Devils on Horseback is an historic British appetizer that's popular during the Christmas holidays. Pitted prunes are stuffed with goat cheese (or other goodies), wrapped in bacon, and served warm. These are perfect for a party. Everyone loves them and they can be assembled ahead of time and popped in oven in the oven at the last minute. Warm sweet prunes and crisp salty bacon are an irresistible pair!
What's the purpose of an appetizer if not to pack maximum excitement into a tiny bite-sized package? Devils on Horseback are just what you want to bite into when you're at your hungriest, as rich and bursting with exciting flavors as anything can be.
Why are they called Devils on Horseback?
Devils on Horseback date back to at least the early 1800's. The exact reason for their name is an unsolved mystery but here are the three top theories:
- They were named for their devilish black and red coloring.
- The name devils on horseback was chosen as a counterpart to angels on horseback (bacon wrapped oysters), which preceded them on the culinary scene.
- A substantial amount of cayenne pepper was called for in the original Devils on Horseback recipe, which made them devilishly hot. Hence the name.
My own theory is that they were called devils on horseback because of how hellishly good they are and because I can't stop them from galloping into my mouth.
How to make Devils on Horseback
Set the three main ingredients out on your work surface: a pack of bacon, sliced in half, 20 pitted prunes, and a 2-ounce hunk of creamy goat cheese.
- Start by making a small slit in the outer edge of each prune. Pull the prunes apart gently to create a small pocket for the cheese.
- Next, use a tiny spoon or cheese knife to insert about ¼ teaspoon of cheese into each prune.
- Place a stuffed prune on one end of a halved bacon slice and roll it up. Repeat with the rest of the prunes and bacon.
- As you work, place the rolls, seam-side-down, on a greased foil-lined baking pan or a foil pan.
- Brush the tops of the rolls with balsamic vinegar and pop the baking pan into a 500ºF oven.
- Cook the Devils on Horseback for about 8 minutes, just until the bacon is crisp.
- Use tongs to transfer them to a paper-towel-lined plate to drain.
- Insert toothpicks into the top of the devils on horseback, and place them onto a serving platter. I think they look great with a little greenery around them - some sprigs of parsley or arugula leaves.
Tips and FAQ
What are Devils on Horseback traditionally made of?
The original Devils on Horseback recipe from Victorian times had just two ingredients, prunes and bacon.
Can I make these with dates?
Yes, dates are often used to make this dish. Here's a Devils on Horseback recipe with dates and blue cheese.
How can I make these non-dairy?
Devils on horseback can made non-dairy if you stuff the prunes with chutney, stuff them with almonds or make them with no stuffing at all. The combination of sweet prunes and salty bacon is delicious by itself.
Should I skewer Devils on Horseback before cooking them?
There's no need to skewer them before you cook them. As long as you place them on the baking pan seam side down they will stay in tight little rolls when they cook and the seam will fuse together. However if you do choose to skewer them before cooking them, be sure to soak the toothpicks in water for a good hour beforehand, to prevent them from burning in the hot oven.
Let's talk about prunes for a minute
First let me just say that absolutely I love prunes. With their dense and chewy texture and concentrated caramelized fruity flavor, they bring the perfect sweet complement to savory dishes like Chicken Marbella, where they melt into the salty garlicky sauce.
But I didn't always love prunes and I'm not the only one. Prunes have had some serious PR challenges over the years, mostly because back in the 60's their marketing campaign focused on their beneficial laxative qualities, and that reputation wasn't great for sales among younger consumers. So in 2000, in an attempt to change that perception, the national prune board got approval from the FDA to officially change the name of prunes to "dried plums." The new branding worked and dried plums saw an uptick in sales.
But then in 2019, the National Dried Plum Board had the name changed back to prunes, with the tag line "for life." But this time, the health benefits are focused largely on bone density health.
Clearly it's a complicated business to market prunes, but I promise you, prunes are delicious and healthy, and they're particular great wrapped in bacon!
Here's the devils on horseback recipe. If you make this, I hope you'll come back to leave a star rating and a comment. I'd love to know what you think!Print