Is there ever a time more exciting than graduation? The last thing you want to be doing is planning the celebration rather than celebrating it with your recent grad. There’s no need to busy yourself with too many details when you could be part of the party instead.
Below we’ll give you a ton of graduation party food ideas. It may be helpful to determine the best time of day for your party before you jump into choosing foods. We’ll give you some great options for a morning time celebration, lunch party ideas, and dinner party ideas.
We’ll also give you some great ideas that don’t include main meals in case you want to have a simple get together with light snacks for grazing. We’ll also include some make-ahead options to get you out of the kitchen and into the party, celebrating with your favorite recent grad!
Most people think of parties in the evenings, but nothing is stopping you from throwing together a great breakfast or brunch time graduation party. Here are some ideas to get you started!
If you’re going to have a morning time affair, the perfect way to get the party started is by laying out a coffee bar for all to enjoy. If you’re celebrating in a private residence rather than a restaurant, gather all your mugs and set them out. You could also pick up disposable cups and lids for easy clean up with markers to write names on cups.
You can set out flavored syrups, different types of sugars, and flavored creamers. More ideas for toppings are whipped cream, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cocoa powder. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box here, and include stirring sticks and napkins in your set up.
Bottomless Mimosas or Sparkling Juice Bar
Nothing screams party in the morning like bottomless mimosas! If you’re opting for an in-home brunch style party, mimosas for adults are a great touch. In case you have non-drinkers or young folks, you can expand your mimosa bar to include a sparkling juice bar.
Here’s a quick run-down of the essentials.
- Champagne, sparkling wine, or sparkling juice
- Store-bought juice, fresh juice, or purees
- Champagne flutes
- Fruits, flowers, or herbs for garnishing
- Simple syrups for flavoring
To get your guests excited, you can offer a variety of champagne, sparkling wines, or juices to liven up the party. Make sure you have enough to go around; knowing your audience is essential, but you don’t need to go overboard with alcohol if that’s not the type of party you’re after.
One bottle of champagne roughly makes 8 to 10 mimosas. You can use serving trays to lay out several types of fruits and let people get creative with their mimosa or mocktail creations.
Fruit and Yogurt Buffet
If you’re sticking to a morning time party, fresh fruit and yogurt is a bright and colorful way to feed your guests. For full effect, you can use clear glass bowls for fruits, but it’s not necessary. Some fruits that plenty of people love with their yogurt are blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries. Many people enjoy fruits like peaches, pineapples, and mangos with yogurt as well.
You can set out a variety of yogurts like plain regular yogurt, vanilla yogurt, and plain or vanilla greek yogurt. Other things you may want to provide for your guests are honey, nuts, and granola. If you have other toppings you think your guests would enjoy, throw them in the mix!
If you’re looking for ideas for how to set up your yogurt bar, we loved this one.
When it comes to breakfast bar ideas, there are many directions you could travel. From light and fresh, hot and made to order, to fully prepared. Here are some yummy ideas to get your creative juices flowing.
If you want to keep the breakfast light, you could offer a variety of cereals, yogurts, a small oatmeal bar, or even several types of granola bars. There are no limits to what you decide to serve. Just be sure to provide the appropriate condiments, whatever you choose.
When it comes to a hot or made to order style breakfast, it will probably work best for small gatherings. You could prepare several trays of traditional breakfast foods if you have the accommodations and space to keep them warm, such as – bacon and sausage, eggs, toast, simple omelets, pancakes, or waffles.
You could also choose just a few options and make them as people become hungry or interested. If you have an open kitchen where people can gather, you won’t miss any of the party while you’re cooking.
If you prefer a make-ahead approach to breakfast style gathering, there are plenty of options! Think about what you might find at a continental breakfast – cereals with milk, a variety of pastries, donuts, muffins bagels with cream cheese, toast with a variety of butter and jams, and fresh-cut fruits are just a few ideas to get you going.
Mid Day Celebrations
If you’ve decided on a mid-day gathering for your guests, there are plenty of options to feed everyone a hearty enough lunch without spoiling anyone’s dinner plans. Don’t forget to add your favorite drink station to any of these lunch options to pull everything together.
Macaroni and Cheese Bar
If you’re going to serve macaroni and cheese at a party, you’ve got to do it justice. Since there may be a handful or more people at your graduation party, tastes and preferences may vary. A great way to celebrate is to let everyone start with your best version of macaroni and cheese. Then, they can add toppings to their delight.
If you have a preferred mac n’ cheese recipe, get started with it. If not, there are tons of great recipes to get you started. If you haven’t already tried a recipe for instant pot mac and cheese, do yourself a favor and start with this one.
Once you have your mac n’ cheese ready for the party, it’s time to get creative and plan out toppings that everyone will love. Here’s a short list to get the ideas flowing.
