20 Hors D’Oeuvres That Only Look Expensive, According to Top Chefs

Plus, full recipes so you can try them on your own!

Wedding appetizers

Photo by Ross Harvey

Wedding guests eagerly await cocktail hour—complete with freshly poured cocktails and an assortment of mouthwatering hors d’oeuvres—at nearly every wedding. But if you’re the one paying for these delicious appetizers, you know the cost of said appetizers (even if they're bite-sized!) can get, well, costly.

For this reason, we asked top chefs at resorts and restaurants across the country how to get more bang for your buck by serving hors d’oeuvres that only look expensive. In addition to their advice—spoiler: they're big fans of cheese and root veggies!—we also asked them to share recipes for great-looking finger foods that will wow your guests but not your wallet.

Read on for 20 impressive-yet-inexpensive appetizer recommendations from 20 top chefs who cater to the wedding community. Feel free to try each dish now and thank us later when your guests think you've spent a fortune.

01 of 20

Kalua Pig Quesadilla


 Courtesy of Merriman’s Kapalua

Peter Merriman—of Merriman’s Kapalua at Kapalua Resort in Maui, Hawaii—recommends this dish for two reasons: "The ingredients are extremely affordable and because you can cut the quesadilla into many pieces,” he says.

To make, you'll need the below ingredients:

  • 8 eight-inch flour tortillas
  • 4 Tbsp. goat cheese
  • 12 oz. pork
  • 8 oz. shredded white cheddar
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1 jar mango-chili sauce

Directions: Preheat oven to 400°. Spread the goat cheese onto each tortilla, followed by the pork, cheddar, and parmesan. Top each stack with another tortilla to form a sandwich, and compress lightly. Bake for 6-8 minutes. Cut into six pieces and serve with mango-chili sauce.

02 of 20

Blueberry Goat Cheese Flatbread

Blueberry Goat Cheese Flatbread

Courtesy of The Breakers 

Chef Jeff Simms of The Breakers in Palm Beach, Florida, loves serving flatbreads because, he says, "the ingredients are super affordable and readily available at local grocers.”

To make, you'll need the below ingredients:

  • 75 small blueberries
  • 1 cup goat cheese
  • 1 cup cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup thyme
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 3 flatbreads, 12” round each
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 Tsp. salt
  • 1 Tsp. pepper

Directions: Shape 25 circles out of the flatbread, using a 1 1/2” circular cookie cutter. Bake for 5-7 minutes. Using a mixer, blend together the goat and cream cheese, along with the lemon zest, salt, and pepper, before placing in a piping bag. Pipe a thin even layer onto each flatbread, then add three blueberries to the center. Warm up the honey and blend in the finely chopped thyme. Heat the flatbread at 350° for a few minutes, drizzle with the honey and thyme, plate, and serve. 

03 of 20

Bread & Whipped Ricotta



When asked, Chef John Delucie, Lumaca at the HGU Hotel, New York City, recommended this dish, saying, ricotta, bread, and honey are all you need to create this fancy looking appetizer.”

To make, you'll need the below ingredients:

  • 1 loaf Italian bread
  • 3 Tbsp. ricotta
  • Honey
  • Crushed black pepper

Directions: Slice bread 1 1/2" thick and brush with olive oil, salt, pepper. Place on a fry pan or grill until lightly toasted, then cover with ricotta and top with a drizzle of honey and a pinch of crushed black pepper.

04 of 20

Pimento Croquettes



This dish is a go-to for chef Danila Bogdan at Bluebird London Hotel in New York City because cheddar and cream cheese are extremely affordable cheeses.

To make, you'll need the below ingredients:

  • 2 ½ cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup cream cheese
  • 3/4 cup roasted red peppers
  • 1/4 cup mayo
  • 1/4 Tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/4 Tsp. onion powder (1/4 tsp)
  • Salt and black pepper to taste

Directions: Blend everything together by hand in a large bowl then run the mixture through a food processor until smooth. Roll into one-inch balls and refrigerate until ready to serve.

