27 Easy Dinner Party Recipes for Stress-Free Entertaining

We love hosting our friends and family for dinner parties—truly, there’s nothing better than seeing our loved ones gathered around our table. But we don’t necessarily love the stress that goes along with it (planning menus, shopping for ingredients, spending the whole day cooking) or the last-minute frazzle to get everything done when we’d really rather be hanging out with our guests. But over the years, we’ve mastered our technique. The secret to our success? Crowd-pleasing dishes that look super impressive but are actually so simple to pull off (think: jambalaya, Italian bruschetta bar, an easy one-pan ratatouille, and more). Here are 27 of our favorite easy time dinner party recipes.

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1. Cheater’s Skillet Paella

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour
  • Why We Love It: one pan, beginner-friendly, crowd-pleaser
  • Serves: 6

When it comes to dinner parties, we want something that looks like it took all day but really took 30-ish minutes. The secret to this one is that it all cooks together in one pan. (Bonus: You won’t be left with a pile of dirty cookware when all the guests go home.)

2. Italian Bruschetta Bar

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour
  • Why We Love It: special occasion-worthy, crowd-pleaser
  • Serves: 6

This elegant DIY bruschetta bar looks like it came from a fancy caterer. But really, it’s just a matter of buying the right essentials and a little artful arrangement.

3. Cedar Plank Salmon with Blistered Tomatoes

  • Time Commitment: 2 hours, 20 minutes
  • Why We Love It: one pan, high protein, Whole30-approved
  • Serves: 4

Gaby Dalkin’s smoky, citrusy grilled salmon recipe is our go-to for any warm-weather holiday. Serve it with a crisp white wine and never look back.

4. Slow-Cooker Beef Ragu with Pappardelle

  • Time Commitment: 8 hours, 10 minutes
  • Why We Love It: slow-cooker recipe, crowd-pleaser
  • Serves: 10

A slow cooker can be a total dinner-party savior; doing all the heavy lifting earlier in the day means more time to hang out with your guests. This restaurant-worthy dish pairs fork-tender braised beef and al dente pasta. (And don’t forget the dollop of ricotta on top.)

5. Jambalaya

  • Time Commitment: 50 minutes
  • Why We Love It: one pan, crowd-pleaser
  • Serves: 6

Jambalaya is fun, festive and one of our favorite ways to feed a crowd (it’s really just a one-pan rice dish). Crank up the jazz and serve it with a pitcher of daiquiris for a real New Orleans vibe.

6. Easy One-Pan Ratatouille

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour, 30 minutes
  • Why We Love It: vegan, one pan
  • Serves: 4

If a cartoon rodent can make this dish look fancy, so can you. Plus, it’s totally vegan and gluten-free, so it’s a great thing to serve when you’re not totally up on what your guests prefer.

7. Prosciutto and Fig Salad Board

  • Time Commitment: 15 minutes
  • Why We Love It: no cook, ready in <30 minutes, one pan
  • Serves: 4

How to make a salad look impressive? Turns out, all you need to do is serve it on a board instead of in a bowl. This one, full of ripe figs and ribbons of prosciutto, is a first-course knockout.

8. Slow-Cooker Shrimp Boil

  • Time Commitment: 5 hours, 20 minutes
  • Why We Love It: make ahead, crowd pleaser, slow cooker recipe
  • Serves: 6

There’s nothing better for a summer gathering than a good old-fashioned shrimp boil with sausage, corn and plenty of Old Bay seasoning. In this easy dinner party recipe, everything cooks together in a Crock-Pot, so all you need to do when friends arrive is slice up some good crusty bread.

9. Lemon and Herb Roast Chicken

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour, 20 minutes
  • Why We Love It: one pan, special occasion-worthy
  • Serves: 4

Is there anything more inviting than the smell of a chicken roasting? Also, it really couldn’t be easier. Throw some veggies onto the pan or toss a salad and dinner is done.

10. Vegetable Tagine with Fluffy Couscous

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour
  • Why We Love It: vegan, crowd-pleaser
  • Serves: 6

This classic Moroccan dish is usually made in a traditional clay pot with a cone-shaped top that lets out the steam. But a regular skillet will work too. Sub in whatever veggies you have on hand, but don’t skimp on all the warming spices (you’ll never look at cinnamon the same way again).

11. Cheater’s Slow-Cooker Beef Bourguignon

  • Time Commitment: 8 hours, 20 minutes
  • Why We Love It: slow cooker recipe, crowd-pleaser, make ahead
  • Serves: 6

OK, so we know this is not how Julia Child did things. But the slow cooker is actually a great way to get the beef melt-in-your-mouth tender. (Plus, you’ll actually have time to make dessert, and we know she’d approve of that.)

12. Easy Cochinita Pibil

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour, 10 minutes
  • Why We Love It: <10 ingredients, crowd-pleaser
  • Serves: 8 to 10

We love a taco party with friends, especially when the options are a little more exciting than you might make on a random Tuesday. This cochinita pibil—savory, citrusy pork shoulder—definitely fits the bill, and you can whip it up easily in a slow cooker or Instant Pot. We won’t tell if you don’t.

