Looking for a compliment-worthy, yet easy Indian Dinner Party Menu? Here are some crowd-pleasing recipes for appetizers, drinks, entrees, and desserts, including tried and tested sample menus. These recipes are easy to multiply, can be prepped ahead, and are perfect for Diwali parties, or any Indian-themed celebration.
Most of these dishes can be made in the Instant pot, oven, or air fryer using easy hands-off recipes, so you can divide your workload and enjoy your own party!
Planning for a party can be really stressful. A lot of people get overwhelmed by the decisions on what to cook, which dishes pair well, appetizers to serve, and what drinks to offer.
A common question I get from readers on Instagram around the festive season is "What is a typical Indian dinner?", and "What do you serve at an Indian dinner party?"
Whether you are planning a Diwali party or a get-together, the sample menus below will give you ideas on what are the main menu items you should have for a dinner party.
- Tips to Plan an Indian Party MENU
- Popular Indian Snacks/ Appetizers
- Indian Drinks
- Lentils & Beans
- Paneer & Vegetable Entrees
- Non-Vegetarian Entrees
- Rice and Biryani
- Indian Desserts & Sweets
- Sides and Condiments
- Sample Vegetarian Menu #1
- Sample Vegetarian Menu #2
- Sample Non-Vegetarian Menu #1
- Sample Non-Vegetarian Menu #2
- Tips for Hosting a Stress-free Indian Dinner Party
- Tips for Hosting ANY Dinner Party
- What to Bring to a Diwali Party
- What to Bring for an Indian Themed or Office Diwali Party
- Popular Indian Recipe Collections on the Blog
Tips to Plan an Indian Party MENU
A bit of planning is key to having everything under control. Gather the following information from your guests 8-10 days before the party:
- Get a Headcount: Total number of guests
- Dietary Preferences: Total number of vegetarians and meat-eaters
- What kind of meat: Do the non-vegetarians prefer chicken or lamb (pick one). I avoid fish incase people have seafood allergies.
- Dietary restrictions: How many guests prefer gluten-free, dairy-free etc.)
- Allergies: Check for any food allergies
Based on the information gathered above, plan your menu. Most elaborate Indian dinners include three courses- Appetizers/Drinks, Entree and Dessert. This is what my typical menu looks like:
- Drinks: 1 Cocktail/Mocktail + Soda, Juices, Wine, Water
- 3 Appetizers: 1 filling item + 1 dip & Chips or light appetizer + Assorted spiced nuts
- 3 Entrees: 1 chicken/Lamb dish + 1 Dal/Chickpeas + 1 Paneer or Vegetable dish
- Rice & Naan: 1 Rice dish + store-bought Naan (or homemade garlic naan) that can be heated in the oven.
- 2 Desserts: 1 dry dessert + 1 wet dessert, or Indian flavored ice-cream
Let's checkout menu ideas now:
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Popular Indian Snacks/ Appetizers
Elaborate & filling appetizers are pretty common in Indian parties since dinner is often served later than usual. Here are some appetizers that are most enjoyed by my family and friends, and are a breeze to put together:
- Samosa Chaat Cups or Samosa Jalapeno Poppers or Samosa Pinwheels
- Matar Chaat / Pigeon Peas Dip with pita crackers
- Dahi Bhalla Chaat: Serve with mint and tamarind chutney
- Oven-Roasted Chickpeas
- Vegetable Puffs (using store-bought puff pastry shells)
- Mini-Rava Idli serve with cilantro Chutney and tamarind chutney
- Stuffed Mushrooms
- Paneer Tikka
- Tandoori Chicken or Chicken Tikka
- Tandoori Fish Tikka
Check out the full range of Indian Snacks
No party is complete without a signature drink or two. Here are two popular choices in my home:
- Mango Lassi, this easy blender recipe can be made with fresh or frozen mango, or using canned mango puree. Prepare a few hours before the party and refrigerate.
- Shikanji / Nimbu Pani: a refreshing Indian spiced lemonade with a perfect balance of sweet, salty and tangy flavors.
- Jal Jeera: this can be made into an Indian flavored Mojito by adding vodka.
- Adrak Wali Chai (Ginger Tea): Make a big pot of ginger tea and serve in an insulated flask. Detailed make ahead instructions in the post.
- Masala Chai: Or treat your guests to this aromatics and spiced Indian tea. Make ahead instructions in the post.
