finger foods

Is there anything that’s better than enjoying a brilliant sit-down meal with friends? There can be, and that’s picking up some finger foods to eat with friends!

Whether you’re just a tiny bit hungry, or if you’re just not feeling particularly ambitious, finger foods can be a brilliant lunch, dinner, or snack — especially when you’re away from home. And finger foods don’t have to be tiny — they just have to be food you eat… with your fingers!

Say you’re out and about, sightseeing, exploring the streets, or even choosing where you’re going to eat. You’re going to want to try as much as you can in what is the inevitably short time of a vacation, right? Order some finger foods! Whether you order them as an appetizer at a sit-down restaurant, pick them up from a street vendor, or make them yourself, this is the way to go if you want to sample a variety of goodies within a cuisine.

These are the finger foods you absolutely need to try before you die.

Galette-saucisse

Galette-saucisse

Galette-saucisse sounds super fancy, but it’s really not. What it is, is a surprisingly delicious part of Brittany’s cultural landscape.

Head over to northern France, and if the season’s right, you won’t be able to throw a stone without hitting someone dressed in the colors of their favorite football team. On game day, forget about seeing anything else on TV. And if you truly want to experience all that goes along with that, you’ll need to pick up Brittany’s favorite game day snack, the galette-saucisse.

So, what is it? It’s essentially a pork sausage wrapped in what they call a pancake, but as Great British Chefs notes, it’s not a pancake like you’d get in an American diner. It’s basically a thick buckwheat crepe, and it’s even better when you pick up a pint of cider to go with it. If you want to truly experience a culture, look to their sports… and their food!

Chrysanthemum bread

If you happen to find yourself in Seoul and feeling a bit peckish, you’re in luck — you’re in the perfect place to pick up a little paper cone filled with gukhwappang, or chrysanthemum bread. It’s called that because it’s baked in molds that make the top of each little muffin look like a flower, and they’re just as good as they look — especially hot and fresh, right out of the oven.

Traditionally, they’re filled with a red bean paste — a little added surprise in the middle. More recently, Mayo Korea says you might be just as likely to find some vendors who make their bread with walnuts, peanuts, or even honey. Is it the perfect thing to snack on while you stroll through the rest of the market? Absolutely!

Kaassouffle

Head off to the Netherlands, and you’ll find a country who seriously knows how to make the most of a night out. Everyone knows that you get hungry after a night on the town, and there’s no need to stand in line with a crowd of people at a fast food joint. Nope! Just look for an automatiek — a food vending machine. It might look like something from 1940s America, but you’re not going to get just a candy bar and some chips here. They’re full of delicious food, but ordering can be a bit of a challenge if you don’t speak the language. Take it from us — you’ll need to get a kaassouffle.

A kaassouffle is basically a half-circle of thin fried dough that’s been filled with cheese. TasteAtlas says you’re more likely to find other fillings — like ham and veggies — added to some kaassouffles these days, but if you want the traditional, night-on-the-town, wind-down snack, opt for the original!

Maruya

Taking that dream Caribbean cruise? Congratulations! While you’re on the islands, be sure to pick up some fried bananas. There are a ton of different ways they’re served — sometimes they’re a side dish and sometimes they’re finger foods you might pick up while you’re exploring the islands, and the one must-try has got to be maruya.

If you’re looking for a sweet treat you can eat without making too much of a mess, this is the dessert for you. It’s made with Saba bananas, and according to Casa Veneracion, this version of fried bananas is made by first slicing them into strips, then dipping them into an egg-and-flour batter and frying them up. Best of all, they’re then coated in sugar — and everything’s better when it’s coated in sugar!

Batata vada

Mumbai is one of the largest cities in the world, and if you want to get a real taste for the people, you’ll need to try their favorite foods. Almost 20 million can’t all be wrong, and what food are we talking about? Batata vada, of course!

It’s basically deep-fried potato balls, but it’s so much more than that. Inside these crunchy, crispy balls is a soft interior. That crunchy outside is made with a chickpea batter — and that makes it a brilliant vegetarian finger food that’ll give you a quick pick-me-up for wandering the streets and shops of Mumbai. According to Taste Atlas, you’ll also have to try the chutney that it’s served with — does dipping your potato fritters into a sauce of coconut, garlic, and tamarind sound equal parts exotic and tasty? Yes, yes it does.

