Creative Canapé Ideas & Recipes: Tiny Bites With Big Flavor

Canapés are the ultimate party finger food — and they're so easy to make! Try our inspired canapés to feed the crowd at your next party.

Updated December 14, 2023
assortment of canapés

When I plan a big party, canapés are almost always on the menu. Why? They're easy to make and even easier to eat, and I get to be creative in the combos and flavors to match my party's theme. Try our inspired canapé ideas and tips to feed the crowd at your next party. 

Traditional Canapés

Small bites with big flavor... that's the goal of a canapé. And while they're generally savory, you can even try some sweet ones for a fun twist on tradition. 

Fast Fact

What are canapés? They're finger foods with a bread or pastry base and a savory topping. But we're willing to expand the definition if you are. 

Traditional canapés have a base of shaped stale white bread that has been toasted or fried. The next layer of a traditional canapé is a soft, flavorful spread such as compound butter or herbed cream cheese. The next layer is typically something that has been puréed and piped on through a pastry bag in a decorative manner. Finally, the canapé is garnished with something pretty and decorative, such as a pimento or caviar. 

Of course, you can stick with tradition or give it a twist. We've got both types for you to try.

Need to Know

You can distinguish canapés from other appetizers because they are meant to be eaten neatly with the fingers, while many other appetizers require a fork or toothpick.

Canapé Bases

While white bread is the traditional foundation upon which a canapé is built, you can use other bases, as well, including:

  • Toasted or fried gluten-free bread
  • Dried bread rounds
  • Crackers
  • A small pancake or blintz
  • Multi-grain breads, toasted or fried
  • Sprouted grain breads, toasted or fried
  • Rye bread, toasted or fried
  • Baked puff pastry rounds
  • Baked phyllo rounds
  • Baked shapes cut out of leftover pie crust
  • Mini waffles
  • Cucumber rounds
  • Apple slices
  • Carrot slices
  • Zucchini slices
  • A halved cherry tomato
  • A small, hard cookie such as shortbread
  • Mushroom caps
  • Baked tiny tart shells
  • Halved fig
Helpful Hack

To be an effective foundation for your canapé, your base ingredient should be solid, neat when you hold it in your fingers, and able to hold together so you can spread or pipe something on top of it.

While round is the traditional canapé base shape, you can use small cookie cutters to create other shapes, cut breads into squares or triangles, or make any other shape your heart desires. 

Canapé Spreads

The traditional spread for canapés is compound butter or cream cheese.

  • Spreadable cheese
  • Vegan cream cheese
  • Pesto
  • Mashed roasted garlic
  • Pureed veggies and herbs
  • Herbed cream cheese
  • Buttercream
  • Cream cheese frosting
  • Nut butter
  • Nutella
  • Jam
  • Chutney
  • Jelly
  • Romesco sauce
  • Chimichurri

To make compound butter:

  1. Soften a stick of unsalted butter (or vegan butter) and place in a small bowl.
  2. Chop your favorite herbs or other ingredients (such as truffles, chopped peppers, capers, or olives) and add to the butter.
  3. Mash the ingredients together until well combined.
  4. Place compound butter on plastic wrap and wrap tightly. Refrigerate overnight.
  5. Soften before spreading on canapés.

Canapé Fillings

After adding flavor in the spread, the third layer brings in even more. Traditionally, it's a pureed ingredient that is you pipe onto your foundation in a decorative manner.

  • You can puree ingredients in a food processor or blender.
  • Very finely chop the ingredients by hand and then mix to a consistent texture.
  • If you use protein, like shrimp or lobster, put a slice atop the foundation and then garnish it.

Ready for some filling ideas?

  • Paté
  • Boiled egg yolks mixed with a little mayonnaise
  • Smoked salmon
  • Shellfish
  • Puréed mushrooms and onions that have been sautéed
  • Scallops
  • Seafood mousse
  • Roasted garlic
  • Lobster
  • Roasted vegetables
  • Ham
  • For sweet canapés, slices of fruit or fruit purees are a great option
  • Thinly sliced beef
  • Lox
  • Citrus curd
  • Berries

Canapé Garnishes

assorted canapes

Finally, add a garnish for a pop of color, flavor, and texture. It's the final, decorative touch atop your canapé. 

