61 Low-Maintenance Summer Dinner Party Ideas

summer dinner party ideas: strawberries and cream
Joann Pai/A Table

When it’s hot outside, we face a classic dilemma: entertaining a crowd with ease. Lugging around three bags of groceries and turning out a five-course feast in 90-degree heat? Not gonna happen. So when you’re in the mood to entertain but really don’t feel like cooking for hours, try one of these 61 effortless summer dinner party ideas—from easy appetizers to impressive desserts—that taste (and look) spectacular.

summer dinner party ideas: mini key lime pies
Katherine Gillen

1. Mini Key Lime Pies

Silky, sweet, tart and crunchy in every bite—bring out the muffin tin.

summer dinner party ideas: : lamb chops with buckwheat and black pepper strawberries
EE Berger/Pulp

2. Lamb Chops With Buckwheat and Black Pepper Strawberries

A seven-ingredient entrée that comes together in a single skillet? Be still our heart. This one features strawberries for a pop of seasonal sweetness.

summer dinner party ideas: bitter greens salad with herby ranch dressing
Photo: Christine Han/Styling: Katherine Gillen

3. Bitter Greens Salad with Herby Ranch Dressing

Homemade dressing sounds like a drag, but this entire salad takes just 15 minutes to toss together. Skip the bottled; your guests will thank you.

summer dinner party ideas: grilled melon with tahini, chili oil and sesame seeds
EE Berger/Pulp

4. Grilled Melon With Tahini, Chili Oil and Sesame Seeds

We’re suckers for grilled fruit, but we’ve never seen it like this. The tahini adds creaminess and a subtle nutty, savory flavor that would pair great with grilled fish.

summer dinner party ideas: all-year-round tomato and mozzarella salad

5. All-Year-Round Tomato and Mozzarella Salad

A little olive oil, salt and heat can do wonders for out-of-season produce, but if you’re making this dish in late summer with ripe tomatoes, it will taste *that* much better.

summer dinner party ideas: baked cheese with hot honey

6. Baked Cheese with Hot Honey

New party trick: Warm an entire wheel of cheese until it’s gooey, then smother it in spicy honey and set out crackers for dipping. The crowd will go wild.

summer dinner party ideas: seared scallops with citrus-shallot salad
Katherine Gillen

7. Seared Scallops with Citrus-Shallot Salad

This refreshing dish looks fancy but is secretly so simple. Scallops are sneaky like that.

summer dinner party ideas: easiest ever blueberry biscuit cobbler
Katherine Gillen

8. Easiest-Ever Blueberry Biscuit Cobbler

This bubbling berry skillet is best served with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream. (Go ahead, use store-bought biscuit dough if you must.)

summer dinner party ideas: strawberry galette with whipped cream
Robert Bredvad/The Secret Ingredient Cookbook

9. Strawberry Galette with Whipped Cream

The secret ingredient that takes this freeform pie over the top? Balsamic vinegar, which adds a subtle tang and brings out the sweetness of the berries.

summer dinner party ideas: caesar pasta salad
Robert Bredvad/The Secret Ingredient Cookbook

10. Caesar Pasta Salad

Lettuce, pasta, crispy croutons: It turns out your salad can have it all.

summer dinner party ideas: sheet pan gnocchi with sausage, peppers and onions
Katherine Gillen

11. Sheet Pan Gnocchi with Sausage, Peppers and Onions

Well, isn’t this a delicious (and effortless) excuse to not do dishes. It’s inspired by one of our favorite lazy summer meals, sausage and peppers.

summer dinner party ideas: strawberries and cream
Joann Pai/À Table

12. Strawberries and Crème

The definition of elegant? Pairing fresh fruit with whipped cream. (Psst: It’s no cook and ready in 15 minutes.)

summer dinner party ideas: green beans with garlicky pistachio vinaigrette
Taylor Peden and Jen Munk/Cook This Book

13. Green Beans with Garlicky Pistachio Vinaigrette

These beans are served cold instead of hot—refreshing in every sense of the word. Blanching them will ensure the texture and color are just right.

summer dinner party ideas: tomato and yellow zucchini risotto
Lizzie Mayson/The Italian Deli Cookbook

