The perfect appetizers are those easy to prepare that you can plop on the table and mingle with your guests. Whether your party is in Paris or not, you are not supposed to be cooking in the kitchen during an evening apéro.
After a long week at work, it is a moment to enjoy relax and enjoy a classic apéritif and nibble on a few hors d’oeuvres, that may or may not constitute your dinner. With your guests holding small plates for finger food, this type of get-together is called an apéro dinatoire.
So the key for me when compiling this list, classic french appetizers that are easy to make and quick.
- 1. Fois gras on toast
- 2. Huitres – Oysters
- 3. Smoked Salmon Canapés
- 4. Tartine de fromage blanc
- 5. Escargots
- 6. Socca
- 7. Jambon Rouleaux de chèvre
- 8. Courgettes roulées
- 9. Cake salée – Savory cake
- 10. Salmon Tartare
- 11. Brochettes Parme melon
- 12. Charcuterie and cheese platter
- 13. Brie fondant au pesto
- 14. Saint-Jacques au concombre
- 15. Baked Camembert
- 16. Pâté en croûte
- 17. Gougères
1. Fois gras on toast
Whether you are celebrating Christmas in France, or just a regular evening with friends, fois gras is an incontournable (an essential).
Cut in slices and arrange on a tray, along with some mini toasts and you are done. It doesn’t get much simpler than that.
☞ READ MORE: Easy Guide to the French Wines
2. Huitres – Oysters
Another classic French appetizer is oysters, especially if you are trying to add a touch of je ne sais quoi and elegance to your party.
Fresh oysters are not usually cooked in France, but served as is. (Fresh Oysters are a must-have in France for Christmas.) The hardest part about serving oysters is opening the top shell. But once that is done, just squeeze a bit of lemon on them and serve in a tray.
Be sure to buy your oysters from a reputable fish market, to ensure the quality of the huitres.
3. Smoked Salmon Canapés
France produces over 32000 tons of smoked salmon every year, so you can see how popular it is. For a Blini au Saumon, take a blini and top it with a dollop of cream cheese. Add a piece of smoked salmon on top, and you are done.
For the full recipe, see here.
4. Tartine de fromage blanc
Fromage blanc is a light cheese originating in the north of France. It is a light cheese that can be spread across small pieces of toast. Tartine in French means “spread”.
Now there is always a bit of confusion as to whether to use fromage blanc (“white cheese”) or fromage frais (“fresh cheese”). Fromage blanc is more like cream cheese and fromage frais is a bit more like yogurt. You can read more about the different types of French cheeses here.
You can easily find both fromage blanc and fromage frais at Whole Foods in the U.S. and other fine grocery stores.
Alternating with fois gras on toast on a tray, fromage blanc on toast is a lovely and easy appetizer.
Rather than being squeamish, if you have ever had escargots, you know that they are actually a delight. Usually served drenched in garlic butter and pesto (or the French pistou), the little balls of meat easily go down. And with some baguette to soak up the buttery sauce, it makes for a lovely appetizer.
Like the fromage blanc and foie gras, it can easily be found already prepared at Whole Foods and other fine grocery stores.
In any case, it will be a conversation starter for your guests! For more on how to eat escargot, see our guide.
Now socca is not that easy to find on restaurant menus in Paris, but it is a staple in Provence and the South of France. Originating in Nice, it is a type flatbread made with chickpea flour.
It is quite easy to make, a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper, and of course chickpea flour and you are good to go.
Get the full Socca recipe here.
☞ READ MORE: ABC of French Cuisine (the Food Dictionary)
7. Jambon Rouleaux de chèvre
If you don’t like cooking, the Jambon Rouleaux de chèvre will be right up your alley. Jambon means “ham”, and rouleaux de chèvre is “rolls of goat cheese”.
Every region of France makes its own dry-cured ham, don’t be afraid to venture outside your comfort zone. Take any type of fine ham like Jambon de Bayonne or prosciutto and wrap it around a small bite-sized ball of goat cheese with a toothpick to hold it together. You can find more French no-cook recipes here.
8. Courgettes roulées
For a variation on the Jambon rolls, you can alternate with zucchini rolls instead. (Courgette translates to “zucchini”.) Slice the zucchini into thin long strips and bake in the oven for 10 minutes with a touch of olive oil.
