17 Unconventional Hors D'oeuvres Recipes To Surprise Your Dinner Guests

Stuffed Cherry Peppers
Stuffed Cherry Peppers - Catherine Brookes/Tasting Table

Hors d'oeuvres, a French culinary tradition, are one or two-bite morsels. They're typically served at dinner parties and organized gatherings and are seasoned to pair well with specific beverages. Originating from the term "apart from the main work," hors d'oeuvres set the stage for the main meal, providing a glimpse into the upcoming meal awaiting guests. Designed to be consumed standing, these petite delicacies don't require any utensils, making them perfect for informal mingling.

The art of hors d'oeuvres lies in the balance. An appropriate blend of meat, vegetables, and fish not only caters to diverse palettes but can also make the hors d'oeuvres feel like a mini meal. If you're planning on serving a selection of hors d'oeuvres, it's essential to acknowledge and cater to the varied dietary preferences of your guests so everyone has something to enjoy. There are plenty of options, from zesty fruit and vegetable creations to hearty bread-based snacks. Add some dishes with proteins — be it meat or seafood — and you have a nicely varied spread. If you want to impress your guests and avoid sharing the classics (as much as we love them), such as stuffed mushrooms, mini quiches, and bruschetta, here are adventurous hors d'oeuvres to gain some chef brownie points.

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Baked Malaysian-Style Curry Puffs

Baked Malaysian-Style Curry Puffs
Baked Malaysian-Style Curry Puffs - Tess Le Moing/Tasting Table

The core draw of these baked Malaysian-style curry puffs lies in their lush filling. The blend of tomato paste with the silkiness of coconut milk ensures each puff bursts with a rich and saucy mixture that contrasts beautifully against the flaky exterior. The Malaysian curry powder is the true star, providing depth to the flavor. Unlike conventional curry powders, the Malaysian style delivers a blend of spicy notes, a whisper of cardamom, and the unmistakable hint of fennel, which provides a gentle licorice undertone.

Perfectly portioned, these curry puffs perfectly fit the bill for hors d'oeuvres. Their size is ideal for a single, delightful bite or two, making them a hit at gatherings. Plus, they can freeze and bake as needed, catering to unplanned dinner parties or impromptu meet-ups. If you somehow have any leftovers, enjoy them as lunch alongside a crisp salad or blanched vegetables.

Recipe: Baked Malaysian-Style Curry Puffs

Crispy Roasted Okra

Crispy Roasted Okra
Crispy Roasted Okra - Michelle McGlinn/Tasting Table

Okra often graces tables in the South, deep-fried. But in this recipe, okra has been brilliantly reimagined for those who crave that iconic crunch without the hassle of deep-frying. Achieving that coveted crispness while sidestepping okra's notorious sliminess can be challenging. However, with the right amount of oil, a hint of starch, and a generous burst of heat, you'll achieve delectably crispy roasted okra that's perfectly served as a hors d'oeuvres.

When cooking, try trimming the okra tips for quicker roasting and optimal seasoning absorption. Choosing whole roasted okra especially promotes this dish to hors d'oeuvre stardom. These bite-sized, crunchy delights offer an intriguing texture and flavor, further amplified with accompaniments like lemony aioli or a classic remoulade.

This unusual appetizer not only stands out in taste but also serves as a conversation starter, making it a perfect centerpiece for your next gathering. It's best savored fresh from the oven, so make sure you plan your timing well when serving to guests.

Recipe: Crispy Roasted Okra

Braised Coconut Beef Ribs

Braised Coconut Beef Ribs
Braised Coconut Beef Ribs - Michelle McGlinn/Tasting Table

The gastronomic world thrives on innovation, and beef ribs are no exception to this rule. Enter the braised coconut beef ribs to delight your hungry guests. Envision the deep, rich flavors of beef short ribs infused with the creamy sweetness of coconut milk. Add a touch of heat from chilies, aromatic lemongrass, and the punch of lime, and the result is a dish that's both luxuriously rich and refreshingly light.

