50 Graduation Party Recipes That Make Hosting a Breeze

There’s no better way to celebrate your graduate than with a few easy, A+ dishes.

May 11, 2023

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Our Best Graduation Party Food Ideas

Go ahead and invite everyone you know—no need to hire a catering service! We’ve rounded up all the simple summer party recipes you need, including warm-weather appetizers, cookout favorites that will feed a crowd, celebratory cakes and more. Ready to plan a special menu in honor of your graduate? There’s no better place to start than with appetizers. We love these Caesar salad cups. They’ve got all the flavor of the classic starter, but have undergone a party-ready makeover. They’re easy to pick up and eat alfresco, served in crispy crouton cups!

Get the Recipe: Chicken Caesar Crouton Cups

Grilled Cajun Lemon Pepper Chicken Wings

Grilled chicken wings are the quintessential finger food for a summer cookout with family and friends. Just toss the chicken in a flavorful rub, then grill to golden brown perfection. A final toss with Cajun lemon-pepper seasoning adds a kick of spice and acidity.

Get the Recipe: Grilled Cajun Lemon Pepper Chicken Wings

Strawberry Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Strawberries are at the peak of their season right around the time of most graduations. That makes them the perfect ingredient to dress up a celebratory cake. The fresh, natural flavors you get from making your own strawberry puree is worth the time. This cake and its frosting also gets its rosy hue from fresh strawberries rather than food coloring.

Get the Recipe: Strawberry Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Summer Pasta Salad

This classic pasta salad, packed with a bounty of summer vegetables and fresh herbs, is the perfect thing to make for a summer party. Look for the tastiest produce at the peak of its season, like crisp radishes and cucumbers, juicy tomatoes and sweet raw corn. We recommend allowing the pasta salad to marinate for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Get the Recipe: Summer Pasta Salad

Beef Sliders for a Crowd

We're redefining sliders with this easy press-in-a-pan recipe—no forming and cooking individual patties! And we took a cue from our favorite burger joints: onions on the bottom, beef on the top. You can prepare the meat mixture on the cookie sheet a few hours ahead, refrigerate and cook just before serving.

Get the Recipe: Beef Sliders for a Crowd

The Best Creamy Coleslaw

We made our cool, crunchy slaw with just the right amount of tang from sour cream and vinegar. A bit of honey balances the acidity. This classic summer side dish would be welcome at any picnic or backyard BBQ.

Get the Recipe: The Best Creamy Coleslaw

Strawberry Shortcake Ice Cream Bars

We’ve taken your favorite strawberry shortcake ice cream bar and reinvented it as a treat with a buttery shortbread crust, super creamy no-churn strawberry ice cream and a sweet-tart layer of strawberry jam. What’s not to love about that?!

Get the Recipe: Strawberry Shortcake Ice Cream Bars

Caprese Salad

Ree updates this classic salad by adding a simple balsamic glaze. Just cook the vinegar over low heat until it thickens—and then prepare to be amazed by its sweet and savory flavor!

Get the Recipe: Caprese Salad

Sticky Ribs

Molly's easy ribs are extra sweet with a hint of smokiness, thanks to her simple spice rub. Bake them low and slow, then finish them on the grill for great char marks.

Get the Recipe: Sticky Ribs

Warm Farro Salad with Charred Corn

Farro salad can be adapted for any season (or whatever ingredients you have on hand) but there’s no denying that it’s right at home with summery herbs and produce. Here, Jeff tops hearty farro with fresh basil, juicy tomatoes and charred corn for a warm-weather dish you’ll want to eat all season long.

Get the Recipe: Warm Farro Salad with Charred Corn

Cupcake Lollipops

Colorful swirled frosting atop lollipop-inspired cupcakes are a sweet treat for friends and family or an adorable party favor. You can assemble and refrigerate the cupcakes a day or two ahead.

Get the Recipe: Cupcake Lollipops

Simple Guacamole

You can't go wrong with a straightforward approach to guacamole, sticking to a handful of basic ingredients: avocado, fresh cilantro, chile pepper, lime juice, onion and salt.

