Rumaki Holiday Appetizer Recipe

The most simple of appetizers made delicious.

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

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 about it, that sounds odd and 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 from the watermelon.¬† Then slice the exposed layer into the 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 idea 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:¬†

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 tsp minced garlic and allow the chicken livers to marinade for one hour.


Bacon, take one strip of bacon and cut it in half lengthwise. Try to purchase thin strips of bacon, this helps with the cooking of the bacon not being overly chewy. #crispybacon. Lay down a half piece of bacon,

slicing bacon for bacon pepperoni sticks

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, over and over, and secure with a toothpick.


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 assures 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
  • Maple 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 ūüôā

Rumaki Holiday Appetizer Recipe

Simple, but elegant easy holiday appetizer that will become your family flavor
4.6 from 5 votes
Prep Time 13 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Total Time 33 mins
Course Holiday-Party-Game Day Appetizer
Cuisine International
Servings 24 Pieces


  • Wire Roasting Rack
  • Standard sized cookie sheet pan


  • Chicken Livers
  • Bacon - Thin Strips / cut in half lengthwise

Rumaki Marinade

  • 1/2 cup Soy Sauce
  • 2 T Brown Sugar
  • 1 T Minced Ginger
  • 1/2 tsp Chopped Garlic

Stuffing Options

  • Water ChestNuts Classic / Sliced
  • Daikon Radish
  • pinch Cayenne Pepper optional


Cleaning / Prepping Chicken Livers

  • I like clean/remove as much excess from the livers as possible while keeping the livers "Large" as possible
  • Cutaway pieces that do not look like something you'd like to eat. Use a small knife and make small cuts where needed trying to keep the liver in one piece.

Pre-Cooking Instructions

  • Once the livers are cleaned place them into the marinade listed above. Let the livers marinate for one hour.

Using The Bacon

  • Slice the bacon in half lengthwise. You do not want to use too much bacon, or risk chewy Rumaki. Cutting each bacon strip in half will make it easy to wrap each chicken liver

How To Make/Shape the Rumaki

  • Lay one piece of bacon flat on a cutting board. Take a slice of water chestnut and place at one end of the bacon. Add a piece of liver next on top of the water chestnut.
    Optional: Add small slices of jalapeno
  • Next, roll the bacon starting at the end with the liver and roll on top of itself.
    No rules on how you wrap. Rolling in only one direction is suggested.

Cooking The Rumaki

  • Place the rumaki on a cookie sheet. I like using a wire rack so the rumaki isn't touching the cookie sheet. It helps crisp things up nicely.
    Back @ 400 for 15 to 20 minutes
  • Adding a glaze after cooking using a pastry/paintbrush can really take this recipe over the top.
  • Add favorite sauce to each piece of Rumaki
    Here are a few sauces you could use:
    Hoisin sauce
    Might sound odd, but grape jelly with chipotle in adobo sauce
    Use Favorite BBQ sauce
    Maple Syrup
    Dipping Sauce
    -Ranch dressing
    -Tartar sauce
Keyword Rumaki Holiday Appetizer Recipe
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rumaki holiday appetizer recipe