How to Create an Indian Dinner Party Menu + Sample Menus

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Creating an Indian Food Menu

Friends and blog readers often ask me what dishes to pair together when creating a menu. While there are no set rules, I typically aim to serve dishes that differ in taste and texture. I pair a “wet” dish (e.g., Butter Chicken) with a “dry” dish (e.g., Corn Kadai). And I also try to include a good variety of vegetarian and non-veg.

Take a look at my sample menus below, and feel free to switch recipes out! Check out all of my Indian Recipes and all of my Instant Pot Recipes. Nearly all of the recipe suggestions in my sample menus are Instant Pot recipes because they are easy to make and perfect for parties!

how to create an Indian party menu
This photo is from my husband’s birthday lunch (2018). We had around 20 friends over (half adults, half kids) and what you see is our lunch. Before serving lunch, I served store-bought samosas, pani puri, and chicken bhuna.

Snacks/Appetizers

Before I get into what to serve for lunch or dinner, I want to talk about snacks. Depending on the type of event you’re planning, you might want to have some snacks. If you’re having a small dinner with a few friends, you can skip this part. But if you’re having a party with several guests, you’ll want to include snacks.

It’s very common during “Indian parties” to serve a few different appetizers. This way, you have food ready for friends to munch as soon as they arrive. They can enjoy the snacks while you wait for all of your guests to arrive.

I personally love having a table filled with a few appetizers – at least two vegetarian and one non-veg. I think snacking on apps is the most fun time during a party because you get to walk around and socialize between bites.

This is from our Diwali 2021 party (12 adults, 13 kids). I put desserts on the table along with savory snacks (normally I put dessert out later but it was Diwali). On my table were the following snacks: pani puri, onion pakoras, potato pakoras, chicken kebabs, and homemade chutneys. For dessert: oreo fudge, milk burfi, kalakand, coconut burfi, gajar halwa.

Here are some ideas for snack and appetizers:

Here are all of my appetizer recipes and chaat recipes.


Lunch and Dinner

Serve the following with each menu listed below:


Here are Several Sample Menu Plans:

Lunch Party Menu (as pictured in the very top photo of me standing by my kitchen island)

This is the menu from the photo above of me standing next to several dishes. On the day this photo was taken, we had around 12 adults and 11 kids at our place, and so I doubled all the recipes below in my 6 quart Instant Pot. We had a good amount of leftovers (except for the butter chicken). Everyone finished all the snacks I mentioned in the snack section, so if you’re not going to serve snacks, you likely won’t have leftovers.

(For this particular event, I prepped/cooked everything needed for the snacks as well as the butter chicken, keema, and langar dal the day before. I cooked the korma, aloo beans, and matar pulao the morning of the party).


Fancy Dinner Party Menu


Fancy Dinner Party Menu (All Vegetarian)


Holiday Menu

See all Indian Holiday Recipes here.


Holiday Menu 2

See all Indian Holiday Recipes here.


Weeknight Menu


Vegan Menu

*substitute ghee with coconut oil and heavy cream with full-fat canned coconut milk


Vegetarian Menu


Keralite Menu


Punjabi Menu


Brunch Menu


Fusion Brunch Menu (pictured below)

On the day this picture was taken, we had 12 adults and 12 kids at the house. I decided to create a fusion menu with some Indian food and then a few American dishes like waffles and turkey bacon for the kids (and adults if they wanted). I tripled my recipes below for egg biriyani, egg curry, and my breakfast skillet recipe and then doubled the recipes for chana masala and chicken stew. There were some leftovers but not an overwhelming amount – I always like to make extra food as it’s better to have more than not enough. Since this was an early brunch, I did not serve any snacks/appetizers.

(For this brunch, I prepped/cooked the chicken stew and chana masala the day before. I also made the egg curry sauce and the egg biryani rice the evening before – but I wanted the eggs to be fresh so I hard-boiled those the morning of the brunch and added them directly to the curry and the rice. I made the egg scramble that morning as well as the turkey bacon. I prepared the batter for the waffles and made those as guests arrived so they’d be nice and hot).


Kid Friendly Recipes

This one isn’t a menu – just a shortlist of some kid-friendly recipes you may want to add to an existing menu. While kids can of course eat any Indian dish, I think these may be more well-received.


Easy Onion Masala Menu ideas:

Indian Onion Masala

Find all of my onion masala recipes here.

If you make my onion masala in advance, you’ll save A LOT of time and can easily throw together a meal impressive enough to feed guests! While the recipes below all call for onion masala – DO NOT WORRY – they taste different from one another, so they will NOT be similar in flavor.

Onion Masala Brunch/Lunch Menu (vegetarian)

Onion Masala Lunch/Dinner Menu (vegetarian)

Onion Masala Lunch/Dinner Menu (non-veg)

Onion Masala Kid-Friendly Menu


Dessert & Chai

instant pot indian dessert recipes

Find all Indian Desserts Here.

