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10 Entertaining Essentials for Guests

If you always have these 10 entertaining essentials on hand you can throw together a gorgeous cheeseboard or appetizer snack tray to impress last minute or surprise guests!

picture of front door

Need some help entertaining those last minute guests? Do you have people that just pop by and after a few minutes you need to offer them a snack?

Does that snack consist of stale goldfish crackers and a half a bottle of flat soda? Been there before!

So I started compiling a list of what I need to have on hand for these guest emergencies. I have found that if I have these 10 items in my pantry or fridge, I can whip something together in a pinch.

Something that doesn’t look like I scraped it off the floor of my car. These entertaining essentials are also great because they have long shelf lives.

So even if you are in a guest drought they will keep until the next ones show up.

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comeback crackers stacked on a white plate


Being that I am such a snacker at heart, I always have crackers on hand.

Triscuits are my go-to but I know that there are people out there that are some die-hard Wheat Thin fans out there. Much like the highly-contested soda war between Coke and Pepsi, this cracker debate can get heated.

I don’t fall into that trap because I always have Triscuits and Saltines.

I use Saltines to make my Spicy Crackers Recipe which I make all the time and they last for a week!

Pita chips or just plain butter crackers are a good base too. I have used Stacy’s Pita Chips for my Everything Bagel Dip!

Up close of cheese, olives and meats on the summer tapas cheese board


Cheese is a universally loved food and keeps for a while. That is my favorite thing about it.

I can buy a block and it will keep for a few weeks if tightly wrapped and stored properly.

I have a vacuum sealer so I tend to buy large blocks, break it into smaller chunks, and then just keep one out.

Most cheeses you can freeze too! You don’t need much for a tray and don’t fret if you only have one kind ready. People will enjoy a slice by itself or on one of your debatable cracker choices.

Check out my Holiday Cheese Board Tutorial or my Summer Tapas Cheese Board for some inspiration!

hummus platter

Hummus or Dip

Dip is a great entertaining essential to have on hand. We prefer hummus at our house because we don’t tolerate dips with sour cream or yogurt very well and I just love all the savory flavors of hummus out there.

I buy hummus when it goes on sale or make a batch at the beginning of the week. This way I can flavor it how I like.

My Pineapple Hummus is delicious or make one that doesn’t use chickpeas like this White Bean Hummus.

Plain is always better if you are not sure if people will like certain flavors or are allergic to a certain ingredient.

I love garlic but I know a sweet lady that is allergic to it. Not good if that is the only one you have.

Or a super spicy Sriracha one might not go well with those that can’t handle the heat.

Here is a great recipe for homemade hummus if you are looking to make your own. I added some hummus to my Meze Platter along with some other entertaining essentials listed in this post and it was a hit!

woman staring into a cupboard

Fresh or Dried Fruit

Fresh fruit is great to have on hand. I tend to gravitate toward grapes for my fruit of choice, green and very firm, but there is also a debate between green and red grapes.

Why is food so hotly contested?!?!

Fresh fruit is hard to keep on hand and you might get stuck with overripe fruit when someone stops by so make sure to have some dried fruit on hand too.

Dried cranberries and apricots are great to have and you can find them in just about any store.

Pineapple, once it’s dried, tends to be too sweet so I like to get things that are more tart in nature. Dried fruit is also a  great compliment to rich cheese.

Close up of almonds with lemon thyme in a bowl


Another great thing to snack on. My parents always had dry roasted peanuts on hand but I tend to want things like almonds, cashews, and pistachios.

Pistachios are tricky because you have to shell them and then you need to have something that will hold the shells. Then it gets messy.

You can buy the shelled pistachios (nut meat) but they are $$$$$.

Same with macadamia nuts. Great flavor but big money so I save those for baking. Sunflower seeds you have to shell or they are too small to pick up and spooning nuts just seems weird to me.

Try to stick with plain or salted, not the fancy cinnamon and sugar crusted ones or chocolate covered ones.

If you want to shake up your nut game check out my Zesty Chili Lime Cashews, or my Smoked Paprika Almonds.

These are definitely entertaining essentials!

bowl of olives


Another great thing to have on hand, and they last forever too. Try to buy ones that are already marinated, or make my recipe for Marinated olives.

Just be sure they don’t have pits. No one wants to spit out an olive pit and have it sitting on their plate or napkin. And certainly not on the tray.

Stuffed ones are good and you might already have them for your cocktails but the fillings tend to be strong like blue cheese, jalapeno, or garlic.

Again, those flavors are tricky for everyone so try to keep a har of plain on hand.

Salumi – Cured Meats

Cured meats keep for a long time in the fridge. I am always making cheese trays for lunches on the weekend and during the weeks too if I am busy making recipes and doing photo shoots.

