When I’m Hosting a Dinner Party, These Are the Recipes I Always Return To

When I’m Hosting a Dinner Party, These Are the Recipes I Always Return To

Recently, a good friend called me in a near-panic: “I’m having eight friends over tomorrow night—what in the world should I make for that many people?” I’ve totally been there, and it can be tough to think of dinner party recipes that are elevated and elegant for your evening crowd. Especially if you don’t want to spend all day in the kitchen and/or lose your mind in the process.

But thanks to the fact that I started my career in catering (combined with the countless dinner parties I’ve thrown over the years), I’ve assembled quite a collection of main dish dinner party ideas to feed a crowd that check all my required boxes. All of these dinner party recipes are:

  • Crowd-pleasing dishes that almost everyone loves.
  • Leverage large-batch cooking, like a sheet pan or grill, so that I’m not laboriously sautéing 16 individual fish fillets or frying 12 eggs to top salads.
  • And most importantly, I can do almost all the prep in advance so that by the time my guests arrive, I can join the party with them.

Featured image by Michelle Nash.

Women eating at dinner table.
Image by Michelle Nash

24 Dinner Party Recipes Any Crowd Will Love

I divided this post into recipes that I make for dinners with 4-6 guests (due to the cooking techniques, or the fact that they incorporate pricier ingredients), and the recipes that are really easy to double or triple to feed a true crowd. These leverage larger cuts of meat, build-your-own components that let guests adapt to their dietary needs, and less expensive ingredients so your party budget doesn’t get out of control.

The next time you find yourself hosting an evening get-together and wondering what to make, bookmark this post for 24 easy dinner party recipes to feed a crowd. Trust me: all these recipes will leave your dinner guests happy, satisfied, and waiting for when their next invite arrives in the mail.

Dinner Party for 4-6 Guests

Ratatouille-Style Roasted Vegetable Pasta_recipes to feed a crowd

Ratatouille-Style Roasted Vegetable Pasta

What makes it party-ready: At first glance, a pasta dish might not seem special enough for a dinner party meal. But this isn’t just any pasta recipe. While it’s easy to prep and cook, it makes the most of a few flavor-packed ingredients that’ll take your meal up a notch. Plus, the colors it brings to your table rival any floral centerpiece. Major wow-factor.

Make it a feast:

The Best Roast Chicken With Tomatoes, Lemons, And Salsa Verde

The Best Roast Chicken With Tomatoes, Lemons, and Salsa Verde

What makes it party-ready: Everyone loves roast chicken. This one has just enough interesting and surprising flavors to make it feel dinner party-worthy. Those charred lemons—yum! Watch me make it start to finish.

Make it a feast:

Easy Homemade Pizza_recipes to feed a crowd

What makes it party-ready: My grilled pizza is truly made for a party. But I’ll admit, it’s a little chaotic to make for more than six people. That’s why I usually bring it out at more intimate gatherings where everyone can get involved. The recipe above is for my homemade pizza dough. Make several dough balls in advance (I usually plan on three doughs for six people), let them rest at room temp for a couple hours before party time and proceed with your favorite pizza toppings and method of cooking.

Make it a feast:

grilled new york strip steaks with chimichurri_dinner party recipes

What makes it party-ready: This is probably mine and Adam’s most frequently-made meal for a dinner party. It’s incredibly easy to pull together and fun for everyone to hang out down by the grill while we make it. I usually buy one large New York Strip for every two people. Slice into 1″ pieces and serve on a big platter surrounded by grilled tomatoes. Since this is a pricier cut of meat, it feels really special and I typically reserve it for a smaller dinner party. For a bigger gathering, an affordable cut of steak like flank is a great option, too. (You’ll just want to marinate it beforehand and adjust the cooking time.)

Make it a feast: 

Sesame Soy Tuna Poke Bowls_dinner party recipes

Sesame Soy Tuna Poke Bowls

What makes it party-ready: This poke bowl is a great meal for a summertime gathering on a hot day. It feels so light and refreshing, but still really special. For a girls’ night, I love to set out all the ingredients and let everyone build their own bowls. Not only is it a fun way to get people interacting, but it also allows guests with other dietary restrictions to pick and choose their ingredients.

