Looking for easy menu ideas for the upcoming Indian dinner party?  Here I am sharing a variety of dishes to impress your guests including appetizers, entrees, and desserts, and sample menu’s to include in your next party, be it Diwali, birthday, or just an Indian-themed dinner.

How to plan indian dinner party
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Planning an Indian dinner party menu might seem daunting at first, but really it is not that hard. I get this question many times on instagram for what to include in a dinner party menu, and how to plan for it.

At Indian dinner parties, you will often find North India food. Here I am including recipes for a complete 3 course meal with starters, entrees, desserts, plus drinks, along with sample vegetarian and non-vegetarian menu.

Many of the dishes can be made in the instant pot and can be prepped ahead to make your party day less stressful. There are a few basics to remember and you can plan a party menu easily.

Tips to plan an Indian party menu

Planning

Try to get information about the guests few days before the party.

  • Headcount: How may guests?
  • Diet preferences: Any vegetarians, vegan, gluten-free.
  • Allergies: Do any guests have any specific allergies?
  • Meat preference: What do the guests prefer – chicken, mutton, lamb, fish.

Think of a theme for the party:

  • Traditional North Indian dinner
  • Chaat Party / Street Food
  • BBQ party
  • South Indian Dinner
  • Festivals such as Diwali / Holi
  • Holidays such as Thanksgiving / Christmas

What to include in the menu?

Most Indian parties or dinners include a 3 course meal, which includes appetizers, main course and desserts. You want to keep the menu simple.

  • 1-2 appetizers and a beverage. This will keep the guests occupied while everyone arrives and also not keep them super hungry while waiting. You can potentially skip appetizers for a lunch, depending on the event.
  • 1-2 dips and pickle
  • One curry with a gravy (eg. paneer butter masala) and one without a gravy (eg. Aloo Gobi) + plus one meat curry (if applicable)
  • One lentil or chickpea or bean dish
  • One raita or Dahi Vada. This is important to include as it goes well with the spices in indian food.
  • One rice dish
  • Some type of bread to eat with the curry. To make preparation easier, use frozen or store-bought bread such as naan which can be easily warmed up.
  • 1-2 desserts

How to prepare for an elaborate Indian dinner party?

Planning 2-3 days before the party can help to relieve a lot of stress on the day and has a better chance for the host to get to enjoy the party!

  • 1 week before the party
    • Decide the menu
    • Make a list of all the ingredients for the items in the menu. Check what you already have in your pantry and cancel them out from the list.
  • 2-3 days before the party (or the weekend before)
    • Shop the ingredients.
    • For any curries, onion-tomato masala (or curry base) can be prepared and refrigerated. eg. if making paneer tikka, you can make the curry sauce and on the day just heat and add the paneer.
    • You can also prepare ginger and garlic paste to make your cooking easier.
  • 1 day before the  party
    • Chop all the veggies (or marinate the meat).
    • Soak the beans/chickpeas. Bean/Chickpea curries can also be made the day before, as they get better the next day as they rest and soak in the flavors. eg. Chana Masala, Dal Makhani, Rajma.
    • Any dishes where boiling is needed, can potentially be pre-boiled and refrigerated.  eg, potatoes.
    • Prepare the chutneys/dips. These are typically easy to refrigerate.
    • Prepare any desserts that get thicker/creamier as they rest. eg. Kheer
    • Get the dinnerware and silverware ready. If using paper plates, have them ready.
  • On the day
    • Prepare the dishes and put them in the serving dish. For dishes, that need reheating just before serving, plan the serving dish accordingly.
    • Have the table ready depending on it is sit-down dinner v/s a buffet style.

Pro-tips

  • Quantity: Think about the quantity of each dish not in isolation, but as part of the whole menu. When multiple dishes are included at a party, the quantity of each can be adjusted down as people will try so many dishes. Also, many people fill up on appetizers and not each much of the main course. But everyone eats dessert! (more how much tips below)
  • Simplify your cooking: I try to include more dishes that can be made in the instant pot, so that less of my active time is needed in cooking. Also with the instant pot, you can easily cook larger quantity at one time.
  • Even if you plan to do a potluck or catering for the party, the below ideas will still be very helpful, especially the sample menus.

Appetizer Ideas

Indian dinner parties are incomplete without starters/appetizers (can skip for a lunch party). We love to include 2-3 appetizers/chutneys to keep the guests occupied until the dinner is served.

Below are a variety of appetizers which you can choose from. You can also make an indian charcuterie board with these appetizers.

You can try a combination of store-bought and homemade appetizers.

Dips to go with the appetizers

Non-vegetarian Appetizers

Along with the above, I always have some fruits, chips and dips for the kids.

Drink Ideas

Here are some simple, yet popular, Indian drink ideas for your next party. You can also include some alcoholic drinks based on the guest preference.

drinks such as roohafza and lemonade at indian birthday party

For more Indian drink ideas, check out 15+ Best Indian Drink Recipes.

Entrees Ideas

Main Course which consists of lentils, beans and paneer or vegetables curries. All of the options below can be made in an instant pot or stovetop.

