So many people are afraid to invite friends over, even for a casual dinner party. Do you feel that way?
I want to help you gain confidence to host your friends because there's nothing better than to connect with people you love over a good meal. That's why I decided to turn to the experts -- to share their best dinner party ideas and to add their voices to my own -- encouraging you to just step out and invite someone over.
These ladies know what they're talking about, and you're going to love all of their practical tips, encouragement, and delicious recipes.
I asked 30 of my favorite food bloggers two questions:
- What is your #1 tip for taking the stress out of a casual dinner party?
- What is your most reliable dinner party recipe?
Ready to hear what they have to say?
Dinner Party Idea #1: Relax and Have Fun!
Alyssa | The Recipe Critic
#1 Tip: Be prepared and just have fun, really! Enjoy the moment and not the fluff.
Go-To Recipe: Creamy Tuscan Garlic Chicken
Leslie | Lamberts Lately
#1Tip: Don't get too caught up in the frivolous details. Your guests will never remember what you used to decorate the table; they will remember the wonderful conversation you had around it. Let the night naturally happen instead of trying to "force"
a good time!
Go-To Recipe: Firefighter Chili -- I’m a big fan of making a hearty bowl of comforting soup for guests! Dinner parties don’t always have to mean fine dining.
Jordan | Jordan's Easy Entertaining
#1 Tip: Remember that your guests are there to enjoy your company. Relax and have a good time!
Most Reliable Dinner Party Recipe: Lemon Rosemary Pork Scalloppini
Heather | Slocooking
#1 Tip: Don't stress - it's just a party - it's only food. A party is just a gathering of people that WANT to be there, WANT to enjoy your company, and are really happy to not be cooking the entire meal themselves.
Most Reliable Dinner Party Recipes: Paella and Bacon-Wrapped Dates. Paella is fun to make, a conversation piece, and feeds a lot of people at once, and bacon-wrapped dates are a great appetizer, fast/easy to make, and who doesn't like bacon?!
Dinner Party Idea #2: Use Tried-and-True Recipes
Chelsea | Chelsea's Messy Apron
Most Reliable Dinner Party Recipe: I LOVE sharing this Healthy Italian Salad at a dinner party; it's always a hit!
Heidi | Foodie Crush
#1 Tip: Dinner with friends and family isn't a time to impress, it's a time to connect. That's why my favorite tip for easy entertaining is to make a tried and true, make-ahead recipe you know by heart and you won't mess up and that everyone loves.
That way, you spend more time with your guests visiting and enjoying one another rather than in the kitchen stressing over the food or doing the dishes. And always leave the dishes 'til after your guests have left.
Most Reliable Dinner Party Recipes: Curry Turkey Pot Pie, Homemade Mac and Cheese, and Baked Rigatoni with Sausage and Cheese
Sarah | Sidetracked Sarah
#1 Tip: Keep a list of easy-to-make recipes on hand for times like this. For me, it's about getting together and enjoying both food and company, but I don't want to be slaving away in the kitchen, exhausted before the party even begins. If I have several easy recipes to choose from, then I can pick one or two to go for every time.
Most Reliable Dinner Party Recipe: Slow Cooker Chicken Tacos -- I can throw a huge batch in the slow cooker and get it all shredded ahead of time and just add a toppings bar for everyone. It's really simple to pull together and delicious!"
Courtney | Neighbor Food
#1 Tip: Make at least one recipe that's tried and true, then experiment with the others if you want to.It's always great to know you have an ace-in-the-hole, so if one recipe doesn't quite work out as you imagined, it's no biggie!
Most Reliable Dinner Party Recipe: I absolutely love making soup for dinner parties. Creamy Chicken Sausage Tortellini Soup is easy and fuss-free, but makes the house smell amazing. It's just the coziest of meals, and if you add some good bread and a tossed salad on the side, you've got a complete meal! This is a standby of mine and always a hit.
Amber | Dessert Now Dinner Later
#1 Tip: Use family favorite, tried and true recipes. Hosting a party isn't the best time to try something new.
Kate | Hola Jalapeno
Related: 13 Best Cookbooks for Entertaining
Dinner Party Idea #3: Prep Ahead
Sandy | Reluctant Entertainer
#1 Tip: Do as much as you can ahead of time. Less time in the kitchen means more time with your guests!
Most Reliable Dinner Party Recipes: It depends what time of year. In spring, summer or fall, Grilled Lemon Dill Salmon with asparagus, seasonal salad and fruit crisp with whipped cream. In winter, Marinated Cornish Hens, cauliflower gratin, green beans, and almond flour brownies. A Charcuterie Board is my go-to appetizer. If it's a casual party, then my answer would be an EPIC Charcuterie Board where everyone digs in. Easy dinner!
Catalina | Sweet and Savory Meals
#1 Tip: I always like to choose a dessert I can make the day before, like my Chocolate Baileys Poke Cake and some type of sheet pan or one-pan main dish. I keep the appetizer part easy with cheese, nuts, and a selection of dried nuts.
