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.
Our top 10 festive starters
1. Spiced honey-glazed halloumi & fig salad
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.
Serve up more light Christmas salad recipes.
2. Cauliflower cheese soup with crispy sage & 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.
3. Smoked salmon with prawns
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.
Put on a splendid spread with more Christmas smoked salmon recipes.
4. Chicken terrine with leeks & apricots
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 and crisp kale salad.
Check out more Christmas terrine recipes.
5. Vegan rainbow spring rolls
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.
Browse our vegan Christmas starters for more plant-based ideas.
6. Truffled mushroom pâté
Not all pâté's 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.
7. Festive filled brioche centrepiece with baked camembert
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.
8. Smoked salmon coddled eggs
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.
9. 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.
Discover more easy vegetarian Christmas starters.
10. Oysters with apple & horseradish dressing
Fuss-free entertaining at its best – this sophisticated seafood starter takes just 5 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 and honey dressing provides the perfect balance of sweetness, acidity and spice to go with the fresh oysters.
Celebrate the festive season with more sharing platter recipes.
Get more Christmas recipe inspiration...
What will you be serving as your starter this Christmas? See more suggestions at our Christmas dinner hub.