- Jaljeera Mojito (Cocktail): enjoy this spicy Indian flavored mojito with hints of mint, cumin and other warm spices.
Lentils & Beans
Typically, I serve at least one dal (lentil) dish, or one beans curry (chickpeas or kidney beans). Here are the recipes for Dals, Chana, and Rajma:
Paneer & Vegetable Entrees
Here are some Indian vegetarian dinner recipes to pick from:
- Paneer Butter Masala/ Paneer Makhani
- Paneer Tikka Masala
- Saag Paneer/ Palak Paneer
- Kadai Paneer
- Matar Paneer
- Vegetable Korma
- Saag Aloo
- Aloo Gobi | Cauliflower with Potatoes
Check out more Indian vegetarian recipes
Unless a majority of guests in my party are vegetarian, I often include one of the following dishes in my menu. Here is a list of popular, restaurant-style entrees that I make in the Instant Pot.
- Chicken Tikka Masala
- Restaurant-style Butter Chicken / Murgh Makhani
- Chicken Curry
- Saag Chicken
- Chicken Korma
- Chicken Vindaloo
- Dhaba Style Keema
- Lamb Korma
- Mutton Curry
- Chicken Karahi
Check out more curry recipes: 50+ Popular Instant pot Indian recipes
Rice and Biryani
Rice pairs really well with most Indian dinner recipes. Instead of serving just plain basmati rice, I like to serve a slightly dressed-up dish like cumin rice or saffron rice. You can also serve a biryani, which serves almost as an additional entree.
- Instant Pot Rice (steamed rice)
- Cumin Rice
- Saffron Rice
- Lemon Rice
- Spinach (Palak) Rice
- Vegetable Biryani
- Chana Masala Biryani
- Achari Paneer Biryani
- Egg Biryani
- Chicken Biryani
- Lamb Dum Biryani
Check out the full range of Instant Pot Rice Recipes
Indian Desserts & Sweets
Depending on the occasion and type of party you are hosting, you can serve a classic Indian dessert like halwa, along with Indian flavored ice cream, like Paan, or Kesar Pista. If it's a Diwali or Holi party, you can also serve sweet meals like burfi, ladoo, or gujiya.
My fondest memories of Diwali are about all the sweets we used to eat during the festival season. Over the years, I figured out shortcuts so that I could make these sweets easily at home. Here are some of our favorites that are on repeat for celebrations:
- Moong Dal Halwa (Lentil Pudding)
- Kesar Badam Halwa (Saffron Almond pudding)
- Carrot Halwa / Gajar ka Halwa
- Kheer (Rice Pudding)
- Carrot Burfi / Gajar ki Burfi
- Mango Cheesecake: a favorite in my home and on the blog
- Besan Ladoos (microwave recipe)
- Coconut Ladoos (10-minute microwave recipe)
- Kalakand or Milk Cake
- Baked Gujiya (easy oven recipe)
- Kulfi ice cream or No churn Chocolate ice cream
Check out the full range of Easy Indian dessert Recipes
Sides and Condiments
Most Indian appetizers are served with fresh Cilantro Chutney. And nearly all Indian dinners are served with pickle, and a yogurt side dish, called Raita. Yogurt adds a cooling contrast to the spicy curries. Here are some simple and easy recipes for popular sides and condiments:
- Dahi Vada/ Dahi Bhalla
- Cucumber Raita, Boondi or Avocado Raita
- Cilantro / Hari Chutney, or Pudina Chutney (mint chutney)
- Nimbu ka Achaar / Lemon Pickle
Sample Vegetarian Menu #1
- Appetizers / Drinks
- Main course
Sample Vegetarian Menu #2
- Appetizers / Drinks
- Main course
Sample Non-Vegetarian Menu #1
- Appetizers / Drinks
- Main course
Sample Non-Vegetarian Menu #2
- Appetizers / Drinks
- Main course
Tips for Hosting a Stress-free Indian Dinner Party
Here are some tips and a rough timeline that work for me when hosting a Diwali party or any elaborate Indian dinner party. Using this plan and timeline, I am able to stay on top of things and enjoy the party without any stress.
- 8-10 Days before Party: Gather information on headcount, dietary restrictions and preferences. Refer to details listed above.