Suri

Not all finger foods need to be tried because they’re delicious, some, you just need to try just so you can say that you did. Everyone needs some great stories to tell, and what’s better than saying you ate giant larvae in the rainforest?

Rainforest Cruises says that it’s in Peru you’ll be most likely to find suri, and you can’t miss it: they’re giant grubs — the larvae of the palm weevil, to be precise — that are skewered and cooked until they’re crispy. Since they exclusively eat the bark of the aguaje palm, that makes them slightly sweet, very greasy, and very common. They’re a major food source for those living in the Amazon as they’re not just common, but they’re nutritious and, to those brave enough to try the admittedly gross-looking grubs, they’re delicious. And as they say… when in Rome!

Elote

Corn on the cob is undeniably amazing, and elote is in a class all by itself. Elote is a classic Mexican finger food, and there’s seriously nothing better than eating it right as it comes off the grill… then being sure to lick your fingers clean afterwards.

It’s more than just corn on the cob, it’s grilled to the point of charring, then it’s covered in a thick sauce traditionally made from chilis, garlic, and Cotija cheese. It’s easy enough to make at home, says Serious Eats, but if you find yourself going south of the border, you need to try the real thing. Why? Because it’s authentic, and while Americans do love their Mexican food, it’s often not really Mexican — it’s what Americans think Mexican cuisine is. And elote is the perfect example of tradition: it’s salty, creamy, and a dash citrusy. The bottom line is, it’s delicious, and it’ll give you a whole new appreciation for authentic Mexican cuisine.

Knish

Knish has been around for a long, long time — according to The Jewish Chronicle, it was first made in the 14th century by Jews who were fleeing France and heading to the Ukraine. These first versions were typically made by stuffing a floury dough with a cabbage-and-meat dumpling, and it’s changed a lot over the years, even though the general concept remains the same.

And you don’t even have to head to Eastern Europe to get some delicious knish — just go to New York City and, if you want the real stuff, visit The Knishery. It opened in 1910, and you can still get a delicious knish (or five) made in the same way Romanian immigrant Yonah Shimmel made them when he started selling knishes from a pushcart (though these days, they’re considerably larger). Pluck a knish from the bag as you stroll down the city streets, and you’re practically taking part in a long, long history.

New York bagels

Sure, you’ve had bagels. But you haven’t had truly amazing bagels until you’ve been to New York City, and there’s just no way you can visit without having one of these delicious bready concoctions. They’re the sort of thing that might ruin all other bagels for you, but at the same time, you’ll think it was totally worth it.

There’s been a long-held belief that New York bagels are special because there’s something in the water that makes them just the right mix of shiny crust and chewy inside, but according to NPR, that’s not actually the case. It’s actually all in the process, and New York bagel-makers make the best bagels (say that 10 times fast!) because they refrigerate their dough, then boil it before baking. That process fell by the wayside in areas more concerned about quantity and ease over quality, so if you want the real thing — the authentic bagel from the Old Country — you’ll have to pick one up in NYC.

Boureka

It doesn’t matter if you’re looking for something sweet or savory, something for breakfast on the run, lunch as you’re browsing an Israeli market, or a quick snack to keep you going, there’s a boureka for you.

According to My Jewish Learning, bourekas originally came from Turkey and spread throughout North Africa and the Middle East. They’re essentially a version of an empanada, and they’re made by crisping dough with hot butter (or oil). The best part is, there’s no limit as to what these little portable pockets are filled with. You might find some filled with sweet fruits, some savory ground beef varieties, or some packed with veggies and potatoes.

When you pick up a couple of these to get you through until it’s time to sit down for a full meal, you’re actually munching on a snack that’s been around for ages — and, it’s been an important part of Jewish ritual. Since the 16th century, it’s been part of the Sabbath meals for Iberian Jews, and that’s exactly why you need to try one… or a few.

Real Buffalo wings

Sure, you can get Buffalo wings at Buffalo Wild Wings, or any one of a number of pizza places across the country… or sit-down restaurants, for that matter. But at least once, you need to try the real thing.

