Divine Dinner Party

Buffet Party Food Ideas:
Planning, Tips, and Party Recipes for Buffet Food

Buffet party food ideas litter the internet and lots of different cookbooks out there. All that variety is nice... but it doesn't make it easy for the party planner --you!-- to choose your party recipes and buffet food.

Pretty Buffet Table Party Food Set Up

Fortunately, a few helpful hints like the ones you'll find here can at least get you moving in the right direction. Perhaps the most important element to coming up with the right buffet party food ideas for your event? Giving yourself enough time to pull everything together. If you rush, the end result just won't be satisfying... and on top of that, you'll end up working during the whole night instead of enjoying your guests. You'll find more tips on getting it all ready at:

All ready? Let's get planning!


Consider Your Budget and Guest list

Determine the number of people you're having to the buffet. This figure impacts your budget and your menu greatly. It's one thing to do a Jumbo Shrimp Remoulade or a Crab Dip recipe made with real (i.e. expensive) crab for an intimate gathering of 5-6 people, but something very different to serve the same thing to 25 people!

Before you get your heart set on a particular dish, get realistic: how much do you really have to spend?

Once you know how many people you're inviting, step two is giving yourself a reasonable budget within which to work. Remember that if your guests are bringing some of the dishes, that decreases what you have to spend (or gives you the option of spending the same amount with one or two dazzling items).

Fun BBQ Buffet Table Decorated with Picnic Squares

Create a Buffet Theme or Concept

The best buffet party food ideas come when you have a recipe or food theme for your party. Yes, coming up with a buffet food theme can be difficult, and it will limit the kinds of foods you can make. But in some ways, that's a good thing-- it'll help you make wise decisions and really put together some impressive --and cohesive-- party recipes for your buffet food.

What kind of party food themes should you look at? Well that depends!

Food-Type Themes

Probably the easiest kind of theme for your buffet party food ideas is a food-type. You'll pick one type of food, and choose all of your buffet appetizers and finger foods, main dishes, sides, and desserts from that theme. The bonus? Generally, all of the flavors will go together beautifully without having to over-think it.

Some good food themes for a dinner party or buffet might be:

  • Greek food menu
  • Greek Buffet Table Setting and party Food Decoration
  • Chinese food menu
  • Japanese food menu
  • Moroccan food menu
  • Italian food menu
  • Mexican food menu
  • Spanish tapas menu
  • Cajun or Creole menu
  • Thai food menu
  • Jamaican food menu

You get the picture-- there are lots more themes where these came from. Have fun with it!

Location or Event Party Food Theme

When coming up with buffet party food ideas, location or event themes can make for an easy choice. If you're planning your party recipes and buffet food for a holiday, let that holiday's traditional foods be your guide. Or get funky with your holiday theme and do something out-of-the-box. Or you can choose from among fun themes that create a holiday feel all their own. Some common (and some creative and not-so-common) buffet party food themes are:

Historical Dinner Party Themes

Another place to look for buffet party food ideas is history. Pick a time in history and base your menu around that! Some fun ones might be: Medieval Buffet Food Decoration for a Party

  • Medieval Side Board
  • Victorian Nibbles
  • 1950's Cocktail Party
  • 5 Decades of Food
  • Classic English Christmas
  • Night at the Speakeasy


Buffet Food Themes by Lifestyle or Cause

If you or your guests care very strongly about a particular way of eating, incorporate that into your party food recipes! Some good ideas might be: Buffet Vegan Foods

  • Vegetarian Feast
  • Green Buffet
  • Sustainable Food Menu
  • Organic Eatin'
  • Farmer's Market Menu
  • Vegan Buffet


You can see where having a theme pretty quickly helps you in narrowing down your food selections!


Putting Together Your Buffet Food Menu

Based on your budget and theme, you can now begin assembling you buffet party food ideas. Note that you can trim these back later. Start out with a nice variety and keep your guests in mind. If you've got vegetarians, make sure there are a few vegetarian items. If you have a guests whose allergic to nuts or milk, keep those items out of several dishes and mark everything clearly.

Classic Buffet Food

A good buffet includes several finger foods so that people can move around and socialize easily without making a mess. You can find a bunch of ideas for buffet finger food, here. LINK Or check out some of the following ideas for classic buffet appetizers:

Now just because these are "classic" buffet party food ideas doesn't mean you can't put a personal twist on them! If you have a Greek theme, for example, stuff your olives with herb goat cheese and make a chicken and feta pizza. Have fun with flavors and make each dish your own.

You'll find lots more recipes and ideas for buffet appetizers and finger foods at Divine Dinner Party's sister site, Appetite4Appetizers.com.


Putting it All Together

Pretty Salmon Spread in a BuffetYou'll find a lot of information about practical buffet table setting tips on this page, but here is quick little overview, just in case:

Hot and Cold Foods. If you've planned your buffet party food ideas wisely you'll be able to make some of them ahead and freeze them. That will certainly decrease party-day stress. One word of caution: figure out how to keep hot food hot and cold food cold. Food safety is very important. Don't get sloppy on this step. If you haven't been able to maintain a consistent temperature, swap out the foods every two hours, less if its very hot out.

Setting up the Space. This requirement means you have to think about how you're setting up the buffet space so that electrical items have adequate outlets. You also need a good space for plates, utensils, condiments, and seasonings. I recommend keeping beverages separate – it's far too easy to accidentally bump people in a buffet line and have the drinks land on the carpet or people's clothing.

Testing it Out. Once you set up the buffet give it a dry run. Can you reach everything easily? Does the setting make sense in terms of placement (for example, are the condiments adjacent to the food for which they're intended)? Do items that need to be sliced have suitable space (if not, pre-slice them)? Just look with a critical eye knowing how crowded your party is going to be.


Decorating Your Buffet Table

Last but not least it's time to dress up your table. If you want simple and elegant, just a few flower petals sprinkled around dishes works wonders. Having bread bowls, colorful baskets, napkins in a highlight color and some type of centerpiece also brings out more character.

Looking for buffet table setting ideas? You'll find some great ways to decorate your buffet table right here. And keep in mind that your buffet party food ideas and decorations need not be fancy to be impressive and beautiful. As long as you have fun with everything, you guests will, too!




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