Dinner Party Menu Ideas for Easy Entertaining at Home

A collection of dinner party menu ideas including recipes, and hosting tips to pull it off with ease. Whether you need a year’s worth of themed dinner party ideas for a monthly supper club, or you’re a new host wanting to entertain at home this guide will make it seem effortless.

dinner party ideas and menus

Dinner Party at Home

If you’re looking for menus for entertaining you’ve come to the right place. In this guide you’ll find creative themes and ideas for décor, as well as menu ideas for 4, 6, or 8 people. 

The thing is, there are so many reasons you might find yourself needing a meal plan. There are birthday dinners and celebrations. There’s the occasion of hosting overnight guests. And there’s the wonderful tradition of hosting a theme party for no reason at all except for the love of gathering with friends.

No matter what the occasion, you’ll need to keep a few things in mind for a successful dinner party: budget, time, and dietary restrictions.

You’ll also need to know some basic tips for serving wine at a party, and you’ll want to have these conversation starter on hand just in case you need them. Let’s jump right in to some basic tips for dinner party planning.

How to Plan a Dinner Menu

When I’m planning a party menu I usually follow a formula. I do this when designing dessert tables, for cocktail parties, and for themed dinner parties.

For a sit down dinner I usually include an entrée + starch + 1 or 2 vegetables or salad + dessert. However you can also serve a main dish casserole which incorporates both the protein or entrée + the starch.

  • Entrees – This is the main protein like beef, chicken, pork, or fish. Although with the increase in plant based and vegetarian diets this is certainly evolving. The general rule of thumb is to have 4 to 8 ounces of meat per guest. 
  • Starch – Remember the classic dinner of steak and potatoes from decades past? Well, we still love the idea of serving a starch to round out our meal. Think couscous, pasta, crusty bread, potatoes, rice, etc. And remember, a bread basket is always acceptable even when served with a starchy dish like pasta.
  • Vegetables – A serving of vegetables can consist of a salad or a side dish. You can serve both or choose one – whichever rounds out the meal better. Some favorites are roasted carrots, sauteed brussels sprouts, roasted asparagus, green beans, and steamed broccoli.
  • Dessert – Doesn’t everyone look forward to dessert at a dinner party? This is one course where you can go completely indulgent or keep it light and casual. I like to plan my dessert around the main meal. For instance, if the meal is heavy and filling it’s probably a good idea to serve a lighter dessert. Likewise, if the main meal is simple and light, a decadent chocolate dessert is a welcome ending. You can choose from cakes, pies, trifles, brownies, or ice cream.

Things to Consider

Keep your budget in mind. If you don’t want to spring for filet mignon for 8 people you can always serve a pork tenderloin instead.

Pay attention to timing. There are some recipes that must be made ahead, and there are some that require you to be actively cooking right up until it’s time to serve. It’s always best to balance the menu according to prep time. 

PARTY TIP: If you’re serving 1 laborious recipe, then make sure everything else is easy to prepare or can be fully prepared in advance (like a cake). 

Remember guests dietary needs. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to make an entire vegan meal for one guest. It just means you’ll need to plan for an alternative option for that guest to have while the rest of you are chowing on chicken. Other dietary restrictions can apply to food allergies like peanuts or shell fish, diabetics, or simple vegetarians.

Dinner Party Menu Ideas

These party menus are categorized so that you can pick and choose according to the overall experience you want to create, or the amount of time and effort you can dedicate.

If you have a tried and true recipe, that’s a great place to start. You can always build around it.

But if you’re looking for dinner menus from appetizer to mini desserts you can follow these ideas.

1. Do-Ahead Casual Menu for 8

When it comes to a make-ahead dinner, it doesn’t get much better than slow cooker recipes you can prepare in advance.

2. Easy dinner party menu for 6

This easy menu takes the labor out of preparation and cooking so you’re a relaxed host.

3. Small dinner party ideas for 4

These recipes are good to use for a small party because you can make them in smaller amounts.

4. Elegant Menu with Fancy Recipes

This party menu includes items you may not make every day. It’s beginner to intermediate level “fancy.”

5. Vegetarian Dinner Party Menu Ideas

This menu proves that plant based dinners can be just as flavorful as animal protein dishes.

6. Birthday dinner ideas for adults

When it’s time to celebrate a special birthday guy or gal!

More Dinner Party Menus

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