Drawing inspiration from the classic stir-fry, this recipe incorporates baby corn, water chestnuts, and the tender greens of bok choy so you can top up your veggie count too. It's a dance of textures and flavors, reminiscent of comfort food takeout noodles but with the depth and richness of braised ribs.

Serving these braised coconut beef ribs as hors d'oeuvres is bound to go down a treat. Think of bite-sized rib pieces drenched in that sumptuous coconut sauce. Offer each guest a cold glass of sake to cut through the creamy coconut richness for the perfect pairing.

Recipe: Braised Coconut Beef Ribs

Show-Stopper Mushroom Pithivier

Show-Stopper Mushroom Pithivier
Show-Stopper Mushroom Pithivier - Katie Rosenhouse/Tasting Table

Introducing the show-stopper mushroom Pithivier, a modern twist to a French classic — definitely an adventurous hors d'oeuvres. If you haven't heard of it before, the Pithivier hails from a quaint French town of the same name.

When mushrooms are used as a filling, the earthy flavor and smooth textures come together wonderfully. When it comes to choosing a type of mushroom, consider cremini for a rich, meaty flavor, shiitake for a smoky taste, and oyster mushrooms for their delicate, velvety texture.

One of the many advantages of this show-stopping hors d'oeuvre is its preparatory convenience. The uncooked pastry can be frozen and later thawed in the refrigerator, ready to be baked when the occasion arises. And Pithiviers, with their flaky pastry shells, offer many possibilities for fillings, ranging from savory options like tender chicken with leeks, rich duck confit, or soft salmon paired with spinach to sweet alternatives incorporating fruits, chocolate, or almond-rich frangipane. Their versatility ensures they can cater to various palates, from hearty meat flavors to sugary, indulgent fillings.

Recipe: Show-Stopper Mushroom Pithivier

Classic Lobster Newburg

Classic Lobster Newburg
Classic Lobster Newburg - Ksenia Prints/Tasting Table

This classic lobster Newburg is a lavish hors d'oeuvre, reminiscent of opulent 1980s soirées, and it's bound to turn heads and water mouths at your next gathering. Lobster meat, combined with a velvety blend of cream, Madeira wine, and a touch of egg, finds its home in delicate puff pastry shells. Each bite delivers sheer decadence — it's a rich yet airy morsel that leaves you longing for the next.

Despite its gourmet appeal, creating this seafood sensation is surprisingly straightforward, making it a convenient hors d'oeuvres option. It takes just 20 minutes of prep and cooking time combined, so you can whip this masterpiece up in no time. Plus, other than the lobster meat, most ingredients can be found easily at your local store.

However, a word of warning: Lobster Newburg is best savored fresh. While it can be stored briefly, it's likely to lose some of its initial splendor. If you can, serve it warm and straight from the kitchen to your guests.

Recipe: Classic Lobster Newburg

Halloumi Fries

Halloumi Fries dish
Halloumi Fries dish - Ting Dalton/Tasting Table

The melt-in-your-mouth saltiness of the cheese shielded by a golden layer of crispy breadcrumbs makes these halloumi fries a clear crowd-pleaser appetizer at gatherings. The beauty of these cheese sticks lies not just in their flavor but in their preparation. Shunning the traditional deep-frying, these halloumi treats are baked, delivering that sought-after crispiness without drowning in oil.

As the halloumi packs a punch of saltiness, additional seasoning isn't necessary. And when it comes to pairing with dips, ketchup, and mayonnaise are classics that always go down well. But if you want to make this hors d'oeuvre even more adventurous, you could choose a sweet chili dip or perhaps a tangy tzatziki.

For the best results, indulge in these fries fresh from the oven to enjoy the halloumi's gooey center contrasted against its crunchy exterior. And should you find yourself with leftovers (unlikely, we're sure), they freeze well and can be revived with a quick reheat in the oven.

