Make-Ahead Canapés That Will Win Friends + Influence People


Deliver a culinary experience without the hostess stress with these seven creative do-ahead canapé recipes.

Canapés add colour and character to your social affairs. Small, decorative and delicious, they’re the perfect accompaniment to cocktails or mocktails with friends. But don’t be fooled by their size. Canapés are edible art to the entertainer, and there’s an art to getting them right.

A soirée with canapés is like a drawn-out degustation. It’s a decadent array of tastes teased out one mouthful at a time. We’re big fans of this kind of slow-burning indulgence. But for the hostess, the issue is timing.

Maxwell & Williams Artisan Acacia Paddle Serving Board, 48x28cm + Blue Antico Platter Easy Belyashi from gastrosensesdotcom 2
L to R: Maxwell & Williams Artisan Acacia Paddle Serving Board + Blue Antico collection, and Easy Beef Belyashi (recipe below – sourced: Browse serving boards and platters online at Zanui.

If you have a tendency to bite off more than you can chew, canapé-style events can be dangerous. The temptation to over-commit is high. There are so many gorgeous recipes, surely you can fit in one more. You throw the maxim ‘under-promise, over-deliver’ under the bus.

Before you know it, your guests are at the door, and the kitchen is in disarray. Half-baked morsels spill from pots and pans and trays. And you’re staring into the eye of the storm with a light dusting of flour in your hair, quietly courting a nervous breakdown.

Save yourself the stress and enjoy your event! Opt for prep-ahead recipes. We’re gifting you our favourites. They’re colourful, fancy looking and tasty, without compromising your sanity in their making. Instead you can sit back, relax and chat to your guests! 😉

We’re a little in love with these bite-sized purveyors of flavour… What do you think of them? We’d love to hear.

Mini Cheesy Bite Balls from fivehearthomedotcom 3

Mini Cheese Ball Bites

Working with a theme is a great way to coordinate your canapés. These Mini Cheese Ball Bites make a fab addition to a chic 20s or 70s themed event. Alternatively, add them to a spread of pint-sized ‘comfort food’ (mini-burgers, cheese toasties, mac’n’cheese balls!).

Peppered with blue cheese, these cream-cheesy bites team the crunch of toasted pecans and pretzel sticks with a dash of sweet dried cranberries. Mix and match your choice of cheeses and dried fruit for personalised variations.

Makes approx. 24 balls.

Mini Cheesy Bite Balls from fivehearthomedotcom Mini Cheesy Bite Balls from fivehearthomedotcom 2

You need:

  • 225g cream cheese, at room temperature
  • ¾ cup (approx. 85g) blue cheese, crumbled
  • ¾ cup dried cranberries, finely chopped
  • 1½ cups pecans
  • Pretzel sticks

The how:

  1. In a medium bowl, beat together cream cheese, blue cheese, and dried cranberries until smooth. Dampen hands to prevent sticking and form cream cheese mixture into approx. 24 tablespoon-sized balls. Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours, or until firm.
  2. In the meantime, toast pecans by spreading out on a baking sheet and bake in a preheated 190°C oven until lightly toasted and fragrant, 7-10 mins. Allow pecans to cool, then chop finely.
  1. Roll chilled cheese balls in chopped pecans, pressing nuts so they stick. Keep cheese balls refrigerated until ready to serve. Just before serving, skewer each cheese ball with a pretzel stick.

NOTE: When making cheese balls ahead of time, don’t insert pretzels until just prior to serving or they’ll become soggy.

Recipe and images source:

Bacon-wrapped Apricots with Sage - image sourced realsimpledotcom Bacon-wrapped Apricots with Sage - image sourced realsimpledotcom 2

Bacon-Wrapped Apricots With Sage

A little retro and a lot delish, this recipe improvises on that cult classic – angels and pigs in blankets. These tasty morsels will be a fast favourite with your guests.

Assemble them days in advance, freeze, and then cook them from their frozen state. Such a lot of flavour for just 4 ingredients…

Makes approx. 24.

You need:

  • 24 small fresh sage leaves
  • 24 large dried apricots
  • 8 slices bacon, cut width-ways into thirds
  • 2 tbsp pure maple syrup
  • Toothpicks for serving

The how:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 190°C. Place a sage leaf on each apricot, wrap with a piece of bacon, and place seam-side down on a baking sheet.
  2. Bake until bacon is beginning to crisp, 6-8 mins per side.
  1. Remove from oven and brush with maple syrup. Serve with toothpicks.