05 of 20

Prosciutto-Wrapped Figs



At Baron’s Cove in Sag Harbor, New York, chef Luke Andrews recommends this dish because it requires only four ingredients—figs, gorgonzola cheese, sliced prosciutto, and pomegranate molasses—which he says are all reasonably priced.

To make, you'll need the below ingredients:

  • 2 pints brown turkey figs
  • 1/2 lb. gorgonzola cheese
  • 8 oz. sliced prosciutto
  • 2 oz. pomegranate molasses

Directions: Cut figs in quarters, place a small crumble of blue cheese in the middle of each piece, wrap with thinly sliced prosciutto. Bake for five minutes at 400°. Arrange over micro greens and drizzle with pomegranate molasses.

06 of 20

Tuna Tartare

tuna tartare

Courtesy of Venetian Resort

Chef Nelson Berrios at the Venetian Resort in Las Vegas is a fan of this dish because, he says, "ahi tuna is more cost-effective than its predecessor, the bluefin tuna, and doesn't compromise when it comes to quality and taste."

To make, you'll need the below ingredients:

  • 1/4 lb. Ahi tuna
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 sliced cucumber
  • Crushed pistachios
  • Calabrian aioli
  • Taro chips
  • Microgreens

Directions: Fillet and dice the tuna, toss with olive oil and a handful of pistachios. Garnish with a drizzle of Calabrian aioli, taro chips, and microgreens and serve on a bed of cucumbers.

07 of 20

Togarashi Seared Ahi



Chef Kenzie Allen, JRDN at Tower23 Hotel in San Diego, California created this seared ahi appetizer, saying "salmon roe is a delicious alternative to caviar and won't break the bank.” Also, making this a dish a winner? The combination of fresh flavors like avocado, cucumber, and cilantro.

To make, you'll need the below ingredients:

  • 7 oz. Ahi tuna loin
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 lime
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 shallot
  • 2 springs of cilantro
  • 1/4 Tsp. salmon roe
  • 1/4 cup spicy sesame oil
  • 1/4 togarashi
  • Sea salt to taste

Directions: Coat the outside of the ahi loin with spicy sesame oil and togarashi. Sear in a pan until there’s a nice crust. Slice the tuna into quarter-inch slices. Whip the avocado with lime juice and salt until smooth and creamy. Toss diced shallot and cucumber in a bowl with olive oil and salt. On a miso spoon or small plate, place the slice of tuna and top with the avocado mousse and cucumber salsa. Finish with a little salmon roe, cilantro leaf, and sea salt.

08 of 20

Oyster on the Half Shell With Tequila Mignonette



    Oysters are a favorite at weddings—especially in the summertime—and for good reason. '“Oysters are simple to prepare so you’re saving money on labor,” says Chef Bradley Martlatt of the InterContinental Hotel Washington, D.C.

    To make, you'll need the below ingredients:

    • 5 Blue Point oysters
    • 3 Tbsp. tequila
    • 1/2 cup vinegar
    • 2 Tbsp. shallots
    • 1 lemon
    • Capers
    • Tabasco sauce to taste

    Directions: Clean and shuck the oysters. Mix together the tequila, vinegar, minced shallots, and drizzle over oysters. Finally, plate on a bed of capers and serve with a lemon wedge and Tabasco sauce.

    09 of 20

    Baked Brie Bites




      Because puff pastry is cheap and because these bites require minimal prep,” chef Anthony Smith of the JW Marriott Denver Cherry Creek in Denver recommends baked brie bites. To make this dish unique for a special event like a wedding, he suggests pairing the pastries with sweet raspberry preserves. Yum!

      To make, you'll need the below ingredients:

      • 8 oz. puff pastry crescent dough
      • 8 oz. brie cheese
      • 1 cup raspberry preserve
      • Rosemary or mint, to garnish

      Directions: Preheat oven to 375°. Roll out the dough and cut into 24 equal-sized squares. Place squares on a sprayed cooking sheet, then add one small piece of brie and roll. Top with raspberry preserve and bake for 15 minutes. Garnish with rosemary or mint.

