An Updated Relish Tray for the Holidays

Serving up a modern spin on the old favorite.
Relish Tray

Relish Tray

A modern relish tray using fresh produce, exotic dips and homemade pickles of all shapes and sizes.

Photo by: Mick Telkamp

Mick Telkamp

Most of us remember the classic relish tray. At holiday gatherings it would appear, that enormous glass platter, divided into compartments brimming with carrot sticks, gherkins, canned olives, radishes and maybe some pepperoncini, all meeting in the middle, where you might find a bowl of ranch dressing. They were nice enough. We’d have missed them if they weren’t there, but no one ever went home raving about that stunning relish tray. We’re going to fix that.

We’re ditching the divided tray in favor of a more casual format. Using a large ceramic, glass or terra cotta tile and a few smaller plates or bowls, the austere relish tray of the past becomes warm and welcoming. Merging the old standbys with a melange of delectables including homemade pickles, elegant olives and dips from around the world, the relish tray becomes something more. Irresistible foods presented in an inviting way. A variety of flavors dished up using fork, chopsticks or fingers moves the modern relish tray to the front of the hors d'oeuvre table.


Differentiating a relish tray from a plain old veggie tray, a variety of pickles spice things up and gives home canners a chance to share what they did on their summer vacation. Classic dill, bread and butter chips, dilly beans, beets, asparagus, pearl onion or garlic pickles are all favorites. Less common pickled fare like grapes, watermelon rinds or green tomatoes can be head-turners. If you don’t have a pantry full of homemade pickles on hand, you can still make your own in a flash using a basic “quick pickling” recipe.  


Try celery and carrot sticks, bell pepper spears, radishes, mushrooms, cucumbers, heirloom tomato wedges, grape tomatoes, broccoli florets, cauliflower and sugar snap peas.


An essential on any relish tray. Thanks to grocery store olive bars, olive options now go beyond green or black. Consider including blue cheese, feta or garlic stuffed olives.


Although dips aren’t strictly required on a relish tray, a good dip or two is always welcome when raw vegetables are offered. Ranch and blue cheese are common, but more exotic choices like hummus, pimento cheese, anchoïade or tahini add flair and flavor.


Keep it simple. The produce is the star of this plate, but a crisp palate cleanser has its place here. Flatbread, rye crackers, whole grain crackers, water crackers or pita chips are all familiar choices that will get the job done.

Keep Reading

Next Up

How to Make Ice Cube Tray Chocolate Covered Cherries

These holiday favorites are made with the help of ice cube trays.

How to Make Ice Cube Tray Maple Buttercream Chocolates

Maple and pecans go together perfectly. They are even better when coated in rich, dark chocolate. These ice cube tray chocolates are easy to make and so tasty. Set a few aside because they won’t last long.

How to Make Ice Cube Tray Orange Buttercream Chocolates

Dark chocolate and orange make a perfect pair. These simple chocolates are better than any boxed version and can be made easily in ice cube trays.

Festive Holiday Citrus Spritzer Recipe

The best part of this drink is the edible glitter rim. Sweet citrus and tasty mint pair perfectly in this festive party cocktail.

Wassail Wows with Perfect Holiday Flavor

Toast to this ancient tradition with this warm holiday drink

Holiday Brunch Recipes

Here are some simple and tasty menu ideas for a holiday brunch.

How to Stencil a Tray

Dress up a wooden tray with a painted stencil design, creating a one-of-a-kind accessory.

20 Adorable Holiday Cookie Ideas From Instagram

Discover sweet inspiration to help you nail this year's cookie swap.

Make a Rustic Holiday Star From Paint Sticks and Jute

This inexpensive holiday star made from paint sticks and jute adds rustic charm to any holiday decor.

Useful Tips for Installing Holiday Lighting

A lighting expert offers practical—and safety conscious—tips for putting up your holiday light display.

Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.