Get the Recipe: Simple Guacamole

Bistro-Style Grilled Mushroom Sliders

Whether you are looking for a new meal for the vegetarian in your life, or just trying to shake up your party menu, these easy, tasty mushroom sliders are the recipe for you. A savory marinade of mustard, vinegar, soy and Worcestershire gives these little creminis tons of flavor, and the sweet grilled shallots and funky Gruyère cheese give it an extra kick that will make you think you've stepped into your local bistro.

Get the Recipe: Bistro-Style Grilled Mushroom Sliders

Raspberry Lemonade

Have a bag of frozen fruit just sitting in your freezer? Ree uses frozen raspberries to transform a typical pitcher of lemonade into a refreshing, party-ready sip.

Get the Recipe: Raspberry Lemonade

Beer-Brined Barbecue Chicken

Pro tip: Start this juicy barbecued chicken a day ahead for maximum flavor and hosting ease.

Get the Recipe: Beer-Brined Barbecue Chicken


This summery salad has hundreds of 5-star reviews. Fans rave that it's "light and refreshing" and "absolutely a favorite". Better make a double batch!

Get the Recipe: Panzanella

Seekh Kebabs

Seekh kebab (or shish kebab) is a melt-in-your-mouth preparation said to have been brought to the Indian subcontinent by the Turks long before the Mughals popularized the concept. It traditionally consists of minced mutton threaded onto a skewer (or seekh) and cooked in a tandoor, but it’s equally delicious with minced lamb or beef. It’s also just as good cooked on a grill if you follow these guidelines: the meat should not be too lean; squeeze every bit of liquid from the onion mixture; and let the kebab mixture “marinate” for at least a couple hours.

Get the Recipe: Seekh Kebabs

Banana Pudding Cupcakes

This dessert has all the flavors of banana pudding in a handheld treat. The cake is infused with vanilla cookie crumbs and studded with bits of banana, while a silky soft mixture of white chocolate and cream create a filling that tastes just like vanilla pudding. A swoop of frosting finishes off the dessert: perfect for when a craving for banana pudding strikes.

Get the Recipe: Banana Pudding Cupcakes

Grilled Edible Cheeseboard

We love a good bread bowl so why not a bread platter? Whether you make your own pizza dough or buy it at the store, cooking it on the grill will give you a dough that is golden, crisp and tinged with a subtle smoky flavor. Loaded with warm melting cheese, briny olives and salty charcuterie, the board can be the centerpiece of your party.

Get the Recipe: Grilled Edible Cheeseboard

Creamy Herbed Chicken and Arugula Pasta Salad with Asiago

This vibrant pasta salad is packed with fresh, green herbs—and flavor! It's perfect alongside sliders, grilled chicken, skewers and more.

Get the Recipe: Creamy Herbed Chicken and Arugula Pasta Salad with Asiago

Easy Baked Beans

For a simple, delicious side dish that requires minimal ingredients, try this easy baked bean recipe. It's perfect with just about anything you're grilling up.

Get the Recipe: Easy Baked Beans

Limber de Coco y Piña

Inspired by the flavors of a piña colada, this Puerto Rican frozen treat combines two of the tastiest tropical fruits on the island into one, delicious, handheld frozen treat.

Get the Recipe: Limber de Coco y Piña

Smoky Grilled Deviled Eggs

These delicious deviled eggs are packed with smoky flavor. Adobo sauce and smoked paprika spice up the yolks, while a quick trip to a hot grill gives the whites a hint of fire and grill marks.

Get the Recipe: Smoky Grilled Deviled Eggs

Hoisin-Glazed Pork and Veggie Skewers

Hoisin sauce infused with ginger, garlic and sesame serves as both marinade and grilling mop for these pork and veggie skewers. We love grilled citrus; the orange is great either squeezed over the skewers or saved as a treat at the end. Make the marinade again for grilled pork chops or chicken thighs.