Get Ready to Garnish:

  • Caviar
  • Cornichons
  • Capers
  • Shaved truffles
  • Chopped olives
  • Peppers
  • Chopped herbs
  • Nuts
  • Greens, such as watercress or arugula
  • Avocado
  • Chopped tomatoes
  • Chopped chives
  • Chopped fresh herbs
  • Thinly sliced scallions
  • Roasted red peppers
  • Chopped nuts
  • Chia seeds
  • Pepitas
  • Toffee bits
  • Mini chocolate chips or candy-coated chocolates
  • Popping candies
  • Grated citrus zest
  • Radishes
  • Goat cheese crumbles
  • Microgreens
  • Poached quali eggs

Canapé Recipes

You can make combos from the ingredients we've listed (mini waffles with maple compound butter, a slice of candied bacon, and a sprinkle of finely grated orange zest? Yes, please!) Or you can try one of these recipes. 

Mushroom Paté Canapés

I'm a mushroom fanatic. Love them almost any way. So these tasty treats will be a hit at your party. 


  • 1 baguette, sliced into thin rounds and toasted
  • 1 package of herbed cream cheese, softened
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 sweet onion, diced
  • 1 pound crimini mushrooms, sliced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup dry red wine
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • ¼ teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 roasted red pepper, sliced


  1. Spread baguette rounds with cream cheese and set aside.
  2. In 12" sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.
  3. When olive oil shimmers, add onions and cook until transparent, about 4-5 minutes.
  4. Add mushrooms and allow them to sit in contact with the pan without stirring for about 4-5 minutes, until they brown on one side.
  5. Continue cooking the mushrooms, stirring, until they soften, another 2-3 minutes.
  6. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until the garlic releases its scent — about 30 seconds.
  7. Add red wine, scraping the bottom of the pan to release any browned bits into the wine. Add thyme.
  8. Reduce the heat to medium-low and allow the wine to simmer until it is reduced by about ⅔.
  9. Transfer the mushroom mixture to a food processor. Add the salt and pepper. Leave the top chute out so steam can escape, and cover it with a folded towel. Pulse several times for one-second pulses until ingredients are puréed.
  10. Refrigerate the mushroom mixture and allow it to cool.
  11. When the mushroom mixture is completely cool, transfer it to a pastry bag and pipe onto baguette rounds.
  12. Top with a slice of roasted pepper.

Smoked Salmon Canapé

salmon canapes

My hubby loves smoked salmon anything, so these simple canapés are his favorites.


  • 1 baguette, sliced into thin rounds and toasted
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
  • 12 ounces smoked salmon
  • 1 jar capers, drained and rinsed


  1. Combine dill and butter in a bowl and mix thoroughly.
  2. Spread butter on toasted baguette rounds.
  3. Top with pieces of smoked salmon.
  4. Garnish with capers.

Cheese Canapés Recipe

If you're looking for something super cheesy, you'll love these. 


  • 1 baguette, cut into rounds and toasted
  • 1 cup grated cheese, flavor(s) of your choice
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • Few grains cayenne
  • 6 slices of bread


  1. Heat the oven on broil. Place the toasted baguette rounds on a baking sheet.
  2. Sprinkle them with a thick layer of grated cheese and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Place each round on a baking sheet; broil until cheese is melted and bubbly.
  4. Sprinkle with cayenne. Serve at once.

Minced Ham Canapés Recipe

These very traditional canapés are super easy.


  • ½ cup minced ham
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon chopped parsley
  • Bread slices
  • Freshly grated horseradish for garnish


  1. Mix the ham, butter, and parsley to a smooth paste.
  2. Cut the bread into circles; fry rounds in a little butter, browning both sides.
  3. Evenly spread each round with the ham mixture. 
  4. Garnish with the horseradish.

More Canapé Combos

goat cheese canapes

We trust you can put together your own combos, but we've got some inspo to get you started.

  • Sourdough, Boursin cheese spread, crab pieces, lemon zest
  • Rye, grainy mustard, small ground beef patty, caramelized onions
  • Cucumber, hummus spread, roasted red peppers, and pine nuts
  • Gingerbread cookie, cream cheese mixed with honey, orange zest, and pomegranate
  • Mushroom cap, herbed cream cheese, shrimp, thinly sliced scallions
  • Tortilla chip, cream cheese, red pepper jelly, jalapeno slice
  • Fig half, honey, crumbled goat cheese, and microgreens
  • Apple slice, fig jam spread, brie cheese, chopped rosemary

Small Bites for Parties

Feed a crowd with pretty, small bites that are packed with flavor. You can make your canapés as simple or complicated as you want for the perfect bite-sized party treat.

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Creative Canapé Ideas & Recipes: Tiny Bites With Big Flavor