by overindulging at the first furlong.
  • Try to cater for everyone in one go. If you have a few vegetarian guests, try out a meat-free starter rather than making a separate dish for them. There’s plenty of meat to come!
  • Think of your crockery situation and avoid using anything that needs to be washed before the main course. Lay out a nice wooden chopping board and serve something that can be sliced and nibbled from napkins, and use teacups for potting and pâté.
  • Don’t forget your drinks. Draft in a sous chef to serve up fizz, cocktails and mocktails. Visit our drinks section for inspiration.

Take a look at these ideas below, then get more inspiration from our collection of Christmas starters. In a hurry? Read our guide to 10 quick Christmas starters, all ready in 20 minutes or under.

Our top 15 festive starters

1. Spiced honey-glazed halloumi & fig salad

Glazed halloumi and fig salad on a plate

Juicy baked figs pair beautifully with grilled honey-glazed halloumi and ras el hanout spice in this opulent starter. Combined with salted prosciutto, toasted almonds and peppery rocket, each mouthful delivers multi-layered flavours and textures. You could also divide it up into smaller canapés on cocktail sticks for a festive party.

Spiced honey-glazed halloumi & fig salad

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Serve up more light Christmas salad recipes.

2. Cauliflower cheese soup with crispy sage & hazelnuts

Cauliflower cheese soup with crispy sage and hazelnuts

This silky smooth, cauliflower cheese soup is topped with crispy sage leaves and hazelnuts for a touch of colour and crunch. The rich, wintry flavours are perfect to kick off your Christmas dinner.

Cauliflower cheese soup with crispy sage & hazelnuts

Blitz up more smooth and creamy Christmas soup recipes. Our vegan celeriac, hazelnut & truffle soup also makes another luxurious festive blend.

3. Smoked salmon with prawns

Smoked salmon and prawn starter

Looking for a sophisticated starter? We've teamed classic smoked salmon with prawns and punchy horseradish cream, drizzled in a zingy lime, honey and ginger dressing. Finish with a few handfuls of leafy salad and you have a light, elegant and refreshing appetiser, leaving ample room for the heavier festive fare.

Smoked salmon with prawns, horseradish cream & lime vinaigrette

Put on a splendid spread with more Christmas smoked salmon recipes.

4. Chicken terrine with leeks & apricots

Chicken and apricot terrine loaf, topped with bay leaves and sliced

A lighter take on traditional duck terrine, this impressive loaf is bursting with fruity flavours. Each slice reveals a beautiful mosaic of chicken, streaky bacon, apricots and leeks, interspersed with herbs and topped with bay leaves. This terrine is best chilled overnight and can be made up to three days in advance. Serve with toast and a side of yogurt piccalilli & crisp kale salad.

Chicken terrine with leeks & apricots

Check out more Christmas terrine recipes.

5. Vegan rainbow spring rolls

Selection of vegetable spring rolls in rice paper with a red dip

Kick off your Christmas dinner with a vibrant selection of vegan spring roll canapés. Peeled carrots, courgettes and spring onions are combined with juicy mango, salted peanuts and chillies, all encased in delicate spring roll wrappers. Serve with sweet chilli sauce for a sensational meat-free starter.

Vegan rainbow spring rolls

Browse our vegan Christmas starters for more plant-based ideas.

6. Truffled mushroom pâté

Two bowls of truffled mushroom pâté, with knife in one

Not all pâtés have to be meat-based. This easy veggie alternative combines rich truffle oil with porcini and chestnut mushrooms, and is topped with a sprinkle of crunchy peppercorns and thyme. Make it up to a day ahead to allow for chilling and enjoy served with toast, mini crispbreads or cornichons.

Truffled mushroom pâté

Find more perfect pâté recipes and vegetarian pâtés.

7. Festive filled brioche centrepiece with baked camembert

Festive brioche circle with camembert cheese at the centre

Looking for a showstopping sharing starter? This celebratory tear-and-share brioche with melty camembert centre is a perfect crowd-pleaser. To make it extra special, each of the individual bread buns are filled with a choice of festive flavours such as quince paste, chestnuts, cranberry sauce and roasted garlic. Make the dough the day ahead and then bake until the bread is golden and crusty, before garnishing with herbs and fresh cranberries.

Festive filled brioche centrepiece with baked camembert

Indulge in more creamy camembert recipes or also try our decadent potted stilton and baked brie wrapped in prosciutto.