I shared some dessert ideas in some of the sample menus above, but you can find my Indian Instant Pot Desserts here and ALL of my Indian desserts (non-instant pot as well) here. Dessert is a must when having guests over! You can buy store-bought dessert or if you’re looking for something very simple, try my Instant Pot Kheer!

I also have a recipe for How to Make Chai for a Party in an Instant Pot, which is great for a large crowd. Chai is also easy to make on the stovetop. Depending on the crowd, you can offer chai before or after the event. I’ll usually do some cocktail/drink to start the party then end with chai but totally your preference!

More Indian Recipes

Related Recipes

Cookbooks

Find out more about my cookbooks Indian Food Under Pressure and South Asian Persuasion.

About Ashley

Hi, I’m Ashley. Thanks for being here! I truly believe that food brings us closer together. Gather around a table with good food and good people, and you’ll have the ingredients you need to create some happy memories. My hope is that you find recipes here that you can’t wait to share with family and friends.

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Comments

  1. Meena Krish says

    I love your presentation and ofcourse all ur recipes. Can you pls share from where u got those beautiful yellow serving dishes?

  2. Nidhi says

    I just have question regarding those serving bowls in yellow
    Color? Where did you find those beauties? Lol TIA

  3. Ella says

    Thanks for sharing the great idea. I found it very interesting. You have great knowledge of Indian food. Keep posting nice information.

  4. Melissa Koch says

    Wow this is amazing and so helpful!! I am cooking Indian food for my wedding in May for 20 people! I have some amazing dishes I know how to make already but I’m excited to try some of yours!
    Question – as I am freezing everything before the wedding and then someone will heat things and finish them off (I.e. add paneer, cream, etc), do you have any suggestions for a veggie dish I could freeze? We love Aloo Gobi but wasn’t sure if I could freeze it well. Thoughts?

  5. Anu says

    Ashley! I love this, thanks 🙂 I’m thinking of doing a Holi party where it will be a high tea sort of menu. Any suggestions?

  6. Gitali says

    Hi! I am planning to cook paneer butter masala in instant pot for tomorrow’s dinner party. Can I cook it a day ahead? And if yes, what is the best way to reheat it for serving?

  7. Devika says

    These ideas are quite lovely. Would try them next time we have a get together at home. Do you mind telling me where you got those yellow serving dishes. They are quite nice.

  8. Kavita says

    Hi,
    Love your recipes!
    Which paratha/naan do you use? And how do you cook it? I usually use Deep homestyle parathas but want something better/softer that I can prepare in advance for a large group

    • My Heart Beets says

      Hi Kavita! I actually bought the paratha from a local Indian restaurant – I mentioned it in the post but with all the info I’m sure it’s easy to miss. I just re-heated their paratha in the oven.

  9. Anne Elengical says

    Hi Ashley,

    How do you warm all your food before you serve lunch/dinner to your guests?

    P.s I LOVE your recipes

    • My Heart Beets says

      Hi Anne! I put all of the food into oven-safe baking dishes and keep them in the oven at the lowest setting (around 200F I believe). Happy to hear you love my recipes 🙂

  10. Renu says

    Ashley, thank you for your recipes. I bought your cookbook and all the recipes I’ve tried so far are wonderful, especially all the biriyani recipes and all the daal recipes. I’m looking forward to another cookbook 😉
    I’ve introduced others to your website and recipes as well! Thanks again!

  11. Brandy says

    Hello. Thanks for all the tips. You mentioned starting a party with a cocktail or other libation. Do you have any suggestions for Indian cocktails or things that go well with Indian food?

  12. Liz says

    Good Afternoon,

    If serving a party of 10, how do you recommend I deal with the serving portions for the recipes if I am serving dal, saag, chana masala, aloo gobi with rice and naan. If i double all recipes, won’t that be way too much food? (Serving samosas, too)

    • My Heart Beets says

      You probably don’t need to double the recipes but personally I would double them and just have leftovers – it’s better to have extra than not enough in my opinion. Let me know how it goes 🙂

  13. Palak says

    Hey love ur ideas for doing a dinner party for large crowds but have quick question.. how to keep food warm or hot when serving the dinner and what about naan ?? Do u heat on stove one by one like roti while serving .. very confused and stressed

    • My Heart Beets says

      Hi Palak! I keep the food in oven-safe dishes and put them in the oven at low heat until right before serving. Then I put the naan in the oven – the tiny ones only take a few minutes to warm up 🙂 Hope that helps!

  14. Attiya says

    Hi,

    I know there might not be a recipe per say for these but I love Indian street food like papri chaat. Any idea how to make something similar at home?

    • My Heart Beets says

      Hi Sandi, I get frozen samosas from our local Indian grocery store but I’ve heard some Costco stores carry them too! If you’re having a smaller gathering, you can even call a local restaurant and ask them to make them fresh samosas for you (though those are more expensive than frozen).

  15. Jon White says

    Thank you so much for sharing your recipes. I love India foods and a long time vegetarian. My wife has been learning to cook Indian dishes over the last year or so. She is also a “Pampered Chef’ and enjoys baking as well.

    thanks again
    Jon

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