If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the last few years of being a boat owner, it’s the simpler the food, the easier the day is.
And that’s where finger food comes in (aka boat food appetizers). It’s the perfect match for my family and how we enjoy our boating trips.
Because finger food removes the hassle of taking plates and utensils, it reduces the trash we generate, we don’t need to grill or re-heat food on board, we only need the bare minimum in cold storage (and sometimes no refrigeration at all), and it can be eaten with just the one hand.
And that one-handed approach to eating comes in very handy when I am trying to pilot our pontoon boat whilst simultaneously stuffing my face.
We also spend a load of our time pulling inflatable tubes, water skiing, swimming, and playing games. Those calories get burned through pretty darn quick.
Come lunchtime, nobody’s in a fit state to start cooking up a Michelin Star inspired meal or have the patience to wait for our boat grill to heat up.
Which is why having a list of great finger foods for boating trips is really very essential for an easy life.
And guess what? I’ve listed a load of them here to give you some inspiration too.
Below you can read through all the best finger food ideas, boat food appetizers, small buffet food suggestions, and simple snacks that you could take as food for your boat trip. They are all easy to make, or buy, easy to store, and will taste delicious.
Frozen Grapes & Strawberries
They’re healthy, simple, and refreshing on a hot day. All you do is place the strawberries and grapes into a freezer bag, then freeze up the night before your trip.
They can then be snacked out at any point during the day, plus will even help other foods stored in your cooler box or bag keep cold, as they act just like ice packs! And here’s a video showing you just how easy they are to prepare.
Sliced Fruit and Veg
In the hot sun it’s important to keep well hydrated, and sliced fruit can help with that. Fruit and veg can be easily stored away too. We slice ours and pack in aluminum foil.
Once wrapped in foil you should be able to find a small space to slide it between other larger items in your cooler box or into a bag if you don’t have refrigeration.
Vegetarian Snack Kabobs
These are great because you won’t need to keep them in a cooler. Just wrap in aluminum foil and keep them in the shade. To prepare, simply snap wooden kabob sticks into smaller halves, then skewer on your favorite veg or fruit selections.
Why not add some cheese too? That will give you an easy finger food appetizer that will fill you up and won’t leave a mess on your boat.
Pressed Sandwiches & Muffulettas
Boating takes up a load of energy. My kids get really tired out after a few hours of being active, so I needed something high in carbs and calories to get their energy levels back up. My weapon of choice here is pressed sandwiches or muffulettas. They are simply the the best finger food for boating with kids.
My favorite recipe here is to use thick bread, loads of mozzarella cheese, roasted red peppers, basil, tomato, then a drizzle of oil. I then press them down to get them compacted as tight as possible and wrap them up. Don’t ask me why, but they tend to taste better after a couple of hours.
Wraps are way easier to eat than sandwiches and should in theory lead to less mess on you boat. That’s what I have found anyway, But that’s providing you can tuck the wrap in at the bottom – disclaimer: I’ve never managed to do this successfully!
Ours tend to contain protein-rich foods to keep the energy levels high such as pre-grilled chicken then topped off with the usual suspects such as tomato, lettuce, and cheese. If you do choose a meat option, you will need to take a portable cooler box with you.
Handy Hint: If you have a galley and cooking facilities on your boat, click here for some easy boat recipe ideas.
Candy, Popcorn & Trail Mix Containers
For a very quick and easy finger food option, we find that filling up plastic containers with candy, trail mix or popcorn is best. The plastic pots also fit just right into the cup holders on our boat, so they can be positioned strategically around the deck to be in reach of all our passengers.
Nuts and trail mix are also a good option for wet hands, as they don’t get soggy and flaccid like a sandwich might do! It’s a great option for kids but can be a little messy with loads of crumbs left over – you might want to invest in boat vacuum cleaner!
High Protein Granola Bars
We always take high protein snack bars with us, as they can offer a nice little energy boost, plus are small and handy sized for any boat trip. And of course, they are the perfect finger food for a boat as you won’t need to keep them cool or refrigerated.
When my kids start complaining that they are hungry (literally as soon as we get on our boat), then I throw them one of these to shut them up. I don’t have a preferred brand here, but you can pick up so many different varieties at your local store or make your own if you are feeling adventurous.
Yes, I know, some people hate them, some people love them. But my kids fall firmly into the latter category. And they are fish-themed, so why wouldn’t take them out on your boat!
And an interesting fact; Goldfish Crackers were originally invented to be used as crackers to float on top of soup. Mind blown. I don’t recommend soup as a finger food idea for boating, but I hope you’d figure that one out yourself!
Tasty Tacos in a Doritos Bag
This one needs to be prepared the night before your boat trip but is definitely worth the hassle. All you do is cook up a taco meat mix and then store that in the refrigerator overnight.
On the morning of the boat trip, crunch up a bag of Doritos lightly, open up the bag, then add in the meat mix, lettuce, onions and cheese and shake it all up. Tastes great, but you will definitely need to lick your fingers afterwards!
There’s no need to keep cookies cool so no refrigeration is required with this idea. They also have that high sugar level that’s required after a few hours on the water. And why not make your own?
Do I make my own homemade cookies though? Hell no, I just take the easy option and buy a pack from my local store. You wanted easy finger food ideas for boating; this is easy.
Cooler Corn on the Cob
Everyone who ever comes on our pontoon boat loves this idea. It’s fun, tasty, and really simple too, with literally just 3 minutes of preparation required before you leave on your boat trip. Just grab a cooler box, place corn inside, then pour over boiling water to around 6 inches deep.
This will keep for hours. Whilst you’re all having fun on the water, the corn is cooking in the cooler box. Be careful when you open it up on the boat, as the water can still be very hot. Use tongs, spray with butter, and you’re ready to go.
Cooler or Thermos Hot Dogs with Steamed Buns
Using the cooler box and boiling water method, you can also cook hot dogs to eat on board. As with the corn, place the hot dogs in the cooler, cover with boiling water, seal up the box, and open it up in a few hours when it’s time to eat. Alternatively, you can use something like a 64-ounce Thermos flask which works just as well (see how many hot dogs you can fit in one!).
When you are ready to eat, you can also leave a sealed bag of bread rolls in the sun for 20 minutes. This steams the rolls up nicely, and then you can slide a hot dog in, little Ketchup, and you have the best finger food ever!
El Paso Mini Taco Boats
OK, so this one might create a little mess, so perhaps not great for kids, but for the adults most definitely. All we do is grill or pan cook some seasoned chicken tenders then add those to an El Paso mini taco boat with Havarti cheese, a pickle and mayo.
It’s a great finger food idea, but it will need to be contained in a cooler box and stored securely out of the sun and away from lake or sea water.
Stuffed Jalapeno Poppers
I couldn’t end my finger food ideas without including something spicy as I love hot food. I prepare this at home first by making stuffed jalapeno poppers with bacon, cream cheese, and sharp cheddar on my backyard grill.