13. 30-Minute One-Pot Cheater’s Bouillabaisse

  • Time Commitment: 30 minutes
  • Why We Love It: crowd-pleaser, ready in <30 minutes, one pot
  • Serves: 6

Bouillabaisse is a notoriously complex dish that can take several hours (and several trips to the fish market). But paring down the ingredients a bit turns it into a totally manageable (and totally delicious) one-pot meal that’s perfect for a dinner party.

14. Pan-Seared Scallops with Citrusy Corn Succotash

  • Time Commitment: 40 minutes
  • Why We Love It: gluten free, high protein
  • Serves: 4

Scallops are fabulous for a last-minute dinner party when you haven’t had time to plan or prep ahead of time. They’re pretty foolproof (really, all you need is a hot pan) and come together in minutes.

15. Grilled Flank Steak with Lemon-Herb Sauce

  • Time Commitment: 2 hours
  • Why We Love It: crowd-pleaser, special occasion-worthy
  • Serves: 6

Sometimes the best way to throw a dinner party is to keep things as simple as possible. Good steaks, a bright herby sauce and plenty of good wine? We promise you’ll have happy guests.

16. Pesto Bolognese Lasagna

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour, 45 minutes
  • Why We Love It: crowd-pleaser, kid-friendly
  • Serves: 8

Lasagna will always be one of our favorite ways to feed a crowd—all the work is done ahead of time, it feeds a million people and everyone loves it. We love this extra-flavorful recipe, which has a hearty meat sauce and pesto-packed ricotta filling.

17. Chicken with Feta Cheese, Dill, Lemon and Harissa Yogurt

  • Time Commitment: 50 minutes
  • Why We Love It: gluten-free
  • Serves: 4

We love all the different tastes and textures in this one-pan meal: crispy chicken thighs, salty feta and a spicy, creamy yogurt sauce drizzled on top. Arrange it all on your most elegant platter and congratulate yourself on a hosting job well done.

18. Healthy Vegetarian Stir Fry

  • Time Commitment: 20 minutes
  • Why We Love It: vegetarian, ready in <30 minutes
  • Serves: 2

This easy number can be enjoyed by everyone at your dinner party—and don't worry, the serving size can be easily manipulated.

19. Savory Tomato Cobbler with Blue Cheese Biscuits

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour, 40 minutes
  • Why We Love It: crowd-pleaser, vegetarian, one pot
  • Serves: 8

Yes, it's meat-free, but it's hearty and seriously delish (aka the perfect dinner party recipe).

20. Vegan Meatballs

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour, 15 minutes
  • Why We Love It: make ahead, vegan, kid-friendly
  • Serves: 3

Toss it over some spaghetti, serve with some crusty garlic bread and your dinner menu is set.

21. Chicken Piccata

  • Time Commitment: 30 minutes
  • Why We Love It: paleo, Whole30-approved
  • Serves: 2

Just like grandma used to make (except with almond flour instead of the regular stuff, making it a great choice for guests following a paleo or Whole30 diet).

22. Loaded Kale Salad

  • Time Commitment: 55 minutes
  • Why We Love It: gluten-free, vegan, Whole30-approved
  • Serves: 4

This healthy side is packed full of flavor and is basically the perfect accompaniment to whatever your dinner party main might be (although we love it with chicken).

23. Chicken Satay with Sunbutter Sauce

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour, 23 minutes
  • Why We Love It: paleo, Whole30-approved, gluten-free
  • Serves: 6

Everything tastes better on a stick, no? These sumptuous skewers are perfect for hors d'oeuvres, and beyond.

24. Thai Salmon Burgers

  • Time Commitment: 35 minutes
  • Why We Love It: gluten-free, paleo, high protein
  • Serves: 4

Light and fresh, these are ideal for a summer night dinner party on the patio.

25. Paleo Thai Broccoli Chicken Curry

  • Time Commitment: 25 minutes
  • Why We Love It: paleo, ready in <30 minutes
  • Serves: 4

Curry sauce, broccoli and chicken are topped with pomegranate seeds and cashews, and served over cauliflower rice—this is sure to add some zing to your dining room table.

26. Hot Pot

  • Time Commitment: prep time depends
  • Why We Love It: crowd-pleaser
  • Serves: any

Hot pot is the greatest and easiest dinner party feast out there, because everyone cooks picks their own adventure with whatever you prep ahead of time.

27. Slow Cooker Crispy Carnitas

  • Time Commitment: 8 hours
  • Why We Love It: slow cooker recipe, one pot, under 500 calories, dairy free, kid-friendly
  • Serves: 10

Juicy, slow-cooked pork shoulder makes an excellent dinner party main. Just serve with a taco bar and you're set. Oh, and don't forget the margaritas.