Taste test: The best – and worst – supermarket finger food we’ve tried this holiday season

Party snacks galore from Marks & Spencer, SuperValu, Dunnes, Tesco, Aldi and Lidl

The instructions are clear, in principle: go to six of the major supermarket chains, see what’s on offer in their Christmas snack-foods ranges, pick three interesting – or at least promising – items in each, then cook, eat and rate them.

In practice, it isn’t that straightforward. There just isn’t that much on offer in some stores – I shop in Stillorgan and Blackrock, in south Co Dublin, on December 9th. And in some cases what is there just doesn’t appeal – I’m looking at you, chicken sticks and pops, containing 51 per cent chicken.

But, first, the good news. Marks & Spencer, the place to go to for posh finger food, is fully stocked with all the usual favourites – mini quiches, vol-au-vents and sausage rolls galore – as well as lots of new products, many with words such as “crispy”, “molten” and “gooey” in their titles.

M&S's Cheddar profiteroles are so good that I go back the next day and make good use of the four-for-three multibuy offer, which takes the sting out of the €8-per-pack price tag

One of the M&S newcomers, its Cheddar profiteroles, is so good that I go back the next day and make good use of the four-for-three multibuy offer, which takes the sting out of the €8-per-pack price tag. As good as any restaurant-standard gougère I’ve ever eaten, these are well worth seeking out.


The festive snack-food selection is strong at SuperValu, too, with plenty of choice in the Signature Tastes range at two for €7. The Dunnes Stores I visit is a bit low on party snack food, but the brand's strength in the charcuterie and dips aisle makes it easy enough to pick up a few interesting nibbles to serve with drinks. Likewise, at Tesco, the frozen party snacks hold little appeal, but a trawl of the chiller cabinets reveals a few really good products. Aldi and Lidl both have plenty of freezer-to-oven snack-food options, as well as seasonal specials in the charcuterie and cured-meats aisles.

Marks & Spencer

10 Molten Cheddar Cheese Profiteroles €8
One word for these: delicious. Dangerously so. Crisp and savoury choux-pastry buns with a rich and creamy cheese-sauce filling that oven bake in just eight minutes and can also be cooked from frozen.

10 Crispy Beef Burger Spring Rolls €8
Sounds weird but taste great, especially when dipped in the accompanying burger sauce. The mini spring rolls are filled with beef, gherkin and caramelised onions.

10 Gooey Cheese & Bacon Potato Skins €8
Maybe a pedestrian choice, but these are underwhelming. The vintage Cheddar, red Leicester and double-smoked bacon filling does not live up to its promise.


Signature Tastes Brie & Cranberry Tartlets €5
Delicate one-bite morsels with a tangy filling encased in filo pastry. Perfect to serve with drinks – no plates or napkins required.

Signature Tastes 10 Irish Monterey Jack Cheese and Chorizo Bruschetta €5
Sliced white baguette topped with a mix of chorizo and red-pepper salsa and a generous sprinkling of cheese. Could be crisper coming out of the oven, even after baking them for the recommended 17 minutes, which seems a lot.

Signature Tastes 12 Pigs in Blankets €5
These dinky pork sausages, with a hidden filling of caramelised-red-onion marmalade, are wrapped in dry cured bacon – although in my case the wrapping detaches itself from quite a few in the oven, so they don't look the prettiest.


Pestle + Mortar Fresh Red Sundried Tomato Pesto and Fresh Green Basil Pesto €3.25 each
Irish made, reasonably priced and very versatile, these pestos can be served straight from the tub or mixed with sour cream or creme fraiche to make a quick and easy dip.

Tesco Finest Basil Pesto and Tomato hand-stretched flatbread €3
A perfect dipping partner for the pestos above, this nicely thin and crisp, hand-stretched flatbread is made with 18-hour-fermented dough.

Tesco Finest Continental (Spanish) Meat Platter with Iberico Cheese €8
Two types of Serrano ham (one coated with pimentón de la Vera), chorizo, salchichon and Iberico cheese make it into this selection of cured meats and cheese. It's a generous assortment, with 32 slices each of the chorizo and salchichon, and eight each of the serrano hams and cheese. Incredible value for the price, and good quality too.

Dunnes Stores

12 mini Quiche Lorraine €3.50
Neat little pastry cups filled with a savoury filling of ham, cheese and egg. A single mouthful in each and no messy crumbs to deal with. Cooks in just six minutes in the oven.

Trio Houmous Selection €3
Beetroot, butternut and caramelised-red-onion versions of the perennially popular dip. Three distinct, punchy flavours, and pretty colours in the pot. The caramelised red onion, with cinnamon and cloves, is the tastiest, and festive too.

Simply Better Spanish Rebujito Sourdough Breadsticks €1.79
Fancy-pants breadsticks, made in Seville, to serve with a tapas platter. There are four types of mini breadstick in the bag: bolitas, mini regañás, picos utreranos and piquitos.


Specially Selected Duck & Orange Liqueur Pate €3.49
Smooth duck-liver, pork-fat and chicken-liver pate that pops out of the plastic container with a pretty orange jelly and an orange slice on top. Decent pate, excellent presentation and a handy thing to have in the fridge.

Pigs in Blankets Inspired Houmous €0.99
Whoever was "inspired" to create this should have their taste buds recalibrated. Of course, I have to try it, but it is eye-wateringly vile. Smoked bacon and sage do not belong in hummus.

Let's Party 8 Mini Fish & Chip cones €2.49
A lot of faff to fill each of the Aldi Thymes newspaper cones with one nugget of fish (basa, farmed in Vietnam) and about five thin chips. Kids will love them, though.


Party Time! 6 Cheese & Onion Potato Skins €2.29
Far, far too big to be considered a finger food – more like a handful. Best served with a knife and fork. Also come in cheese and chorizo variety.

Dulano Gouda Sticks Wrapped in Chorizo and Iberico Cheese Sticks Wrapped in Jamon Serrano €1.99 each
Cheese wrapped in ham or salami appears in several of the big retailers' festive food offerings. They're handy to eat – and, arranged on a platter with some tiny cornichons, they can look appealing. Just remember to take them out of the fridge a good 20 minutes before you serve them.

Deluxe Mini Bavarois Fruit €2.99
Lidl's mini-desserts range is good, and these pretty little cream and fruit treats on a biscuit base are very tasty. There are lemon, passion-fruit and raspberry options in the fruit version, and there's a chocolate selection too.

Marie Claire Digby

Marie Claire Digby

Marie Claire Digby is Senior Food Writer at The Irish Times