Get the Recipe: Hoisin-Glazed Pork and Veggie Skewers

Texas Sheet Cake

This cake is a chocolate lovers dream! A tender chocolate sheet cake is covered in a warm chocolatey, pecan frosting, making this an easy dessert that comes together in a flash. Slice into squares and you're ready to serve a crowd.

Get the Recipe: Texas Sheet Cake

Buffalo Chicken Sliders with Celery-Blue Cheese Slaw

Valerie Bertinelli makes this party-worthy bite in just 25 minutes thanks to a smart shortcut. She uses shredded rotisserie chicken as the starting point and adds in the classic flavorings to build these sliders.

Get the Recipe: Buffalo Chicken Sliders with Celery-Blue Cheese Slaw

Tortellini Caprese Salad

This pasta dish is as eye-catching as it is cheesy. Cheesy tortellini tossed with small pearls of mozzarella create a dish that highlights the various hues of heirloom cherry tomatoes.

Get the Recipe: Tortellini Caprese Salad

2-Ingredient Grilled Pizza Dough

This pizza dough comes together in just ten minutes, with no rising or resting time but it still has a complex flavor and chewy texture that mimics the real thing. That makes it easy to whip up grilled pies for a crowd all afternoon long.

Get the Recipe: 2-Ingredient Grilled Pizza Dough

Bruschetta with Prosciutto, Ricotta and Arugula

Spread ricotta cheese on grilled slices of bread, then press an arugula leaf into the cheese. Top with prosciutto and very good olive oil for an appetizer that will disappear in no time.

Get the Recipe: Bruschetta with Prosciutto, Ricotta and Arugula

Chocolate-Covered Ice Cream Tacos

Who else ordered a Choco Taco from the ice cream truck? Molly’s nostalgic homemade ice cream tacos are not only a blast from the past but SO easy to make at home. She uses common baking ingredients to create the taco shell batter and even provides a genius way of keeping the shape: with hard cover books!

Get the Recipe: Chocolate-Covered Ice Cream Tacos

Grilled Barbecued Corn Ribs

Fresh, sweet summer corn gets the full barbecue treatment in this recipe for corn ribs. Seasoned with a spicy sweet dry rub and brushed with a tangy barbecue sauce, the corn develops a delicious caramelized crust as it curls into a perfectly juicy rib. You'll need a sharp knife and a steady hand to cut through the hard cobs; make sure you have a large, sturdy work surface and take your time.

Get the Recipe: Grilled Barbecued Corn Ribs

Heirloom Tomato and Watermelon

This salad makes a delicious last-minute side for any get-together. Toss the fruit chunks (yes, they’re both fruits!) with Ree’s quick honey vinaigrette, then sprinkle with feta and fresh basil—it won’t take you more than 20 minutes to throw together.

Get the Recipe: Heirloom Tomato and Watermelon Salad

Crab Cake and Fried Green Tomato Sliders

Two summer favorites join forces in these superlative sliders: crab cakes and fried green tomatoes. While the crab cakes cook in the oven, green tomatoes are breaded and fried. A creamy homemade remoulade spread pulls together these crispy, juicy bites.

Get the Recipe: Crab Cake and Fried Green Tomato Sliders

Zesty Herb Dip

A quick-and-simple dip for crudites is a must at any summer get-together. This one comes together with just a handful of ingredients: tangy sour cream, some spices from your pantry, a touch of lemon and fresh herbs. Easy!

Get the Recipe: Zesty Herb Dip

Marble Snacking Cake with Chocolate Frosting

This cake really is the ultimate crowd pleaser, as it has something for everyone. Ribbons of chocolate are swirled into a fluffy vanilla cake which is topped with a light and airy chocolate frosting. By adding semisweet chocolate to a portion of the batter, we eliminated the need to make separate batches.

Get the Recipe: Marble Snacking Cake with Chocolate Frosting

Grilled Tofu and Vegetable Skewers

Tofu and vegetable kebabs are a fast and delicious summer grilling go-to. Using a variety of seasonal vegetables and a zesty herb marinade that does double-duty as a dressing makes this a colorful, crowd-pleasing dish for a party.

