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From curating the perfect Indian dinner party menu to creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere, this post with sample menus and fail-proof recipes for appetizers, main courses, and desserts will help you plan a memorable party for you and your guests.
You’ll also find loads of tips/tricks so that you can plan ahead and make your next Diwali/ holiday party a huge success!
Planning for an Indian dinner party can get daunting.
With so many mouth-watering dishes to choose from, it can be challenging to come up with the perfect Indian party menu that will leave a lasting impression on your guests.
It’s also easy to get overwhelmed with the whole process, especially if you’re cooking for a large group.
But don’t worry; I’m here to help you every step of the way!
In this post, I share all the deets on how to plan the party, from menu planning to prepping ahead, so that you can throw an elaborate Indian dinner party with ease. You’ll also have access to sample menus, tried-and-tested Indian recipes, and plenty of tips to make your next party a huge success!
Whether you’re an experienced host or a newbie at hosting parties, I am sure you’ll find this post helpful.
How to host an Indian dinner party at home
Organizing a dinner party with Indian food can be a fascinating way to showcase the rich and diverse flavors of Indian cuisine. To make sure your guests have a memorable experience, I have compiled a detailed step-by-step plan on how to host an authentic Indian dinner party.
From selecting the perfect menu to creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere, this detailed guide will provide you with all the information you need to plan a successful and enjoyable event.
Ready to get started?
Step 1 – Finalize the party theme
Throwing a party starts with finalizing the guest list. Before you send out the invites, determine if it is going to be a potluck or not. If it is going to be a potluck, you definitely need a theme to make sure the dishes that your guests bring pair well with each other.
Even if it is not a potluck, having a theme will help you create a cohesive menu.
Examples of themed parties include:
- Indian street food
- Backyard Barbeque
- Vegetarian Only
- North Indian
- South Indian
- Festival-themed – Holi, Diwali, etc.
- Holiday parties – Christmas, Thanksgiving, etc.
Looking to try something new to make this Thanksgiving? Check out this Thanksgiving menu: it is an interesting mix of South – Asian Inspired dishes as well as some classics for your dinner this year.
Step 2 – Plan the menu
Before you get started on the menu, it is important to gather details around:
- Headcount – How many adults and kids?
- Dietary preferences – Find out how many guests are vegetarian, pescatarians, etc. Do they eat all kinds of meat or only chicken?
- Dietary restrictions and allergies – Does anyone have allergies (nut-free, seafood, etc.) or follow a dairy/gluten-free diet?
What should be the menu for the dinner party?
When hosting an Indian dinner party, it is customary to serve three courses. The first course usually consists of appetizers and drinks. The second course, or main course, includes a variety of dishes such as rice or biryani, curries, sides, flatbreads, and a cooling yogurt dish (raita). And the last course is, of course, dessert.
To come up with a menu, you need to decide the number of items to include by course.
Here are the guidelines I follow when planning a menu for an Indian dinner party:
- Drinks – 1 to 2. You could do one homemade beverage and the other store-bought juice/soda/alcohol. Don’t forget a pitcher of water or bottled water.
- Appetizers – 2 to 3. I usually serve two vegetarian appetizers and one non-vegetarian.
- Accompaniments – Chutneys are a must if you are serving Indian appetizers. Make the green chutney at home, and you can get store-bought tamarind chutney. Also, while serving your main course, don’t forget to include either raita or just plain yogurt.
- Rice dishes – You can reduce the quantity of plain rice if making biryani, but don’t skip it. You could substitute plain rice with jeera rice.
- Flatbreads – Store-bought garlic naans are always a huge hit. Though homemade rotis are a healthier option, making them for a crowd can be labor-intensive.
- Curries + Side dish (3-5)
- A simple dal/sambar/rasam/kadhi
- 1-2 vegetable dishes – paneer/potato dish or any other vegetable dish
- Beans/chickpeas curry
- 1 chicken, seafood, or egg curry
- Desserts (2 to 3) – One homemade Indian dessert and one store-bought dessert (brownies, cakes, ice cream, etc.) for the kids.