- Grilled chicken/fried chicken
- Diced ham
- Extra cheeses like blue cheese, parmesan, pepper jack, etc
- Hot sauce
- Truffle oil
- Garlic powder
If you have any more meats, veggies, or sauces, you think your party folks will like to feel free to add them to your set up!
Sandwich buffets are excellent for parties because you can put as much or as little thought and effort into as you want, and everyone is still going to find a sandwich they enjoy in the bunch. If you’re going to put minimal time into it, you can pick up party trays of sandwiches at tons of places; they don’t have to be fancy.
Places like Subway and Jimmy Johns make up party platters that can be customized. You can also typically order them from your grocery store delis and have them ready for you to simply pick up and pay.
If you want to go the do-it-yourself route, you can get fancy with high quality meats, cheeses, and bread, or you can keep it simple with deli meats and a few fresh loaves of bread from the local grocer.
Chips, Salsa, & Guac Station
A party can never be done wrong with chips and salsa! If you think chips and salsa are too “boring” for a menu, you just haven’t thought outside the box yet. Start by getting a variety of chips and fun bowls to display them in. There are white corn chips, yellow corn chips, and our favorite – blue corn chips!
Moving on to dips, you can make fresh salsa, pico de gallo, or purchase it at the store to make things quick and easy. Be sure to try red salsa and salsa verde (green). If you’re feeling confident and have the time, try making this guacamole recipe. There is plenty of delicious store-bought guacamole to choose from too.
If you have enough people attending the party and want to include a wider variety of snack options, expand your spread with dips! If you’re sticking with a Hispanic palate, you can add in a bean dip, corn dip, and queso dip.
Evening parties are relatively easy to plan. Most people come hungry and ready to eat. Whether you’re serving a handful of friends or large crews, these ideas are easy to make it smaller or larger quantities.
Spaghetti or DIY Pasta Feed
There aren’t a whole lot of people who aren’t into pasta, let’s face it! You can make just about anyone happy with a plate of spaghetti or pasta. If you only have a small number of guests, you might opt for a single dish like spaghetti or fettuccine alfredo.
If you have a larger group to feed, you can add an assortment of pasta, sauces, and cheeses for guests to choose their favorite. When putting plain pasta in serving dishes, you can add a little olive oil or butter to the noodles while still hot to keep them from sticking together.
You can also serve a variety of meats like meatballs, grilled chicken, or blackened shrimp to allow you, guests, a more substantial meal. Combine with their choice of sauce and cheeses, and some garlic bread, you’ve got a full dinner ready without much prep or time in the kitchen.
Burgers All The Way
Another easy way to serve a large (or small) amount of guests is to make plenty of burgers and set out a burger serving station. Burgers are easy to make from scratch or purchase in patties that are ready to be prepared. If you have any folks coming who prefer not to eat red meat, you can make turkey burgers or salmon burgers too!
Toppings can be as simple or as extensive as you like. To keep things simple, slice some tomatoes, put out a platter of cheese, chop some lettuce, and get the mayo, mustard, and ketchup out.
A lot of people are pleased with the basics when it comes to burgers, but you can certainly add your flair and have fun with extra toppings.
DIY Taco Bar
Is there a soul on earth who doesn’t love tacos? We’d seriously doubt it, but hey, there might be some folks who aren’t into tacos. Hopefully, none of those folks are on your guest list. If you do have taco loving friends, get ready to wow them with your very own DIY taco bar.
Tacos are super simple to make, and they can feed tons of people quickly and easily. For simple tacos that are ready to go soon, you can choose just one meat, both types of tortillas, and a few toppings.
If you want to go all out, you can add more meat options and more toppings options. Aside from the traditional home-cooked ground taco meat, you could consider shredded chicken or pork as meat choices. If you’re using an instant pot or crockpot, you can prep these meats ahead of time without too much work or mess in the kitchen.
Here are some of our favorite toppings.
- Shredded cheese
- Diced onion
- Chopped cilantro
- Sour cream
- Hot sauce
Tacos are great alone, if you want to serve a more traditional meal, try adding any of these as side dishes to complete your meal.
- Spanish rice
- Arroz con gandules (rice and pigeon peas)
- Elote (Mexican street corn)
- Refried beans (black or pinto)
- Queso for drizzling
Pick and choose your favorite meats and toppings to serve, and your party is sure to be a success.
Snacks and Grazing
If you’ve got your main meals covered already or just want to add a few sides or snacks to your party, try any of these favorite party go-to’s.
Fries Your Way Bar
French fries may seem too simple to make elegant enough for a party, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Consider serving regular fries, curly fries, seasoned fries, and sweet potato fries.
