Relax and enjoy hosting your friends with these casual dinner party menu ideas. With a little planning, you can create a relaxed and easy dinner party for you and your friends.

casual dinner party ideas dishes of food

Why have a casual dinner party?

In our fast-paced world, we all need to intentionally take time to sit down with friends and family to enjoy a slow-paced meal filled with conversation and encouragement. The importance is on spending time with others, so I share a few basic steps and menu ideas to throw a casual dinner party easily to take the stress out of hosting.

Hosting Tips

The goal is to keep your menu simple. Choose a menu that doesn’t require a lot of late prep work or last-minute cooking. It’s a good idea to try and choose recipes that can be made ahead of time and heated up just before guests arrive.

Tips for preparing your dinner party ahead

Keep yourself out of the kitchen when guests arrive with these few simple tips.

  • Cook as many items ahead of time as you can.
  • Wash and chop and slice veggies and fruits the day before. Keep them in an air-tight container with a damp paper towel. This will free up your time just before dinner.
  • Shred any cheese you might need and store in a zip-lock type bad in the fridge.
  • If you are serving baked goods, you can make them a week in advance and freeze them. Just allow them to thaw and slightly warm them before serving.
  • Prepare any sauces or dressings ahead of time. Store in a glass jar with a lid in the refrigerator.
  • Set the table the day before, and get out any serving dishes and utensils you might need.
  • Arrange a drink station or coffee bar the day before.
  • Splurge and prepare your food in disposable pans if possible. This will allow for quick clean-up after the meal so you can spend more time with your guest.

Dinner party decor ideas

Remember this is a casual dinner, so no fuss decorations are expected. Use a disposable table cloth or a simple runner down the center of your table. I have found some beautiful paper place settings that are beautiful but, more importantly, disposable. This will make clean-up a breeze and gives you more time to enjoy with your guest.

Table centerpiece ideas

For your centerpiece, you could pick up a fresh bouquet of flowers from your local grocery store or use clippings from your yard. Combine some green plants with herbs to delight both the sense of seeing and smell. If it’s winter, then purchase some whole lemons. Place them in a bowl and mix in between the lemons some fresh kale leaves.

Just before your guests arrive

  • If it’s dark, remember to turn on your porch and walkway lights.
  • Have a designated area for your guest to hang their coats.
  • Plugin your diffuser or light some scented candles.
  • Turn lights on in all the rooms you will be entertaining in.
  • Turn on some mood music. Try creating a playlist that your guest will enjoy.
  • Do one last check on your food.

When guests arrive

Once your dinner guests arrive, relax and enjoy yourself! This helps everyone else relax and feel welcomed. I like to ask my guest to help bring out the food or prepare their own drinks. This makes them feel at home and relaxed. Most importantly, don’t worry if things don’t go as you planned. Your focus is on a casual dinner with friends, enjoying good conversation, and making memories.

Easy dinner recipes you can make ahead

Remember, the goal is to have a no-fuss casual dinner party focused on good food and great conversations.

Easy Mexican dinner menu

vegan tomato soup

Have a Mexican-themed dinner. Appetizers can be simple chips and Green Tomato Salsa Verde, which you can make the day before. If it’s soup weather, then make a batch of Mexican Vegan Tomato Soup. Heat just before dinner and serve with cheese or crushed tortilla chips and avocado slices. You can make this Nacho Casserole the day before and cook it just before guests arrive.

Easy soup night

vegan white bean chili in a bowl topped with cilantro and lime

It’s always fun to have a soup night. Make in advance several soup choices such as White Bean Chili, Vegetable Chowder, or Copycat Wendy’s Chili Recipe. Serve with warm Vegan Beer Bread or a variety of crackers.

Simple Italian menu

spaghetti on a plate

A simple meal to prepare ahead is a spaghetti dinner. Some of our family favorites are Spaghetti Sauce With Fresh Tomatoes. You can make ahead and then bake just before dinner some Italian Cheesy Pull-Apart Bread. Buy a simple Ceasar salad kit, and you have a whole meal in no time.

