Hosting a graduation party should be an exciting, celebratory occasion. More often than not, though, coming up with a crowd-pleasing menu for what tends to be a varied guest list, with invitees ranging in age from tiny tots to elderly relatives, can make the whole thing seem daunting. But don’t fret — we’ve got your menu covered with eight simple and satisfying recipes that promise something for every palate. Plus — the best part — all of these dishes can be made ahead and kept out at room temperature so, come party time, you’re relaxed and ready to go.
It’s hard to beat a good chicken satay with peanut sauce and Well Plated’s recipe gives the classic recipe a fresh face. The dish starts with a flavor-forward chicken marinade loaded with lots of ginger, garlic, lime juice, Sriracha, fish sauce, and soy sauce. After marinating for anywhere from two hours to overnight, the chicken strips get skewered and grilled until nicely charred. Many of the marinade ingredients also carry over into the peanut dipping sauce making it a great bang-for-your-buck dish. Get the recipe on Well Plated.
Meatballs might just be the ultimate party favorite, so add beer and BBQ to the title and you’ve got yourself a slam dunk. This recipe from Sweet and Savory by Shinee takes simple beef meatballs and bakes them in a sauce comprised of equal parts barbecue sauce and beer plus a little Sriracha for good measure. Pop the finished meatballs onto toothpicks and you’ve got an all-in-one dish that adults and kids will love. Get the recipe on Sweet and Savory by Shinee.
Remember the classic ham and cheese sandwich you had in your lunch as a kid? These sliders from I Am a Food Blog take this childhood classic and give it a fresh face fit for a party. Since these make for such a simple dish, look for the best ham — cooked, cured, or smoked — and cheese — Swiss, cheddar, mozzarella — you can find. While the sandwich itself is delicious, the real star of the show is the Dijon-and-Worcestershire-flavored butter that gets brushed over the top of the buns before baking. Make a double batch of these because they are bound to go fast. Get the recipe on I Am a Food Blog.
Sometimes the humble deviled egg can seem, well, too humble. Iowa Girl Eats has made over this beloved bite, playing on the famous buffalo sauce and ranch dressing combination. The eggs start by getting boiled, peeled, and split in half. All of the yolks are then transferred to a food processor with equal parts buffalo wing sauce and ranch dressing. The mixture is blended to silky perfection before getting piped back into the boiled egg halves. While these are perfectly delicious on their own, a little topping of chopped green onion and blue cheese would only take them to the next level. Get the recipe on Iowa Girl Eats.
When it comes to party dips, don’t overthink it. Guests like the classics and gravitate toward items that are familiar. This homemade hummus recipe from No Spoon Necessary takes everyone’s favorite spread and turns up the volume with bold Mexican flavors reminiscent of traditional fajitas seasoning. Think cumin, oregano, smoked paprika, and cayenne pepper. If the thought of making your own hummus from scratch makes you nervous, you can easily buy your favorite brand, stir in the dried spices and top with your garnishes of choice. Get the recipe on No Spoon Necessary.
Palmiers, or Elephant Ears as they are more commonly known, are a fantastic fake-out dish, aka they look fancy but couldn’t be easier to make. Traditionally prepared as a dessert covered in lots of crunchy sugar, they are a great canvas for savory flavors as well. Savory Simple’s recipe takes store-bought puff pastry and fills it with a combination of grated Gruyere and Parmesan cheeses as well as lots of freshly chopped sage and Italian dried seasoning. After a quick trip to the oven, these golden beauties are ready to hit the table. Be sure to put napkins nearby to gather all those flaky bits that are inevitably going to drop with each bite. Get the recipe on Savory Simple.
While a fruit platter is always a safe party staple, why not mix it up a bit? These Honey Lime Grilled Fruit Skewers from Love and Zest are a surprising and enticing party treat, plus who doesn’t love foods on skewers? After skewering your favorite fruits (this particular recipe uses watermelon, banana, kiwi, strawberries, pineapple, and mango), they get a quick dusting of cinnamon before hitting the grill. Once nicely charred, the skewers receive a drizzle of lime juice and honey as well as a sprinkling of toasted, flaked coconut for a tropical flare. Get the recipe on Love and Zest.
You can’t have a graduation party without a cake, but who wants to waste precious party time cutting up slice after slice for guests? Enter mini cupcakes — these Vanilla Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream are from a queen of classic desserts, Joy the Baker. The cupcake itself is studded with fresh vanilla beans and vanilla extract for a double dose of flavor, but we all know that the frosting is truly the star of the show. Joy calls this recipe as “The Best Chocolate Buttercream,” thanks to its addition of heavy cream and Ovaltine, creating an extra silky texture and mega chocolate flavor. Get the recipe on Joy the Baker.
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Maddie LaKind is a Chicago-born personal chef, caterer and writer. Her love of gastronomy began with an introduction to the Food Network as a teenager and has since blossomed into a deep-rooted passion. She spent her early career in the food world working at the famed Zingerman’s Deli in Ann Arbor, Michigan, before moving on to other notable spots including Detroit’s Sister Pie bakery, and Floriole Bakery, Read It and Eat bookstore and The Social Table in Chicago. In her spare time, she can be found practicing yoga, hosting dinner parties for friends and sifting through her ever-growing cookbook collection. Maddie is also a supporter of PAWS Chicago. Since adopting her two cats from the shelter, she has served as a volunteer and donated her cooking services as an auction item at fundraisers.