Indian Dinner Party Planning – Menu Ideas + Recipes

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Let’s take the stress out of planning for Indian dinner parties. Get recipes, sample menus, ideas for a potluck, and loads of tips/tricks to make your next party a huge success!

An image with lots of Indian food and with a caption that reads how to thrown an Indian dinner party - get menu ideas and recipes
Indian dinner party menu ideas with recipes

Entertaining while serving Indian food can be both easy and hard. It is easy because you have endless options to choose from. What makes it hard is cooking Indian food at home can be time-consuming, especially for a crowd.

If you want to serve fresh food that you have made that day, it probably means spending endless hours in the kitchen. By the time the guests come, you are exhausted and all you want to do is lay down and call it a day.

Seriously, that used to be my story until I figured out a system that enabled me to spend less time in the kitchen and enjoy more time with family and friends. Here’s how you can do it.

How to throw an Indian party at home

Let me share my step by step plan I follow when planning Indian dinner parties.

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 go with each other. Examples of themed parties would be 

  • Indian street food 
  • Backyard Barbeque
  • Vegetarian Only 
  • North Indian
  • South Indian 
  • Brunch 
  • Festival themed – Holi / Diwali, etc. 

Finalize the menu based on the theme

Indian dinner party menus usually include drinks, appetizers, accompaniments, rice dishes, flatbreads, curries, side dishes, and desserts. We will go through each course and talk about how to put a menu together for a few themes such as North Indian, South Indian, and Indian street food.

How to put a menu together

Here are the steps to follow while planning a menu. 

  1. Finalize the headcount.
  2. Find out about any dietary restrictions – allergies, vegetarian, vegan, etc. 
  3. Decide the number of items you need to cook by course – Here are my recommendations along with tips
    • Drinks – 1 to 2. You could do one homemade beverage and the other store-bought juice/soda/alcohol. 
    • Appetizers – 2 to 3. I usually serve 2 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. Serve one raita for sure or keep lots of yogurt handy. 
    • 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 it for a crowd can be labor-intensive. 
    • Curries + Side dish (3-5)
      • A simple dal / sambar / rasam / kadhi
      • 1-2 vegetable dish  – paneer/potato dish or any other vegetable dish 
      • Beans/chickpeas curry
      • 1 chicken or seafood or egg curry
    • Desserts (2 to 3) – One homemade and one store-bought (brownies, cakes, ice-cream, etc). 
  4. Tips for potluck success  – 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 group for easy coordination and also, 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 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
      • Appetizers
      • Side dish
      • Rice dish – biryani or jeera rice
      • Dessert
    • Don’t forget to thank the guests for coming and getting a dish :).

Recipe ideas by course

Drinks recipes (Pick 1 or 2)

The easiest choice is alcohol/soda for adults and juice for kids. But if you are looking to make it interesting, here are a few options – 

Recommendation: I often go with Mango lassi or Mango milkshake. They are super easy to make with store-bought pulp. You can’t go wrong with it – most people I know love it!

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. 

Vegetarian

Non-vegetarian

Store-bought appetizers

These are best bought in-store rather than online. The links are provided so that you know which one to get. 

Indian store appetizers

Costco appetizers

The appetizers from Costco are not Indian but they are convenient and sometimes it is fun to mix it up. 

  • Spanakopita 
  • White meat chicken Taquitos 
  • Mini quiche 
  • Crab cake minis
  • Chicken potstickers
  • Mozzarella sticks
  • Spring rolls
  • Hummus with pita chips
  • Spinach and Artichoke dip with chips
  • Chips and Salsa (love the Mango salsa)
  • Rojo’s 6 layer dips

Accompaniments

Most Indian appetizers need chutneys to go with it especially coriander and tamarind chutney. And the one accompaniment you must have is raita – to cool off after savoring a spicy Indian meal. 

Chutneys for appetizers (Pick 1 or 2)

Chutneys to serve with a South Indian meal

Raitas (pick 1)

Read more: Here’s a list of 10+ raita recipes for you to choose from. 

Rice dishes (Pick 1 -2)

Note: You can reduce the quantity of plain rice if making biryani but don’t skip it. You could substitute plain rice with jeera rice

For more rice dish ideas,  check out this post on exciting Biryani recipes that you can make.