Chicken Alfredo Bake | Make-Ahead Meal Mom
Rich, creamy and absolutely delicious, you would never guess this came out of your freezer! Making your own chicken alfredo bake is easier than you think!
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casual dinner party menu idea

Quick and easy menu ideas

Quick and Easy Pulled Pork Chalupas
Quick and easy pulled pork chalupa is a dinner that is ready in under half an hour but tastes like it slow cooked all day long.
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casual dinner party ideas chalupa
Stuffed Pepper Casserole | Simplified One Pot & NO Pre-Cooking!
All the magic of this comforting Stuffed Pepper Casserole happens in one pan, with no pre-cooking! Prep it ahead for a stress-free evening!
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casual dinner party menu idea peppers
Delicious and Quick Chicken Paprikash! – Straight to the Hips, Baby
My Chicken Paprikash shows off the full bodied flavors of smoked paprika and garlic, combined with bell peppers, onions, and savory chicken.
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casual dinner party menu ideas
Easy Oven Baked Meatballs
This recipe for oven baked meatballs is an easy weeknight dinner. The meatballs are made with ground turkey, a combination of spices and a few other basic ingredients. The meatballs are baked in the oven until tender and topped with shredded mozzarella cheese.
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casual dinner party menu ideas meatballs
10-Minute Brie Mac And Cheese
Thise brie mac and cheese brings home restaurant-quality pasta in just 10 minutes! Creamy brie cheese melted into every nook of the pasta!
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Easy Cast Iron Whole Roasted Chicken (Gluten-Free, Paleo)
A simple and easy cast iron whole roasted chicken that’s full of flavor, perfectly moist and tender, and just waiting to be served at the dinner table!
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Easy Homemade Banitsa
Delicious rolled banitsa with phyllo pastry sheets and white cheese. It is a Bulgarian speciality which you can make at home with common ingredients.
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casual dinner party menu ideas dish
Easy Oven Roasted Fall Vegetables, Best Recipes Ever pictures

Be sure and browse through these Easy Oven Roasted Vegetables for more great side dish ideas.

Crockpot party food

Mediterranean Crock-Pot Chicken Taco Bar – Two Healthy Kitchens
Make taco night special with this Mediterranean Crock Pot Chicken Taco Bar recipe! Easy to prep ahead for busy nights! Perfect for parties or game day, too!
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casual dinner party ideas tacos
Easy Slow Cooker Beef Ragu
Flavorful Italian comfort food that only takes 5 minutes to prep? Count me in! This popular Slow Cooker Beef Ragu recipe is easy to make & so scrumptious!
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casual dinner party ideas ragu
Easy Greek Chicken (Instant Pot, Slow Cooker, or Stovetop) – Slender Kitchen
The amazing Greek Chicken with lemon, garlic, and oregano is super tasty, healthy, and versatile. Prepare it in the slow cooker, Instant pot, stove, or grill!
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casual dinner party ideas greek chicken
BEST Crock Pot Pork Chops Recipe – BBQ Slow Cooker Pork Chops
These Crock Pot Pork Chops are the perfect family dinner. Super tender, cooked in BBQ sauce and a special spice rub, then smothered with bacon and cheese!
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casual dinner party ideas crock pot pork

Instant Pot entertaining ideas

INSTANT POT ROAST BEEF ON TRAY

Instant Pot Roast Beef and Lots of Gravy is a quick and easy main dish to cook in your instant pot. Wrap some large potatoes in foil and pop them in the oven an hour before your guest arrives. Serve the roast beef and gravy over the baked potatoes, or if mashed potatoes are more your style, try these Olive Oil Mashed Potatoes. Add roasted veggies or a side salad, and you have a hearty homecooked meal to serve.

Instant Pot Salsa Chicken (Keto Friendly)
Instant Pot Salsa Chicken is a quick and easy keto recipe. Healthy low carb electric pressure cooker recipe with just 5 net grams of carbs.
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casual dinner party ideas dish
Instant Pot Chicken Tortellini Soup
This creamy Instant Pot Tortellini Soup ticks packs in the goodness of chicken, veggies and is super easy to make as well!
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casual party dinner menu ideas instant pot
Instant Pot Olive Garden Low Carb Italian Chicken
Instant Pot Italian Chicken with Olive Garden Dressing is an easy low carb, four ingredient recipe for the pressure cooker. It’s simple, yet delicious.
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casual dinner party menu ideas

Air fryer entertaining ideas

Easy Air Fryer Chicken Fajitas Recipe | Recipes From A Pantry
These Air Fryer Fajitas are full of juicy chicken and perfectly seasoned veggies. Air fryer chicken fajitas are quick and easy to make with pantry staples.
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casual dinner party menu idea
Air Fryer Chicken Wings (Crispy and Golden!) – Nourish Plate
Extra Crispy Air Fryer chicken wings that are perfect for every gathering! They are crunchy from the outside, juicy & flavorful on the inside
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Simple make ahead desserts

Everyone loves cookies, and they are the perfect make-ahead dessert for a casual dinner party. Serve with coffee or a scoop of ice cream.