Make it a feast: One of the beautiful things about this dish is that it’s truly a complete meal in a bowl. The only thing I’d add is refreshing scoops of mango sorbet (or mango-basil ice cream) for dessert!

Summer Spaghetti With Tomatoes, Burrata, and Basil_dinner party recipes

Summer Spaghetti With Tomatoes, Burrata, and Basil

What makes it party-ready: Sometimes, a party just needs pasta. That said, it’s not ideal for serving a super large group since it does need a bit of last-minute attention (plus, you’d need a really big pan for tossing it all together). This spaghetti with tomatoes, burrata, and basil combines simple ingredients into one luscious and luxurious bowl that everyone loves.

Make it a feast: A loaf of crusty bread, plus a simple salad with fresh greens (and a bottle of pinot gris).

Orange-Chili Glazed Pork Tenderloin With Carrot Pesto And Grilled Carrots_dinner party recipes

Orange-Chili Glazed Pork Tenderloin With Carrot Pesto and Grilled Carrots

What makes it party-ready: I make this one when my mother-in-law comes over since she loves pork tenderloin. This dish is perfect with a double dose of carrots. It’s a great one to make outside on the grill, but in the cooler months, you can also roast it all in the oven. Pork tenderloin is one of those cuts of meat that is made for serving a crowd. You could easily scale this recipe depending on your guest count, then slice it up and arrange on a big family-style platter.

Make it a feast: The carrots are a super satisfying side dish on their own, and the pesto adds richness and flavor, so you’re almost already in feast territory with just this recipe. For a dinner party, I’d add some herb-roasted potatoes or a simple kale salad.

Mediterranean Baked Salmon With Tomatoes, Olives, and Capers

Mediterranean Baked Salmon With Tomatoes, Olives, and Capers

What makes it party-ready: This is one of those super satisfying one-pan recipes that feels way fancier than it is. And in my experience, salmon is one of the most universally-loved fish dishes. And it’s foolproof! Baking the salmon with the vegetables and lemon slices yields a perfectly tender and flavorful fish every time, since the veggies release their juices to create their own flavorful sauce.

Make it a feast:

Sheet Pan Halibut With Italian Salsa Verde and Asparagus_dinner party recipes

Sheet Pan Halibut With Italian Salsa Verde and Asparagus

What makes it party-ready: Here is one of those super-impressive meals that also happens to take very little effort. Why? Because halibut is one of the best fish ever. Plus, the fact that this is made on a sheet pan allows you to easily make several fillets at once. It has a light, clean flavor and buttery, flaky texture, so it doesn’t take much for it to be delicious. I simply roast mine with olive oil, salt, and pepper, then top it with a bright Italian salsa verde.

Make it a feast: Just add some potatoes that can roast right along with the fish on a separate baking sheet. Or, keep it low-carb like The Defined Dish did at our dinner party and serve it with a big kale salad.

grilled marinated chicken with all the herbs_dinner party recipes

Grilled Yogurt-Marinated Chicken with All the Herbs

What makes it party-ready: If you haven’t tried marinating your chicken in Greek yogurt, this recipe will change that fast. It’s beyond easy (and inexpensive) to throw chicken thighs in a delicious marinade and grill for a crowd. Fresh herbs and honey add a bit of zest and sweetness that complement this juicy chicken.

Make it a feast: Serve this protein with a side salad or crispy roasted potatoes for an all-around simple and delicious meal that everyone will be gushing about.

sweet & spicy braised short ribs

Sweet & Spicy Braised Short Ribs

What makes it party-ready: Everyone always asks me for this braised short rib recipe after dinner parties, and they’re always shocked to learn how simple it is. I always like to add some fresh herbs over the top along with red onion and lemon zest to brighten up the plate (because presentation matters).

Make it a feast:

pita tostadas with butternut squash, black beans, and avocado

Pita Tostadas With Butternut Squash, Black Beans, & Avocado

What makes it party-ready: Toastadas are a go-to for a few reasons whenever I’m looking to impress my guests with an easy dinner party recipe. They’re customizable, so everyone can pick and choose what they want to add. This recipe is also a winner for those who like to keep it meat-free, with protein from black beans and healthy fats from avocado.