Planning a potluck menu
If you are going the potluck route, I have a few tips to share:
- Plan a theme and share it with your guests.
- Create a group chat via text or WhatsApp for easy coordination so that everyone knows what each person is bringing.
- Give suggestions but let people pick what they want to bring :). Here’s where having a theme helps.
- As a host, plan on preparing (or buying from the store) one item from each course. In case a guest bails out due to sickness or any other reason, you’ll still have enough dishes to make a complete meal. Dishes that other guests can bring:
- Side dish
- Rice dish – biryani or jeera rice
- Don’t forget to thank the guests for coming and getting a dish!
Popular dishes at an Indian dinner party
If your guests are having homemade Indian food for the first time, including popular Indian restaurant dishes on your menu will be a good idea. Here are a few that I would recommend:
Make sure you serve the main course with Basmati rice.
These are just a few examples; you’ll find more ideas in the recipe ideas by course section below.
Step 3 – Determine the quantity to cook
Once you have finalized the headcount and menu, the next step is to figure out the quantity of food you will need. This is an important step that you need to complete before you head to the grocery store.
For a crowd of over 20 adults, it is easier to do a potluck or rely on catering. Irrespective of what you choose, here are the guidelines to remember when ordering or serving using aluminum foil trays:
- Large tray (approx 30 cups) serves about 40-50 people
- Half tray (about 15 cups) serves about 20-25 people
- Quarter tray (about 7.5 cups) serves about 10-15 people
- Catering – When ordering appetizers, ask the restaurant for the number of pieces of the appetizer in each tray. Plan for at least 1-2 samosas or cutlets per person (and include the kids). If they are small cocktail samosas, you may need 3-4 per person.
- Reduce the quantity of the main course if you are serving appetizers, or you’ll have a lot of leftovers. For example, if you have 10 adults + 10 kids, cook only for 10 adults.
If you are a family of four (2 adults and 2 kids), and you make 8 servings every day (enough for lunch and dinner), double that amount for any main course dish when hosting 20 people (10 adults and 10 kids). When appetizers and drinks are served, most folks eat a smaller portion of the main course.
Step 4 – Plan and prep ahead
Planning ahead is crucial to avoid last-minute scrambling, and will ensure that everything is organized and ready before the guests arrive. Here’s how you can plan ahead.
2 weeks before the party
- If using disposable tableware, then you’ll need to stock up on silverware, plates, and serving dishes. If you plan to keep your food warm, you’ll also need aluminum trays, chafing dishes, etc. If you are living in the North Americas, Costco is a great place to buy them from.
- For a themed party, think about the decor you want to use. Amazon and Etsy are great places to shop for Indian decor items.
Planning the decor
When hosting an Indian dinner party, it’s important to remember that it’s not only about food but also about creating a warm and inviting environment for your guests. This is especially important during holidays such as Diwali, Holi, Eid, etc.
One way to do that is by decorating your place with bright and cheery colors that are traditional for the holiday you’re celebrating. For Holi, you can use a mix of vibrant colors, whereas for Diwali, red and gold are my go-to colors.
To truly set the tone and create a festive ambiance, consider incorporating Indian-inspired centerpieces, colorful napkins, tablecloths or table runners, candles, and colorful lights or diyas.
If you are looking for ethnic decor items and ideas to decorate your home this Diwali, check out this post – Diwali Decoration Ideas.
1 week before the party
- Make a shopping list. Don’t forget to check the refrigerator/pantry for ingredients you may already have.
- Make room in your refrigerator to store store-bought frozen food and produce.
- Buy your basic produce (onion, tomatoes, ginger, garlic, spices, pulses, rice, paneer) and frozen appetizers/naan.
- Prep ahead by making masalas. Make ginger-garlic paste, onion-tomato masala, and/or tikka masala. Store it in the freezer.
1-2 days before the party
- Review your menu and create a shopping list. Shop for chicken, seafood, vegetables, bakery items, and drinks. Buy ice (if needed) for your drinks.
- Buy fresh flowers (optional).
- Chop all the veggies and store them in the refrigerator.