Lentil & Bean Entree

Paneer Entree

Here are paneer entree ideas to pick from:

Vegetable Entree

Here are some vegetable main dish ideas:

For more vegetarian curry ideas, check out this collection of Instant Pot Indian Vegetarian Recipes.

Non-Vegetarian Entree

If more than half the guests eat meat, I like to include one of the below curries in the menu.

Rice Dish Ideas

A rice dish is a must for an Indian dinner party menu. I like to serve flavored rice in place of plain basmati rice. A biryani, which is almost like a main dish, also works great.

For more rice ideas, check out this collection of Indian Instant Pot Rice Recipes.

Salad/Yogurt Side Dish Ideas

Breads

For a party, Naan is my preferred choice. You can buy plain or garlic naan from Trader Joe’s or Indian grocery stores.

If you are inclined to make the bread at home, here are my roti and paratha recipes.

Dessert Ideas

Include 1-2 desserts in your dinner menu. If it is an occasion such as Diwali or Holi, you might want to include some sweets such as besan ladoo or gujiya. For a birthday menu, you can just include 1 dessert, as there is also cake at the party.

For more dessert ideas, check out this collection of Indian Instant Pot Dessert Recipes.

Other Dessert/Sweet Ideas:

Plan your next Indian dinner party with these vegetarian ideas. If you are looking to include a chicken curry, check out the Chicken options here.

Sample Menu’s

I get a lot of DM’s from readers when they plan their menu. Hence I am sharing here some sample menu’s to get you started with your party planning.

Lunch Menu

For a lunch party, I usually skip appetizers and go directly to the main .

Vegetarian Dinner Menu

The below menu is great for a festival such as Diwali, where many prefer to have a vegetarian menu for dinner.

Indian Dinner Menu

South Indian Dinner Menu

I have not shared much about a South Indian themed dinner party above. But below is a menu that works great when you want to host a simple South India kid-friendly dinner.

Indian Chaat Party / Street Food

Indian Fusion Party Menu

How much to cook?

Anyone who has prepared for a party, this is one question that troubles the most – “How much of each dish?”

I had recently done a party with 15 adults and 14 kids for my daughters birthday. So I wanted to share the quantities of food I made for it. It worked pretty well. There were some leftovers, but that is reasonable as you don’t want food to completely finish at a party.

  • Order 1-2 regular sized samosa or 3-4 small mini samosa + 1 more appetizer + some fruits
  • 3 cups of chana to make chole (3x Chana Masala recipe)
  • Three 400gms packets of paneer to make the Paneer dish (3x my Paneer Tikka Masala recipe)
  • 2-3 times of the Dahi Vada recipe
  • 4 cups of Rice dish (4x Cumin Rice recipe)
  • Naan – about 25-30 (I used frozen naan that we heated up)

How about a potluck?

Potlucks are great for large group dinner parties. Use a sample menu above, and each family can bring a dish to the party. That way the host does not have to do it all and can enjoy the party with everyone else.

I hope this detailed post about hosting a dinner party helps you.

I would love to hear what are your favorite dishes to make for your parties and potlucks. Comment below to let me know!

About Meeta

I strongly believe that each one of us has a chef inside us, we just need to explore the ingredients and create great food. My passion is to share easy, healthy, and wholesome recipes made using Instant Pot & Air Fryer, that are well tested, so you can cook with confidence.

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20 Comments

  1. Love all the information given ,so know i can look up ingredients and recipes,and have more of what to serve for my indian theme dinner.thank you.

    1. Hi Sue – If you are heating a few naan, then you can do on a pan on the stovetop. Heat on one side, then flip and heat on the other side. However if you need to heat for a party, then heating in the air fryer or oven would be better.

  2. Hi,
    What is a better appetizer for all American colleagues for a Diwali party – dahi bhalla or paneer tikka?

    1. Hi Sanjukta – I once took dahi bhalla for an office party, and it was a super hit. I also feel that it will stay better for longer. Paneer tikka is great, but also best served warm. So my pick for most parties is dahi bhalla 🙂

  3. Hello

    Would be great to show how the presentation looks and what dishes used to serve .
    How would you make chai ahead of time and serve before a big party

    1. Hi Sujatha – Thanks for the great ideas. If you have a thermos, that works really well to keep the chai hot even if you made it couple of hours before. You can use your instant pot to make chai in a large quantity.

  4. Hi I am hosting an indian party and you said to have one entree without gravy. What are some examples? They all seem to be saucy. Thank you

    1. Hi Sarah – You could make Aloo Gobi, or Palak Paneer for an entree without much gravy (this one as a sauce, but it is very different than the other curries). Hope that helps!

  5. It’s really helpful to know that an Indian meal should consist of a few appetizers, at least one curry, one rice dish, and some sort of bread or naan to supplement it. My husband’s favorite food is tikka masala, so I have been wanting to make it and a few other dishes for his birthday coming up. I think I will just take him out to an Indian restaurant because they know how to properly prepare it.

  6. Hi! Your recipes are always the very best. Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful and very tasty creations. Pat

  7. To the point and very informative. Was looking for ideas to plan birthday dinner for my mom. Thank you.

  8. So amazing and to the point!!
    You really simplified diwali party planning for us!!
    After reading, realized I had completely skipped on drinks and a main course item… 😅😅
    Thank you for sharing!!