Love to entertain but find the idea of hosting a formal dinner party a little intimidating? Breathe easy, friend. We’ve rounded up our favorite party-ready recipes, games, and even some clever shortcuts for making this an event you won’t end up dreading and will actually want to do again. Here’s how to treat your guests to a flavorful and fun-filled soirée.
Tips for Hosting a Dinner Party
Reduce your workload and your stress with these genius party hacks.
- Make something ahead: There’s nothing worse than being stuck in the kitchen when your guests are arriving for dinner. Having a few dishes at the the ready will reduce stress when it’s show time. Bake or freeze your dessert the night before, create a cheese tray early so your guests have something to nosh on immediately, and prep your ingredients ahead so you have more time to enjoy the event you worked so hard to arrange.
- Set the table early: Speaking of doing things ahead of time, set the table the night before to avoid that last-minute rush.
- Potluck it: Lighten your load by asking your guests to bring a dish to pass around. Chances are, they’ll jump at the chance to contribute to your event, and you can then focus on your main course.
- Keep it simple: Cleanup can be a not-so-fun aspect of throwing a dinner party. If your event is a casual affair, consider opting for recyclable plates, silverware, and glasses so you don’t have the chore of washing dishes when the night is over.
Dinner Party Games
Extend your dinner party beyond the meal and prove you don’t take yourself too seriously by including a fun party game on the agenda.
- How to Play: Split into two teams and have each guest write three titles (one book, one movie, one TV show) on a folded piece of paper. Each guest will be asked to draw a title from a hat and act it out without words, giving only silent clues. The team that guesses the most titles wins!
- Materials: Paper, pens, a hat (or other container)
- How to Play: Put your knowledge of vino to the test with this wine-based trivia game that covers everything from growing grapes to “cork culture.”
- Materials: Game cards, wine-enthusiast guests
Two Truths & a Lie
- How to Play: Looking to break the ice? Ask your guests to go around the table and share two true facts about themselves and something fictitious, and have your other guests determine which fact is actually a lie.
- Materials: A sense of humor
Judge a Wine by Its Label
- How to Play: This is a great game if you’re throwing a dinner party for someone special. Have everyone but your special guest bring a bottle of wine with an interesting label to dinner, and have your guest of honor try to guess who brought what based on the label.
- Materials: Wine bottles
Dinner Party Food Ideas
From apps to main courses to dessert, you won’t have a menu misstep with these wow-worthy recipes.
Easy Dinner Party Appetizers
There’s an app for that! Get the party started with these pre-dinner bites.
This palate pleaser is a feast for the eyes and the senses with diced tomatoes, EVOO, garlic, and fresh basil on a grilled French baguette.
Sweet and savory nibbles are the perfect pre-dinner snack, and these jazzed up nuts don’t hold any punches thanks to warming spices like cayenne and ginger, along with rosemary and a dusting of brown sugar.
Indulgent and flavorful are two characteristics of an outstanding dinner party app, and this dish checks both boxes with roasted mushrooms, creamy mozzarella, crusty bread, and seasonal herbs.
Start things off on an unexpected note with this unique but oh-so-delicious variation on the Middle Eastern classic using pumpkin puree, chili powder, and cinnamon.
Give green olives a little extra zing with a marinade of olive oil, coriander, cumin, fresh thyme, and orange zest.
Just because you're vegan doesn't mean you can't have your cheese and eat it, too. These dairy-free cheese logs are made with creamed cashews. Just top with dried cranberries, pumpkin seeds, or walnut halves.
Dinner Party Main Dishes
Earn big raves with little effort thanks to these simple but sophisticated show-stoppers.
Top this luscious, tender cut with a not-too-sweet sauce of cherries, dry red wine, apple cider vinegar, and brown sugar.
Bright, fresh herbs combine with garlic and hearty pine nuts for a flavorful topping and/or marinade for grilled steaks.
This one-pan recipe makes dinner parties a breeze. Juicy, tender chicken breasts get a dose of Italian flavors with zesty cherry tomatoes, oregano, basil, and of course, garlic.
Simple but elegant, this Spanish-inspired take on pork chops calls for a sauce of roasted red peppers, tomato paste, and walnuts.
Douse chicken in a marinade of fajita seasoning and olive oil before hitting the skillet with diced peppers and onions.
Perfect for those friends you feel most comfortable around, this messy finger food gets its flavor from a dry rub of brown sugar, garlic powder, and hot spices before hitting the oven for a low and slow bake.
Vegan Dinner Party Recipes
Embrace the beauty of vegan cuisine with these flavor-packed recipes.
Creamy, comforting, and totally dairy-free, this plant-based recipe tops chickpea shells with a blend of cashews, hummus, and almond milk.
“Board” of the same old apps and starters? Arrange Middle Eastern vegan favorites like hummus, falafel, green olives, pita, and stuffed grape leaves on a platter to share.
Meaty without the meat, this dish tosses plant-based shirataki noodles in a rich tomato sauce of mushrooms, veggie stock, garlic, and fresh rosemary.
Though this Southern one-pot stew traditionally involves meat or sausage, this vegan take swaps in jackfruit without sacrificing flavor.
Vegetarian Dinner Party Ideas
Skip the meat with these veggie-powered entrées.
This creamy rice favorite goes green thanks to nutrient-packed spirulina, which combines with arborio rice, artichokes, vegetable stock, and lemon zest.
Did you know you can use thinly sliced eggplant as a tortilla substitute? Top with a savory vegan filling of walnuts, sun-dried tomatoes, and taco seasoning for a plant-based fiesta.
Thai goes low carb in this genius recipe that uses fettuccine Wonder Noodles to soak up a fiery red curry, which includes coconut milk, and raw honey.
See ya, basil! This hearty kale pesto is ideal for everything from your favorite pasta to roasted veggies. For a vegan dish, just swap out the Parmesan and use nutritional yeast.
Dinner Party Desserts
Make your meal all the sweeter with these big finishes.
Your guests won’t believe this cake owes its decadence to a frosting of whipped avocado mixed with maple syrup, cacao powder, vanilla powder, and coconut oil.
With a gluten-free crust of brown rice flour, maple syrup, and coconut oil filled with rhubarb, coconut palm sugar, and almond slivers, you’re sure to end things on a high note.
This make-ahead, no-bake cake will impress your guests thanks to Earl Grey tea-infused mascarpone and simple syrup along with candied lemon slices.
What’s better than one Italian dessert? Two Italian desserts! This two-for-one recipe pairs sweetened cold brew granita with a drizzle of creamer for a refreshing, post-dinner treat.
Give your meal an elegant French finish with this upside-down dessert, featuring caramelized apples atop a crust of granola, gluten-free coconut flour, and sweet maple syrup.
Wow your guests with apples sprinkled with coconut sugar and maple syrup topped with gluten-free cranberry granola and baked in a cast-iron skillet. Pair with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and prepare for lots of “oohs” and “ahhs.”