Recipe: Halloumi Fries

Sausage Balls With Cream Cheese

Sausage Balls With Cream Cheese
Sausage Balls With Cream Cheese - Kate Shungu/Tasting Table

Reminiscent of Southern traditions, these mouth-watering sausage balls with cream cheese embody the essence of festive gatherings and cheerful camaraderie. While they can be served year-round, they're best shared at Christmas and Thanksgiving celebrations. They evoke a sense of comfort and celebration, making them a superb choice as a hors d'oeuvres at a cozy gathering.

Start by selecting your preferred type of sausage, be it traditional, sage, Italian, or another type. The choice of sausage can wonderfully complement the cheese you decide to include. Sage sausage pairs well with a sharp cheddar, while a more traditional sausage mingles well with the creamy goodness of Colby Jack cheese.

Offer a range of dips to lift the flavors. A spicy red pepper jelly, tangy mustard aioli, or herby pesto dip allows guests to customize their snacks. And when it comes to pairing with a drink, a sparkling cider with a hint of sage or a smoky bourbon cocktail can further enhance the flavor of the sausage balls.

Recipe: Sausage Balls With Cream Cheese

Fritto Misto

Fritto Misto dish
Fritto Misto dish - Andrew Bui/Tasting Table

The Italian fritto misto is the perfect summer appetizer with an exciting combination of flavors and textures to dazzle guests with. Translated as "mixed fry," this seafood dish lets you get creative with its contents. From flaky calamari rings to crunchy broccolini florets, there are plenty of opportunities to customize this appetizer.

What makes fritto misto exceptionally suitable for dinner parties is its enduring crispness, which can be challenging to find in fried food. This means, as a host, you can craft this dish slightly before your guests arrive, reducing any last-minute kitchen hustle and allowing you to present a refreshingly crisp appetizer throughout the evening. Plus, this fritto misto recipe is gluten-free.

Complete the assortment with a side of Calabrian chili aioli. With its rich consistency and fiery kick, this dip complements the fritto misto perfectly, enhancing each bite and leaving a lingering zest on the tongue.

Recipe: Fritto Misto

French Onion Chicken Meatballs

French Onion Chicken Meatballs
French Onion Chicken Meatballs - Hayley MacLean/Tasting Table

French onion chicken meatballs fuse classic French flavors with the ever-popular meatball, catching attention at any gathering. The deep, rich aroma of caramelized onions melds with the robust flavor of Gruyère cheese, encasing tender chicken meatballs. It's a bold twist on the beloved French onion soup, transformed into a bite-sized delight that works perfectly as a hors d'oeuvres.

Chicken is excellent as a succulent base, absorbing and enhancing the dish's lavish flavors. But what sets these meatballs apart as a daring hors d'oeuvre is their versatility. Whether you're hosting an elegant soirée or a cozy family gathering, these meatballs tend to suit any type of event. Served warm, their aroma beckons guests and the taste ensures that guests won't be able to stop at just one. Team them with slices of crusty baguette to soak up the sauce.

Have you got some leftovers after the party? Enjoy the next day for lunch as a tender meatball sandwich, complete with a side broth dip.

Recipe: French Onion Chicken Meatballs

Buffalo Cheese Puffs

Buffalo Cheese Puffs
Buffalo Cheese Puffs - Rachel Vanni/Tasting Table

Merging the elegance of the French gougère pastry with the fiery zest of buffalo wings, these buffalo cheese puffs deliver a roller-coaster of flavors in every bite. The sophistication of a classic French cheese puff meets the tang of cheddar and hot sauce, melding beautifully into a velvety Mornay cheese sauce. These treats are crispy on the outside, with a burst of spicy, cheesy goodness within. What makes these puffs a bold choice for your hors d'oeuvres selection isn't just their flavor but the contrast of textures.

Crafting the perfect choux pastry dough is the key to achieving well-made buffalo cheese puffs. Aim for a batter that's stretchy and tacky yet retains a touch of moisture. A handy tip: when making your dough, pinch a smidgen of the batter between your fingers and pull them apart. If it stretches to about an inch without snapping, you're on the right track. Serve these buffalo cheese puffs at your next soirée and watch them steal the spotlight.