A few slices of salami, salty prosciutto, or pepperoni are a great way to add some bulk to your snack tray and they don’t have to be pricey.

This is also a food that you can freeze for later too!

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Spread – Tapenade, Bruschetta, Fancy Mustard

Not many things are better than a cracker, salami, and a smear of spicy mustard. If you look in my fridge right now I have no less than 9 types of mustard.

Stone ground, honey lavender, dijon, garlic, champagne, etc. These make great toppings for cheese and crackers too. I use it in my Honey Mustard Cheese Ball.

Tapenade and bruschetta spreads can be purchased already made in the store. No need to make a mess, just use a few slices of bread or stick with the crackers.

Close up of the whole grain mustard in a glass jar with a spreading knife sticking out the top

Plates & Napkins

I always have a stash of plates, napkins, and cups in my house. They are usually the leftovers and remnants of parties and catering gigs that I have done, but I don’t dare throw them away for they have great uses.

And my closest friends know I love a great cocktail napkin with an inappropriate saying on it. Silly, tacky quotes and sayings on them make them even funnier.

I usually save these for my more “adult only” get-togethers because of the nature of my collection.

Whatever your need keep a stack on hand. I keep a great stash of these and match the napkin to the guest 😜

My leftover plastic spoons get used the in the kid’s lunchboxes because I have a hard enough time keeping up with my regular flatware.

Here is a great list of essentials for serving tapas and other snacks, and 5 ways to entertain without a kitchen!

clear and red plastic cups, white plastic plates,red and clear plastic bowls and napkins in a basket all on a brown paper surface

An Open Door

Nothing brings more drop-in guests like an open door. If you are always ready to host some friends with a smile on your face and a glass of wine in hand then make sure they know your door is open.

Tell people how much you like having people stop by. Let them know all the great snacks you have on hand and people will love dropping by your house for a quick visit, or a chat, or even an impromptu dice game.

They will show up. What a great way to spend an hour or so after work or on the weekends! If you always have these entertaining essentials you will be the consummate host.

Best of all, you get to spend time with those you care about and that is what is most important!

10 Pantry Entertaining Essentials for Guests | Take Two Tapas

Any combination of these 10 entertaining essentials will make you seem like a perfect host even if you aren’t. Caution: These can bring you more drop-in guests so be prepared!!

If you love this recipe as much as I do, please write a five-star review in the comment section below (or on Pinterest with the “tried it” button – you can now add pictures into reviews, too!), and be sure to help me share on facebook!

10 Pantry Entertaining Essentials at Home | Take Two Tapas

{Originally Posted 04/20/2017 – Photos and notes updated 03/22/2021}

© Content and photographs are copyright protected. Sharing of this recipe is both encouraged and appreciated. Copying and/or pasting full recipes to any social media is strictly prohibited.


Thursday 27th of May 2021

This was SO helpful!!!! Thank YOU so much. It's been awhile and I'm a bit rusty. So nice to have a list of reminders on hand. Hugs from NYC. Happy Memorial Day Weekend!


Thursday 27th of May 2021

So glad you found it helpful!!


Tuesday 23rd of March 2021

Great pointers for a go to pantry stash of essentials. Always had an open door policy. Most friends and family just walked right in!! Never had to have an excuse for a party. Impromptu ones seemed to work out just fine!! Thanks for the pantry list!! Kathy Metlika


Tuesday 30th of January 2018

Carr's water crackers go with everything as do Stoned Wheat Thins. If you buy the round Gouda cheese sealed in wax, it will last forever until you're ready to open it up. The little ones in the net bags are great if you just need a few small pieces rather than breaking open a large one. Philly cream cheese spreads are a must and last for ages unopened in the fridge. The smoked salmon and garden vegetable are both delicious. I like to whip them up with a spoon just before serving to make them extra soft and creamy. I do canning and preserving so I make red pepper jelly and marinated mushrooms. Wonderful flavour. A nice chutney is really tasty on a slice of Cheddar. Did you know that you can freeze hummus and black bean dips? Good to have a stash of those in the freezer. I make a nice dip with just two ingredients: sour cream and La Grille seasoning salt (by Club House). La Grille comes in different flavours; I like vegetable. Wonderful with veggies, crackers or even spread on bread. Frozen appetizers are also a good thing to have on hand. Well, now that I'm thoroughly hungry ...

Saturday 3rd of February 2018

I am going to have to add all these to my list! Thank you for the recommendations!

Healthy World Cuisine

Friday 28th of April 2017

Great Tips Jennifer. Now do you have any great hints for keeping our boys out of the stash and eating everything before company comes over? Wishing you a super weekend!

Monday 1st of May 2017

I have a separate stash for them:)