      10 of 20

      Southern-Style Deviled Eggs

      deviled eggs

      Courtesy of Wentworth by the Sea

      Deviled eggs are a favorite of Lee Michael—the chef at Wentworth by the Sea in New Castle, New Hampshire—because you likely have most ingredients on hand. "These ingredients are all kitchen staples except for the salmon caviar, which gives these eggs a lux look,” he says.

      To make, you'll need the below ingredients:

      • 6 eggs
      • 2 Tbs. mayonnaise
      • White vinegar
      • 1 Tsp. yellow mustard
      • 2 Tbsp. chopped chives
      • 1/2 Tsp. salt
      • 1/2 Tsp. ground pepper
      • 2 Tbsp. chives
      • Salmon caviar

      Directions: Boil eggs, run under cold water to cool. Slice eggs in half and remove the yolk. In a bowl, blend the yolk, mayo, white vinegar, yellow mustard, salt, and pepper. Pipe the mixture back into egg white shells and garnish with salmon caviar and chives.     

      11 of 20

      Skirt Steak and Fried Plantain Skewer

      skirt steak and plantain skewer

      Courtesy of Grand Hyatt Baha Mar

      “Because skirt steak is a more cost-effective alternative to filet, and because plantains are just as inexpensive as bananas,” Miguel Garcia Carlo, the chef at Grand Hyatt Baha Mar in Nassau, Bahamas, recommends this "perfectly inexpensive" dish.

      To make, you'll need the below ingredients:

      • 4 oz. plantain
      • 6 oz. skirt steak
      • 1 1/2 oz. cilantro
      • 1/4 oz. chili
      • 2 oz. mayo
      • Parsley
      • Salt
      • Pepper

      Directions: Cut the skirt steak in strips, season with salt and pepper, grill t medium. Slice the plantains in 1-inch thick round tubes and fry for 90 seconds on each side. Remove, drain, and place the plantains on top of the steak and skewer with a toothpick. Create the cilantro aioli by combining the cilantro, mayo, and chili powder, then place on steak and garnish with fresh parsley.

      12 of 20

      Greek Yogurt Cones



      Chef Emmanuel Calderon of Four Seasons Hotel Seattle in Seattle loves this dish "because great tasting American Bowfin caviar is a lot less expensive than imported sturgeon caviar and because this appetizer is so simple to make.” Not to mention: By serving caviar in a mini cone, you'll be giving your guests both a bite to eat and a photo prop!

      To make, you'll need the below ingredients:

      • 1-quart Greek yogurt
      • 5 Tsp. American caviar
      • 10 Tsp. cucumber
      • 3 Tsp. dill
      • 1 Tsp. mint
      • 1 lemon zest
      • Mini cones
      • Salt, to taste

      Directions: In a blender, mix the yogurt, cucumber, mint, and lemon together. Pour into the cone, top with caviar and dill leaf.

      13 of 20

      Goat Cheese Crostini with Fig Jam and Prosciutto

      goat cheese crostini

      Courtesy of La Cantera Resort & Spa

      Chef Luis Colon of La Cantera Resort & Spa in San Antonio, Texas, admits that prosciutto has a pricey reputation—but, in reality, he says it can be found on Amazon for $15 for three ounces.

      To make, you'll need the below ingredients:

      • 1 loaf ciabatta
      • 1 tube triple cream goat cheese
      • 3 oz. prosciutto di Parma
      • 1 jar fig preserve

      Directions: Slice ciabatta to the desired width, brush with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Bake the bread at 350° for five minutes or until crispy. Deep fry prosciutto or bake at 375° until crispy. Place cut cheese and prosciutto onto the toasted bread and top with fig preserve.

