What to Serve for a Perfect French Appetizer

French style appetizer

Here are the most classic and popular appetizers to give you ideas. Amazingly easy for a tasty moment.

French beloved apéro (appetizer pre-dinner snack, apéro is the informal term for apéritif) offers endless possibilities of snacks, cheeses, delis, dips, hors d’oeuvres…

May it be for a classic appetizer on weekends or when you have friends coming over, or for more fancy and festive dinners such as Christmas or New Year Eve, here are some recipes you should try. Most are amazingly easy recipes you can make at home.

I have listed the most common and typical threats we like to serve in France, some with brief explanations and/or photos, some with links to the recipes you can find on the blog. I have grouped dishes by catégory.

Note that hors d’oeuvre means what’s before the main dish. I often see lists of best French appetizers mixing apéro and starter. I’m focusing here on appetizers. Classic French starters (entrées) will be detailed in another upcoming article.

Bites to grab

Gougères cheese puffs : Gougères might be among the French most famous savory snacks. Just made with pâte à choux puff pastry with cheese.
Pruneaux au lard : prune wrapped with a thin slice of bacon, grilled in the oven. Serve still warm.
Champignons fourrés au fromage frais : mushrooms filled with flavored cream cheese or Boursin cheese. Also grilled in the oven. Serve warm.
Rouleaux de jambon blanc au boursin : Rolls of ham filled with Boursin cheese. Can also be done with for example, cured ham and goat cheese.
Bouchées de raisin et Comté : Comte cheese cubes and grape on a chop stick
Melon au jambon cru : melon slice wrapped with cured ham.

Dips and spreads

Tapenade : South France Provence black olive or green olive paste with capers, anchovies, and olive oil. I like to add a bit of canned tuna for a smoother texture.
Poichichade is kind of a Houmous from South France Provence, made with chickpeas, sun-dried tomatoes, and olive oil.
Caviar d’aubergine: is not French but is really enjoyed here in France. I’m a big eggplant lover, and this is among my favorite apéros.
Thon au Saint Morêt: Canned tuna and cream cheese spread. You can add fresh or dried herbs or even spices.

Cheese and delis

Plateau de fromage: The French don’t really make fancy cheese boards with sliced or cubed cheeses, fresh or dried fruits, crackers… They look amazing on social media, but I would rather have different cheeses with a beautiful knife.
Camembert garni: May it be brie or camembert, cut it in 2 and garnish the middle with a mix of cubed: dried fruits, nuts, apple… Bread and butter
Assiette de charcuterie: Thin slices of saucisson, cured ham… cornichon pickles, bread and butter. Some homemade delis are also great, as my dried pork tenderloin is incredibly easy to make but has to be prepared way ahead.
Boudin blanc is a white sausage made with poultry and egg. I serve slices crumbed with pain d’épices.

Fish and seafood

Mousse de saumon: Smoked salmon mousse made with minced salmon with cream cheese and whipped cream.
Toast de saumon fumé: Serve smoked salmon on blinis toasts and a bit of sauce. Either Greek yogurt with herbs or my favorite seasoning adding yellow mustard.
Tartare de saumon: fresh raw salmon seasoned, seasoned with a bit of oil and lemon. You can for example, serve in individual glasses for example with green apple, pomegranate…
Rillettes de saumon: terrine made with fresh salmon cooked, shredded, and combined with cream cheese, lemon, and herbs.
Rillettes de maquereau: cooked mackerel prepared just as we did above for salmon.

Foie gras

Toast de foie gras: When foie gras is of excellent quality, the best is to serve it without any transformation. I like to do it on homemade gingerbread toasts, with either onion or fig confit.

Verrine de foie gras: Use little glasses and fill with a layer of fruit compote such as pear, add foie gras cubes, then sprinkle with grind pain d’épices or speculoos.

Verrines

Well any preparation can be served in small individual glasses. Verrine comes from verre / glass, meaning little glasses. Verrines were very trendy quite a while ago, are a little bit less now but still always very much appreciated. Very convenient you can serve many kinds of preparations: soups with toppings, different layers of purée, sautéed vegetables, cheeses or flavored creams…
I mentioned above the pear and foie gras, salmon, and apple tartare.

Tartines toats

As long as you find good bread, may it be fresh baguette or country-style bread, any topping is fine. A few suggestions:
Tomate cerise et chèvre : Goat cheese seasoned and oven-roasted cherry tomatoes
Avocat crevette : avocado or guacamole with marinated shrimps (with curry and lemon, for example)
Champignons : a layer of goat or cream cheese seasoned and briefly sautéed champignons de Paris button mushrooms
Abricot magret de canard : smoked duck-breast filet and apricot with a bit of Greek yogurt
The French also love blinis with tarama, for example.

Puff pastry

Tarte soleil : stunning sun tart made with two layers of puff pastry filled with with pesto, pesto rosso or tapenade filling, or two of them combined. Rays are made and twisted, then baked in the oven. It’s always a great success. You can find detailed steps in photos on the blog.
Sapin de Noël : same as above but with the shape of a Christmas tree. Either big one made with the same technique as sun tart or like this recipe with strips arranged in shape of small tree.
Croissant garni : This time, the shape used is triangle-filled and rolled to make bite-size garnished croissants.

Starters served bite size

Cake salé : Savory loaves of all types, cubed: ham, cheese and olive; tuna and sun-dried tomatoes; bell pepper, zucchini, and feta
Quiche of course is perfect and fillings are endless. The authentic quiche lorraine. My other proposals are with caramelized onion and bacon, with leek and smoked haddock
Croque Monsieur : Is perfect cubed to grab but make it simple with no bechamel (or only a little bit) otherwise it will be complicated to serve. You can propose the classic Croque Monsieur with ham and Gruyère or Comté cheese, of vary filling with for example blue cheese.
Flan au chorizo : chorizo flan baked in cannelé molds
Focaccia : has Italian origins but is widely baked in South France where olive oil is a key ingredient. I prepare focaccia with herbs and cherry tomatoes.
Fougasse is amazing because you can imagine all kind of filling. My fougasse recipe with blue cheese and caramelized onion is an award winning imagined for Fourme d’Ambert blue cheese.
Pissaladière from South France with onion and anchovies, or Flammekueche from Alsace adding cream and nice French dishes that can replace pizza.

This list is not 100% exhaustive and still needs to be completed. See it as an ongoing article that I will update with new ideas and, more importantly, link to new detailed recipes as I will try to post the missing recipes in the next few weeks.

What’s your favorite French appetizer?

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Written by Florence RICHOMME