There is no more perfect one-bite hors d’oeuvre than the one nature provides: Oysters come in their own individual serving dishes, for heaven’s sake. And while delicious unadorned, they’ll also agreeably accommodate most any flavor, from piping hot
parmesan and sausage to a cool citrusy mignonette. Equal parts upscale splurge and seafood-shack casual, oysters have the appetizer concept nailed. Which is why our roundup of hors d’oeuvre recipes includes no fewer than five different ways to zhuzh up these briney bivalves.
If only everybody loved shellfish.
Or you could pair
vegetable pakoras from India with an assortment of spicy chutneys, stud Italian focaccia with red and green grapes, and top Russian blinis with smoked trout or caviar.
Peruse our guide to the globe’s best hors d’oeuvres recipes, and you might just find yourself wondering:
Who really needs a main course, anyway? Tart, colorful cranberries are not just for cooked and canned sauces. Paired with rich whipped ricotta spread and toasted baguette slices, the raw fruit has a punchy flavor and crunchy texture that's a light, bright complement to crostini. Prepare the dip up to one day ahead and store covered in the refrigerator. Stir or buzz in the food processor briefly before spreading onto toasts. Get the recipe for Cranberry Crostini » Get the recipe for Deviled Eggs » Learn how to make Provence’s chickpea fries, or panisses—they’re one of the best snacks France has to offer. Get the recipe for Panisses » These are classic latkes, grated potatoes bound with matzo meal and egg, but the simple addition of jalapeño adds a new kick to an old Jewish classic. Medina serves his jalapeno latkes with a tangy, cooling horseradish cream. Get the recipe for Potato Jalapeño Latkes » Spreading mayonnaise on both sides of the bread before grilling yields a perfectly golden brown crust. Get the recipe for Crab Toast » Grilled Oysters on a Bed of Salt "You can grill any oyster you'd eat raw," says John Finger of California's Hog Island Oyster Co., "but bigger is better, since the longer they cook, the more they shrink." Rules of thumb: Opt for Pacific over Eastern, and look for 4–5-inch shell size. Have your fishmonger shuck one before you buy; the meat should almost fill the shell. Get the recipe for Grilled Oysters on a Bed of Salt » Broiled Oysters with Parmigiano and ‘Nduja Whoever said fish and cheese don't belong together has never had a broiled oyster. Fatty ingredients, such as crispy melted cheese or the garlic butter drizzled over oysters Rockefeller, bring richness to oysters' otherwise watery liquor. This recipe uses both, as well as an oily, spicy sausage from Calabria known as 'nduja. Get the recipe for Broiled Oysters with Parmigiano and 'Nduja » Olive-Oil Poached Green Almonds with Dill Green almonds are a rare spring treat; simmering them in olive oil, orange juice, and aromatics mitigates their slightly bitter exterior, making them an irresistible cocktail party snack. Get the recipe for Olive-Oil Poached Green Almonds with Dill » Fried Stuffed Castelvetrano Olives Making for a substantial snack, Rosa Pepe stuffs olives with a simple beef and pork filling; then dredges them in breadcrumbs before crisping them up in the deep-fryer. Get the recipe for Fried Stuffed Castelvetrano Olives » Raw Oysters with Lemon Oil and Urfa Biber You can do more with these mollusks than eat them raw. From broiling to frying, here are four ways to sharpen your shell game. Get the recipe Raw Oysters with Lemon Oil and Urfa Biber » Crispy breading encases gooey melted mozzarella cheese in this classic appetizer. Get the recipe for Mozzarella Sticks » Abruzzo-Style Grape Focaccia When this fluffy, oil-slathered dough bakes, the red and green grapes dotting it burst, releasing their sweet juices into the bread. Get the recipe for Abruzzo-Style Grape Focaccia » Greek Stuffed Grape Leaves With Rice and Herbs (Dolmadakia) Dolmakadia, the Greek word for stuffed grape leaves, is one of the most iconic recipes of Greek cuisine and, although there are many varieties, the meatless version is the most common. In the warmer months, try to find and use fresh grape leaves; they are more tender and flavorful than the jarred types. Out of season, jarred leaves are a fine substitute (we prefer the Orlando brand). Get the recipe for Greek Stuffed Grape Leaves With Rice and Herbs (Dolmadakia) » Chickpea Fritters with Coconut Chutney In this Goan-influenced starter, pillowy, onion-flecked chickpea fritters are served with a pungent chutney made from cilantro, tamarind, chile, turmeric, and freshly grated coconut. Get the recipe for Chickpea Fritters with Coconut Chutney » The spongelike nature of summer squash makes it an ideal candidate to confit; pile the tender shreds on crostini for a summery appetizer. Get the recipe for Herbed Squash Confit » Smoked Trout Blinis with Crème Fraîche and Dill The smoked trout that tops these mini pancakes gets a slight kick from cayenne