Quick appetizers are a must for parties and family get-togethers! This Pepper Jelly and Cream Cheese appetizer is a delicious holiday tradition. It's super easy to make and the whole family can enjoy it!
Pepper Jelly and Cream Cheese appetizer
Holiday entertaining is the best kind of entertaining if you ask me. Whether it's Thanksgiving dinner with family or a Christmas wine party with friends, there is just nothing better than a festive gathering with really good food.
Appetizers can seem daunting beyond a cheese board or a platter of chips and salsa. I always try to keep things really simple, especially if I am focused on other aspects of the party.
This Pepper Jelly and Cream Cheese appetizer is one of my favorite easy holiday appetizers.
It's so incredibly easy. If you can go to the grocery store and pick up a few supplies, you can make this appetizer! No cooking required!
It's simply a block of cream cheese topped with pepper jelly. Served with crackers, it is the perfect blend of sweet, spicy and salty. (And it's not that spicy, promise!)
Why you'll love this recipe
No matter what your family holiday traditions are, I can bet that there's at least one of them that comes to mind that revolves around food. This Pepper Jelly appetizer is just that for me! Here's why we love it:
- Quick and easy, it requires NO cooking. It's the perfect appetizer to serve when you have people over.
- It's great for potlucks — you can easily transport the ingredients to someone's house and put together this appetizer in just a few minutes.
- The flavor is sweet, cheesy, salty and a little spicy.
- You can customize it with other types of jelly and serve it with different types of crackers.
My family enjoys it as a snack between Christmas morning breakfast and dinner later in the afternoon. It's the perfect snack to have while watching football or serving at a holiday party.
What is pepper jelly?
If you're not familiar with this amazing condiment, let me introduce you.
Pepper jelly is a kind of preserves made with spicy peppers, sugar and salt in a pectin or vinegar base. It has a sweet-and-savory flavor, and the spice level can be mild or spicy.
Hailing from Texas, pepper jelly became popular in the 1980s. It can be used on sandwiches, for meatballs and especially on cheese.
Pepper jelly can be made with all kinds of peppers, from jalapeños to habaneros. If you like canning, you can make your own jalapeño jelly at home with fresh peppers. (It makes a great hostess gift, too!)
This pepper jelly dish is a three-ingredient appetizer. You are not going to believe how easy it is! Here's what to grab at the store:
- cream cheese
- pepper jelly
- bread or crackers
That's it! But you can have a lot of fun with this recipe.
A light cream cheese or Neufchatel cheese works well as a substitute.
Instead of cream cheese, you can pour the pepper jelly over a couple of logs of goat cheese or even over a baked brie appetizer. You can also put it on the side of any cheese board.
Pick up a mild or spicy pepper jelly for this appetizer — it's up to you! Green pepper jelly is also a fun addition to this appetizer for Christmastime.
If pepper jelly doesn't appeal, feel free to pick up any kind of fruit preserves.
And then for crackers, you can pick up your favorites! Don't forget the gluten-free crackers if anyone in your party would prefer those.
How to make Pepper Jelly and Cream Cheese
Pepper Jelly and Cream Cheese is the ultimate combination. This appetizer is so easy. Ready to hear how easy?
First, unwrap the cream cheese and place on a serving plate. Allow it to soften for about 15 minutes. (If you like, you can also serve it in a dish — simply press the cream cheese into one even layer.)
Then spoon the jelly over top of the cream cheese.
Add a spreader and some crackers of fresh bread to the presentation, and you're all set!
If needed, add more pepper jelly as it's eaten!
Tips for Making Pepper Jelly Appetizers
There are a few things you can do to make this cream cheese appetizer even better.
Use cold cream cheese to start. When it's cold, it's easier to unwrap from the package. Once it's unwrapped, you can let it come to room temperature for about 30 minutes before adding the jelly and serving.
Let the cream cheese soften before serving it. You can prepare the whole thing in advance, then pop it in the fridge for safekeeping. Set it out to soften for about 30 minutes before serving. If you skip this step, the cheese will be too hard and will break your crackers!
Keep some pepper jelly aside. Reserve a little bit from the whole jar, or pick up a second to have on hand. People will love the spicy jelly, so you may wish to add some more to the plate if they scoop it all up.
Serve different kinds of breads and crackers. Thin crackers may not stand up to the spreadable cheeses, so stick to ones that are thicker. Don't forget to grab some gluten-free crackers, too!
Can you make this appetizer in advance?
Yes! You can assemble it ahead of time. Unwrap the cream cheese and place it on your serving platter, then cover and store in the fridge. Before serving, let it sit out for 30 minutes to soften, then add the pepper jelly and serve.
How long is cream cheese safe at room temperature?
At room temp, unrefrigerated cream cheese is safe for 2 hours.
Is pepper jelly spicy?
Pepper jelly is usually a little spicy because it is made with real peppers. It can be mild or spicy. The spicy blend of sweetness combined with the creamy cheese just makes the whole thing a perfect package!
In my family, we tend to use spicy red pepper jelly. (As my brother says, "You have to like spicy food to be a part of this family!")
Even if your kids don't usually like spicy foods, they may surprise you and enjoy a hot pepper jelly. (My two-year-old doesn't like spicy food yet but he didn't mind the little spiciness that this appetizer had. Or he just ignored it because he loved the cream cheese so much!)
But truly any kind of pepper jelly goes great with the cream cheese and crackers! You can use other kinds of fruit preserves and jams if you like.
More appetizer recipes
- 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
- 10 ounce jar pepper jelly or fruit preserves
- crackers and bread, for serving
- Unwrap the cream cheese and allow it to come to room temperature on a serving dish for 30 minutes.
- Spoon pepper jelly onto the cream cheese block.
- Serve with crackers, adding more pepper jelly as it's eaten, if necessary.
Cream cheese is safe at room temperature for 2 hours.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 8 Serving Size: 2 tablespoons
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 192Total Fat: 10gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 29mgSodium: 97mgCarbohydrates: 25gFiber: 0gSugar: 21gProtein: 2g