14. Tomato and Yellow Zucchini Risotto

The best way to use up all that fresh seasonal produce is to put it into this creamy, dreamy, secretly vegan risotto.

summer dinner party ideas: bruschette with mixed heritage tomatoes and burrata
Lizzie Mayson/The Italian Deli Cookbook

15. Bruschette with Heritage Tomatoes and Burrata

For the best results, use the freshest heirloom tomatoes you can get your hands on. (But with all that burrata, you can’t really mess it up.)

summer dinner party ideas: roasted salmon tacos
Michelle K. Min/Spicebox Kitchen

16. Roasted Salmon Tacos

Wait ’til you try the grilled pineapple salsa and cashew lime crema. You’ll never go back to a store-bought seasoning packet.

summer dinner party ideas: pimento cheese
Jerrelle Guy/Rodney Scott's World of BBQ

17. Rodney Scott’s Pimento Cheese

It’s spicy, creamy and cheesy—the ultimate party dip. Serve it with celery, carrots, crackers or chips. You can’t go wrong.

summer dinner party ideas: roasted radishes with butter
Joann Pai/À Table

18. Roasted Radishes with Butter

This riff on the classic French pairing of radishes and butter takes just 25 minutes and fewer than five ingredients.

summer dinner party ideas: no-churn mint chocolate chip ice cream
Photo: Mark Weinberg/Styling: Erin McDowell

19. No-Churn Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

If you can make whipped cream, then you can make this dessert, which is just as creamy as buying a pint at the store (except better, because it tastes like fresh mint).

summer dinner party ideas: five-minute bean salad
Heidi Swanson/Super Natural Simple

20. 5-Minute Bean Salad

It starts with canned white beans for ultimate ease. Add a few fresh herbs and some lemon zest to work total magic.

summer dinner party ideas: weeknight skillet paella
Photo: Liz Andrew/Styling: Erin McDowell

21. Weeknight Skillet Paella

We never knew it was possible to make paella in one hour. The trick is to let your oven do most of the hard work.

summer dinner party ideas: skillet pizza
Photo: Liz Andrew/Styling: Erin McDowell

22. Mini Skillet Pizzas

The surface of your cast iron skillet gets extremely hot, which is the secret to the crispy, pizzeria-style crust.

summer dinner party ideas: one-ingredient watermelon sorbet
Photo: Liz Andrew/Styling: Erin McDowell

23. One-Ingredient Watermelon Sorbet

Freeze, puree, freeze, eat. How easy is that? (Psst: Not sure how to break down a watermelon? Use our guide.)

summer dinner party ideas: melon caprese skewers
What's Gaby Cooking?

24. Melon Caprese Skewers

Aren’t these skewers the cutest? Your guests will go wild for the combination of sweet and savory.

summer dinner party ideas: skillet nachos
Photo: Liz Andrew/Styling: Erin Mcdowell

25. Skillet Nacho Dip

They’re ready in half an hour and devoured in seconds. No complaints here, since we can practically make them with our eyes closed.

summer dinner party ideas: broiler s'mores
Photo: Liz Andrew/Styling: Erin McDowell

26. Broiler S’mores

The ’mallows will be toasty and the chocolate melted just enough—without all the fuss of setting up a campfire.

summer dinner party ideas: skillet pasta with squash, ricotta and basil
Photo: Liz Andrew/Styling: Erin McDowell

27. Skillet Pasta with Summer Squash

This one-pan meal is ready in half an hour, plus it will use up some of your overflowing zucchini crop.

summer dinner party ideas: cheaters skillet lasagna with corn and zucchini
Photo: Liz Andrew/Styling: Erin McDowell

28. Skillet Lasagna with Corn and Cherry Tomatoes

Corn and cherry tomatoes have the same cheesy, carb-y taste you crave, minus the hours of assembly time.

summer dinner party ideas: summertime rosé tequila sangria
Half Baked Harvest

29. Summertime Rosé Tequila Sangria

Tequila in sangria? We’ll start chilling the glasses. Using rosé instead of red wine keeps things light for hot nights on the patio.

summer dinner party ideas: skillet peach cobbler
Photo: Liz Andrew/Styling: Erin McDowell

30. Skillet Peach Cobbler

This is everything a cobbler should be: Simple, cinnamon-y and jam-packed with fruit. Be still our summer-loving hearts.