Recipe and image source:

Antipasto Skewers from themediterraneandishdotcom 2

Easy Antipasto Skewers

Set the tone for your entertaining with your selection of canapés. Team a casual affair with unaffected finger-food, a flashy occasion with ornate hors d’ouevres.

Maxwell & Williams Artisan Acacia Serving Board Amigos De Hoy Metal Dipped Wood Serving Board, Copper
L to R: Maxwell & Williams Artisan Acacia Serving Board and Amigos De Hoy Metal Dipped Wood Serving Board, CopperBrowse serving boards and platters online at Zanui.

These antipasto skewers are ultra-adaptable, adding a splash of colour to laissez-faire catch-ups with friends as well as looking at home amongst sophisticates likes fig and chevre canapés.

Makes 10 skewers. Double/triple recipe for greater numbers.

Antipasto Skewers from themediterraneandishdotcom

You need:

  • 10 mini wooden skewers
  • 10-20 flat-leaf parsley or basil leaves
  • 10 pieces prosciutto 2 inches in length each, rolled or folded
  • 10 pieces preserved artichoke hearts
  • 10 mini mozzarella cheese balls, or any firm mild cheese
  • 10 pitted Kalamata olives
  • 10 cherry tomatoes
  • Pinch dried oregano for garnish

The how:

  • Soak mini wooden skewers in water for one hour. Pat dry before using.
  • Skewer antipasto ingredients beginning with basil/parsley, followed by larger pieces like prosciutto or artichoke hearts. Place Kalamata olive at the very top of each skewer. If you have more basil/parsley leaves, alternate them on each skewer.
  • Arrange skewers on a serving platter. Sprinkle with a little oregano (optional). Serve cold or at room temperature.

Recipe and images sourced:

Endive with Shrimp Salad from marthastewartdotcom

Martha Stewart’s Endive and Prawn Salad

When it comes to celebrating your home, Martha Stewart knows best. She gifted us the adage, “Adding champagne instantly elevates any occasion”. Undeniable wisdom.

This Endive and Prawn Salad is crisp and refreshing. It adds a welcome flash of green to your finger-food. So simple. And yet the taste is subtle and nuanced.

Makes 20 leaves.

You need:

  • 225g medium cooked prawns, finely chopped
  • 85g goat cheese, room temperature
  • 2 tbsp chopped chives, plus more for garnish
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 20 endive leaves (approx. 3 heads)

The how:

  1. In a small bowl, combine prawns, cheese, chives, and juice. Season with salt and pepper. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate up to one day.
  2. To serve, place one tablespoon of mixture onto each endive leaf, and top with additional chives.

Spanakopita Bites from flavoritedotnet

Spanakopita Bites

Before Martha, there was Julia Child who brought French cuisine to uninitiated Americans. 😉 That queen of domestic goddesses once said, “There are only four great arts: music, painting, sculpture, and ornamental pastry.” If you have endless idle hours to occupy, crafting your own croissants from scratch is a commendable pastime.

We love this vintage clip of Julia doing just that. Check out her intimate moment with the butter at 13 mins 20 seconds. (How can you not love this woman?)

But Julia also said, “Cooking well doesn’t mean cooking fancy”. These Spanakopita Bites look artful without robbing you of an entire afternoon.

Makes approx. 20.

You need:

  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 280g frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 110-170g feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1 cup cottage cheese OR ricotta cheese OR cream cheese
  • 1 egg
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 pound filo, thawed
  • 8 tbsp butter, melted
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil

The how:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 190°C.
  2. Heat one tablespoon of oil in medium skillet over medium heat. Add white and green chopped onions. Cook until softened, 3-4 mins.
  3. Meanwhile, mix spinach, feta, cottage cheese and egg in medium bowl. Add cooked onions and season with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
  4. Combine remaining butter and oil, and set aside until ready to use.
  5. Remove filo from package and stack up. Carefully cut filo into 5x5cm squares. Set aside.
  6. Prepare mini muffin pan by brushing butter in each well. Place 1-2 squares of filo into each well, pushing down to create a cup or crust. Brush top of filo-filled wells with more melted butter and repeat, placing 1-2 squares of filo into each well and pushing down to create a cup or crust again. Repeat with another layer of 1-2 squares of filo and brush with more melted butter.
  7. Place a heaped teaspoon of spinach mix into each well to fill filo cup. Bake in pre-heated oven for 15-20 mins or until golden brown.