That means going to Buffalo, and sure, you’re going to have to stop at The Anchor Bar. They’re the ones that invented this incredible finger food — which, let’s be honest, is better than the main meal sometimes. But while you’re in town anyway, you should try the Buffalo wings at other places, too. Duff’s. The Nine-Eleven Tavern. Sal’s. Doc Sullivan’s. Gabriel’s Gate. What’s the difference? In Buffalo, they’re just called wings… every other place in the country calls them Buffalo wings for a reason. They’re a seemingly simple food that’s easy to get wrong, and for Buffalo restaurants, getting them right is a matter of civic pride. And that’s pride you can taste.

Hushpuppies

Head pretty much anywhere in America’s deep south and stop for a bite to eat, and you’re going to have to try the hushpuppies. They’re the finger food with a weird name, and on the plus side, you won’t forget what they’re called!

According to What’s Cooking America, there are a few stories about where the name came from — and most of them involve people deep-frying cornmeal nuggets to give to dogs to keep them quiet: i.e., Hush, puppy! Whether or not that’s true is uncertain, but one thing we do know is that it’s been an important part of southern cooking since at least the 1720s. That’s when a group of Ursuline nuns settled in New Orleans after leaving France, and they brought with them the tradition of cooking these little cornmeal croquettes. Now, they’re such a popular part of southern cuisine that until you’ve had hushpuppies, you can’t say you’ve eaten southern food.

Pepperoni roll

What the heck is a pepperoni roll? Well, it’s way better than sliced bread!

Drive to or through West Virginia, and you can stop stop pretty much anywhere to try a pepperoni roll. Gas stations, convenience stores, bakeries… they all have their version of this favorite state food, and once you have one, you’ll never pass through the state without stopping again.

The idea of the pepperoni roll goes back to West Virginia coal miners, who needed something tasty and portable for lunch in the mines (via CBS). Italian immigrants decided to bake pepperoni into the center of their rolls, and it doesn’t matter if it’s a whole stick or a stack of slices, the result is shockingly good. The juices from the pepperoni bake into the bread as it cooks, essentially flavoring the roll with a spicy oil. Absolutely nothing beats a pepperoni roll hot out of the oven, and why this hasn’t caught on in other parts of the country is just a mystery.

Pizzette

Love pizza? Who doesn’t? Wish there was a place that made little mini, finger food-sized pizzas that didn’t come in a microwavable tray? Italy does!

They’re called pizzettes, and if you happen to be in Italy, definitely pick a few of these up. They’re made with any and all of the ingredients you’d find on a traditionally-sized pizza, but wee enough to eat on the run or as a quick snack. Looking for a light lunch while you’re exploring Naples or Rome? Taste Atlas says there are pizzerias everywhere that serve these little mini-pizzas. Seriously, how can you go to Italy and not try one?

Quail scotch eggs

First of all, when they’re done right, scotch eggs are brilliant. They’re an entire breakfast, wrapped up in a little, deep-fried couple of bites. The egg in the center should be slightly runny, the sausage should be perfectly spicy, and the exterior should have the firm, crunchy coating that comes with a proper deep-frying. They’re a must to try if you’re visiting the UK, but we’re going to go one step further and say that you’re also going to have to try scotch eggs made with quail eggs.

Why? Quail eggs have a few things going for them — they’re smaller than chicken eggs, so if it’s finger foods you’re after, these delicate eggs are more of a single-bite sort of thing. They also have a large yolk for their size, and according to Great British Chefs, that’s what makes them really desirable — especially in a dish like this one. And how can you not feel all sorts of fancy eating quail eggs?

Mozzarella in Carrozza

Are you the type that always snacks on some of the mozzarella cheese when you’re making a pizza? Do you love mozzarella sticks? If the answer to those questions is yes, you’re going to have to add "Ordering mozzarella in carrozza from a restaurant in Italy" to your bucket list.

