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29 Casual Dinner Party Menu Ideas

Do you want to throw a party but need casual dinner party menu ideas? Pick a few of your favorite foods from the list below and tell your pals to come as they are.

Hosting a dinner party is a great way to get your friends and family members together for great food and fun conversation. You might consider having a formal dinner party, but a more casual one provides a much more relaxed atmosphere. Plus it’s fun to come up with casual themes.

friends sitting around a table enjoying a casual dinner party

Themed Casual Dinner Parties

One way to have a casual get-together is to come up with a party theme. In fact, this is probably my favorite thing to do because people know what to expect. It also gives you the framework to get creative with menu ideas.

There are a couple of ways that I like to serve guests at a casual dinner party. My favorite is buffet style. But if everyone is sitting around the same table, family style, with everyone passes the serving dishes, is good too.

buffet table with a variety of food

I’ve included a list of foods that go with each theme, along with some recipe ideas for your next dinner party. This is the perfect way to bring people you care about together without adding too much stress. Don’t forget to offer at least a couple of drink options. For a special occasion, you might want to set out several pitchers of drinks. Or for game day, canned drinks in a cooler add to the casual ambience. 

You might want to set out something fun for folks to munch on, such as these crunchy ranch chickpeas or this delicious traditional party mix.

Backyard Cookout Menu Ideas

casual dinner party menu idea of grilled burgers

One of the most casual types of dinner parties we enjoy is a cookout in the backyard. You have all of the conveniences of home, and you’re able to decorate as you see fit. Whether you cook hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken, or steaks, cooking and dining outdoors is a fun way to celebrate almost anything!

It’s fun to string lights around the area for ambient lighting. Also set up some games like cornhole, horseshoes, croquet, and anything else you enjoy. Although I enjoy providing most of the food, it’s not a bad idea to ask guests to bring something to share. You’ll have a bigger variety and perhaps even some interesting conversation starters around the food. Fill in with several varieties of chips and dip, and no one will go away hungry.

Here are some menu ideas:

1. Barbecued Chicken

plate of barbecue chicken

This recipe shows how to cook chicken in your air fryer. However, if you prefer, you can do the same thing on an outdoor grill. Just keep in mind that it takes longer, but that’s okay as long as you have some savory treats for guests to munch on while they’re waiting. You can also save some time by starting them in your air fryer and put them on the grill before you add the sauce. 

2. Grilled Pork Ribs

These ribs from The Country Cook are delicious and fall-off-the-bone tender. She shows step-by-step instructions on how to get great results every single time.

3. Barbecue Sauce

spooning barbecue sauce over a bowl

You’ll need some barbecue sauce for those ribs … or chicken if you prefer. Although I’ve found several bottled barbecue sauces that we like, we always prefer my homemade sauce. 

One of the reasons is that I can alter some of the ingredients based on who will be joining us and what mood we’re in. Craving something spicy? Add some pepper sauce. Want something sweet? Honey or brown sugar to the rescue!

4. Creamy Coleslaw

Bowl of coleslaw

This yummy creamy coleslaw satisfies on so many different levels. You have a delightful crunch that balances the creaminess of this wonderful side dish. It’s always a humongous hit at any cookout I’ve ever hosted.

5. Pineapple Baked Beans

pan and bowl of pineapple baked beans

This slow cooker baked beans dish is one of my most requested recipes and such a crowd pleaser. That’s because so many people love the balance of sweet and savory in this tropical-inspired side dish.

And it’s super easy. All you have to do is assemble all of the ingredients in your Crock Pot, turn it on, and let the cooker do the rest of the work for you. A few hours later, you’ll have the perfect side dish for your backyard cookout. 

6. Butterscotch Pecan Cookies

butterscotch pecan cookies on a plate

Don’t forget about dessert. I decided long ago that it’s best to have something people can eat with their hands at a cookout. That way, you don’t have to mess with extra plates.

These cookies are delicious and will satisfy everyone’s sweet tooth in the most delightful way. And no one has to know how easy they are to make.

Taco Fiesta Menu Ideas

guacamole and tortilla chips on a turquoise plate

Decorate with lots of colorful items. Add a sombrero with colorful scarves or fringe. Play your favorite Mexican music in the background to set the mood. We’re big fans of south-of-the-border flavors. That’s why we enjoy having a taco bar when people come for dinner.

It’s an easy way to enjoy friends and family without one person having to wait on everyone. Simply line up all of the bowls of ingredients so everyone can help themselves. Naturally, you’ll need taco shells and seasoned meat. And I highly recommend being generous with both because they’re essentials. 

Also have a variety of fillers, such as shredded cheese, sliced olives, jalapeño peppers, onions, sour cream, and black beans. If you add burritos to the mix, don’t forget to include some delicious sauces and sides to complement the dish.

Here are some more foods to include:

7. Taco Truck Green Sauce

taco truck green sauce and chips

Smooth and creamy, this tangy sauce adds just the right amount of heat to each bite. It’s delicious on chips, tacos, and whatever else you want to put it on.

8. Copycat Taco Bell Baja Sauce 

bowl of baja sauce beside a plate of tacos

Make this as the recipe calls for if you want that familiar flavor. Or tweak the seasonings to however you like them.

9. Easy Homemade Salsa 

homemade salsa with chips

This side is an absolute must-have for any taco bar. You’ll need enough for tacos, chips, and burritos. I even like to add it to rice and beans. It simply adds so much flavor to anything you put it on.

10. Traditional Guacamole 

bowl of classic guacamole

Make this traditional recipe for guacamole. You can’t go wrong, and it’s super easy! If you serve both guacamole and the taco truck green sauce, make sure to label them. One is typically much spicier than the other.