8. Smoked salmon coddled eggs

Bowl of smoked salmon and coddled eggs with toast

Try a fun twist on the classic smoked salmon starter with Tom Kerridge's luxuriously creamy version featuring coddled eggs, capers and gruyère cheese. It can be made in individual ramekins or a large sharing dish and is ideal for dunking with crispy sourdough soldiers. Ready in just 30 minutes, it's a quick and simple starter which the whole family will love.

Smoked salmon coddled eggs

Check out more twists on this traditional starter, including our smoked salmon pâté, smoked salmon fillets and salmon tartare.

9. Griddled pears with goat's cheese & hazelnut dressing

Two long plates of griddled pears with goat's cheese & hazelnut dressing

Impress your guests with a simple yet stylish veggie starter, ready in just 15 minutes. Griddled pears take on a beautiful caramelised flavour which pairs well with tangy goat's cheese and peppery watercress. A light toasted hazelnut dressing brings it all together and adds a satisfying crunch.

Griddled pears with goat's cheese & hazelnut dressing

Discover more easy vegetarian Christmas starters.

10. Oysters with apple & horseradish dressing

Oysters on a serving platter with sauce in a pot

Fuss-free entertaining at its best – this sophisticated seafood starter takes just five minutes to prepare but makes an eye-catching centrepiece served on a bed of ice or rock salt. Crucially, oysters need to be opened just before serving, so watch our video for how to shuck oysters. The punchy horseradish, apple, peppercorn & honey dressing provides the perfect balance of sweetness, acidity and spice to go with the fresh oysters.

Oysters with apple & horseradish dressing

Celebrate the festive season with more sharing platter recipes.

11. Seafood cocktail platter

Seafood cocktail platter on a large oval plate with decorations

Everyone has their own idea of what makes a great prawn cocktail. The easy solution to this? Rustle up an epic DIY seafood platter. We've included the likes of prawns, white crabmeat, lettuce, cherry tomatoes, avocado and lemon wedges, but the choice is really up to you and your budget. This means guests can create their cocktail according to their own preference, so everyone at the table remains happy.

Seafood cocktail platter

Find more delicious prawn cocktail ideas with our prawn cocktail recipes.

12. Honeyed beetroot & carrot salad with feta & hazelnuts

Honeyed beetroot & carrot salad with feta & hazelnuts served on a sharing platter

This stunning winter salad is sure to impress whoever's at the table, boasting wonderful seasonal flavours such as carrot, beetroot and hazelnuts. Simply toss together beetroot, carrot, feta, hazelnuts, plus herbs and the zesty orange and lemon on a quinoa and bulgur wheat base. If you don't have any quinoa or bulgur mix to hand, feel free to use couscous instead.

Honeyed beetroot & carrot salad with feta & hazelnuts

See more seasonal salads with our winter salad recipes.

13. Baked ham hock pots

Baked ham hock pots in ramekins

Set the festive mood with these no-fuss, budget-friendly baked ham hock pots. They're surprisingly easy to rustle up, plus they make a brilliant time and energy saver, ready in all their golden, wobbly glory in just 30 minutes. Serve with crusty bread for dunking into the rich, creamy mix, if you like.

Baked ham hock pots

Take your pick from our collection of budget Christmas starters for more fuss-free cooking.

14. Smashed cannellini bean crostini

Smashed cannellini bean crostini in a small bowl

Catering to veggies and vegans this year? Fret not, this smashed cannellini bean dip will win over the hearts of your plant-based guests, and may even satisfy the staunchest of meat-eaters. Using cheap, everyday ingredients, it makes a great budget Christmas starter, served with shop-bought crostini or breadsticks for dipping. Plus, it's ready on the table in just 20 minutes. Just note: the more oil you add, the silkier it becomes.

Smashed cannellini bean crostini

Discover more vegan Christmas starter recipes and vegetarian Christmas starters.

15. Cucumber prawn cocktail cups

Cucumber prawn cocktail cups on a platter

A speedy no-cook starter helps make your seasonal kitchen a stress-free zone, especially one which is ready on the table in just 15 minutes. Serving up to four, these cucumber prawn cocktail cups are presented on lettuce leaves and topped with crispy shallots, making a perfect festive starter which grants you more time to focus on mains. A also discover our bloody mary pepper prawns recipe.

Cucumber prawn cocktail cups

Browse more nifty no-cook ideas with our best no-bake Christmas recipes.

Get more Christmas recipe inspiration...

10 quick Christmas starters
Christmas canapés you can make in minutes
30 best ever Christmas recipes
Five ways with baked camembert
Best ever Christmas sides


What will you be serving as your starter this Christmas? See more suggestions at our Christmas dinner hub.

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