pepper. Get the recipe for Smoked Trout Blinis with Crème Fraîche and Dill » Fennel Seed Taralli (Italian Olive Oil Crackers) Crisp, biscuit-like Italian crackers, taralli taste best baked until dry and golden-brown: the toastiness brings out and complements the flavors of the spices and fruity olive oil. Baking them atop a drying rack helps ensure an even browning all around, but if you don't have one, dry the taralli briefly on clean kitchen towel and bake them on a parchment-lined sheet. You can omit the fennel seed and replace with 1 ¼ tsp. coarsely ground black pepper if desired, or leave the dough plain. Get the recipe for Fennel Seed Taralli (Italian Olive Oil Crackers) » These gougères are custardy in the center, with a little nuttiness and crunch from optional walnuts. Get the recipe for Cheese Gougères » Virginia Ham and White Cheddar Croquettes Crisp on the outside and creamy on the inside, potato croquettes filled with a combination of white cheddar and salty ham are the ultimate two-bite party snack. Get the recipe for Virginia Ham and White Cheddar Croquettes » Homemade Jalapeño Poppers Packed with a spicy, cheesy filling, roasted and fried jalapeños gain depth from charring under the broiler and a crispy crust from the bread crumb coating. Get the recipe for Homemade Jalapeño Poppers » Made with both smoked and cooked fish for textural contrast, salmon rillettes became a New Year's staple once I discovered that my husband wasn't the only non—oyster eater among us. Pack into jars the night before entertaining—the flavors improve with time. Get the recipe for Salmon Rillettes » Goat Cheese Crostini with Fig-Olive Tapenade A tangy-sweet tapenade made with dried figs, kalamata olives, and capers is the perfect foil for mild goat cheese in this easy appetizer. Get the recipe for Goat Cheese Crostini with Fig-Olive Tapenade » These irresistable French "cheese puffs" are the perfect hors d' oeuvre. Get the recipe for Gougères » Smoked Bluefish Pâté with Hardtack Crackers Bluefish gets the haute cuisine treatment at Puritan & Company in Cambridge, where chef-owner Will Gilson serves it as a smoky paté. Get the recipe for Smoked Bluefish Pâté with Hardtack Crackers » Marinated Anchovies with Candied Citrus, Pickled Raisins, and Chile Chef Giorgia Goggi, a self-proclaimed anchovy lover, marinates her own fillets and sun-dries raisins from local grapes to make this delicate sweet-sour dish. Store-bought marinated anchovies work perfectly well, and when they're soaked in the dish's pickling liquid, even grocery-store raisins will take on a juicy plumpness. Get the recipe for Marinated Anchovies with Candied Citrus, Pickled Raisins, and Chile » If you can't find sour tapioca starch to make this Brazilian cheese bread, sweet tapioca starch will yield equally delicious results. Get the recipe for Pão de Queijo » Crabmeat, feta, and capers are broiled atop garlic-and-herb-dressed oysters in this salty-sweet dish. Get the recipe for Oysters DuPont » Roasted Tomato and Grape Toasts with Fava Bean Puree Dried fava bean purée is served all over Puglia, typically with cooked bitter greens and fried or toasted bread. Giorgia Goggi adds lemon juice and miso, and uses it as a base for crostini. Leftovers are an excellent dip for raw vegetables. Get the recipe for Roasted Tomato and Grape Toasts with Fava Bean Puree » Roasted Garlic and Sweet Potato Crostini Sweet and savory, crunchy and creamy come together on little toasts, which pair cubes of sweet potato with a flavorful spread featuring lemon zest, capers and sour cream. Get the recipe for Roasted Garlic and Sweet Potato Crostini » Zucchini and Feta Fritters Coriander and paprika pair nicely with the salty feta in these airy, golden zucchini fritters. Get the recipe for Zucchini and Feta Fritters » Eggplant Rolls (Nigvziani Badrijani) This classic recipe is found throughout Georgia as part of the vegetable starters for a supra, but they're great with drinks before dinner too. Small eggplants are sliced lengthwise, salted, rinsed, and lightly fried, before being spread with garlicy walnut paste and rolled up. Make the walnut paste while the eggplants are being salted. The main reason to salt them is to reduce the amount of oil they absorb during frying; the bitterness has been bred out of most eggplants nowadays. Get the recipe for Eggplant Rolls (Nigvziani Badrijani) » Indian Vegetable Fritters (Pakoras) Crispy chickpea-battered vegetable fritters are a popular street-food snack throughout India. This recipe calls for potatoes and onion, but cauliflower florets, eggplant slices, or plantains can also be used. Get the recipe for Indian Vegetable Fritters (Pakoras) » Spiced Ground Beef Patties (Shami Kebabs) Ground beef is stuffed with a spiced onion mixture and then fried until crisp and savory in this favorite street food of Muslim Indians. Get the recipe for Spiced Ground Beef Patties (Shami Kebabs) » Pigeon Pea Fritters with Yogurt-Tomato Sauce (Vadai Pachadi) In Tamil-speaking households, a combination of fritters with sauce is referred to as vadai pachadi. Served for weddings and religious holidays, these spicy fritters get their signature crunch from yellow split peas and are topped with a creamy, tangy yogurt-tomato sauce. Get the recipe for Pigeon Pea Fritters with Yogurt-Tomato Sauce (Vadai Pachadi) » Cured Salmon with Thin Pancakes (Gravlax with Blinis) We persuaded the wife of a Norwegian fisherman to share her secret recipe for marinating a fresh side of salmon to silky-textured, subtly flavored perfection. Get the recipe for Cured Salmon with Thin Pancakes (Gravlax with Blinis) » Shrimp and Rosemary Crostini For this simple appetizer, shrimp are sautéed in smoky bacon fat and served on grilled bread with rosemary. Get the recipe for Shrimp and Rosemary Crostini » Stuffed Pepperoncini with Smoked Salmon Spicy, briny, creamy, and salty, this simple, retro-inspired appetizer is an unabashed crowd-pleaser. Get the recipe for Stuffed Pepperoncini with Smoked Salmon » Smoked Salmon with Cream Cheese, Capers, and Red Onion Cream cheese, capers, and red onions make for a lovely spread to pair with smoked salmon. Get the recipe for Smoked Salmon with Cream Cheese, Capers, and Red Onion » Toast with Roasted Beet Dip, Smoked Salmon, and Watercress Roasting beets and puréeing them with a little balsamic vinegar makes a sweet, earthy spread that's a perfect base for slices of smoked salmon and peppery watercress. Get the recipe for Toast with Roasted Beet Dip, Smoked Salmon, and Watercress » Pan-Fried Salt Cod Chips (Fritas de Bacalhau) A thin batter of salt cod, garlic, and onions is shallow-fried to make fine, crisp chips. Get the recipe for Pan-Fried Salt Cod Chips (Fritas de Bacalhau) » Smoked Salmon with Fromage Blanc, Chives, and Pickled Celery Pickled celery balances the subtleness of fromage blanc in a simple and elegant canapé. Get the recipe for Smoked Salmon with Fromage Blanc, Chives, and Pickled Celery » Shallot and Pancetta Tortilla Crisps Ultra-crisp tortilla pizzettes, developed by SAVEUR test kitchen director Farideh Sadeghin, can be tailor-made with just about any ingredients. We like them topped with creme fraiche, shallot, and pancetta, a flavor profile not unlike alsatian tarte flambee. Get the recipe for Smoked Salmon with Shallot and Pancetta Tortilla Crisps » Robiola-Stuffed Figs with Pomegranate Pungent Robiola cheese can be substituted with brie, ricotta, or any other soft cheese in this simple no-cook appetizer. Get the recipe for Robiola-Stuffed Figs with Pomegranate » Saganaki Bites with Sun Dried Tomato Tapenade Kasseri cheese, a type of sheep's milk feta, is fried and topped with zesty olive and sun-dried tomato tapenade. Dipping the cheese in cold water before coating them with flour is essential; it helps the flour to adhere and prevents the cheese from leaking into the oil as it fries. Get the recipe for Saganaki Bites with Sun Dried Tomato Tapenade » Broccoli Rabe, Cannellini Bean, and Ricotta Crostini Crusty, garlicky toasted bread is topped with creamy ricotta, rosemary-accented beans, and spicy sautéed broccoli rabe in this quick, satisfying Italian appetizer. Get the recipe for Broccoli Rabe, Cannellini Bean, and Ricotta Crostini » Broiled Oysters with Spinach and Brown Butter Hollandaise Instead of using clarified butter in his hollandaise, as is traditional, Global Village chef Martin Bealin browns butter, rendering it nutty in flavor. Choose briny—not creamy—oysters (ask your fishmonger), and be sure to make the mignonette: The salinity of the oysters in combination with the pungent shallots and vinegar are a welcome contrast to the richness of the hollandaise. Get the recipe for Broiled Oysters with Spinach and Brown Butter Hollandaise » Pigs in a Blanket with Herbed Mustard Dipping Sauce The dough, a variation on a Southern-style biscuit dough, is rolled out and folded several times to ensure delicate layers. Leftover dough and scraps can be rolled out again and cut and baked into biscuits. The dough can also be made in advance and refrigerated for up to 2 days or frozen until ready to use. Get the recipe for Pigs in a Blanket with Herbed Mustard Dipping Sauce » French Piped Potatoes (Pommes Duchesse) Elegant potatoes are brushed with an egg wash before baking for color and crunch. Get the recipe for French Piped Potatoes (Pommes Duchesse) » Swiss Fondue Fritters (Malakoffs) A decadent mixture of Gruyere, garlic, wine, and kirsch is scooped onto bread rounds and fried to perfection—golden and crisp outside, gooey inside—in this recipe for classic Swiss cheese fritters, which first appeared in our October 2013 issue with the article Pleasure Dome. Get the recipe for Swiss Fondue Fritters (Malakoffs) » Earthy roasted beets are brightened by fresh orange zest and tangy balsamic in this clever appetizer, which looks beautiful presented in individual endive spears. Get the recipe for Beet "Tartare" »