- Soak chickpeas/beans in water.
- Marinate the meat and refrigerate it.
- Thaw pre-made masalas in the fridge.
- Make raitas, chutneys, drinks, and desserts and put them in the refrigerator.
- Make protein-based (chickpeas/kidney beans/ chicken curries) dishes a day in advance and refrigerate them. The longer the meat or legumes stay in the sauce, the more flavor and richness they acquire.
- Refrigerate the store-bought drinks and bottled water.
- Clean and decorate the house.
- Set the table – get the plates, glasses, serving spoons, and silverware ready.
The day of the party
- In the morning
- Cook the remaining food except for rice.
- Transfer the food to an oven-proof serving dish.
- Put the frozen appetizers (including naan) in the refrigerator to thaw.
- Take care of any dishes in the sink.
- Two hours before the party
- Add the tempering to all the dishes that require it.
- Chop the herbs for the garnish.
- Cook the frozen appetizers – bake/air-fry/microwave.
- Pan-fry or bake the naan.
- Put the finished dishes /appetizers in the oven with the ‘Keep warm’ function on, or set it at the lowest temperature your oven allows.
- Keep rice in your Instant Pot and set a timer for 30 minutes before you are planning to serve dinner.
- Clean up the kitchen and get the dishes done.
- Empty the trash.
- One hour before the party
- Relax and change into party wear 🙂
- Right before the guests arrive
- Set the appetizers and welcome drinks in the designated area.
- Before serving
- Use a microwave to heat as needed.
- Don’t forget to garnish your dishes with herbs.
Step 5 – Serve and enjoy
If you have followed all the steps above, then you are all set for the party. All you need to do is:
- Serve the guests a welcome drink a few minutes after they arrive. Set the appetizers out for them to munch on as they settle down.
- Lay out the main course an hour or so after serving the appetizers.
- Set out the desserts as the guests finish up the main course.
Indian dinner party tips
- Planning ahead is crucial to avoid any last-minute scrambling.
- Use tried and tested recipes – Never cook a dish that you have never made before. Trying to salvage failed recipes at the last minute can be stressful and time-consuming.
- Set up designated areas for food and drinks and serve them buffet-style. This way, the guests can help themselves, and you can enjoy the party as well. Also, it makes managing and refilling food much easier.
- Take help – Enlist your family members (including your kids) to help decorate, chop veggies, and take care of the dishes/trash. If your guests are offering to help, allow them to assist in warming the dishes, cleaning up afterward, etc.
- Hire a server – For larger gatherings, hire help to serve, replenish drinks, and clean up empty bottles/drink cups lying around.
- Reduce food waste – Keep a stack of to-go containers or zip-lock bags ready so that your guests can take the leftovers home.
Enjoy your party! Do you have some tips or tricks to share? Please leave them in the comment section below, and I’ll update my post to include those.
Recipe ideas to craft your own menu
Are you ready to get started on creating your menu? I’ve organized the recipes by course for you to pick from. If you would rather look at the sample menus that I’ve put together for you, click here – sample menus for Indian parties.
Drinks recipes (Pick 1 or 2)
The easiest choice is alcohol, soda, or sparkling water for adults and juice for kids. But if you are looking to make it interesting, here are a few options:
- Mango lassi
- Mango milkshake
- Lemonade (perfect for summer and BBQ parties)
- Homemade pineapple juice
- Sweet lassi
- Ginger tea or Masala chai (preferably post-lunch or brunch)
- Beer/wine. Read this: Indian food and beer pairings. Also, read what wine goes with Indian food.
- Thandai (during Holi)
Appetizers (Pick 2 or 3)
If you are calling folks over for brunch or lunch, skip the appetizers unless it is a late lunch. I often rely on store-bought appetizers that I buy from either Costco or Indian stores.
- Baby corn Manchurian
- Bread roll
- Corn bhel
- Chili Paneer
- Instant Pot Dudhi Muthia
- Instant Pot Khaman
- Mysore Bonda
- Onion Pakoda
- Air Fryer roasted chickpeas
- Paneer Tikka
- Rava Dhokla
- Veg cutlet
These are best bought in-store rather than online. The links are provided so that you know which one to get.
