How Many Hors D'oeuvres Your Party Needs, According To Daniel Boulud

For chef Daniel Boulud, there's a simple method for handling hors d'oeuvres for a party to easily determine the variety of hors d'oeuvres and the number of individual pieces of food you'll need to serve. Boulud has his own formula — it's really simple but does depend on a number of variables — for how many hors d'oeuvres to serve, and his strategy could help you avoid every host's nightmare of running out of food.  

So just how many of these hors d'oeuvres will you need for your party? To answer that question, first, you'll need to consider how long your party will last and much food you'll be serving all night. Are you serving small bites before dinner or in place of a full meal? If you're already providing your guests with dinner, you can go a bit lighter with the hors d'oeuvres. As Boulud to Food & Wine, in this case, he recommends serving two to three pieces per person per hour. But if you're only hosting a cocktail party, you'll want to serve more small bites. He recommends six to eight small bites for each person per hour. Basically, the longer the event, the more guests you need to feed, and the less other food available results in more hors d'oeuvres you need to serve. If you have eight guests at a cocktail hour before dinner, you'll need 48 to 64 hors d'oeuvres for each hour of your event. 

Having determined the number of individual pieces of food you'll need, next you need to determine how many different types of hors d'oeuvres you need and which ones to serve. Thankfully, Boulud has a formula for that too. 

Planning to serve a variety hors d'oeuvres

Once you've got an idea of how many hors d'oeuvres you need to make, you'll need to devise the menu. Boulud's strategy varies depending on the number of guests at your gathering. He says you only need one or two types of hors d'oeuvres for less than eight guests, but when you have a bigger crowd, you'll want at least four. 

From there it's all about building a varied, flavorful menu. You'll want to offer a diverse mix of meats, cheeses, seafood, and vegetables. Create small circles of bread using a cookie cutter or cut cucumbers into slices to use as vessels for a variety of toppings. Smoked salmon with cream cheese or a curried chicken salad would work well. Puff pastry and mini tart shells can also be used to serve up some delicious flavors as well, such as sautéed mushrooms or cheese with a fruit compote. And a simple toothpick can be used to deliver a grilled shrimp, a meatball, or a micro caprese salad to your guests. 

One of the best ways to prepare for your party is to include as many make-ahead hors d'oeuvres as you can to make these small bites easy to serve at room temperature. Think deviled eggs, endives stuffed with cheese and nuts, or bruschetta topped with olive tapenade. Cheese boards are an easy way to offer your guests a variety of interesting tastes that can be put together in advance and placed in the fridge until the time of the party. A crudité platter with several dips and hummus is another good option that's easy to prepare ahead of time. Remember, your guests are also there to see you. They don't want you stuck in the kitchen all night preparing food, no matter how delicious it tastes!