What Are Canapés?

Typically served before dinner with cocktails, canapés are small, easy-to-eat food made with a base of bite-sized pieces of bread or crackers and topped with a variety of delicate toppings. A canapé is meant to be small enough that it can be held in one hand, so your other hand is free to hold your drink, and eaten in one bite.

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Are canapés and hors d'oeuvres the same thing?

Many people use the two words interchangeably, canapés and hors d'oeuvres are not the same thing at all. Hors d'oeuvres are essentially a category of food served before a main meal, so dishes like turnovers, empanadas, samosas, and egg rolls served with a dipping sauce, deviled eggs, crudités, a bowl of nuts, food served on a stick or skewer, and food served on small pieces of bread or crackers. So a canapé is basically a type of hors d'oeuvre.

How do I build a canapé?

A traditional canapé consists of four elements:

The base

The base is usually a small, geometric-shaped, bite-sized piece of bread, pastry, or crackers. A canape is a great time to use up stale white bread if you have any lying around. Because the base needs to be crisp, you’ll have to toast or fry it, so the staleness of it won’t matter in the slightest.

The spread

The next thing is a thin layer of the spread, like flavoured butter, cream cheese, or mayonnaise. The spread adds moisture and flavour, along with acting as a glue that prevents the topping from sliding off the base. The flavour of the spread needs to complement the topping as well as the drink, so make sure it’s sharp and spicy.

The topping

The topping can be meat, seafood, vegetable, or fruit. This is the primary and main ingredient in your canapé, so the fancier and tastier your choice the better your canapé will be. Steak, prosciutto, smoked salmon, lobster, shrimp—they all work wonderfully here.

The garnish

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The final item in the canapé—a garnish to finish it off. The garnish is meant to add flavour as well as add an aesthetic value to your canapé. Caviar, spring onions, delicate herbs, tiny minced onions, and truffle oil are common choices.

What else should I keep in mind while assembling a canapé?

The most important rule to keep in mind when building a canapé is that simplicity is key. While canapés can have more than one topping, it’s best to keep them simple in their assembly so they don’t topple over or create a mess for guests when they’re eating. Because canapés don’t use toothpicks or skewers, they’re popular because guests don’t have to worry about what to do with the used cutlery once their hors d'oeuvre is done.

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While there is no rule that a canapé must be the size of a single bite, it is always best to minimise chances of it requiring more than one bite. Requiring a guest to have to bite it in half or twist it to break it simply adds work that a canapé should ideally avoid. At the same time, a single bite-sized canapé must still be small and delicate enough that it doesn’t overstuff the guest’s mouth.

Want to order a canapé kit from Makery?

Head here to order our Thai Canapés kit.