Indian store appetizers
- Deep cocktail samosas (air fry them at 400 degrees F for 8 minutes)
- Deep kachoris (air fry them at 400 degrees F for 8-10 minutes)
- Patra / Alu vadi
The appetizers from Costco are not Indian, but they are convenient, and sometimes it is fun to mix it up.
- White meat chicken Taquitos
- Mini quiche
- Chicken potstickers
- Mozzarella sticks
- Spring rolls
- Hummus with pita chips
- Spinach and Artichoke dip with chips
- Chips and Salsa (their Mango salsa is really good!)
- Rojo’s 6-layer dips
Chutneys are a must with most Indian appetizers. Coriander and tamarind chutney are popular choices. And for your main course, be sure to have some raita on hand to help soothe your guests’ taste buds after enjoying a flavorful and spicy Indian meal.
Chutneys for appetizers (Pick 1 or 2)
Chutneys to serve with a South Indian meal
Click for more: Here’s a list of 10+ Indian chutney recipes for you to choose from.
Rice dishes (Pick 1-2)
Even if you are serving biryani, it is a good idea to make a small batch of plain rice for those who like to enjoy their curries with rice. Kids often prefer plain rice over seasoned rice as well.
For more rice dish ideas, check out this collection of exciting Indian rice recipes that you can make in your Instant Pot.
Flatbreads (Pick 1)
Having flatbreads is a must if you are serving any North-Indian curries, such as paneer butter masala, dal makhani, or any chicken curry. Though rotis and parathas are most commonly served during everyday meals, buying store-bought naans might be a better bet when feeding a crowd.
- Plain naan or garlic naan. You can get these from Indian stores (recommend the Haldiram brand). They are also available at Costco and Trader Joe’s.
- Homemade rotis
- Plain parathas
For more varieties of Indian flatbreads, check out this post – 10+ Indian flatbread recipes.
Vegetarian side dishes/curries (Pick 1-2)
Chicken & Seafood curries/side dish (Pick 1)
Dessert (Pick 2)
Typically, two desserts are enough for an Indian dinner party unless it’s a Diwali celebration. On this occasion, many people greet their guests with a tray of sweets and snacks, including barfis, laddoos, and other savory treats. If you need ideas, check out this post with over 15 easy Diwali sweets and snacks.
- Rice kheer
- Sev kheer
- Fruit custard
- Gulab jamun
- Carrot or gajar halwa
- 15-minute Tiramisu
- Fig and walnut halwa
- Chocolate coconut balls
- Cheesecake from Costco
- Ice cream
Looking for more dessert ideas? Check out this post on 45+ Indian sweets and desserts.
Sample Indian menus
Here are some sample menus for the most popular themes – North Indian, Indian Street Food, South Indian, vegetarian dinner, lunch, and brunch. If you need more ideas, drop a comment below, and I will be happy to help.
North Indian menu
- Drinks: Mango lassi
- Appetizer: Paneer Tikka, Instant Pot Khaman, and Chicken 65
- Rice dish: Jeera rice
- Raita: Boondi raita
- Main course: Naan, Dal fry, Channa masala, Aloo gobi, and Chicken tikka masala
- Dessert: Carrot halwa and store-bought ice-cream sandwiches or bars for kids
If serving dry Paneer tikka as an appetizer, don’t make Paneer tikka masala for the main course. The same rule applies to chicken tikka and chicken tikka masala.
Indian street food party menu
More easy Indian dinner recipes
This post was originally published on 10/24/2019 and was completely updated with pictures and new text on 5/31/2023.
Indian Dinner Party Menu Ideas
- Carrot halwa
- Store-bought ice-cream sandwiches or bars for kids
- Click the recipe links above to get the entire recipe.
- Follow the instructions in the post to prep ahead for the party.
Disclaimer: Approximate nutritional information is provided as a courtesy and can vary depending on the exact ingredients/brands used. If you have health issues, please work with a registered dietician or nutritionist.