Most Reliable Dinner Party Recipe: My Cranberry Orange Chicken is always a success, easy to make, and the flavors are amazing. It can be served with rice, a simple salad, mashed potatoes or roasted vegetables."
Sue | The View from Great Island
#1 Tip: Get as much done as possible ahead of time. I know that's a cliché, but it's so essential. And that doesn't just apply to the food -- I even get the dinnerware and serving stuff out the day before. It makes a big difference!
Most Reliable Dinner Party Recipe: Easy Cassoulet
Mel | Mel's Kitchen Cafe
#1 Tip: Plan foods that can be made in advance. It's amazing (and life changing) how many recipes/foods can be made ahead and frozen or refrigerated to thaw and reheat when needed. Getting rid of the "crunch time" cooking is key for making dinner parties fun! And it only takes a bit of preplanning.
Most Reliable Dinner Party Recipe: Cheesecake. Not only is it a showstopper (and will make you look like a rock star), but it actually needs to be made ahead of time to chill and for better flavor which means it's all ready when your guests arrive! My latest favorite cheesecake is Lemon White Chocolate Cheesecake, but this Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecake OR this easy no-bake cheesecake are all crowd pleasers as well.
Urvashi | Two Sleevers
#1 Tip:"Make most of the food 1-2 days in advance so you can just relax. People want to see you and hang out with you. The food needs to be good but not all consuming
Most Reliable Dinner Party Recipe: My Instant Pot Butter Chicken since it can be quadrupled with no problems.
Mauri | American Patriette
#1 Tip: Prep ahead and make sure that not all your dishes (i.e. the main dish, side, salad, etc.) require an intricate recipe. Maybe one or two, but don't choose hard-to-prep recipes for every single item! Prep some dishes ahead of time, chop some of the vegetables, and set out packages you'll need for the other recipes (like the pasta box, the jar of olives, etc.).
Most Reliable Dinner Party Recipe: Easy Crockpot Cream Chicken Tacos. They are so easy to prep, absolutely delicous, and they're great for a potluck because you can assign the complementary items to your guests: pico degallo, salsa, guacamole, cilantro rice, tortillas, etc.
Gina Marie | Intentional Hospitality
#1 Tip: Prep the day before. I try and get everything cooked or at least prepped so it can quickly be cooked just before the dinner party. I also find it helpful as I do this to keep a running to-do list just for the party.
Most Reliable Dinner Party Recipe: Cincinnati Chili is one of our family’s favorite comfort foods. It's sorta like chili on top of spaghetti with fun toppings to customize each person's taste. It’s always a fun meal to serve to guests because it's so unusual and oh, so delicious.
Ashley | Sweet Pea Lifestyle
#1 Tip: Plan Ahead. I like creating a Game Plan on one sheet of paper -- that way, everything I need to know (menu, shopping list, guest list, decor ideas, timeline, etc.) is all on the SAME PAGE. I like to tape it up on my wall, right above where I chop and drop at the stovetop. Not only can I see it clearly, I won't lose it -- and I can keep up with what I need to do next!
Most Reliable Dinner Party Recipes: White Bean Chicken Chili and Italian Zucchini Bake
Carolann | Apron Warrior
#1 Tip: When planning a dinner party, select a few recipes you can make a day or two ahead of time. Also look at dishes you can half-prepare the night before and quickly throw in the oven an hour or so before guests arrive. The less you have to do on the actual day of the dinner, the less stressed you’ll be and the more fun you’ll have.
Most Reliable Dinner Party Recipe: Spicy Scalloped Yams
Stacy | The Hurried Hostess
#1 Tip: Prepare as much as you can ahead of time. Set the table the morning before, prepare a menu that can have a few elements made the night before, and ask guests to bring specific items. When you have most of the work done ahead of time, you're going to be able to relax and enjoy yourself a little more.
Most Reliable Dinner Party Recipe: Mexican Street Corn Pasta Salad. It’s a perfect recipe that you can make ahead, and it pairs really well with BBQ or can be enjoyed as a main dish during those warm summer months.
Eden | Sugar and Charm
#1 Tip: Do everything you can the day before, whether that’s preparing a cocktail, prepping all food, cooking anything you can before, shopping, setting the table, etc. Do it all the day before so you can relax the day of and have a great time with your guests! This is imperative for taking the stress out of hosting and having energy the day your friends come over.
Most Reliable Dinner Party Recipe: I honestly really love a good charcuterie board that’s filled with the best cheese, meats, olives, honey, vegetables, dips and nuts. Also, anything that’s super quick to cook like salmon skewers and a salad. Easy and delicious!
Becca | Amuse Your Bouche
#1 Tip: Prepare as much as you can in advance. You don't want to have to spend half an hour stirring risotto in the kitchen while your guests are chatting in the living room, so make something that you can prepare in advance and just stick in the oven when your guests arrive.