Make it a feast: I love pairing any Mexican-inspired dish with something that involves rice—whether that be Spanish rice or a hearty soup.

Dinner Party Recipes to Feed a Crowd

Damn That's a Keeper Winter Vegetable Lasagna_dinner party recipes

Damn That’s a Keeper Winter Vegetable Lasagna

What makes it party-ready: Lasagna can lean a little labor-intensive, but take heart: this dish can be made in advance. In my experience, all variations on the classic lasagna are winners—but this spin is my favorite take yet. It’s hearty and warming without any meat, and the filling makes the most of everyone’s favorite fall veg, butternut squash. The flavors are rich and complex—and if you’re feeling up to it, the recipe also shows you how to make the pasta yourself. It’s a dish worth bragging about.

Make it a feast: Cut the lasagna’s richness with a bitter side, like this radicchio salad. Or, if you really want to send the fall flavors home, this apple and arugula salad is one of my favorites.

Danielle Walker's Turkey Chili Verde_dinner party recipes

Danielle Walker’s Turkey Chili Verde

What makes it party-ready: When the colder months hit, I love serving dishes that evoke elevated comfort. They’re simple and warming, but just special enough. This flavor-packed chili comes courtesy of Danielle Walker, our go-to for paleo-friendly, delicious recipes. If you want to make it vegetarian, simply omit the turkey and bump up all the veggies. Danielle suggests either diced zucchini or minced portobello mushrooms. Yum!

Make it a feast: Salty tortilla chips or your favorite cornbread are ideal for dipping. Top each bowl with sour cream or Greek yogurt, cilantro, and a squeeze of lime

Slow-Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala

Slow-Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala

What makes it party-ready: Even those who aren’t well-versed in Indian cuisine will love chicken tikka masala. Although I frequently make this recipe on a busy weekday for our family, it’s also perfect for a big feast. (Triple or even quadruple the recipe—your slow cooker can handle it!) Plus, the fact that you make this several hours before dinner and it cooks away while you’re free to do other stuff is pretty awesome.

Make it a feast: An Indian-inspired feast means serving one or two other dishes like Saag Paneer, Samosa Chaat Fries, or Indian Butter Cauliflower. Also required: warm naan and a big pot of rice.

Easy Mexican Chicken Tortilla Soup

Easy Mexican Chicken Tortilla Soup

What makes it party-ready: I’ve made this soup for countless book clubs, family gatherings, and friends who have just had babies. Everyone says it’s the best chicken tortilla soup they’ve had, and it’s just as easy to make a big batch by scaling the ingredients. Sure, a pot of soup may not sound like a party, but watch me make it here and see for yourself how festive all those beautiful ingredients look together. Plus, the smorgasbord of colorful toppings lets guests have fun building their own perfect bowl of soup.

Make it a feast: I usually serve this soup on its own—with all the toppings, it feels complete! But it’s never a bad idea to kick off a Mexican-style feast with really good chips, a couple of great guacamoles, and salsa.

Whole Roasted Side Of Salmon With Citrus, Chiles, And Herbs

Whole Roasted Side of Salmon With Citrus, Chiles, and Herbs

What makes it party-ready: During my catering career, I learned that one of the best ways to feed a crowd elegantly is with a big roasted side of salmon. It looks really impressive coming out of the oven and is the perfect centerpiece to a buffet. If you’re intimidated by buying a side of salmon, don’t be! There’s nothing to it, you literally just ask the fishmonger for “a side of salmon”—I usually plan for five to six ounces per person. You may even be able to convince them to remove the skin for you! 😉 This one, with roasted citrus slices, is a great main course option for Easter or Mother’s Day. I’ve also served it with great success for cozy girls’ nights with a bottle of pinot noir.

Make it a feast:

Lime-y Chicken Tacos With Jicama, Avocado, and Mint

Lime-y Chicken Tacos With Jicama, Avocado, and Mint

What makes it party-ready: I love a taco night-themed party. When it comes to dinner party recipes, few dishes are more festive, and this surprisingly delicious combo of chicken, jicama, avocado, and mint elevates the entire setup. For a group, I usually set out a couple of big platters on the table with all the ingredients, pass around the tortillas, and let everyone assemble their own tacos family-style.