Flatbreads (Pick 1)

Curries (Pick 3-5)

Lentils based curries (Pick 1)
Pulses (Pick 1)
Vegetarian side dishes/curries (Pick 1-2)
Chicken & Seafood curries/side dish (Pick 1)

Dessert (Pick 2)

Homemade
Storebought
  • Brownies
  • Cookies
  • Cheesecake from Costco
  • Cake
  • Icecream

Sample Indian menus

Here are some sample menus for the most popular themes – North Indian, Indian Street Food, and South Indian. If you need ideas, drop a comment below and I will be happy to help.

North Indian menu

If you are 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.

South Indian menu

Indian street food

Brunch ideas

No appetizer needed – keep it simple πŸ™‚

How to plan/prep ahead for an Indian party

Once you have finalized the headcount and menu, the next step would be to determine the quantity of food you will need. This is an important step that you need to complete before you head to the grocery store. 

How much to cook for a crowd

For a crowd of over 20 adults, I usually do a potluck or rely on catering. Irrespective of what you choose, here are the guidelines to remember – 

  • 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

Note:

  1. Catering orders – 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.
  2. 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. 

A quick tip

Here’s an example – Assuming you are a family of four (2 adults and 2 kids) and you make 8 servings every day (enough for lunch and dinner), just double that amount if you are hosting 20 people (10 adults + 10 kids) at home. Since you are serving other items, you don’t need a whole lot. 

Prepping tips

1 week ahead 

  • Make a shopping list.
  • Buy your basic produce (onion, tomatoes, ginger, garlic, spices, pulses, rice, paneer, etc) and frozen appetizers/naan.
  • Make onion-tomato masala and/or tikka masala. Store it in the freezer.

1 – 2 days ahead

  • Go over your menu and make sure you have everything you need for your party.
  • Shop for chicken, seafood, vegetables, and bakery items along with drinks. 
  • Buy fresh flowers (optional).
  • Chop all the veggies and save them in the refrigerator. 
  • Let the pre-made masalas thaw in the fridge.
  • Make raitas, chutneys, and desserts and put them in the refrigerator.
  • Refrigerate the drinks – don’t forget. 
  • Clean up the house πŸ™‚

The day of the party

  • In the morning
    • Cook all the dishes except rice.
    • Transfer the dishes to an oven-proof serving dish. 
    • Clean the dishes.
    • Put the frozen appetizers (including naan) in the refrigerator to thaw.
  • 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 ‘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. 
    • Set the table – get the plates, glasses, serving spoons, silverware ready. 
  • One hour before the party
    • Relax and change into party wear πŸ™‚
  • Before serving 
    • Use a microwave to heat as needed
    • Don’t forget to garnish your dishes with herbs.

Enjoy your party! Do you have some tips or tricks to share? Please leave them in the comment below and I’ll update my post to include those.

Ready to make mealtimes easier?

Eating fresh, homemade food every day can feel like a distant dream sometimes especially after a long day of work. Having gone through the same grind, I have a simple solution for you – meal planning.

Check out the resources below to learn more about meal planning and take the stress out of weeknight dinners.

  • How to stock your kitchen – Learn how to create a master grocery list, track your pantry items, and have a well-stocked kitchen so that you can cook delicious meals anytime you want!
  • How to meal plan – A detailed guide on how to start meal planning.
  • Meal themes – how to use them – Check out these 20+meal themes that’ll help you create delicious meals that your whole family will love.
  • How to meal prep Indian food – Meal prep is the secret behind stress-free weekday meals. Learn how to meal prep like a pro even if you are a beginner.
  • Pantry staples – Considering meal prepping? Make sure you have a few pantry staples always available in the kitchen so that you can meal prep whenever you have time.
  • 30+ tips for meal planning success – Review these easy-to-follow tips and strategies that will help you meal plan and prep like a pro.
  • Out of milk app – Learn how to use your phone to track your pantry items and create shopping lists by store.

Get dinner on the table faster!

Learn my meal planning + prepping secrets to make fresh Indian food without spending hours in the kitchen.

An overhead shot of Gujarathi kadhi along with rice, rotis and a side of lemon

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4 Comments

  1. OMG, its kinda u taken all my stress away….wanna plan my grls first bday party at home as going out of budget outside…will be great help for me. Tia…will let you know how its gone😊

  2. Amazing! I got a great dinner party idea from you. We are planning dinner on valentine’s day. I like your tips 7 would follow it. Thanks for helping us.

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