If you’re searching for summer party food ideas, look no further than this list. By thoughtfully selecting simple ingredients and items, you can create a tasty spread in no time.
Serving traditional dishes with a healthy twist can turn a simple dinner party into a sensational dining event. Read on for summer dinner party menu ideas, including tips on how to serve food at a summer party.
How to Serve Foods at a Summer Party
There are no formal “rules” for summer dinner parties, other than cooking foods to a safe temperature and creating an environment conducive to fun! The following tips can help you set your party up for success.
First, Food Safety
A simple saying to help you remember the general rule of thumb is “Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.” In essence, you’ll want to keep hot foods at a warmer temperature and cold foods at a colder temperature when serving.
Leaving hot or cold foods out for more than two hours opens them up to bacteria and may increase the likelihood of spoilage.
Finger Foods for the Win
Whether you’re wanting to reduce silverware for reasons related to cost or the environment, opting for finger foods is the way to go. Providing access to a sink or sanitizer can encourage clean hands for safer serving.
An added perk of finger foods is that you won’t have to manage as much waste!
Find Inclusive Foods for the Menu
Surprisingly, many summer foods comply with a series of dietary restrictions. Choosing vegan or gluten-free dishes makes it more likely that even those under the strictest dietary restrictions can enjoy themselves.
Options with customizable toppings, such as tacos or an ice cream bar, also make it easier for allergic or allergen-sensitive folks to avoid foods that will cause a negative reaction for them.
Healthy Apps and Snacks to Start the Party
Try these appetizer ideas for summer entertaining made easy.
Vegan Potato Salad
Speaking of inclusive foods, mayo-less vegan potato salad is a refreshingly simple side dish. Made with just a handful of common ingredients, this vegan appetizer will please plant- and meat-eaters alike.
The secret? A creamy cashew sauce that also boosts the protein content, which will keep your guests feeling full between courses.
Grilled Vegetable Salad
Naturally, this salad is chock full of seasonal herbs and veggies, meaning you’ll eat foods at their nutritional peak.
Corn is a self-contained summer appetizer since it can be eaten handheld. Surprisingly, corn cobs are a vegetable that can be grilled naturally (with the husks on). This helps retain the juice, creating moist kernels.
For an exciting twist on corn on the cob, try elote. Affectionately called “Mexican street corn,” elote is a grilled corn covered in creamy mayo, chili powder, Cotija cheese, and lime juice. For a healthier version of elote, make your own mayo or use an olive oil-based variety.
Healthier-for-You Mac & Cheese
Another summertime staple? Mac and cheese is sure to please. Even though it’s typically served warm, a summer spread without mac and cheese feels like something is missing.
Instead of going heavy on carbohydrates and fat, try a healthier-for-you mac and cheese recipe that can be customized for gluten-free eaters.
Summer Dinner Party Menu Ideas
Entrees often get all the attention and for a good reason. These scrumptious summer dinner ideas will have your guests asking for seconds.
Pulled Pork with Salsa Verde
Pulled pork is another summertime classic, but it’s often served without any sense of flair or special spices. Pulled pork with salsa verde is inspired by a traditional Mexican dish called carnitas (“shredded pork”).
As an added bonus, the salsa verde sauce contains tomatillos, which are in season during the summer.
Healthy Hot Dogs
You guessed it! Hot dogs made the list of easy summer meal ideas. Hot dogs are a classic summer party food, and are sure to be a crowd-pleaser. However, many mainstream hot dogs aren’t the healthiest.
You can make hot dogs a healthier meal with a few easy tips. First, start by selecting leaner or high-quality meat, such as a 100% beef or grass-fed beef hot dog.
Next, select the best bun for your lifestyle. From gluten-free buns to wheat buns and even lettuce leaves, there’s something for everyone to enjoy! Condiments come last, and choosing mustard options can help keep calories lower.
Dragonfly chicken is a grilled chicken dish that’s far from plain. Glazed with Chinese Kung Pao BBQ sauce, this dish borrows inspiration from cuisines worldwide.
Served with coconut rice and pineapple Pico de Gallo, your guests will surely get a subtle tropical vibe from this dish.
Fish grilled with fresh herbs can take tacos to a whole new level. A plethora of taco bar toppings will allow guests to customize their own plates according to their preferences.
Fish provides plenty of healthy fats and protein to keep guests feeling full until dessert is served.
Carnivore-Approved Veggie Burgers
Looking for a meal well-suited to veggie lovers? Veggie burgers can be a great option, even for party-goers used to eating meat. Made with chickpeas, veggie burgers also have a boost of protein.
Sweet Treats for the Summer Heat
Sweet treats are the perfect way to top off a well-balanced menu. Keeping added sugars to a minimum will help guests avoid that sluggish feeling that often sets in after a big meal.
Peach crisp practically screams summer, especially since they typically come into season in the United States around late July. If you’re short on time, substitute with canned peaches (in their own juice, with low or no added sugar).
At 50 calories a serving, a healthy peach crisp simply can’t be beaten!
Fruit-Based Frozen Confections
Both avocados and strawberries are in season during the summer, and both of these fruits can make a tasty base for frosty, frozen treats. Avocado ice cream is surprisingly creamy, and can be customized with various add-ins.
For a “fancier” dessert, try homemade strawberry gelato garnished with a basil sprig or freshly sliced strawberries.
Although ice cream can be tasty, keeping cold when you’re running back and forth taking care of hosting duties can be hard.
Searching for a sweet yet refreshing summer snack you can whip up in five minutes or less (no refrigeration needed)? Apple nachos are the answer.
Drinks to Beat the Heat
Hydration is important, especially in the summertime. Whether you’re moderating alcoholic beverages or opting for mocktails, there are a variety of drinks to enjoy.
“Skinny” Starfruit Water
"Skinny" starfruit water isn’t just visually appealing with a red, white, and blue color palette. It’s also packed with antioxidants, thanks to its fruity additions. Since it’s so colorful, it can double as a centerpiece at each table.
With only a teaspoon of sweeteners, a "skinny" margarita is a satisfying beverage option for health-conscious guests. While the original recipe contains alcohol, the tequila can be switched out for non-alcoholic spirits.
Try a guilt-free frozen strawberry margarita on hot summer nights to cool down.
Know you’ll have guests in attendance who are avoiding alcohol? Mocktails are an inclusive idea, and since they don’t contain alcohol, they won’t make your guests tipsy.
Crafting mocktails can allow you to customize healthy ingredients and add to your overall theme.
Recap: Summer Party Food Ideas
Easy summer dishes can make summer dining both simple and spectacular. From burgers packed with veggies to alcohol-free cocktails, there’s a way to make summer meals more inclusive for everyone.
By grilling and serving safely, you’ll ensure your dinner guests stay healthy all summer.