Rumaki Holiday Appetizer Recipe

The most simple of appetizers made delicious.

Once you have one, you’ll be hooked for life 🙂

Rumaki is usually known as a special occasions appetizer. It shows up around Christmas the most. The texture from the crispy bacon to the perfectly roasted chicken liver, with a piece of water chestnut right in the middle all rolled up into a ball of perfection. Now, if chicken livers aren’t your thing you could still make this appetizer but by replacing the chicken livers with a different protein or even something like dates. I have an alternative idea below for you besides chicken livers:)

Quick Rumaki Appetizer History

Rumaki or Rumake is an hors-d’oeuvre of mock-Polynesian origin. It was popularly served at Trader Vic’s and other Polynesian restaurants in the 1950s and 1960s. Its ingredients and method of preparation vary, but usually, it consists of water chestnuts and pieces of chicken liver wrapped in bacon and marinated in soy sauce and either ginger or brown sugar. Also popular within the Hawaiian Islands.


chicken liver rumaki


Before I explain how to make Rumaki let’s talk about ways to prepare and cook the appetizer. If you’re not into chicken livers I have heard of an interesting alternative using watermelon. What, Watermelon? Yes, you can make use of watermelon rinds by making pickles. I’ll tell you if you think that sounds odd I would have to agree, yet I’ve had watermelon pickles before and they are much better than ones made from cucumbers which are what pickles in your refrigerator are made from. If you want to try making them just remove the very exterior first of the watermelon.  Then slice the exposed layer into desired size and place into a jelly jar along with a pickling solution.


Here’s a simple pickling solution for WaterMelon pickles:

  • 2 Cups of Water
  • Add, 3 Tbsp of Mustard Seeds, 1 Tbsp of Peppercorns, 1 Cup of Apple Cider Vinegar, 1 Tbsp of Salt, 1/2 Cup of Sugar
  • Bring to a boil over high heat
  • Reduce heat and allow the flavors to get happy together
  • Recipe Mixup: Add sliced Jalapenos, so good this way
  • Chilling in the refrigerator overnight is best


watermelon for pickles


In the recipe, just replace the chicken livers with the pickled watermelon pickles…Pretty cool foodie food I do have to say.

Here’s a link to Alton Brown’s recipe for Watermelon Pickles…That guy is great at everything he does, check him out here: http://altonbrown.com/watermelon-rind-pickles-recipe/

watermelon pickle rinds


First, clean the chicken livers. I like to cut them in half if they are large and remove anything that doesn’t look just pure protein/meat.

Next, place the chicken livers into 1/2 cup of soy sauce, add 2 tbsp of brown sugar, and 1 Tbsp of minced ginger, 1/2 tsp minced garlic and allow the chicken livers to marinade for one hour.

Bacon, take one strip of bacon and cut it in half. Try to purchase thin strips of bacon as the cooking timing works better this way. Lay down the half piece of bacon, then add one piece of sliced water chestnut. If you don’t like water chestnuts you could try using daikon radish. Next, add one piece of chicken liver or pickled watermelon. Wrap the bacon over the top and secure with a toothpick.

rumaki holiday appetizer recipe

Cooking the Rumaki: Many ways you could choose:

  • Frying
  • Baking on a cookie sheet
  • Baking on a wire rack
  • Sous Vid then finish on a hot grill

I personally like roasting them in a 400-degree oven for about 20 minutes on a wire rack…This ensures even cooking and a crispy bottom as well.

Serving the Rumaki Holiday Appetizer

Once they come out of the fryer or oven.

Adding a glaze with a paintbrush can really take this recipe over the top.

Here are a few sauces you could use:

  • Teriyaki
  • Hoisin sauce
  • Might sound odd, but grape jelly with chipotle in adobo sauce added
  • Favorite BBQ sauce
  • Mable Syrup

Place them back into a hot oven to caramelize the sauce ( 2-to-5 minutes)

Serve with creamy ranch or tartar sauce

There you have it you know how to make Rumaki now.

Please give us a shout out with your holiday cheer 🙂

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Chef Steven Pennington

Chef Steven Pennington

Content Creator

Le Cordon Bleu Chef sharing food adventures from around the world with a style of cooking rooted in southwestern flavors using French culinary technique.

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