34 Easy Dinner Party Recipes for Stress-Free Entertaining

Be the host with the most

easy dinner party recipes: beef bourguignon
Photo: Liz Andrew/Styling: Erin McDowell

I love hosting my friends and family for dinner parties—truly, there’s nothing better than seeing my loved ones gathered around a table full of food. But I 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 push to get everything done when I’d really rather be hanging out with my guests. But over the years, I’ve finessed my hosting technique. The secret to 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—that sort of thing). Here are 34 easy dinner party recipes to try for yourself.

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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 all want something that looks like it took all day but really took 30-ish minutes. To streamline the process, this one features fewer types of seafood than the original, but doesn’t skimp on flavor. (Bonus: Because it’s made in one pan, 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—like cornichons, marinated artichoke hearts, pesto and charcuterie—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
  • Serves: 4

Gaby Dalkin’s smoky, citrusy grilled salmon with jammy cherry tomatoes will become an instant go-to for any warm-weather holiday. Serve it with a crisp white wine and a simple green salad, 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 a fun and festive way to feed a crowd (it’s really just a one-pan rice dish packed with shrimp and smoky sausage). 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. With summer squash, tomatoes and eggplant, 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. Add pasta, rice or quinoa to complete the spread.

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? As it 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 Crockpot, so all you need to do when friends arrive is slice up some 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? It’s one of my back-pocket tricks for feeling like the hostess with the mostest. While it looks impressive, it really couldn’t be easier to make—you can thank the herbs and lemon for that. 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 tagine, a traditional clay pot with a cone-shaped top that lets out the steam. But a regular skillet will work in a pinch. 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, I 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 a side of mashed potatoes and 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

What’s more fun than a build-you-own-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 fix it up easily in a slow cooker or Instant Pot. I 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

In my humble opinion, 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 (all you need is a hot pan) and come together in minutes. These are served alongside a citrusy mix of summer vegetables, but you could swap in rice or another grain if you’d like.

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? You’ll have happy guests, trust me. The meat is marinated in Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, garlic, chile powder and herbs for the most flavor possible.

16. Pesto Bolognese Lasagna

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

Lasagna will always be an entertaining crowd-pleaser—all the work is done ahead of time, it feeds a million people and everyone loves it. This extra-flavorful version is a twist on the classic, and it has a hearty meat sauce and pesto-packed ricotta filling instead of the usual tomato.

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

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

This one-pan meal features all the different tastes and textures: crispy chicken thighs, salty feta and a spicy, creamy yogurt sauce drizzled on top. Arrange it 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

Behold, a nutritious number that can be enjoyed by everyone at your dinner party—and don’t worry, the serving size can be scaled up for a crowd with ease. Honey-ginger glazed carrots, pineapple, crispy cabbage and snow peas keep it interesting.

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 also hearty and seriously delish. Homemade cheesy biscuits tend to have that effect. (If you, like me, aren’t the biggest fan of blue cheese, try swapping in cheddar or goat cheese instead.)

20. Vegan Meatballs

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

You can’t please everyone all the time, but you can please your vegan friends with these meatballs. They’re made with quinoa and black beans for a tender texture and lots of protein. Toss them over some spaghetti, serve up some crusty garlic bread and your dinner menu is set.

21. Chicken Piccata

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

It’s 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). The capers and lemons make the entire dish bright and briny.

22. Loaded Kale Salad

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

This healthy side is packed full of flavor from beets, avocado and a tahini maple dressing, and is the ideal accompaniment to whatever your dinner party main might be (although personally, I think it would pair great with chicken).

23. Chicken Satay with Sunbutter Sauce

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

Everything tastes better on a stick, no? These sumptuous skewers are a nut-free take on Thai-style chicken satay. They’re spicy, nutty and perfect for hors d’oeuvres or as a light entree.

24. Thai Salmon Burgers

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

Light and fresh, these salmon burgers are ideal for a summer night dinner party on the patio. Lemongrass, chiles and cilantro ensure the patties are packed with flavor, but if you don’t like spicy food, just omit the peppers.

