Whether added to a casual luau menu or passed butler-style at an elegant soirée, small bites add panache and can help round out catering menus.
The beauty of the appetizer/hors d'oeuvre category is that virtually every flavor, every ethnic inspiration and almost every entrée, side dish or salad recipe fits into the menu! Simply alter the portion size and presentation and braised pork becomes a Shredded Pork Crisp or spicy soup becomes a Shrimp and Fresh Tomato Tequila Cocktail Shooter, for example.
It's always the right time to update catering menus, particularly if you have repeat clients who need to be “wowed” time and time again.
Following are 72 simple yet delicious one or two bite hors d'oeuvre ideas. You're sure to come away with a few new “signature” items to add to your catering repertoire.
Wontons, Egg Rolls and Dumplings
Round and square wonton wrappers are a great foil for one bite
wonders both savory and sweet. ey lend themselves to pot stickers,
dumplings, ravioli, and mini tarts.
• Wonton ravioli with butternut squash and walnut filling. Coat with or dip into a sage cream sauce.
• Seafood Florentine wontons
• Curried Carrot pot stickers
• Pork and chive dumplings
• Greek potstickers
Sips, Shots & Shooters
Debuting earlier this decade, the shooter as a trend is still a strong contender on catering menus. Here are a few ideas featured at the most recent National Association of Catering Executives (NACE) conference in August.
• Chilled soups served in shot (shooter) glasses: Grilled Asparagus Soup with Crème Fraiche; Cucumber and Tomato Gazpacho with jumbo lump crab
• Breakfast beverages: Passion Fruit Cocktail Juice Shooters; Morning Sunsrise Shooter (Kiwi, Mango, Grenadine)
• Sides and salad: Southern Shrimp ‘n Grits Shooters (a slightly bigger glass and not straight sided); Chilled Melon and Mint “Salad,” Ambrosia Salad Shooters; Coleslaw Shooters and Southern Potato Salad Shooters
• Hors d’oeurves: Fruit Gelee Shooters; Fruit Skewer “Shooters” with Assorted Yogurt Dips; Crudité Shooters with Southern Buttermilk Ranch; Caribbean Shrimp Shooters; Bloody Mary & Vegetable Shooters
Cheese and Bread
It’s easy to improve on a cheese board—add artisan cheeses, cover half a cheese with a complimentary preserve or fruit and nut confit, or serve familiar cheeses in a new way. To add even more panache, include home-made crackers, croustades, or bruschetta with unique toppings as a surprise item on the cheese presentation.
• Spiced fried mozzarella balls. Flavor fresh mozzarella balls with spices, coat with egg and breadcrumbs and fry. Serve in a bunch to look like a grape cluster.
• Cheese en carrozza. Think Croque Monsieur only smaller! Flavor the cheese with a sprinkle of fresh basil, a touch of sundried tomato, or a generous smattering of pre-cooked chorizo, batter, fry and cut into quarters.
• Marinated Cheese cubes: Feta chunks in olive oil, garlic, rosemary; Cheddar.
• Cheese “truffles”: Herbed Chevre rolled in pecan, jalapeño cheese rolled in breadcrumbs, cheddar rolled in pretzels.
Chips and Crisps
Corn chips, tortilla chips, homemade corn cups, and potato chips add substantial crunch and interest to appetizers. Try these:
• Tuna tartar on potato chips
• Blue cheese and onion soufflé on potato chips
• Top chips with sautéed pumpkin or sweet potato brunoise and bacon
• Pastrami, Swiss cheese and a dollop of Thousand Island on potato chips
• Corn cups filled with roasted peppers and three cheeses
• Vegetarian Chili with sharp cheddar on/in tortilla cups
• Chipotle pepper, black bean and goat cheese nachos
Whether revisiting the classic potato pancake or adding a trendy flair using corn, beans, grains or fish, pancakes are simple to make in mini sizes and can be used as a platform for other tastes or served on their own simply garnished.
• Herb Blini with asparagus tips, crème fraiche and lemon zest
• Wild rice pancakes with red pepper jelly
• Potato pancakes with salmon, chives and sour cream
• Corn cakes with roasted zucchini and red pepper brunoise
• Black bean cakes with salsa, cilantro and sour cream
• Codfish cakes with pineapple salsa
• Smoked trout cakes with horseradish cream
Vegetable and Fruit Wrappers
Lettuce, cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, grape leaves, celery stalks and snow peas all lend themselves to easy pick-up appetizers. Also, beets, cucumbers, new potatoes, baby artichokes, apple and pear slices, and dried fruit can all be used as a base for pick-up food.
Here are a few ideas to add to your menu.
• Crabmeat salad on cucumber rounds
• Pate mousse on organic apple slices with crisp herb garnish
• Caviar and creme fraiche on roasted beet stars
• Scallop ceviche nestled in snow peas
• Dried pears or apricots topped with Bleu de Bresse cheese
• Sweet potato, Asian or broccoli slaw in lettuce cups
• Fruit and nut couscous stuffed grape leaves
• Spicy sausage and cilantro stuffed grape leaves
Tender puff pastry (feuillete) and phyllo are versatile carriers—from savory strudel to sweet mini tarts—and add elegance to the menu.
• Sausage, mushroom and fennel feuillete
• Ham, cheese and roasted red pepper feuillete
• Chicken and Prosciutto Phyllo cups
• Saint Andre and Shiitake Tartlets
• Bestilla (Moroccan) Phyllo turnovers
• Lobster strudel
From pinwheels to “cones,” tortillas are as versatile on the appetizer menu as they are on the sandwich menu. Consider these:
• Feta, sundried tomato, Kalamata olive and radish sprout pinwheels. Moisten with a little oil from the tomatoes.
• Smoked salmon, spinach, caper and dill cream cheese pinwheel, a classic.
• Grilled vegetable and Boursin cheese pinwheel.
• Bacon, tomato, avocado with curry mayo pinwheel.
• Pear and brie quesadillas
• Aisian Turkey & Shiitake Mushroom Pot Stickers in Coconut Lemon Grass Broth 
• Shrimp and Fresh Tomato Tequila Cocktail 
• Four-Cheese Pastry Rounds 
• Smoked Paprika Shredded Pork Crisps with Orange Fennel Marmalade 
• Whole Grain Five Roasted Corn Pancake with Avocado Mousse and Baja Shrimp 
• Spicy Grape and Chicken Lettuce Cups 
• Grape and Cheese Crispy Mini-Tarts 
• California Avocado Trio 
• Mini Mango Amaretto Cheesecakes