We’ve adopted the name “hors d’oeuvres” and many delicious recipes from France. But what appetizers, or apéritifs, do the French like to eat? Here are 20 mouthwatering examples from across the Atlantic to liven up your next dinner party, complete with recipe links.
List of the most common French appetizers
Gougères are tiny cheese puffs filled with anything from Comté to fromage de chèvre (goat’s cheese). Like savory eclairs, the tiny choux puffs are easy to pick up and impossible to put down.
Originally from Burgundy and frequently served cold at wine tastings, they are quick to make and freezable. Here’s a recipe from the legendary Alain Ducasse, one of the famous chefs we previously wrote about.
Canapés are famous French appetizers that share a name with a couch.
Canapés are a staple of un apéro dînatoire, that laidback cocktail dinner the French love because food and drinks flow, yet nobody gets stuck in the kitchen.
The idea is simple. Slather tasty ingredients on a slice of toasted bread, the denominative sofa. The possibilities are endless: tapenade, anchovy, and of course, cheese, to name a few.
Staring life as a garlic butter bread from the Vendée, préfou has morphed into a baked bread stuffed with different ingredients.
Goat’s cheese, pesto, tomate basilic (tomato and basil,) or chorizo are all the rage. Yet the Vendéen original is still the best.
Saumon au blini
Top a blini with salmon and fromage frais (or crème fraiche), and you have an utterly moreish treat. Melt cheese on top, and your tastebuds will thank you ecstatically.
No need for a recipe; those four ingredients are all you need. Perhaps, with a squirt of lemon and the willpower to avoid scoffing them down before serving.
Bouchée à la reine
The difference between appetizers and hors d’oeuvres is blurry. And let’s not even start with why a main course is called an entrée in the US.
A bouchée à la reine exemplifies this. A vol-au-vent with a fancy name, it can be an appetizer, hors d’oeuvres, or enlarged for an entrée.
First made for the queen Marie Leszczynska (it translates to queen’s bite,) they might be filled with ham, chicken, or seafood, but always with a creamy sauce. The queen loved them; you probably will too.
Pâté en croute
Pâté en croute is chopped meat coated in crusty pastry. Aka, a pie.
Sliced thin and served with un verre (a glass) of something, it’s another apéro dînatoire favorite.
Instantly upgrade festivities with a pâté en croûte Richelieu with its decadent center of mousse de foie.
Brandade de morue
Blend and bake salted cod (morue), potatoes, olive oil, and a hint of garlic and slap it on a table loaded with crusty bread. A dip, a spread, or a meal? Who cares; it tastes delicious.
Pissaladière is another fishy dish that doubles up as an hors d’oeuvres or entrée.
Topped with anchovies and olives, the fabled “pizza” from Nice is best served with a glass of pastis for an apéritif par excellence.
We’ve mentioned the famous tapenade already because is a go-to ingredient for many French appetizers.
A blend of olives, capers, and anchovies from Provence, the summery flavors pair perfectly with good bread, which is never in short supply in France.
Stuffed mussels (moules farcies) are doused in garlic butter and coated with breadcrumbs. Served in their shell, they’re fancy finger food yet cheap and easy to make.
A meaty terrine makes a great pre-barbecue palate teaser or light lunch.
Sharing a name with the rectangular dish it’s made in, a terrine is like a meatloaf. Except it can also be made with vegetarian ingredients.
Pressed together and chilled until served, you’ll find it served as an hors d’oeuvre or appetizer at family-run restaurants that like to put their own spin on a French classic.
Straddling the line between appetizer and hors d’oeuvre is another meaty dish, rillettes.
A relative of pulled pork, the Le Mans original is pork slowly cooked and then sealed in its own fat. Served cold with bread, it can be whipped out of the fridge at a moment’s notice.
Look out for other varieties made with duck, chicken, or more imaginative seasonings.
A soufflé may not be easy to make. But is sure to make an impression.
A soufflé au fromage should be light as air (soufflé means blown) yet surprisingly satisfying. It’s a tricky dish to perfect unless you use Gordon Ramsey’s cheat recipe. Thankfully, he won’t be around to offer any feedback.
Less sophisticated than a soufflé but in the same lip-smacking league is panisse, a fried chickpea fritter from southern France.
They’re a popular street snack in Marseille; great for dipping, suitable for vegetarians, and fast gaining a worldwide profile.
Mont d’Or cheese
Baked camembert is a recurring entry on lists of French appetizers. But we’ll wrap up our pick of French appetizers with another cheesy indulgence that fills the same function but doesn’t need baking.
Runny at room temperature, Mont d’Or cheese (also known as vacherin) is only available for 6 months of the year. Made for sharing and literally dripping in flavor, it’s a celebrated appetizer and all-around treat. Fresh bread is not optional.
Coquille St Jacques
Exotic sounding, yet simply translated as scallop in French, Coquille St Jacques gratinee is not just an ordinary scallop. Served in shell, enveloped in a creamy white wine sauce, topped with toasted breadcrumbs, it is a classic taste of France.
Makes a satisfying appetizer, or use baby scallops and serve as an elegant and easy-to-make hors d’oeuvre.
A cake, but not as you know it. Cake salé (salted cake) switches sweet ingredients for cheese, olives, ham, or countless savory fillings.
Easy to make, it’s a popular appetizer un apéro dînatoire.
The list of French names attached to hors d’oeuvres is long, and crudités is another classic example.
Ideal for vegetarians and health watchers, crunchy seasonal vegetables and a zesty dip like tapenade or hummus bring the freshest of fresh appetizers to life.
If you’re wondering what to eat in France, pastry is rarely the wrong answer.
Puffed pastry (pâte feuilletée) baked with ingredients from tapenade to Frankfurt sausages make popular bite-sized appetizers. Here’s a long list of recipes to spark your culinary imagination.
Tarte au soleil
A newcomer on the gourmet pastry block is tarte au soleil, or “sun tart.”
It’s a flaky pastry filled with creamed cheese, ham, and whatever your culinary creativity allows. The name describes the shape, with the sun’s rays made for plucking and wolfing down.
For added wow, pop a baked camembert in the middle for dipping. And at Christmas, reshape for a sapin de Noël (Christmas tree).
Félicitations! You reached the bottom of our pick of Gallic hors d’oeuvres without dashing out to your nearest French restaurant in hunger. Hopefully, we’ve given you a few ideas on what to eat in France and how to recreate your own apéro dînatoire at home. Bon appetit!