Make it a feast: For a larger group, I like to offer a vegetarian option since there’s usually at least someone who’s not eating meat. Taco night makes it easy: you can roast some cauliflower and let guests build these delicious all-veg tacos if they so choose. I actually love them just as much as the chicken, so I’ll usually eat one of each.

Lamb Meatballs in Tomato Sauce With Fresh Ricotta

Lamb Meatballs in Tomato Sauce With Fresh Ricotta

What makes it party-ready: A couple of years back, chef Seamus Mullen served these unbelievably delicious lamb meatballs as the centerpiece to a dinner party he hosted in Santa Monica. As someone who doesn’t cook with lamb very often, I came home feeling inspired to make this spicy lamb meatballs recipe for my next gathering. Although they feel special occasion-worthy, they couldn’t be simpler.

Make it a feast: Take a cue from Chef Mullen’s dinner party and serve with whole roasted cauliflower with salsa verde and a zesty radish, fennel, and grapefruit salad. Or, you could go more classic Italian and serve it on top of a big bowl of olive oil-tossed spaghetti.

Pita and Kebab Board

Pita and Kebab Board

What makes it party-ready: The last thing we want to be doing at a party is worrying about lots of different meal components coming out of the oven at exactly the right time. One solution? A dinner board that contains everything guests need to build their own perfect plate. This easy and flavor-packed pita and kebab version is not only gorgeous, but it’s also perfect for satisfying a range of dietary needs. Vegetarians on board? Make them meatless. Gluten-free friends can skip the pita. The list of variations is truly endless.

Make it a feast: This board has it all: hummus, feta, roasted tomatoes, olives, sliced cucumbers, diced veggie salad, and roasted garlic. What more could you ask for?

Gaby's Pork Carnitas Taco Night

Gaby’s Pork Carnitas Taco Night

What makes it party-ready: Though I’m a Tex-Mex girl at heart, I also love Baja-style flavors and my friend, Gaby Dalkin nails those Cali-Mexi mashups every time. This recipe from her cookbook gave me the courage to finally try making carnitas myself. Although the extra large cut of meat is perfect for serving a crowd, it can also be intimidating. Thanks to this very simple, flavor-packed preparation, when I’m looking for dinner party recipes, this has become a go-to.

Make it a feast:

Chicken Fire Stew

Chicken Fire Stew

What makes it party-ready: This stew is a stealth pick for party food. It feels like the comfort food your mama might have made, but when presented with as much style as Shelley Armistead did at her beach dinner, it’s suddenly elevated to special occasion status. What makes this dish perfect for a crowd is that you can truly throw everything in the pot and walk away. An hour later, dinner is served. Shower with herbs and edible flowers—both for flavor and a gorgeous presentation.

Make it a feast: Serve alongside spring rice with greens and peas.

carne asada tacos

Carne Asana Tacos

What makes it party-ready: These carne asana tacos have been on repeat in my kitchen this summer. Their flavor is absolutely incredible and the endless amount of toppings makes it perfect for just about everyone. Trust me, this is THE grilling recipe for all of your outdoor dinner gatherings.

Make it a feast: Guacamole, or any other Mexican-inspired dip, can be served either on your taco or as a side dish with chips. I also love serving these tacos with a Mexican chopped salad to add some extra greens to the table.

skillet eggplant lasagna_dinner party recipes

Skillet Eggplant Lasagna

What makes it party-ready: One-pan dishes that serve a crowd make dinner party hosting incredibly easy. If you’ve never tried eggplant lasagna, this recipe is a great place to start. It turns a classic dish into something both stunning and healthy. You’ll never cook your lasagna the same again.

Make it a feast: With a heavier dish, I always serve something on the lighter side as my side dish or appetizer. Perhaps an easy bruschetta or a simple salad to spruce up your table and keep guests wanting more.

Dinner Party Recipes to Feed A Crowd

This post was originally published on June 7, 2021, and has since been updated.

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