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Need some dinner ideas for entertaining? Check out my favorite easy 3-course meal ideas! I’ve included some of my favorite menus for everything from casual backyard gatherings to elegant dinner parties.

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Planning a Meal for a Dinner Party

It’s pretty simple to plan food for big parties, because finger foods and appetizers are all you need. But when it’s a more intimate gathering with a sit down dinner, it gets more complicated!

There’s the menu planning, prep, cooking, table setting, and of course the clean-up… it can be super intimidating. So it begs the question:

How Do You Create a 3-Course Meal?

  • PLAN AHEAD. When you plan ahead, you’re prepared for all the steps.
  • KEEP IT SIMPLE. When you invite friends for a dinner party, have an idea in mind of a main course and then plan the accompaniments around it. If the main dish is more complicated, keep the others simple and prep ahead what you can.
  • ASK FOR HELP. Ask the people in your household for help setting the table, chopping vegetables, or cleaning up afterward. You could even ask a guest to provide the wine, appetizer, or dessert.

3 Course Meal Ideas

Main: Million Dollar Spaghetti Casserole

Starter: Garlic & Herb Olive Oil Bread Dip or Caesar Salad

Side: Roasted Broccolini

Dessert: Ricotta Cookies

Main: Grilled Steak

Starter: Spinach Artichoke Dip or Steakhouse Salad

Side: Baked Potatoes and Garlic Green Beans

Dessert: Biscoff Cheesecake or Strawberry Brownies

Main: Braised Beef Short Ribs

Starter: Kale Salad with apples

Side: Mashed Potatoes and Green Beans

Dessert: Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp or Apple Spice Cake

Main: Lemon Chicken Piccata

Starter: Arugula Salad

Side: Buttered Noodles and Asparagus

Dessert: Chocolate Cream Pie

Main: Baked Lobster Tails

Starter: Crab Cakes or Shrimp Cocktail

Side: Easy Rice Pilaf and Asparagus

Dessert: Chocolate Pudding Cake or Creamy No-Bake Chocolate Lasagna

Main: Carne Asada Tacos

Starter: Air Fryer Tortilla Chips and Fresh Salsa

Side: Mexican Rice and Refried Beans

Dessert: Homemade Horchata or Mexican Hot Chocolate Cupcakes

Main: London Broil

Starter: Wedge Salad or Smoky Bacon and Bean Soup

Side: Potatoes Romanoff or Cream Cheese Mashed Potatoes, Oven Roasted Asparagus

Dessert: Mississippi Mud Cake or Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie

Main: Baked Salmon with Dill Sauce

Starter: Panzanella Salad

Side: Seasoned Rice and Carrots

Dessert: No Bake Lemon Cheesecake

Main: Chicken Schnitzel

Starter: Creamy German Cucumber Salad or Butter Lettuce Salad

Side: German Potato Salad or German Fried Potatoes

Dessert: German Chocolate Cake Brownies or Black Forest Cheesecake

Main: Cheese Enchiladas

Starter: Guacamole and tortilla chips

Side: Black Beans and Rice or Refried Beans

Dessert: Mexican Hot Chocolate Cupcakes

Main: BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwiches

Starter: Cream Cheese Sausage Balls

Side: Slow Cooker Baked Beans, Southern Green Beans, Bacon Ranch Red Potato Salad

Dessert: Cowboy Cookies

Main: Huli Huli Chicken

Starter: Spicy Garlic Shrimp

Side: Hawaiian Macaroni Salad, Sticky rice

Dessert: Pineapple Cobbler or Hawaiian Monkey Bread

Main: Cajun Shrimp Pasta

Starter: Crab Dip Recipe

Side: Homemade Garlic Breadsticks

Dessert: Grilled Peaches with Vanilla Ice Cream

Main: Chicken Gnocchi Soup

Starter: Copycat Olive Garden Salad

Side: Homemade Garlic Breadsticks

Dessert: Baileys Cheesecake

Main: Greek Yogurt Marinated Chicken Thighs

Starter: Black Bean Dip

Side: Greek Pasta Salad or Potato Salad

Dessert: Easy Strawberry Pretzel Salad or Orange Creamsicle Icebox Cake

Do you have a favorite menu for entertaining? Share it in the comments!

Kristin Maxwell

Kristin Maxwell is the creator and main recipe developer, writer, and photographer of Yellow Bliss Road. A self-taught cook and self-appointed foodie, she specializes in easy, flavorful and approachable recipes for any home cook.

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