7 Affordable Dinner Party Recipes That Guests Love

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Smiling women at a dinner party outdoor table with wine glasses celebrating a winter holiday evening
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Hosting (or attending) a dinner can be expensive. I know, because I love entertaining and joining my friends for potlucks. Whether you’re attending a potluck or providing all the food for a dinner party, choosing an inexpensive recipe can be key to sticking to a budget.

Here are several affordable dinner party recipes that I’ve used — and that have been declared delicious by my fellow diners.

1. Spicy Lemon Chicken Kabobs

Grilled chicken skewers or kebab
Dina Saeed / Shutterstock.com

This recipe I found from Taste of Home is an excellent dinner party appetizer. It’s also great for small bites if you have a less formal affair that involves mixing and mingling. Ingredients include:

  • 1/4 cup of lemon juice
  • 2 medium lemons, halved
  • 3 tablespoons of white wine
  • 4 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon of dried rosemary or 1/4 teaspoon of dried rosemary, crushed
  • 1 1/2 pounds of chicken breast, diced

Most of the ingredients are used to create a marinade in which you soak the chicken breast. Let it sit for at least three hours in the refrigerator before grilling the chicken on skewers.

Sometimes, instead of grilling the chicken (covered, over medium heat until no longer pink, turning once, 10-12 minutes), I cook it in a pan with olive oil and then put the chicken on skewers after it cools. I also leave out the crushed red pepper sometimes and avoid the spiciness. Finally, the lemons are usually grilled and used as a garnish, so you can save a little more money by eliminating them.

When possible, I like to buy my chicken in bulk and freeze it. I check for sales and coupons so that my chicken costs as little as possible. If you use frozen chicken, defrost it in the fridge before dicing it and putting it in the marinade.

2. Strawberry Salad With Poppy Seed Dressing

Strawberry salad with nuts and spinach
Stephanie Frey / Shutterstock.com

This simple salad offers a bit of pizzazz. My sister-in-law introduced me to it, and now I love to make it when I host a dinner or I’m assigned to bring the salad. It’s a refreshing alternative to a standard salad.

The ingredients for the salad include:

  • 1 bunch of romaine lettuce torn into salad-sized pieces
  • 2 cups of strawberries, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 small sweet onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup of nuts of your choice (chopped walnuts, slivered almonds or cashews are good choices)
  • 1/4 cup sugar (if you want to candy the nuts)

If you want to make your own dressing, the ingredients include:

  • 2 tablespoons of sugar
  • 1/4 cup of mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon of sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon of milk
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of poppy seeds

When tossing the salad together, the only cooking you need to do is to candy the nuts. You do this by cooking the sugar over medium-low heat until it melts. Then you toss in the nuts to coat them. Let them cool on foil before adding them to the salad. I personally like using cashews without coating them with sugar. My sister-in-law uses candied walnuts, and it’s also tasty.

The dressing is made by whisking the ingredients together. You can bring it separately or toss the salad with it ahead of time. I like tossing the salad with it so it’s complete. But I’ve also used this recipe without the dressing, and it’s still delicious.

3. Roasted veggies

Oven-roasted vegetable plate with cauliflower, broccoli, zucchini and pumpkin
mama_mia / Shutterstock.com

This simple (and cheap!) side can feel impressive when done right and served with the main dish. It’s especially useful when someonewho gardens has given me zucchini (the ultimate budget hack is to have friends who give you free squash).

The veggies I often use (and that look fancy) include:

  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Zucchini
  • Fingerling potatoes

Cut the veggies into eatable chunks. I like to cut the fingerling potatoes in half lengthwise. Use a large bowl to toss the cut vegetables with olive oil. Add salt, pepper and rosemary and continue tossing.

Lay out in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast for 25 to 30 minutes at 400 degrees.

4. Garlic-Apple Pork Roast

Roasted pork with potatoes
Gaak / Shutterstock.com

This is another recipe I found on the Taste of Home website. It’s a slow cooker recipe that’s simple but tasty — and impressive.


  • 1 boneless pork loin roast (3 1/2 to 4 pounds)
  • 1 12-ounce jar of apple jelly
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons seasoned salt
  • 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper

Cut the roast in half before putting it in the slow cooker. Mix the jelly, water and garlic together, and pour it over the roast. Sprinkle the parsley, salt and pepper over the top. Cover and cook for 8-10 hours, until done.

It’s a perfect dish that you can slice and serve, and it cooks while you’re getting the rest of your home ready for the dinner party.

5. Pasta bake

Cheesy pasta bake recipe
Tatiana Vorona / Shutterstock.com

My ex-husband’s grandmother was the queen of the pasta bake. It’s pretty easy to personalize by adding different ingredients based on what you prefer. My approach includes:

  • 1 pound of dry pasta (I like penne but rigatoni, elbow and fusilli work as well)
  • 32 ounces of crushed tomatoes in a can (to make the sauce)
  • Half an onion, diced (I like to use white onion)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced or crushed
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 8-ounce package of sliced baby bella mushrooms (other mushrooms work as well, and you can get them unsliced to save money)
  • Slices of desired cheese (provolone and/or mozzarella work well)

Cook the pasta as usual in salted water, but bring the pasta out before it’s soft enough to eat, boiling three to four minutes less than you would normally. The noodles will become too mushy during baking if you cook them in the pot too long.

To make the sauce, saute the onion and garlic in the olive oil for two to three minutes, then add the mushrooms. After a couple more minutes, add the crushed tomatoes and bring them to a simmer. As you might imagine, the mushrooms are optional. After putting the tomatoes in the pan, you can add other ingredients, such as cooked and shredded chicken or olives.

After you drain the pasta, add it to the sauce. Once thoroughly mixed, transfer to a baking dish. Lay the slices of cheese on top to cover the entire bake. Bake at 400 degrees until the cheese is melted. It usually takes three to five minutes. Sometimes, after the cheese melts, I sprinkle seasoned bread crumbs on top and then broil for one or two minutes to get a nice crust to the cheese.

6. Mulled wine

Mulled wine with cinnamon and orange
Rosa 811 / Shutterstock.com

I love making mulled wine for a winter dinner party. It’s pretty easy to use a cheap bottle of wine (I get mine at the grocery outlet or Costco) and dress it up. I like using a crockpot. It usually only takes about an hour on low, and then you can switch it to warm, and ladle the wine out as needed.


  • 2 bottles of red wine (I like cabernet sauvignon or merlot)
  • 1/2 cup of brandy
  • 1/2 cup of maple syrup
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • One large orange, sliced, with peel on

Put everything in the slow cooker on low, and let it heat up. Once finished, if you want additional garnishes, you can add star anise pods (which will also add that “bitters” flavor) or cranberries to the cup after you ladle it up.

7. Apple crisp

Apple crumble or crisp with oats and cinnamon
Nina Firsova / Shutterstock.com

Apple crisp is a simple recipe my mom taught me because we had so many apples from the tree while I was growing up! It’s a tasty classic, always welcome and can be dressed up with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.


  • 6 apples (I like to use Fuji or gala apples), sliced
  • 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon


  • 1 cup of brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Mixed the sliced apples (peeled or unpeeled) with the sugar and cinnamon in a bowl and then put into a buttered baking dish. Then mix everything for the topping, except the butter, in another bowl.

Once those ingredients are mixed, add the butter and use two forks to cut the butter into the mixture. You can also use a pastry cutter to add the butter. Sprinkle the topping over the apples and cook at 350 degrees for about 40 to 45 minutes.

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