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The Hospitality Guru (cooking) Back to Basics: Canapes

Updated on October 12, 2015



  • Canapés are small, bite sized pieced of food, which may be served hot or cold.
  • They are normally served as an accompaniment to drinks before dinner or at a cocktail party.  
  • They should therefore be small enough to be eaten in one or two bites.

Canapé Composition


Suitable bases for canapés include most types of read, short pastry, crackers, crispbreads, small pieces of firm fruit or sliced vegetable.  This base should not be thicker than 5 mm and bite size.

Crackers are a quick and easy base for canapés, and many types and flavours are suitable.  If bread is used as the base, it is first shallow fried or toasted.

Bread, fruit and vegetable bases can all be cut into shapes appropriate for the food being used.  Common shapes include squares, rectangles, fingers, diamonds, triangles, rounds and ovals.


Canapé spreads add flavour, balance and contrast.  They also act as an adhesive to keep toppings in place.

The spread can be flavoured butter, flavoured mayonnaise, or flavoured cream cheese.

Flavoured butter is most suitable, as it helps to prevent the moisture of fillings from soaking into the base.

Anchovy Butter
Capsicum Butter
Pink or Green
Herb Butter
Curry Butter
Horseradish Butter

Besides using them for spreads, flavoured butters can also be piped onto the canapés as part of the decoration.  Try piping on the edge of the crouton with the topping in the middle, or piping into the top of the topping.


Toppings are the main ingredient of the canapé, and the choice is enormous.  The following list contains a few examples.  Any of these ingredients may be used either singly or in combination.

  • All kinds of cheese
  • Hard boiled eggs, quails eggs
  • Anchovy fillets, caviars, rollmops, sardines, prawns, smoked fish, lobster
  • Beef, ham, salami, tongue, liver pate
  • Asparagus tips, capsicum, tomato

The way the various toppings are cut, diced or sliced will make a big difference to the final appearance of the canapé.


Garnishes should provide a balance in flavour and a contrast in colour.  As with all decorating, keep it as simple as possible.

Some possible garnishes include:

  • Black and green olives
  • Capsicum
  • Piped butter
  • Gherkins
  • Capers
  • Radish
  • Onion rings


Canapés can be lightly glazed with aspic to keep their freshness and eye appeal.


Once you have decided on the variety of canapés you will make, you can plan the production.


  • Put the canapés together one variety at a time
  • Make sure all the bases are cut and fried or toasted, have your spreads and garnishes ready to hand, and all toppings sliced or chopped or minced as required.
  • When all ingredients are prepared, you can begin production.  Organise your bench top so that the workflow is quick and efficient.
  • Glaze if required, cover with plastic wrap and store under refrigeration.
  • Try to make canapés as close to service time as possible, to preserve their freshness.


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