      14 of 20

      Pecorino Meatballs

      pecorino meatballs

      Courtesy of Hilton Orlando

      Because there’s no major grocery haul or hefty price tag as the ingredients are readily available and inexpensive,” chef Vincent Cani of Hilton Orlando recommends this dish.

      To make the meatballs, you'll need the below ingredients:

      • 1 lb. ground beef
      • 1 egg
      • 1/4 cup bread crumbs
      • 1/4 cup pecorino Romano cheese
      • 2 oz. whole milk
      • 1 oz. sea salt
      • 2 oz. chopped parsley
      • 1 oz. ground black pepper
      • 1/4 cup olive oil

      Directions: Combine the beef, egg, pecorino, bread crumbs, milk, salt, pepper, and parsley in a bowl and mix with your hands. Refrigerate for 10 minutes, then form 1 ¼ inch balls and place on wax paper. Heat up the olive oil and cook the meatballs until lightly brown.

      To make the sauce, you'll need the below ingredients:

      • 2 cans whole peeled tomatoes
      • 1/2 cup water
      • 1 onion
      • 4 garlic cloves
      • 4 oz. basil
      • 2 oz. raw sugar
      • 2 oz. ground black pepper
      • 2 Tbsp. olive oil

      Directions: Separately, make the sauce by cooking the onions in olive oil until they’re translucent, then adding the garlic and cooking until lightly golden. Add tomatoes, water, sugar, black pepper, and basil. Stir often, cook for one hour. Place the meatballs in a low simmering sauce and cook for 45 minutes. Remove and serve.

      15 of 20

      Roasted Beets and Pumpkin Seed Tahini



      Root veggies make for a healthy-yet-affordable dish, according to chef Michael Dunston of the Asbury Ocean Club Hotel in Asbury Park, New Jersey. In this salad, he recommends using either red or golden beets. In addition to being fresh, we love how coloful this plate looks when all together!

      To make, you'll need the below ingredients:

      • 3 beets (red or golden)
      • 1 cup toasted pumpkin seeds
      • 1/2 cup sesame oil
      • 1 cup crème Fraiche
      • 4 Tbsp. pomegranate juice
      • 1/2 cup olive oil
      • Salt, pepper, and sugar to taste

      Directions: Toss each color beet separately in olive oil, salt, and pepper. Wrap in foil. Roast at 375° for one hour. Once cooled, peel and quarter each beet and toss with a pinch of sugar. To create the tahini, blend pumpkin seeds and sesame oil in a food processor until smooth. Season with salt and pepper and pulse one more time. Separately, combine the pomegranate juice and crème Fraiche in a bowl and whisk until fluffy and pink, season with salt. To serve, put a dollop of crème Fraiche on a long, rectangle white plate. Layer dots of tahini sauce on top and then lay beets in alternating colors along with a few mint leaves.

      16 of 20

      Hawaiian Shrimp

      hawaiian shrimp

      Courtesy of Charleston Harbor Resort and Marina 

      While shrimp has a fancy reputation, chef Cenelyn Bankson—of Charleston Harbor Resort and Marina in Charleston, South Carolina—says you can usually find it for around $12 a pound. To get even more bang of your buck, pack the fresh catch with even more flavor!

      To make, you'll need the below ingredients:

      • 1 lb. shrimp
      • 1 cucumber
      • 4 oz. guacamole
      • 4 oz. pineapple
      • 2 Tbsp. Old Bay seasoning
      • Edible flowers for garnish

      Directions: Dice pineapple to ¼ square cubes. Sprinkle raw shrimp with Old Bay seasoning and steam until fully cooked, about three minutes, then refrigerate. Peel ¼” stripes from one tip of the cucumber to the other lengthwise, then create rings. Spoon guacamole into the center of cucumber ring, then rest the shrimp with the tail end facing up. Place a cube of pineapple in-between the shrimp body and tail. Garnish with an edible flower petal.