11. Refried Beans 

These delicious restaurant style refried beans from Julie’s Simply Southern are delicious, either on the tacos or on the side.

12. Homemade Corn Tortilla Chips 

plate of tortilla chips

You can buy bags of chips or make them yourself. My vote is for the homemade version. They’re easy to make and taste absolutely wonderful! Your guests will be impressed!

13. Chili Con Carne 

Chili con carne with sour cream and shredded cheese on top

If you’re feeling extra industrious, make a pot of this chili to go with the tacos. Guests can either enjoy a bowl of it or add it to their tacos.

Italian Pasta Party Menu Ideas

bottle of red wine, wine glass, and lit candles

If you and your friends are lovers of Italian food, then you’ll love a pasta party. Decorate with wine bottle candle holders (with lit candles, of course) and play your favorite Italian music.

Set up a pasta bar. I like to offer a variety of shapes of pasta, including spaghetti, fettuccine, penne, and bowtie pasta. Include some important condiments, such as parmesan cheese, shredded mozzarella, and cheddar if you think people will like that. Add a simple salad. This makes it even more special without having to go to a lot of trouble.

Here are some delicious foods you can add to the pasta bar:

14. Homemade Marinara 

bowl of pasta with marinara sauce

You can use the jarred version, but this is an easy sauce to make. You can add meat to it or leave it as-is. It doesn’t take long for the flavors to come together, and it’s absolutely wonderful!

15. Air Fryer Meatballs 

Either make them from scratch, or if you don’t have time, get frozen meatballs and heat them up in your air fryer.

16. Improved Jar Alfredo 

plate of chicken fettuccini alfredo

You start out with a jar of Alfredo sauce that you pick up on sale at the grocery store. Then add a few ingredients to make it even better, and you’ll have a sauce that everyone will love!

17. French Bread

You can pick up a loaf or two from your local bakery, or you can bake this one with a recipe from House of Nash Eats. Trust me when I say your friends will think your cooking skills are brilliant after tasting this.

18. Cloud Bread

platter of cloud bread

If you’re entertaining friends who can’t have gluten, offer them a gluten-free pasta option. And make a few pieces of this cloud bread so they can enjoy the full experience. They’ll definitely appreciate it.

19. Olive Oil for Dipping

Add a few spices to some olive oil so your guest have something to dip their bread into. Butter is good, but this olive oil is better!

Comfort Food Buffet Menu Ideas

macaroni and cheese - a delicious casual dinner party menu ideas

Sometimes it’s just nice to have some simple food that delivers both flavor and comfort. You can make this a potluck or provide all of the dishes yourself. They’re all easy to make, so either option is good. For decoration, add a small vases with fresh flowers that you can pick up at most grocery stores. 

It’s also easy to set up. Make sure everyone has a comfortable place to sit. Offer plenty of throw pillows and throws for folks to get cozy. I also like to have a charcuterie or cheese board with lots of color. Add some celery, cherry tomatoes, and other veggies along with some dip. A little bit of fresh fruit is also nice.

Here are some dishes you can include at the buffet:

20. Pork Tenderloin

sliced pork tenderloin

This pork tenderloin is the foundation for a great meal, even when you’re going casual. If you have an air fryer, this is the easiest way to get the juiciest and most flavorful meat. Or you can cook it in your oven.

21. Hobo Casserole 

hobo casserole on a plate and in the pan

A lot of people call this a hamburger casserole, and I’ve also heard I called hobo hubby casserole. Call it whatever you want but make enough so everyone can have seconds.

22. Garlic Lemon Chicken Thighs 

plate of garlic lemon chicken with a lemon wedge

Each and every bite of these crispy chicken thighs is loaded with all kinds of wonderful flavor! I make this in my air fryer, but you can use your oven if you prefer. It just takes a little longer in the oven.

23. Low Carb Italian Beef and Cabbage Casserole

Italian beef and cabbage casserole on a plate and in a pan

This is a delicious casserole that will fill even the hungriest guest. It’s also perfect for anyone who is on any type of low-carb diet. You can also offer this as an option for the pasta bar mentioned above, in case someone doesn’t want pasta.

24. Swedish Meatballs

bowl of Swedish meatballs on egg noodles

Enjoy these delicious meatballs over noodles or rice. It’s a main course that is sure to impress even the pickiest eaters. You don’t need to add more than a salad and bread when you serve this delicious dish. Or you can offer several main course options.

25. Loaded Twice Baked Potato Casserole

loaded potato casserole

People who love potatoes will gravitate toward this dish. It’s an easy recipe that’s satisfying on so many levels! One of the things I love about this side dish is that it already has all of the toppings mixed in. You can offer more if you like, but it’s not necessary.

26. Classic Mac and Cheese Casserole

scooping mac and cheese

Nothing says comfort better than macaroni and cheese with a golden brown crust. This casserole provides next-level deliciousness, so make sure you have plenty.

27. Butternut Squash

With just a few simple ingredients, you can turn butternut squash into a tasty side dish. I cooked this in my air fryer, but you can also use your oven.

28. No-Bake Pineapple Pie

slice of pineapple pie

When you want a flavor-packed dessert that’s super easy to make, this is the one. Your guests don’t have to know that it didn’t take you hours to put this one together.

29. Rum Balls

Plate of rum balls

If all of the guests are adults, it’s fun to serve these easy and delicious no-bake rum balls. They’re especially good during the holidays!

Easy Casual Dinner Party Menu Ideas

When you’re throwing any kind of casual dinner party, whether it’s for a large group or just a few friends, the first thing you need to do is decide on a theme. That makes it easy to determine what types of main dishes and sides to serve.

These are all great recipes to start with. Don’t be afraid to add more of your own. For even more inspiration, check out these lunch party menu ideas.

Please feel free to share!