The dish — usually served as an appetizer — originated in 19th century Venice, according to Cantina Do Spade. In an attempt to find a delicious way to use slightly stale bread and mozzarella cheese that wasn’t quite as fresh as it should be, they decided to make a sandwich out of them and fry it. Right? It’s possibly the most amazing finger food you’ve never heard of, a sort of above-and-beyond mozzarella stick. Different areas have their own versions, too: Naples uses just bread and mozzarella, while places in Venice might add more toppings before frying. So yes, that means you’ll have to try them in both cities!

Cornish pasty

If you want a real Cornish pasty, the Cornish Pasty Association says there’s actually legislation in place that specifies it needs to be made in Cornwall. It needs to contain only diced or minced beef, sliced or diced potato, turnip, onion, salt, and pepper. Otherwise, it’s not an actual Cornish pasty and really, there’s no need to mess with perfection.

But, there’s good news — if you’re off to Britain, you can probably find the real deal no matter where you’re going. Cornish bakers send their delicious meat-filled pastry pockets all over, so they’re pretty easy to find. The history of the Cornish pasty goes back a long way, to the days before the mid-19th century collapse of the Cornish mining industry. That’s when they became really popular, notes The Guardian, as a complete meal miners could eat with their fingers. That thick pastry edge — still thick and crimped in today’s pasties — had a very practical purpose: miners could hold the pastry by the end, and keep the rest of their meal free of dirt and dust. How often do you get to try a finger food that’s a full meal on-the-go?

Samosas

If you happen to be anywhere in India or Asia and see samosas on the menu, definitely order them — but you might want to ask what’s in them first, because there’s no real standard for fillings. These neat little triangles, tightly packed, folded, and fried, can contain pretty much anything. They’re incredibly popular now, but when you try some of these packets of deep fried goodness, know that you’re snacking on something that Quartz says was blessed and beloved by Indian royalty, and deemed a fitting and appropriate snack food for the king.

Looking for a quick and portable snack as you explore? Hoping to sit down with some friends and catch up over a drink or few and some snacks? Maybe you’re there on business or to study, and you’re looking for something to munch on that’s not going to make a mess. That’s the samosa — it has been for generations and will continue to be, so you’d better be able to say you’re a part of the tradition!

Satay skewers

Out and about in southeast Asia, looking for something to eat, but don’t have a place to wash your hands? Pick up some satay skewers: they’re the finger food you don’t even have to touch!

Like the name suggests, satay skewers are essentially chunks of meat that have been marinated, skewered, and grilled. They’re served still on the stick, and if that sounds delicious, it gets better — they usually come with a peanut sauce that’s nothing short of amazing.

According to Grapes and Grains, it’s been around for a long time. The idea of satay originated on the island of Java, and depending on where you are, there are different versions. Sample the lemongrass and ginger satay of Malaysia, the coconut-flavored Thai satay, and if you’re not going that far, try some in the Netherlands. Because of the long-standing colonial relationship between the Netherlands and Indonesia, you can get a passably authentic version there, too — and don’t skimp on the sauce!

Chiko roll

Anyone who’s been to Australia knows that even though Outback Steakhouse loves to pretend it’s serving up authentic Australian cuisine, they’re really not. And that’s a shame, because the chiko roll is one truly authentic dish that would fit right in on their menu. You’ll have to go there to try it, though, and it’s a weird thing.

Just who invented and first served this up is debated, but today, you can pick up these deep-fried rolls almost anywhere in Australia. They’re affectionately described as a sort of mystery meat egg roll, even though they’re not that much of a mystery: most are filled with mutton, cabbage, barley, rice, carrots, celery, and some spices. SBS says that the very essence of the chiko roll is this: chilling on the beach and rolling up to a kiosk to pick one up before you continue on your oceanside ramble. Why would you ever go to Australia and not do that?

Chocolate-covered onions

There’s really only one place you’re going to be able to get this one, and while there might be a reason for that, you still need to try one. Why? Because, you know that face you made when you read "chocolate-covered onions"? Imagine the looks you’ll get when you tell people you tried one!

You’ll have to go to the Mueller Chocolate Co. in Philadelphia, and hey, if you want a snack that’s not going to fill you up before you hit up a place for a real Philly cheesesteak, how about a chocolate-covered onion? And yes, the whole idea came about as a joke — a local comedian once asked them to make a bouquet of these very questionable treats for the opening gag of his TV show. Admit it… you’re kind of curious now, aren’t you?