Get the Recipe: Grilled Tofu and Vegetable Skewers

Bacon-Ranch Potato Salad

Tangy buttermilk and fresh chopped scallions give this mayonnaise-based potato salad a flavor that's reminiscent of Ranch dressing. Crisp, crumbled bacon (added right before serving) gives this salad just a hint of saltiness. This one's guaranteed to become a new favorite.

Get the Recipe: Bacon-Ranch Potato Salad

Smoked Brie

Brie is just one of the many cheeses that work well for this grilling technique. Firm cheeses like halloumi and feta are great options too so feel free to use whatever suits your taste. Serve with crostini or fruit salad for a simple, yet showstopping, snack before the main course.

Get the Recipe: Smoked Brie

S'mores Blossom Cookies

Peanut butter-chocolate blossom cookies are great, but they're even better paired with toasted, gooey marshmallows. Serve these at your graduation party, no bonfire required.

Get the Recipe: S'mores Blossom Cookies

Smashed Cucumber Salad with Mint

This salad is like a sunny Mediterranean day on a plate. Molly Yeh’s recipe combines adorable Persian cucumbers with fresh lemon juice and mint for a classic flavor profile. The flavors are perked up even more with a sprinkle of za’atar, a Middle Eastern mix of intensely aromatic dried wild thyme and sesame.

Get the Recipe: Smashed Cucumber Salad with Mint

Classic Vanilla Cake

Keep this go-to recipe in your back pocket. The oil in the batter keeps the cake moist, and the simple American buttercream is sweet and fluffy. Plus, it can easily be dressed up with your graduate's favorite colors or candies.

Get the Recipe: Classic Vanilla Cake

Seafood Clambake

Talk about a way to make your guests feel special. This clambake is chock full of amazing seafood—clams, of course, plus sweet Charleston shrimp, mussels and even lobster tails!

Get the Recipe: Seafood Clambake

Nonalcoholic Strawberry Daiquiri

With this easy blender daiquiri, we prove once and for all that you don’t need alcohol to have fun. In place of the rum, we added a little citrus soda for liquid, sweetness and bright flavor.

Get the Recipe: Nonalcoholic Strawberry Daiquiri

Blackboard Butter Cookies with Edible Chalk

These creative cookies take graduation dessert to the next level! Let friends and family write a sweet message to the new grad, written in tasty edibile chalk!

Get the Recipe: Blackboard Butter Cookies with Edible Chalk

Spicy 3-Bean Chili Salad

This 3-bean salad is a super affordable side dish that boasts bold flavors and feeds up to eight people with a single batch.

Get the Recipe: Spicy 3-Bean Chili Salad

Fruit Salad with Orange-Vanilla Syrup

If you need a make-ahead dish, a fruit salad is the way to go. As Ree notes after dressing this fruit salad with homemade orange-vanilla syrup, "it only gets better as it sits in the fridge."

Get the Recipe: Fruit Salad with Orange-Vanilla Syrup

Confetti Whoopie Pies

What's a party without a little bit of confetti? As an added bonus, these treats are made from boxed cake mix so they're super easy to whip up any day of the week!

Get the Recipe: Confetti Whoopie Pies

Spicy Feta Dip

Valerie gives salty feta a nice, spicy kick by mixing chile paste and garlic into it. Roasted red pepper rounds the flavor out, adding just a touch of subtle natural sweetness.

Get the Recipe: Spicy Feta Dip

Pellet Grill Cajun Dry-Brined Chicken

Dry-brining is a technique that is less fussy (and messy!) than wet-brining and results in a flavorful smoked chicken that is seasoned throughout. You could dry-brine with just salt and pepper, but we added some zesty Cajun spices and a creamy remoulade to make this pellet-grilled chicken a real smoke show (pun intended).

Get the Recipe: Pellet Grill Cajun Dry-Brined Chicken

Glazed Mini Brownies

These two-bite treats are perfect for a party because they yield 24 deliciously chocolaty bites.

Get the Recipe: Glazed Mini Brownies