25. Spicy Bucatini Amatriciana

  • Time Commitment: 40 minutes
  • Why We Love It: special occasion–worthy, crowd-pleaser
  • Serves: 6

When I make tomato-based pastas, I like to add a little bit of spice, and this Italian amatriciana sauce is particularly delicious because it’s made with a small amount of cured pork. It gives the sauce enough richness that can stand up to that burst of heat. Guanciale is traditional, but it’s hard to find stateside—I’ve used pancetta with success instead.

26. Hot Pot

  • Time Commitment: 15 minutes
  • Why We Love It: crowd-pleaser, special occasion–worthy
  • Serves: 4

Hot pot might be the greats (and easiest) dinner party feast out there, because everyone picks and cooks their own adventure with the ingredients you prep ahead of time. Try including multiple meats, seafoods and vegetables (like ribeye, shrimp, broccoli and mushrooms) for variety, and don’t sleep on frozen dumplings for a twist.

27. Slow Cooker Crispy Carnitas

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

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

28. BLT Galette

  • Time Commitment: 3 hours, 30 minutes (includes chilling time)
  • Why We Love It: crowd-pleaser, special occasion–worthy
  • Serves: 8

I know it’s really tempting to use store-bought pie dough, but I promise the ounce of extra effort it takes to make your own is worth it. You’ll be rewarded with an ultra-buttery, flaky crust that will impress your guests to next year (or at least the next dinner party). The tomatoes don’t even have to be in season because the oven will concentrate their flavor.

29. Lamb Chops With Buckwheat and Black Pepper Strawberries

  • Time Commitment: 35 minutes
  • Why We Love It: special occasion–worthy, high protein, gluten free
  • Serves: 4

I thought fruit and meat sounded like an odd pairing, but the berries are just tart enough to pair beautifully with lamb, and the black pepper keeps this dish on the savory spectrum. It doesn’t hurt that the whole thing calls for just seven ingredients.

30. Sheet Pan Roast Chicken with Potatoes, Radishes and Olives

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour
  • Why We Love It: sheet pan recipe, crowd-pleaser, special occasion–worthy
  • Serves: 4 to 6

Can I let you in on a secret? Spatchcocking your chicken—basically, removing the backbone and flattening it—will yield evenly cooked results in far less time than if you roasted it like usual. I like to pair it with peppery radishes and creamy roasted potatoes, but any vegetable will work.

31. Slow Cooker Bolognese

  • Time Commitment: 6 hours, 45 minutes
  • Why We Love It: slow cooker recipe, make ahead, crowd-pleaser
  • Serves: 8 servings

Who knew your slow cooker could make such an elegant main course? When I’ve made this sauce in the past, I’ve been able to freeze a quart of it for later, so it can easily serve at least eight people. Use a long, flat pasta (like pappardelle) so the noodles can get coated in the sauce.

32. Crispy Cast-Iron Skillet Pizza with Fennel, Sausage and Garlic

  • Time Commitment: 30 minutes
  • Why We Love It: <30 minutes, one pan
  • Serves: 4

Store-bought pizza dough and a cast iron skillet are the keys to making a homemade pizza party entirely stress-free. My favorite topping combination is sausage and fennel because their flavors are complementary, but you could put anything on this pie and it would be good. (Just make sure you cook any vegetables beforehand so they don’t make the crust soggy.)

33. Skillet Steak with Asparagus and Potatoes

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour
  • Why We Love It: special occasion–worthy, beginner-friendly, one pan
  • Serves: 2

This recipe serves two, but if you have a larger skillet, you could add another steak and double the vegetables to serve four. In my experience, the easiest way to ensure your steak is perfectly cooked is to use a meat thermometer and check it before your timer goes off.

34. Charcuterie Board with Black Pepper–Honey Brie, Figs and Rosemary

  • Time Commitment: 15 minutes
  • Why We Love It: beginner-friendly, crowd-pleaser
  • Serves: 4 to 6

Take it from me: A cheese board can totally count as an entree if you make it big enough. And what better way to take the pressure off entertaining than to indulge in a gorgeous spread? You can follow this recipe to a T or just use the suggested cheese selection as a jumping off point. If you can’t find fresh figs, use another seasonal fruit.


Senior Food Editor

Katherine Gillen is PureWow’s senior food editor. She’s a writer, recipe developer and food stylist with a degree in culinary arts and professional experience in New York City...

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