Mofo sakay

If you’re the type that goes for the ultra exotic vacations, maybe you’ll be heading off to Madagascar at some point. If you do, then you’ll need to try their mofo sakay, which translates to "spicy bread." And that’s pretty much what it is — little nuggets of tomatoes, green, and spices, mixed into a batter then deep-fried.

And if you like that, you’ll like the other kinds of mofo they have, too. According to Spicing Your Life, there’s also types like the sweet mofo gasy, and the mofo liasoa, which contains cabbage as one of the main ingredients. Bonus? It’s super easy to make once you get home, too, as long as you have a deep fryer. What better way to regale friends and family with tales of your trip to Madagascar than to serve them up some authentic finger foods to try while you chat?

Frybread

Some foods aren’t just foods, they’re an invaluable part of a culture’s history and identity. For the Navajo, that’s exactly what frybread is.

At a glance, it looks like unsweetened fried dough, not unlike the kind you might get at a carnival or fair anywhere across the States. It’s much more than that, though: according to the Smithsonian, we know exactly when it was invented — out of necessity, as a way to use the meager rations of white flour, lard, and sugar that displaced Native American tribes were given as they were cast off their ancestral lands and told to start walking.

Today, frybread is still made — and it’s also being blamed for things like obesity and diabetes. One piece of frybread has 25 grams of fat and 700 calories, after all, but it’s still said that a powwow isn’t complete without frybread… and that heritage is why everyone should try it at least once, while acknowledging where it came from, and why.

Egg waffle

They’re also called egg puffs, and it’s easy to see why: they resemble a pancake, sporting egg-shaped bumps. It’s something that’s unique to Hong Kong, and according to the South China Morning Post, they’re a fairly recent addition to menus. In the 1950s, shopkeepers were looking for a way to use the eggs they’d gotten broken or cracked, and they developed this easy-to-make yet delicious batter with eggs, flour, and evaporated milk.

Simple, right? Sure, you can make one at home — you can buy the uniquely-shaped waffle makers if you’re so inclined, but the kind you’ll pick up on the street of Hong Kong are unrivaled. Get them from someone who’s just taken them off the charcoal flame and you’ll get a perfectly crunchy exterior, a burst of warm air from the pockets, and a slightly smoky flavor to the soft batter. You might want to get a few — once you start tearing them apart, they’ll be gone before you know it.

Gougeres

It goes without saying that when you go to France, you have to try literally everything available in their amazing bakeries — but we’d like to give one thing in particular a shout-out. They’re called gougeres, and the easiest way to describe them is sort of through something else. Do you love cream puffs? The answer is "yes," of course, so you’ll like these — you can think of them as a cheese version.

According to Epicurious, you can get them pretty much anywhere in France, but if you want the real thing — the original thing — you’ll have to go to Burgundy. Order them off a menu, and here’s the pro tip: order a glass of champagne, too. Seriously, is there anything that sounds better than sipping a glass of champagne, eating cheesy little pastry puffs while looking out at some amazing French scenery? We thought not.

Cheese curds

Everything is better with cheese, right? Pizza, burgers, even pasta, it’s just not the same without the cheese. If you love cheese, you need to try cheese curds. The Huffington Post calls them cheese’s best kept secret, and it’s true.

Unsurprisingly, it’s Wisconsin that’s best known for their cheese curds, but you can get them across the Midwest and up into Canada, where they’re a major part of poutine. So, what are they?

AllRecipes describes them as baby cheese. When cheesemakers separate the curds and whey, the curds are the part that gets made into cheese. But you can eat the curds right away — in fact, if they’re more than about 12 hours old, they’re not going to be very good… well, as curds, at least. If they’re more than a week old then you’ve just got cheese, and curds are something different entirely. Stop by a cheesemaker and pick up a bag of fresh, lumpy-looking cheese curds, and you’ll have a delicious snack that squeaks when you bite into it. If you happen to be at a Midwestern state fair, there’s a good chance you’ll see a stand for deep-fried cheese curds, and it goes without saying that you should definitely get those, too.