There’s a simple elegance to the starter course of a traditional French dinner party: Bright herbs, rich butter, savory cheese, and tangy vinaigrettes and mustards whet the appetite, inviting guests to enjoy yet another aperitif or glass of Champagne.

Our 13 French appetizer recipes make it easy to whip up dainty hors d’oeuvres, classic bistro starters like steak tartare and escargots, and rustic, regional finger foods such as Niçoise pissaladieres and Alsatian tarte flambée. All you need to worry about is which bottle of wine to open.

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Escargots a la Bourguignonne (Snails in Garlic-Herb Butter)

Snails in Garlic-Herb Butter
Use good-quality canned snails and store-bought snail shells to make this timeless garlic-and-herb-flavored dish.
Get the recipe for Escargots a la Bourguignonne » Landon Nordeman

Provençal Stuffed Squid

Provencal Stuffed Squid
Fresh squid of every size, and cuttlefish too, are found at fishmongers throughout Provence. Lulu buys the tiny ones to fry, but chooses medium-size squid to stuff with herbs, chard, and bread crumbs (she prefers chard to spinach under most circumstances). To make things easier, the squid can be prepared in advance and cooked later in the day, roasted, grilled, or braised. Serve warm or at room temperature, drizzled with fruity oil or an anchovy vinaigrette. Get the recipe for Provençal Stuffed Squid » Justin Walker

Duck Pâté en Croûte

Duck Pate En Croute
Pâté is a labor of love, but it’s worth every step, especially when you bake it in flaky homemade pastry dough and top it with a flavorful gelée. Here, being careful to keep the ingredients cold during the process, and taking the same care when folding and filling the dough, yields a pâté that everyone will write home about. Get the recipe for Duck Pâté en Croûte » Matt Taylor-Gross

Black Olive Tapenade

Black Olive Tapenade
Tapenade, the traditional Provençal condiment made with black olives, is great on toasts, grilled fish, and roasts. Get the recipe for Black Olive Tapenade » Justin Walker

Tartare de Filet de Boeuf (Steak Tartare)

Steak Tartare
The key to finely chopping filet mignon for this classic tartare is to chill it in the freezer before slicing and mincing it. Get the recipe for Tartare de Filet de Boeuf (Steak Tartare) » Landon Nordeman

Deviled Eggs With Crab

Deviled Eggs With Crab
Chef Yves Camdeborde assembles these haute deviled eggs—the whites marinated in soy sauce and pomegranate vinegar—à la minute at his stand-up bar L’Avant Comptoir de la Mer in Paris, but you can make the filling up to a day in advance and keep it refrigerated. Be sure to drain the whites immediately after 15 minutes of marinating so they don’t toughen. Get the recipe for Deviled Eggs With Crab » Matt Taylor-Gross


The powerhouse trifecta of anchovies, olives, and caramelized onions flavors this signature Provençal dish. Get the recipe for Pissaladière » Photography by Thomas Payne


These irresistable French “cheese puffs” are the perfect hors d’ oeuvre. Get the recipe for Gougères » Christopher Testani

Chicken Liver Pâté

Chicken Liver Pâté
Butter and brandy makes this classic pâté rich and creamy. Get the recipe for Chicken Liver Pâté » Penny de los Santos


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 » Kate Devine

Salmon Rillettes

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 » Christina Holmes

Alsatian Bacon and Onion Tart (Tarte Flambée)

Cooking on a very hot pizza stone gives this bacon and onion tart a shatteringly crispy crust. Get the recipe for Alsatian Bacon and Onion Tart (Tarte Flambée) » Todd Coleman

Fromage Blanc Spread (Cervelle de Canut)

This dish, which translates literally to “silk worker’s brain,” is said to be named for Lyon’s 19th-century silk weavers, who’d often make a lunch of the smooth herbed-cheese spread. Chef Boulud’s family used to make it with fresh goat cheese, but fromage blanc works just as well. Serve with salad, potatoes, or toasted bread. Get the recipe for Fromage Blanc Spread (Cervelle de Canut) » Photo: Matt Taylor-Gross