      17 of 20

      Spanish-Style Tabbouleh


      Courtesy of Acqualina Resort & Residences

      “Because the fresh ingredients combined with quinoa make this dish an inexpensive, nutritious option,” says Jose Casals, chef at Acqualina Resort & Residences in Sunny Isles Beach, Florida.

      To make, you'll need the below ingredients:

      • 1 cup pre-cooked quinoa
      • 1 cups parsley
      • 2 cups cilantro, chopped
      • 15 mint leaves, chopped
      • 4 green onions, chopped
      • 2 small tomatoes, diced
      • 1 cup lemon juice
      • 4 Tsp. extra virgin olive oil
      • 1/4 cup roasted peanuts
      • 1 head iceberg lettuce
      • Salt and pepper to taste

      Directions: Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and toss. Place onto lettuce cups, then drizzle with olive oil and chopped peanuts.

      18 of 20

      Baked Gougeres

      baked gougeres

      Courtesy of La Mer Beachfront Resort

      Arron Milano—the chef at La Mer Beachfront Resort in Cape May, New Jersey—created this "perfectly inexpensive dish," saying "it’s an elegant cheese pastry with super affordable ingredients.”

      To make, you'll need the below ingredients:

      • 3/4 cups butter
      • 2 Tbsp. salt
      • 2 Tsp. granulated sugar
      • 1/2 cups flour
      • 4 oz. Gruyere cheese
      • 8 eggs
      • 1/8 Tsp. white pepper
      • 2 cups water

      Directions: Place water, butter, salt, and sugar in a saucepan, heat to steaming. Add flour and mix by hand for 8 minutes over medium heat until dough forms. Mix in the cheese and eggs, then place in a pastry bag, pipe 2-inch mounds on a cookie tray and bake at 400° for 15 minutes.

      19 of 20

      Fig + Tomato Cheese Tops

      fig and tomato cheese tops

      Courtesy of Panama Jack

      “Because you can make lots of appetizers out of minimal ingredients,” chef Carlos Chimal of Panama Jack in Cancun, Mexico, recommends this dish.

      To make, you'll need the below ingredients:

      • 12 cherry tomatoes
      • 12 figs
      • 10 g. feta cheese
      • 10 g. panela cheese
      • 15.5 oz. salsa pesto
      • 3 g. garlic pine nuts
      • Basil
      • Salt and pepper to taste

      Directions: For the tomatoes, remove top and seeds from the tomato. Mix together the panela cheese, salt and pepper, salsa pesto, and nuts and fill the tomato. Replace top and garnish with basil. For the figs, remove top and seeds from the fig. Mix together the feta cheese, salt and pepper, salsa pesto, olive oil, and nuts and fill the fig. Replace top and garnish with basil.

      20 of 20

      Roasted Beet Tartare

      roasted beet tartare

      Courtesy of Decoy Dockside at Lakehouse Hotel & Resort 

      Like Dunston, chef Jarrod Moiles of Decoy Dockside at Lakehouse Hotel & Resort in San Marcos, California is a big fan of beets. "Beets are reasonably priced and are a nice twist on a wedding hors d’oeuvre,” he says.

      To make, you'll need the below ingredients:

      • 1 cup red beets
      • 1 Tbsp. Tarragon
      • 1 Tbsp. chive
      • 1 1/4 oz. sherry vinegar
      • 6 oz. creme fraiche
      • 1/2 oz. caviar
      • 1/2 potato
      • 2 oz. fennel fronds
      • Salt to taste

      Directions: Roast the beets until tender. Peel, sauté in butter for a few minutes, then toss with sherry vinegar, chopped tarragon, salt, chive, and olive oil. Whip the creme fraiche until stiff peaks form, then place in a piping bag. Shave chips from a peeled potato and bake at 400° until crispy. Roughly chop the chips until you have a crumbly texture. In a miso spoon, place a 1.5 oz of the beet tartare, then pipe on a rosette of creme fraiche. Top with caviar and crumbled potato. Garnish with fennel fronds.

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