Once done, add a touch of cream cheese or heavy cream. Then wrap the zucchini around a variety of ingredients like smoked salmon, smoked tuna or cured ham.
9. Cake salée – Savory cake
Cake salée is not a sweet cake but a savory one. Salée means salty in French. They tend to be a staple at apéro hour with young Parisians since they are so easy to make in advance and transport if you are having a potluck type get-together. It is also great as finger food as people can pick it up directly and eat.
You can make them in as many varieties as you like, such as bacon lardons and olives, spinach and cheese, and more.
Get the recipe for savory cakes here.
10. Salmon Tartare
Another smoked salmon favorite is the salmon tartare. Chop the smoked salmon into small pieces for your tartare and add a touch of salt, pepper, olive oil, and lemon juice.
Slice some cucumbers and add the tartare on top. Place on a tray and serve.
11. Brochettes Parme melon
A brochette is French for “skewer”, as in that long thin stick that you spear through various foods, such as when you are cooking on a barbeque. No barbeques here though, this is hors d’oeuvre is a cocktail version of another popular French starter, the Melon au Porto.
Cut the melon into cubes and alternate on the skewer with a small fine dry-cured ham and a ball of goat cheese.
12. Charcuterie and cheese platter
The quintessential cheese and charcuterie plate is not really an appetizer, but since it is so common, I had to include it on the list. In France, if you are serving a cheese and meat board at your apéro, it is not usually followed by a main meal. This is casual party platter and is the meal in itself.
Served with a bit of wine, get a variety of fine cheeses and cured hams. Along with a few baguettes, you have a quick and easy charcuterie platter.
Add some grapes and pickles for added touch.
☞ READ MORE: Do you know how to cut cheese?
13. Brie fondant au pesto
As finger food, brie fondant au pesto (melted brie with pesto) might be a little bit messy but it is so good, I think your guests might forgive you. Brie is a cheese from the old French region of Brie, which today is called Seine-et-Marne. Seine-et-Marne today is one of the main departmental suburbs surrounding Paris.
Place the brie cheese in a baking dish and spread a couple of spoonfuls of pesto over it. Garnish with pine nuts, if you happen to have some. Add a touch of pepper, and place in the oven for about 15 minutes at 180C (350F).
Serve warm with baguette or tostito chips (and perhaps a glass of champagne!?)
☞ READ MORE: Types of French cheeses you must try
14. Saint-Jacques au concombre
Another popular french appetizer is the Coquille St. Jacques. There are many ways to serve Coquille St. Jacques, either as an hors d’oeuvre or as a starter, but for a party Saint-Jacques au concombre (cucumber) makes for easy finger food.
Sear the scallops on a pan in some butter for 3-4 minutes on each side, with a pinch of salt. Slice the cucumber in round slices and top each one with a scallop. Top off with a sprinkling of chives for decoration and serve.
15. Baked Camembert
Camembert is a soft creamy cheese that comes from the Normandy region of France. It is similar to Brie, which comes from the old Brie region (now Seine et Marne) of France.
Baked camembert cheese is as easy as it sounds. It comes in a wooden box, so simply open the wooden box and take off the plastic wrap and cook in the oven for 15 minutes. You can add sweet toppings such as honey or fig jam, or savory ones like pesto and chili flakes.
You can find the full baked camembert recipe here.
☞ READ MORE: Cheese etiquette à la française
16. Pâté en croûte
Pâté en croûte is not really a recipe to make at home, but rather to buy from boucherie (butcher) or high-end grocery store. You could make it at home, but it needs at least 3 days of rest of home!
It is a pastry stuffed with a charcuterie pâté, which is a paste made of ground meats and organ meats. It usually contains a portion of chicken, goose, or duck liver, along with herbs, and spices. You can also get vegetarian pâté en croûte, if you wish.
It is often used as an appetizer in France, sliced into finger-sized bites and placed on a serving tray.
Pronounced “gou-jaire”, there is no English equivalent. Gougères are delightfully small, hollow pastry puffs made with a doughy mixture of eggs, butter, flour, and cheese. It’s basically puff pastry baked with cheese inside and it’s amazing. The French cheese balls, if you will.
I hope I have inspired your next apéro with some lovely French appetizers. if you are looking for drink ideas to combine with these amuse-bouches, check out my article on top apéritifs in France. Enjoy the party!
¹ Featured Image: Samantha Hurley
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