Amigos De Hoy Metal Dipped Wood Serving Board, Silver, Barber & Osgerby for Royal Doulton Olio Wood Round Serving Platter, 30cm, Casa Uno Wood:Marble Rectangle Chopping Board with Handle Maxwell & Williams Artisan Acacia Long Serving Board
L to R: Amigos De Hoy Metal Dipped Wood Serving Board, Silver, Barber & Osgerby for Royal Doulton Olio Wood Round Serving Platter, 30cm, Casa Uno Wood/Marble Rectangle Chopping Board with Handle and Maxwell & Williams Artisan Acacia Long Serving BoardBrowse serving boards and platters online at Zanui.

TO FREEZE: To make in advance, bake, cool and freeze. They will stay good for up to one month. Reheat from frozen state (do not defrost) on a baking sheet or mini muffin pan in a 190°C oven for 10-12 mins or until middles are warmed through.

Easy Belyashi from gastrosensesdotcom 2

Easy Beef Belyashi (or Pirozhki)

And last but far from least, a European classic. You’re welcome. Belyashi or pirozhki come from a long line of stuffed dough delicacies. Chebureki, dumplings, pierogies, and bulochki to name a few…

Crusty on the outside and filled with sweet and juicy meat, these delectable treats are the hug you need after a hard day. They’re made to be movie marathon finger-food.

Dip them in sour cream. Because life is for living. 😀

Makes approx. 14.

Easy Belyashi from gastrosensesdotcom

You need:


  • 2 cups kefir (fermented milk – found in the dairy section)
  • 3½ cups flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 4 tbsp sunflower oil


  • 450g ground beef or lamb
  • 2 medium onions, peeled and pureed
  • 2 tbsp fresh coriander, finely chopped
  • ⅓ tbsp salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • Sunflower oil for frying

Easy Belyashi from gastrosensesdotcom 3 Easy Belyashi from gastrosensesdotcom 4

The how:

  1. To make filling, combine ground beef with pureed onions, season with salt and pepper and add chopped coriander. Mix well, cover and refrigerate for at least half an hour.
  2. To make dough, combine all ingredients except oil in mixer bowl and knead on low speed until combined, about 5-7 mins. Gradually add oil, a tablespoon at a time, waiting between each addition until everything is incorporated. After last oil addition, kneed dough for three more mins. Cover dough and leave to rest for 20-30 mins.
  3. Transfer dough onto a well-oiled surface such as a baking sheet and divide dough into 14 equal pieces to form dough balls. Keep hands well-oiled to prevent dough from sticking.
  4. Stretch each dough ball onto baking sheet using your hands to make 11cm flat circles.
  5. Divide meat filling into 14 equal balls and place in centre of each dough circle. Each dough ball should have about 1-2 tablespoons of filling.
  6. Gather up sides of dough, pinching them together. Leave a small hole in centre. Press slightly to release air between filling and dough.
  7. Heat a large non-stick pan or French oven over a medium high heat with enough oil to cover half of the belyashi.
  8. Place 3-4 belyashi at a time in hot oil seam side down. Don’t overcrowd the pan. Leave some space between the belyashi so they can rise while frying.
  9. Reduce heat to medium and fry until deep golden brown. Flip the belyashi to other side, reduce heat to low and fry for another 4-5 mins.
  10. Place on paper towels to cool slightly.

To make ahead: Instead of baking, wrap tightly and store in the refrigerator for up to five days or in the freezer for up to three weeks.

Recipe and images source:


Check out more Zanui recipes here and get mixin’ and cookin‘!

Kay is a feature, blog and copywriter. She collects empty jam jars, academic degrees and tawdry dreams in the hopes of turning them into something useful someday. Her work has been published in ACP magazines, ABC fiction, Overland, Brittle Star, Seizure, trade publications and online forums. Her creative writing has won several awards.