- Weekend before the party ( 5-6 days before):
- Shop for non-perishable, refrigerated or freezer items, like drinks, spices, chutneys, store-bought frozen naan, Yogurt, lentils & chickpeas, Paneer blocks.
- Buy aromatics like onion, garlic, ginger, green chili.
- Prepare ginger & garlic paste: Using a mini food processor grind 1 cup chopped ginger + 1 cup garlic cloves + 2 tablespoon olive oil to a semi-coarse blend. Store in ice-cube trays and freeze. 2 days before the party transfer to refrigerator and defrost. Here is a detailed recipe for ginger garlic paste.
- 2-3 days before the party: Shop for all remaining items like fresh produce, chicken or meat. If preparing fresh paneer, make it, cube it and refrigerate it. Here's a quick and easy recipe for homemade paneer.
- 2 days before the party:
- Chop/blend aromatics like onions using a food chopped or a food processor. Store in air-tight containers and refrigerate.
- Wash, dry and cut vegetables and store in air tight containers or ziplock bags.
- Chop paneer or anything that can save you time and store in air tight ziplock bags or containers.
- You can also prepare this Onion-tomato masala (master curry blend) and store in the refrigerator.
- Soak chickpeas/beans or pigeon peas (if using)
- Prepare chutney and refrigerate.
- 1 day before the party:
- The Day of the party: Morning
- Prepare or assemble the entrees in the morning. Cool and refrigerate.
- Cut naan in half and wrap in aluminum foil, keep aside.
- Assemble the raita and refrigerate.
- 2 hours before the party
- Remove the food from the refrigerator and transfer to oven safe serving dishes.
- Final Hour
- Assemble and start cooking rice 30 minutes before the party.
- Warm up the food in a pre-heated oven at 275F for 20 minutes. This time may vary depending on your oven.
- Transfer halwa to an oven safe dish, and an hour before serving simply re-heat in a pre-heated oven at 275F for about 15-20 minutes, or until warm.
Checkout: More Indian Recipes for your Party
Tips for Hosting ANY Dinner Party
- Always use recipes that you have tried before.
- I choose popular and known menu items. They are more successful than the ones that are too regional, or people have never tried before.
- I stay clear of shell fish. In a large gathering, there are strong chances that someone is severely allergic to them (unless you get a green signal from your guests).
- If you have a party of 20, don't cook every single entree for 20. In parties, people eat appetizers, plus there are more choices than one can eat, so unless you want to have a ton of leftovers, account for 70% of your headcount for each main dish.
- This above rule does not apply to Butter Chicken or Chicken Tikka Masala 🙂 These dishes are loved by kids and adults alike, so everyone takes a helping or two 🙂
- For parties, I set up the dinner buffet-style. Even if I have seating for all, it is much easier to keep track and replenish items when food is in one central place.
- Don't forget to setup an area for water and drinks.
What to Bring to a Diwali Party
Whenever I get invited to a Diwali Party, I always wonder what to take for the host.
Chances are, when you ask the host, most people decline and say something nice, like "oh, just bring yourself", or 'bring a good appetite', but, it is polite to take a little something... a little gesture! Here are some options that are safe to take to a Diwali Party:
- Box of chocolates, or, Indian sweets, if you have access to an Indian store or sweet shop. When picking Indian sweets, Besan ladoo (chickpea flour fudge), Burfi (milk fudge), and Kaju Katli (cashew fudge) are some popular choices.
- If you're up to it, blow them away by making a simple dessert like Coconut Ladoo.
- Take some scented decorative candle sets, it is the festival of lights after all 🙂
- Most of the Indian Diwali parties I have been to, serve alcohol. Check with the host and don't be shy to take a good bottle of wine.
- If nothing else works, take a medium sized bouquet of flowers.
- I recommend not to take artifacts or decorative idols of deities.
What to Bring for an Indian Themed or Office Diwali Party
Here are some dishes that most people enjoy and are easy to carry to work. You don't necessarily have to cook them. Check with any Indian catering shop and you'll find plenty of choices:
- Samosa or Samosa Chaat
- Kalakand/ Burfi
- Besan ladoo
- Indian dip and chips
- Vegetable Biryani
- Rava idli with coconut chutney
Popular Indian Recipe Collections on the Blog
I hope you find these tips and sample menus useful. I would love to hear your feedback or any tricks that work for you. Simply comment below and we can all share our secrets to hosting the BEST Indian Dinner Party. Cheers!