Finger food is food meant to be eaten directly using the hands, in contrast to food eaten with a knife and fork, chopsticks, or other utensils. In some cultures, food is almost always eaten with the hands; for example, Ethiopian cuisine is eaten by rolling various dishes up in injera bread. In the South Asian subcontinent, food is traditionally always eaten with hands. Foods considered street foods are frequently, though not exclusively, finger foods.
In the Western world, finger foods are often either appetizers (hors d'oeuvres) or entree/main course items. In the Western world, examples of generally accepted finger food are miniature meat pies, sausage rolls, sausages on sticks, cheese and olives on sticks, chicken drumsticks or wings, spring rolls, miniature quiches, samosas, sandwiches, Merenda or other such based foods, such as pitas or items in buns, bhajjis, potato wedges, vol au vents, several other such small items and risotto balls (arancini). Other well-known foods that are generally eaten with the hands include pizza, hot dogs, fruit and bread. Dessert items such as cookies, pastries, ice cream in cones, or ice pops are often eaten with the hands but are not, in common parlance, considered finger foods. In East Asia, foods like pancakes or flatbreads (bing 饼) and street foods such as kebabs (chuan 串) are often eaten with the hands.
In many Western countries there are catering businesses that supply finger foods for events such as weddings, engagements, birthdays and other milestone celebrations. For weddings, in particular, finger foods are becoming more popular because they are less expensive and offer more flexibility with menu choices. Gourmet hors d'oeuvres such as quiches, pâté, caviar, and tea sandwiches are suitable for a formal event, whereas more familiar food such as sliced fruits, deli trays, crackers, and cookies are preferred at more casual celebrations.
- Kay Halsey (1999). Finger Food. Tuttle Publishing. ISBN 962-593-444-8.
- J.H. Arrowsmith-Brown (trans.), Prutky's Travels in Ethiopia and other Countries with notes by Richard Pankhurst (London: Hakluyt Society, 1991)
- "Finger Food", BBC.co.uk, 11 January 2002
- Wedding Finger Food Reception, Melissa Mayntz at LoveToKnow.com, 6 November 2007