Recipe: Buffalo Cheese Puffs

Eggplant Caponata Crostini

Eggplant Caponata Crostini
Eggplant Caponata Crostini - Rachel Vanni/Tasting Table

Offering a fusion of the Mediterranean's finest ingredients, these eggplant caponata crostinis capture the essence of a summer harvest in each bite — they're ideally served at summer BBQs and outdoor parties. This hors d'oeuvre is adventurous yet familiar, making it a standout choice for those looking to impress their guests.

The heart of this appetizer is the caponata — a juicy medley of eggplant simmered with tomatoes until they blend. The base is jazzed up with a flavorsome mix of vinegar, capers, olives, and aromatic herbs, while golden raisins deliver a hint of unexpected sweetness. This combination ensures a burst of flavors that are simultaneously tangy, savory, and slightly sweet.

The good news is that preparations can easily be made ahead, ensuring you're not stuck in the kitchen when it's time to catch up with your guests. On the day of your gathering, just warm the caponata if preferred or serve at room temperature, spooning it generously over the crostini. A sprinkle of thyme leaves and crumbles of ricotta salata amplify its taste and presentation further.

Recipe: Eggplant Caponata Crostini

Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken

Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken
Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken - Michelle McGlinn/Tasting Table

Taiwanese popcorn chicken nods homage to the country's vibrant culinary scene, particularly its buzzy night markets that enthuse both locals and tourists alike. As a hors d'oeuvre, it offers an exciting change from the conventional, transporting taste buds straight to the heart of Taiwan's street food scene.

Unlike typical popcorn chicken, the Taiwanese version has a crispy basil layer and a double-fried exterior. Sweet potato starch provides a distinctive crunch, while the dash of Sichuan pepper ensures each bite delivers an exciting tingle. Whether you're hosting a dinner party or enjoying a movie night with friends, these little chicken bites fit right in. Improve their taste further by dipping them into sriracha aioli or teriyaki sauce, resembling the eclectic flavors of Taiwanese markets.

Like most fried delicacies, Taiwanese popcorn chicken might lose its signature crisp if you try to keep it, but a quick stint in the microwave, oven, or air fryer helps resurrect its former glory. The next time you're seeking an adventurous appetizer that captures the essence of global street food, look no further than Taiwanese popcorn chicken. Pop these bites in your mouth freshly fried, or save them for a late-night snack.

Recipe: Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken

Indigenous-Inspired 3 Sisters Whipped Ricotta Toast

Indigenous-Inspired 3 Sisters Whipped Ricotta Toast
Indigenous-Inspired 3 Sisters Whipped Ricotta Toast - Kara Barrett/Tasting Table

Embracing age-old traditions, this Indigenous-inspired three sisters' whipped ricotta toast is a culinary nod to the rich agricultural practices that have long flourished within Native American communities. The blend of the "three sisters" — corn, beans, and squash — isn't just a combination of flavors but a testament to an intricate growing ecosystem where each plant supports the other, capturing centuries of Indigenous wisdom.

This hors d'oeuvres is more than just a story, though. It also tastes delicious, with creamy ricotta and sweet squash set atop bite-sized pieces of toast. A generous heap of beans and corn and a sprinkle of buttery sage improve the dish further. Serving on crostini turns this recipe into the perfect party appetizer. When shared, the dish sparks discussions about age-old traditions and the harmonious relationship of the three sisters.

To truly honor this dish, try to source the freshest ingredients you can. If they're cultivated by Native American growers, even better, as this treats your guests to a more authentic and enriching experience. Serve this recipe at your next gathering and watch as the room is filled with appreciation, not just for the delectable taste but also for the rich history the ricotta toast embodies.

Recipe: Indigenous-Inspired 3 Sisters Whipped Ricotta Toast

Spicy Little Smokies

Spicy Little Smokies
Spicy Little Smokies - Petar Marshall/Tasting Table

While traditional little smokies have long been beloved for their bite-sized convenience and ember-roasted taste, introducing a dash of spice to this already delightful snack promises to make them stand out. In this rendition, the gentle sweetness of the sausages combines with a commanding zest.