Most Reliable Dinner Party Recipe: I love doing something that guests can dish up themselves - it makes it much easier to accommodate different food preferences and dietary requirements. Mexican food works really well, as you can have toppings like cheese, sour cream, guacamole, etc. on the table, and guests can help themselves. That way everyone gets the exact combination they like, and everyone's happy!
Whitney | Come Home for Comfort
#1 Tip: Start working on the food at least 2 days ahead of the party. Even casual dinner parties take work -- and the best way to make it look effortless is to spread the prep, set-up and cooking over as many days as possible.
Most Reliable Dinner Party Recipe: Garlic Green Beans. They are pretty, so easy, and a simple way to elevate a vegetable that most people like.
Related: The Beginner's Guide to Planning a Casual Dinner Party Menu
Unique Dinner Party Tips and Ideas
Mandy | South Your Mouth
#1 Tip: My favorite way to entertain is to put out a big spread of munchies for grazing then make one big pot of something to have on the stove (chili, chicken bog, chowder, etc).
I just set out a stack of bowls, a bunch of spoons, maybe rolls or cornbread, a bottle of hot sauce (or other applicable condiments) and call ‘er done. I love this method better than having an official “supper time”. I don’t have to miss any of the party action because I’ve already done my cooking. I can wash my hands, pour myself a cold one and unwind with my company.
I also like this because people can eat when they want. Sometimes social gatherings can get too stuffy if everyone’s on a schedule. If you’re hungry, go get you a bowl. If not, it’ll still be there when you’re ready!
Most Reliable Dinner Party Recipe: Shrimp & Sausage Bean Gumbo
Polly | Thriving Home
#1 Tip: Use a slow cooker recipe! I love to be hands-free when people show up, the house smells amazing, and a good slow cooker recipe is affordable, feeds a lot of people, and makes an easy cleanup.
Most Reliable Dinner Party Recipes: Shredded BBQ Beef Sandwiches and our Killer Carnitas (from our cookbook, From Freezer to Table)
Janell | Saving You Dinero
#1 Tip: Just worry about the main item and have your guests bring the side items and paper products so there's less mess to clean up.
Most Reliable Dinner Party Recipe: Chicken Parmesan is my go-to meal, but sometimes I like to do Mexican night and make stuff like Chicken Tinga or Tacos al Pastor."
Michelle | Mangia Michelle
#1 Tip: I always get several store bought apps and fresh mozzarella. People love it! Then I get assorted things like hot roasted peppers, olives, artichokes, etc. and some assorted cheeses and charcuterie for a board. It looks pretty and is easy to assemble. Getting store-bought apps helps make entertaining a little more manageable.
Most Reliable Dinner Party Recipes: White Lasagna seems to be a crowd pleaser, plus I can make it ahead of time and pop it in the oven before the party. My White Bean Dip also seems to be a hit with my friends. I serve it with toasted bread or crudités. It’s usually the one app I make, and then I get the store bought things.
Sue | Welcome Heart
#1 Tip: Make it a buffet. Food on kitchen island. Chairs scattered in groups. If people offer to bring something, ask, "What would you like to bring?" Then say, "That would be lovely!"
Most Reliable Dinner Party Recipe: Chicken Caesar Pasta with Sun-dried Tomatoes
Melissa | Best Friends for Frosting
#1 Tip: After styling numerous dessert tables, I have come to terms with myself that I can’t do it all, all the time. I’ll usually make two or three things from scratch and designate the other tasks to either a bakery or friend or even buy cupcakes from the grocery store and add my own twist.
Most Reliable Dinner Party Recipe: Corn Elotes
Meggan | Culinary Hill
The Best Dinner Party Ideas
When it comes to inviting people over, it pays to listen to the experts: hosting a casual dinner party doesn't have to be stressful. If you use the tips, ideas, and recipes from these food bloggers, not only will you throw an awesome dinner party, but you'll enjoy it, too.
Download a Dinner Party Checklist below to take the stress out of your next get-together!
Love entertaining? Here are more posts you may like:
13 Charcuterie Boards for Easy Entertaining
The Beginner's Guide to Planning a Dinner Party Menu
Really amazing. Most of the recipes look fantastic. Sometimes makes me want to have the dinner parties like we used to do. Then we would play games and almost get run out of a apartment because of m loud mouth. Oh what fun.
Ha -- that sounds like fun! You should do it!
Jean | DelightfulRepast.com
Sandi, what a fun post! I've been slacking off on the entertaining lately, and this has inspired me to get cracking! I used to have dinner parties about 3 times a month on average.
It's easy to get busy with life, isn't it? If you do start back up again, come back and let me know!
I always have extra people in my house. They just show up. We are pretty relaxed here. I'm definitely going to try some of these recipes. I just got an Instant Pot so that will be what I concentrate on for a bit. Fun blog. Thanks.
Ps. Your sister is my boss. 😊 She's awesome
I love that, Sandy! I feel like the vibe of where you live is very casual and laid-back -- it's one thing I love about visiting there. Thanks so much for stopping by (and I think my sister's pretty awesome, too)!
SANDI, these recipes look great! It’s awesome to see so many delicious recipes in one place.