For toppings, you can’t go wrong with freshly chopped and slightly toasted garlic, Himalayan or sea salt, fresh cracked pepper, parmesan cheese, and even caramelized onions.
For toppings, set out some basics like ketchup and mayo (yes, some folks eat their fries with mayo!). Grated or crumbled cheeses, chopped crispy bacon, ground beef, ground turkey, and shredded chicken are natural to add as topping choices.
If you think your guests may want more sauce options, you could prepare nacho cheese, taco sauce, honey mustard, dijon mustard, or even basic chili.
Let your mind run wild, and your guests will be happy to make their fry creations to their liking!
DIY Baked Potato Station
Is there anything more comforting than a baked potato? We don’t think so! To get your baked potato station rolling, start with a bag of russet potatoes scrubbed clean and preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Puncture each potato several times with a fork and wrap in foil. You can rub the vegetables in olive oil and a little salt before wrapping if you wish.
You can place the wrapped potatoes on a baking sheet or set them directly in the oven on the rack. You’ll need to bake them for about 50 to 60 minutes. For the perfect potatoes, flip every 20 minutes or so and pierce with a fork to check for doneness.
Once you have your potatoes ready, you’re prepared to set up your topping station. You may want to put out some additional seasonings, butter, and sour cream. Other popular toppings are bacon bits, shredded cheddar, and even chili if you’re up for making a pot.
Baked potatoes can get creative with diced chicken, broccoli, and alfredo for a twist on classic chicken fettuccine. You could also add black beans, salsa, and chives.
The possibilities are endless, so let your mind run wild!
Fresh Fruit Kabobs
Fruit Kabobs are a super simple, light, and fresh treat that can go a long way with just a few ingredients and minimal prep time. If you’ve got an excellent menu planned and only need one quicker, fresh choice, this one is perfect.
If your creative juices are running dry, we love the examples given here. All you need to get started are your favorite fruits, a cutting board, a knife, and some wooden kabob sticks or reusable kitchen sticks if you have them.
If you want to get a little more into the fruit kabob craze, you can make some dips to go with them. A flavored yogurt dip, honey peanut butter dip, or your favorite recipe all work well.
Nailed your menu and just looking for a dessert to top off your event? Here are our top favorite crowd-pleasers.
Chocolate Dipped Strawberries
Chocolate dipped strawberries are the perfect way to add a little elegance to your party without too much effort. While everyone thinks chocolate-dipped strawberries are fancy and a rare treat, they are effortless to make and surprisingly not all that time-consuming.
Start with a carton or two of strawberries and make sure to wash them and pat dry. You’ll need some melting chocolate like milk chocolate, white chocolate, and dark chocolate if you’d like a variety, but choosing just one is fine too.
The easiest way to stay mess-free is to set up a tray lined with wax paper. Have your strawberries, tray, and dipping chocolate close together and ready to use. Hold each strawberry by its stem and dip it as far into the chocolate as you like, give it a small shake to let excess chocolate run off before setting it on the tray. Continue until you’ve dipped as many strawberries as you need.
If you’re feeling fancy, you can dip a fork into the melted chocolate and drizzle it across your strawberries for added detail. You can stick the tray in the fridge to help the chocolate firm up if you like. Remove the strawberries from the wax line sheet and arrange on a tray for serving. It’s helpful to keep these chilled until ready to eat.
Root Beer Float Station
Having a party outdoors or on a warm summer day? An easy way to cool off is to add a root beer float station! Chilled mugs are a great way to get started. If you are outdoors, keep your mugs in an ice chest filled with ice, so they’re ready to use when guests arrive.
Choose your favorite root beer to serve and a classic vanilla ice cream. Set out a few toppings like sprinkles, syrups, and whipped cream. Now you have a root beer float station that your guests will love and thank you for keeping them cool on a hot day!
Ice Cream Buffet
There’s nothing more classic than a traditional ice cream buffet station for a party. Folks young and old love ice cream and various toppings. Keep things simple with vanilla ice cream or offer vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, and some exciting flavors like mango or pistachio if you have a lot of folks coming.
Here are some ideas for toppings.
- Whipped cream
- Fudge sauce
- Chocolate sauce
- Strawberry sauce
- Maraschino cherries
- Crushed nuts – almonds, walnuts, peanuts
- Chopped candies
- Chopped cookies or brownies
- Fresh fruits – strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, bananas
If you want to go all out, you can offer a variety of cookies so your guests can make ice cream sandwiches. Place several sodas out like root beer, and strawberry or orange sodas, so party attendees can make floats if they wish!
A graduation party doesn’t have to take weeks of planning and a full day of prepping. Choose a meal or several snack options to prepare ahead of time so you can be free to mingle and celebrate with your grad and crowd.