Coconut Cranberry Vegan Cookies
Coconut Cranberry cookies are a sweet treat filled with chewy cranberries and flaky coconut. They're perfect for dunking with a glass of milk.
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cranberry coconut cookie stacked up with little bits of cranberry showing in the cookies
Soft and Chewy Blackstrap Molasses Cookie Recipe
This old-fashioned holiday favorite, Blackstrap Molasses Cookie recipe makes a soft and chewy cookie that has warm spices such as ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg. With a few simple tips, you will have a soft chewy textured molasses cookie every time.
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Soft and Chewy Blackstrap Molasses Cookies with bowl of molasses
Pistachio Cookies Recipe
This pudding mix Pistachio Cookies Recipe features a soft, chewy cookie, bits of crunchy pistachios, sweet dried cranberries, and a hint of almond. This easy cookie recipe is sure to become a family favorite.
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pistachio cookies with cranberry on top with pistachios in a bowl and also dried cranberries
Little Debbie Oatmeal Cream Pies
Easy to make, soft oatmeal cookie sandwiches filled with a layer of yummy fluffy white frosting will evoke sweet memories of the special snack cake, Little Debbie Oatmeal Cream Pies, your mother tucked into your lunch box.
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Easy to make, soft oatmeal cookie sandwiches filled with a layer of yummy fluffy white frosting will evoke sweet memories of the special snack cake, Little Debbie Oatmeal Cream Pies, your mother tucked into your lunch box.
Peanut Butter Cookies Without Eggs
Serve up thick, soft and chewy peanut butter cookies without egg for a cookie everyone will love. These easy cookies are gluten-free and vegan but packed with sweet peanut butter flavor to please the taste buds!
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peanutbutter cookies without egg on a silver plate, cookbook pages under it
Bacon Pretzel Chocolate Chip Cookies
Bacon Pretzel Chocolate Chip Cookies are a sweet chewy chocolate chip cookie filled with little surprise bites of salty pretzels and bacon.
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A stack of bacon and pretzel cookies with chocolate chips in them next to a bottle of milk
Italian Almond Biscotti
Julia, from Jul's Kitchen, the famous Italian chef, teaches you everything you need to know to make Authentic Italian Almond Biscotti with this recipe. It's a classic Italian biscotti with a hint of citrus and almond flavor in a sweet, crisp cookie-like stick that turns out perfect every time.
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Biscotti on a saucer with coffee

Dinner party drinks

spring mocktails drinks in glasses

40 Spring Mocktails are the perfect fun party drink everyone will enjoy being served at a relaxing dinner party. Choose one of these 40 mocktails for an easy recipe that will delight your guests.

The Pink Masters Azalea Cocktail
The famous Masters Azalea Cocktail recipe combines fruity sweetness with vodka to create a delicious, beautiful pink azalea-colored drink. It’s a favorite spring cocktail that is served all over Augusta during Masters Tournament week
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masters azalea cocktail with cherry and orange wedge sitting next to a masters hat and tickets
Autumn Spiced Mocktail
When sweaters go on then it’s time to make this low-calorie perfectly wonderful Autumn Spiced Mocktail. Low-calorie cranberry juice is simmered with fresh ginger, cloves, cinnamon sticks, fresh-squeezed orange juice, and sliced granny smith apples to create a mocktail that is a sure crowd-pleaser for young and old.
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autumn spiced mocktail in a glass
Apple Cider Mocktail
This Apple Cider Mocktail a has tart apple cider flavor with warm maple sweetness and a surprising zip at the end that’ll make you question its zero-proof claim.
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Apple Cider mocktail in glass with slice of apple and spring of smoking rosemary

More party ideas to try