One of my favorite events to cater is the appetizer party. And one of the key menu items is typically the finger sandwich. I’ve always wondered whether it’s called a finger sandwich because it is traditionally long and skinny, resembling a finger or is it because you eat them with your fingers? In either case, finger sandwiches provide a great way to get creative and offer your guests a variety of tasty options.

Finger sandwiches

Also referred to as tea sandwiches, finger sandwiches are big on flavor and add a festive touch to your menu. Traditionally a key component of a classic British low tea, finger sandwiches are also great for everyday entertaining and snacking.

Most finger sandwiches can be prepared up to a day ahead and stored in the refrigerator in an air tight container. A great tip is to cover the sandwiches with a sheet of wax paper and then a damp paper towel to keep them from drying out. Uncover the sandwiches and place on serving platters just before serving.

Plan three to four finger sandwiches per person when serving with a salad as a main dish. If you are incorporating finger sandwiches into an appetizer party menu, you will need one to two of each sandwich per person, depending on the time of day and length of the event.

Feel free to be creative and experiment with a variety of fillings. For inspiration, consider your favorite cheese spreads, pizza topping combinations or traditional sandwich fare. Consider color and texture when creating a menu featuring several sandwiches. Dark party rye slices, spinach or sun-dried tomato wraps play well off white sandwich bread and miniature croissants. A creamy cheese spread makes a nice contrast to a filling with crisp cucumbers or water chestnuts.

As I am fond of saying, don’t be afraid to play with your food and see what delicious combinations you can create. Your guests will be glad you did!

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Smoked salmon and cucumber

Dark party rye, thinly sliced bread

Smoked salmon (find it in the seafood aisle at the grocery)

English cucumbers

Cream cheese (regular or herb flavored)

Allow cream cheese to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before spreading to prevent bread from tearing. Spread a small amount of cream cheese on two slices of bread. Cut smoked salmon into thin slivers and thinly slice cucumbers. Layer a small amount of salmon and a cucumber slice on one slice of rye. Top with second slice of rye.

Egg salad

Any favorite egg salad recipe will do, but the ingredients should be chopped finer for a finger sandwich. Try it on light or dark bread.

Chicken salad

Save time by buying a rotisserie chicken or simply cook chicken and allow to cool. Use onion, celery or water chestnuts to give your salad crunch or consider adding dried cranberries, finely chopped apple or toasted walnuts.

Cut your sandwiches into thin rectangles for traditional finger sandwiches. Or get really creative triangles, small squares or use cookie cutters to cut interesting shapes.

Cheese Spreads

Purchase or make your favorite pimiento cheese or experiment with other flavor combinations. Try adding crushed pineapple to cream cheese or try this recipe for Curry-Almond Cheese Spread

2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened

1 (9-ounce) jar mango chutney

1 cup slivered almonds, toasted

1 tablespoon curry powder

1/2 teaspoon dry mustard

Garnishes: thinly sliced Granny Smith apple, fresh parsley sprigs and/or dried cranberries

Place first 5 ingredients in food processor and process until smooth, scraping down sides as needed. Cover and refrigerate one hour. Spread on light or dark rye or your favorite bread. Slice into sandwiches.

Do you have a topic you’d like reading about or want to share your favorite finger sandwich recipe? Email chef Karen at or comment at Everyday Gourmet Aiken on Facebook and your suggestion may be featured in my next article!

Karen Tempel, an aspiring chef since she could reach the countertops, has been delighting friends and family with tempting treats for most of her life. She is the owner of Everyday Gourmet, a custom caterer in the Aiken area. Visit her website at or email her at

Sandwich Tips

• Freezing bread until firm makes it easier to spread with filling and to cut the sandwiches into small pieces.

• Cut the crusts from the bread with a long serrated knife after the sandwiches are filled to ensure neat, even edges.

• Spinach and sun-dried tomato tortillas add interest to your selection. Spread filling over tortilla, then roll tightly and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill before serving.

• The prepackaged loaves of small, thinly sliced party bread make great finger sandwiches and there’s no need to trim the crusts.

• Try your favorite cheese spread as a filling. Allow the cheese to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes for easy spreading.

Where’s Karen?

Karen will be at the Aiken Fresh Market on Sunday, Aug. 11 from 2 to 5 p.m. demonstrating Tuscan Tuna with Lemon and Artichokes.