summer dinner party ideas: avocado watermelon salad
This Mess is Ours

31. Avocado Avenger Salad

Let’s face it: Everyone’s just eating around the lettuce to get to the avocado anyway.

summer dinner party ideas: key lime pie
Lomelino's Pies: A Sweet Celebration of Pies, Galettes, and Tarts

32. Key Lime Pie

This pie combines white chocolate and coconut with tart lime juice, transporting you to the tropics in just one bite.

summer dinner party ideas: greek lemon chicken skewers
Photo: Liz Andrew/Styling: Erin Mcdowell

33. Greek Lemon Chicken Skewers with Tzatziki Sauce

Just throw ’em on the grill and set the table. The Mediterranean flavors pair perfectly with white wine, a salad and warm pita.

summer dinner party ideas: blackberry jam pie crust straws
Photo: Matt Dutile/Styling: Erin McDowell

34. Blackberry Jam Pie Crust Straws

You’ll use store-bought jam and frozen puff pastry. It’s giving “pie for lazy-but-elegant people.” Swoon.

summer dinner party ideas: corn and tomato salad with feta and lime
Photo: Tyler Mauk/Styling: Anne Mauk

35. Corn, Feta and Tomato Salad

We paired two of our favorite in-season vegetables into one summery side dish that’s delicious enough on its own, but also an excellent condiment for tacos or grilled meat.

summer dinner party ideas: avocado lime cheesecake
Photo: Liz Andrew/Styling: Erin McDowell

36. No-Bake Avocado Lime Cheesecake

It’s creamy, rich and doesn’t need an oven. Need we say more?

summer dinner party ideas: greek wedge salad
Photo: Liz Andrew/Styling: Erin McDowell

37. Greek Wedge Salad

The classic dish is wonderfully simple, but tomatoes, feta and a lightened-up dressing give it a summery update. (See ya later, blue cheese.)

summer dinner party ideas: asparagus, pea and ricotta tarts
Photo: Liz Andrew/Styling: Erin McDowell

38. Asparagus, Pea and Ricotta Tarts

Puff pastry always makes dinner look so fancy. Feel free to swap out the vegetables for something summery, like squash or peppers.

summer dinner party ideas: panzanella salad
Tara Donne/Cooking Solo

39. Panzanella Salad

A light yet satisfying side that won’t take all day to make. The recipe serves one, so scale it up for a crowd.

summer dinner party ideas: mini strawberry-vanilla galettes
Katherine Gillen

40. Cheater’s Mini Strawberry-Vanilla Galettes

Remember what we said about puff pastry? It works for dessert too. Pair these cuties with ice cream, whipped cream or even a drizzle of cold heavy cream.

summer dinner party ideas: pasta alla norma
Photo: Liz Andrew/Styling: Erin McDowell

41. Pasta alla Norma with Eggplant, Basil and Pecorino

Pasta is always a good idea, and this vegetable-forward one is ready in an hour.

summer dinner party ideas: caprese salad skewers
Photo: Liz Andrew/Styling: Erin McDowell

42. Grilled Caprese Skewers with Halloumi and Sourdough

You had us at halloumi. Mark our words, it’s the new burrata.

summer dinner party ideas: summer corn and heirloom salad
Sassy Kitchen

43. Summer Corn and Heirloom Salad

We wish all of our meals looked this colorful and tasted this fresh. Use gluten-free bread or sourdough depending on your preferences.

summer dinner party ideas: white sangria
Photo: Liz Andrew/Styling: Erin McDowell

44. White Sangria Recipe with Peaches and Berries

Sure, it’s extremely sippable, but as an added bonus, this concoction is also totally white-jeans-friendly.

summer dinner party ideas: 20-minute burrata salad with stone fruit and asparagus
Photo: Jon Cospito/Styling: Health Goldman

45. 20-Minute Burrata Salad with Stone Fruit

This dish is practically no-cook, feeds a crowd and won’t wilt in a hurry. What more could you ask for on a summer night?

summer dinner party ideas: white sangria ice pops
Photo: Liz Andrew/Styling: Erin McDowell