The simple preparation, requiring just five ingredients and less than five minutes of prep, makes these little smokies a host's dream. Wrap them in crispy bacon or soak them in a bubbling pot of spiced sauce to get even more creative with your presentation and taste.

The robust flavor of the smokies pairs wonderfully with a sweet and tangy honey mustard dip or a rich and creamy blue cheese sauce. Consider using a warming tray or slow cooker to keep them at the perfect temperature throughout your event, and pair them with decorative toothpicks or mini skewers for easy, mess-free eating. Whether you're hosting a big party or planning a chilled gathering at home, these smokies promise to be the spicy, sweet, and oh-so-satisfying dish of the evening.

Recipe: Spicy Little Smokies

Reuben Egg Rolls

Reuben Egg Rolls
Reuben Egg Rolls - Kate Shungu/Tasting Table

Merging the warmth of comfort food with the tradition of hors d'oeuvres, the Reuben egg rolls emerge as a lovely culinary crossover. Take the tanginess of corned beef and sauerkraut flavored with the piquancy of Italian dressing, and then wrap them snugly inside the crispy envelope of an egg roll. Sounds delicious, right?

This innovative snack bursts with familiar flavors in an unexpected format, making it an excellent hors d'oeuvres to get tongues wagging and mouths drooling. The accompaniment of Thousand Island or Russian dressing adds the right touch of creaminess and tang.

Arrange the Reuben egg rolls on a rustic wooden board, garnished with fresh dill or parsley for a visually striking presentation. To go the extra mile, serve on a pre-heated platter to ensure they remain warm and crispy during your event. You can also amp the experience with a pairing of crisp lager beer or a chilled Riesling, both of which complement the egg rolls' tangy flavors.

Recipe: Reuben Egg Rolls

Stuffed Cherry Peppers

Stuffed Cherry Peppers
Stuffed Cherry Peppers - Catherine Brookes/Tasting Table

These stuffed cherry pepper gems encapsulate the melding of tangy and creamy. The outer layer, the cherry pepper, provides that kick of spiciness and a dose of heat, setting the stage for the soft ricotta and cream cheese filling that awaits within. The good news is that even if you're a newbie in the kitchen, assembling these delectable bites is super simple. Just a spoonful of the mixture, a gentle push into the pepper, and voilà.

Consider creating a Mediterranean-inspired platter with stuffed cherry peppers. Lay out the peppers alongside fine cured meats, slices of crusty bread, artisanal cheeses, and a bowl of olives to make the perfect nibble spread. Whether it's part of a grand feast, a casual buffet, or just a cozy evening snack among friends, these stuffed cherry peppers are likely to be a hit. If there are any leftovers, they can be kept in the fridge for up to four days.

Recipe: Stuffed Cherry Peppers

Vegan Deviled Eggs

Vegan Deviled Eggs
Vegan Deviled Eggs - Miriam Hahn/Tasting Table

Deviled eggs are a classic when it comes to serving hors d'oeuvres, but this dairy-free option stands out as a prime example of creativity. At first glance, they might look like the deviled eggs we all know and love, but a closer look reveals an intriguing twist: these are crafted from potatoes.

Yes, you heard right. And these aren't just any potatoes, but baby Dutch Yukon types, a variety known for its buttery texture and smooth finish. The true beauty of these vegan deviled eggs lies in their crowd-pleasing appeal. Whether you're a dedicated vegan or a die-hard omnivore, there's something irresistible about munching on these deviled eggs, which resemble mini potato salad bites. It's the familiar comfort of a potato salad in a chic, party-ready form.

When presenting these vegan deviled "eggs" at an event, consider arranging them on a sleek, minimalist platter. Garnish the plate with fresh herbs like dill or chives for a pop of color and perhaps a light sprinkle of smoked paprika on each "egg" for an added touch of elegance. Pair them with a tangy vegan aioli on the side for extra flavor.

Recipe: Vegan Deviled Eggs

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