46. White Sangria Ice Pops

Your dinner party guests will go bananas over these boozy pops. Mix things up by adding different types of fresh fruit.

summer dinner party ideas: caprese corn fritter salad with peaches and tomatoes
Photo: Mark Weinberg/Styling: Erin McDowell

47. Corn Fritter Caprese with Peaches and Tomatoes

It’s fancy enough that it will elicit oohs and ahhs (but simple enough to make). Make sure your peaches and tomatoes are pristine, since they’re kind of the star flavors here.

summer dinner party ideas: mini strawberry ice cream pies
Photo: Mark Weinberg/Styling: Erin McDowell

48. Mini Strawberry Ice Cream Pies

All you have to do is roast strawberries, crush graham crackers and scoop ice cream. (Can’t all desserts be this easy to make?)

summer dinner party ideas: creamy chicken corn skillet
Photo: Liz Andrew/Styling: Erin McDowell

49. Creamy Chicken, Corn and Tomato Skillet

A handful of ingredients and just three simple steps are all it takes to make this 30-minute crowd-pleaser.

summer dinner party ideas: blistered green bean and tomato salad with walnuts
Abra Berens/Chronicle Books

50. Blistered Green Bean and Veggie Skillet

You eat veggies every day, sure, but these go beyond the usual roasted ones. Charring them slightly adds a ton of flavor, so don’t skip that step.

summer dinner party ideas: zucchini and tomato ragu
Helen Cathcart/Tuscany

51. Zucchini & Tomato Ragù

It’s ratatouilles chic Italian cousin, and it’s good on everything from pasta to toast.

summer dinner party ideas: berry galette
Photo: Liz Andrew/Styling: Erin McDowell

52. Berry Galette

A galette is basically a free-form pie. It’s easy to assemble, and the crust doesn’t have to be perfect—our ideal.

summer dinner party ideas: sweet corn pappardelle
Jeanine Donofrio/Love and Lemons Every Day

53. Creamy Sweet Corn Pappardelle

This delightful dish just so happens to be vegan. The sweet, juicy corn kernels paired with the ‘milk’ from the cobs become a perfect cream sauce without using actual cream.

summer dinner party ideas: shrimp and pasta stew
Photo: Liz Andrew/Styling: Erin McDowell

54. Shrimp and Pasta Stew

Making stew doesn’t have to mean spending hours in a hot kitchen. This one is ready in around 30 minutes.

summer dinner party ideas: fajitas
Carlsbad Cravings

55. Skillet Chicken Fajitas

After marinading, these babies are ready in about 15 minutes. Just add the tortillas and extra guac.

summer dinner party ideas: watermelon feta salad with honey lime dressing
Yumna Jawad/Feel Good Foodie

56. Watermelon Cucumber Salad with Feta and Honey-Lime Dressing

It’s juicy, sweet, tangy and ready in five minutes. Store-bought fruit salad, see ya never.

summer dinner party ideas: marinated white bean and tomato salad
Chelsea Kyle/For the Table

57. Marinated White Bean and Tomato Salad

The new summertime motto: less time cooking, more time eating this seven-ingredient stunner in the backyard.

summer dinner party ideas: bacon jalapeno smash burgers
Mark Weinberg/I Dream of Dinner

58. Bacon Jalapeño Smashburgers

Burgers are a dime a dozen, but these are made with chicken, ready in 25 minutes and don’t need a grill.

summer dinner party ideas: lemongrass ginger coconut grilled steak
Chelsea Kyle/For the Table

59. Lemongrass-Ginger Coconut Grilled Steak

Once it’s marinated, this savory, umami steak takes ten minutes to cook. How’s that for effortless entertaining?

summer dinner party ideas: tomato peach caprese skewers
Katherine Gillen

60. Tomato-Peach Caprese Skewers

It doesn’t get simpler than a no-cook finger food that feeds a crowd. If appetizers seem like too much work, this one has your back.

summer dinner party ideas: za'atar grilled eggplant and zucchini
Chelsea Kyle/For the Table

61. Za’atar Grilled Eggplant and Zucchini

Pair this spiced side dish with a yogurt, tahini or herb sauce for maximum effect.

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 restaurants. She used to sling sugary desserts in a pastry kitchen, but now she’s an avid home cook and fanatic baker.