30 Graduation Party Food Ideas

It's Time to Celebrate!

ham and cheese pinwheels

 Leah Maroney

They've walked across that stage, collected their diploma, and switched their tassel to the other side—now it's time to celebrate! These foods will make the special day even more so and many can be made ahead of time, so you can get the party started right away. Try these delightful dishes for a graduation party or any other get-together you have planned this summer.

  • 01 of 30

    Leveled-Up Deviled Eggs

    Deviled Eggs With Bacon, Garlic, Blue Cheese, and Asparagus

    Milena Perrine

     

    These extra-fancy deviled eggs look ready for a special occasion and they taste just as special. With blue cheese, bacon, asparagus, and a few more spices than the traditional preparation, they will impress your guests without requiring much more time. Make them ahead and chill in the fridge, so you can just pull them out and serve.

  • 02 of 30

    Four-Ingredient Appetizer Meatballs

    crock pot party meatballs
    Diana Rattray

    You may already have the ingredients for the easiest meatball appetizer ever in your cupboard. Don't turn up your nose at the combination of jelly and barbecue sauce—it creates a sweet-and-sour tang that always pleases a crowd. If you don't have currant jelly, try grape or cranberry instead. Frozen meatballs may also have a spongy texture, so roll your own if you prefer.

  • 03 of 30

    Ham and Cheese Pinwheels

    ham and cheese pinwheels

     Leah Maroney

    Grab a can of refrigerated pizza dough, shredded cheese, and deli meat for these delicious ham and cheese pinwheels. Kids and adults alike will love the classic combination, and they look fancy without taking much prep work or technique. Make them a few days ahead to save on time.

  • 04 of 30

    BLT Dip

    BLT Dip

    Molly Watson

    Make it ahead of time and serve this gooey dip in a slow cooker turned on low, so it'll stay hot while your guests munch away. Serve it with lettuce cups for that BLT taste or scoop with crackers, toast points, or baguette slices. Cherry tomatoes would also make a delicious addition.

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  • 05 of 30

    Corn on the Cob in the Crockpot

    Grilled Corn on the Cob with Bacon
    Diana Rattray

    Yes, you can make corn on the cob in the slow cooker to save both time and valuable stove real estate. You will need a crockpot big enough to hold the ears, or break them in half so they'll fit. Using precooked bacon saves even more time and adds a delicious smoky flavor to the corn.

  • 06 of 30

    Original Chex Mix

    Savory Real Original Chex Party Snack Mix

    The Spruce

    This classic baked snack mix has stuck around since the 1950s for good reason. It's crunchy, buttery, salty flavor complements any spread. Add bagel chips for extra flair or use pretzel twists instead of rods. Best of all, you can make it days ahead of time to pull out to get the party started.

  • 07 of 30

    Slow-Cooker Pulled Pork

    Pulled Pork Barbecue Slow Cooker
    Diana Rattray

    Start this ridiculously simple pulled pork in your slow cooker before heading to the graduation ceremony, then come home to tasty sandwiches that can feed a horde. Adjust the spice level by choosing a zestier barbecue sauce or a milder one, depending on your heat tolerance. Set out a basket of warm rolls and some extra sauce for drizzling and let your guests serve themselves for an easy, hands-off party main.

  • 08 of 30

    Honey Chicken Shish Kebabs

    Chicken Kebabs
    Gene Gerrard

    Use your favorite vegetables for these simple, slightly sweet grilled chicken kebabs. They make a great party dish, because the veggies and meat come in one convenient package. When prepping, keep in mind that the kebabs will all cook together, so take care to choose vegetables that soften in about the same amount of time and cut them into similar sizes so they grill evenly. Assemble them ahead of time, then just toss them on the grill for 10 to 12 minutes before serving.

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  • 09 of 30

    Chilled Chicken Salad

    Chicken salad sandwich

    The Spruce

    A cold salad tastes great on a hot day and saves you from slaving over the grill, too. Use more mayo for a creamier salad or less for a drier version, but whatever you do, don't leave out the pickle since it adds a delicious tang. Serve this classic chicken salad on a bed of green leaf lettuce, with a pile of rolls, sliced bread, or even halved croissants.

  • 10 of 30

    Ham and Melon Bites

    Spanish Ham and Melon Bites

    oksanab/Moment Open/Getty Images

    Enlist the kids to help assemble these simple ham and melon bites before the big event, then serve them as a light and fresh appetizer. Salty ham and sweet melon complement each other perfectly. Spring for high-quality Serrano ham or prosciutto for the best flavor.

  • 11 of 30

    Grilled Corn Salad

    Grilled Corn Salad

     Molly Watson

    This grilled summer salad makes the most of seasonal produce and you can prep it ahead and chill for up to four hours to save time. If you do, add the avocado just before serving, since it will brown if left exposed to air. For an even prettier presentation, use multi-colored heirloom cherry tomatoes.

  • 12 of 30

    Fig Crostini

    Fig Crostini

    Molly Watson

    A special occasion calls for a special dish and this fig crostini the bill. Sweet figs and umami balsamic vinegar elevate each other into an appetizer that looks elegant, but doesn't require much work. Use a good-quality vinegar for this dish; it will get bitter if you use the low-grade stuff. If making ahead, top the crostini before serving so the bread doesn't get soggy.

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  • 13 of 30

    Broccoli Slaw with Raisins

    Easy broccoli slaw

    The Spruce

    Because this simple broccoli slaw tastes best if it chills for a few hours, it makes the perfect summer party side. Raisins add a little sweetness to the tangy dressing and it works just as well with golden raisins or dried cranberries, so feel free to mix it up.

  • 14 of 30

    Quick Tuna Pasta Salad

    Tuna Pasta Salad With Dill
    Diana Rattray

    No summer party feels complete without a pasta salad and tuna gives this one an extra protein punch. Add chopped red onion or a little fresh dill for a more assertive flavor and plate it on a be of lettuce to dress it up a bit. If serving outdoors, don't let it sit in the heat for more than a couple of hours for food safety.

  • 15 of 30

    Simple Watermelon Fruit Basket

    watermelon basket carving fruit receipt food cooking decoration receipt
    Peggy Trowbridge

    A fruit salad adds a sweet element to any spread and it looks even prettier when served in a basket-shaped watermelon. It doesn't require as much skill as you might think and you can make it ahead and let it chill in the fridge until you're ready to serve. Get out the melon baller to truly impress.

  • 16 of 30

    Kale and Cabbage Slaw with Mustard Vinaigrette

    kale and cabbage slaw with walnuts and dijon mustard vinaigrette.
    Diana Rattray

    This light and fresh salad comes with a zesty Dijon mustard dressing that brings a tangy, garlicky flavor that complements just about any spread. Crunchy kale adds some nutrients to the mix and the salad will satisfy anyone trying to stay low-carb.

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  • 17 of 30

    Lemon Ricotta Cheesecake Bars

    No-Bake Lemon Ricotta Cheesecake Bars

    Elaine Lemm

    Fluffy ricotta cheese blends beautifully with sour lemon in these lightly sweet, make-ahead cheesecake bars. They work perfectly as part of a party dessert spread and you can freeze them if you want to prepare them even weeks ahead of time—just don't decorate until you're ready to serve.

  • 18 of 30

    Spicy Guacamole

    Guacamole
    Ray Kachatorian/The Image Bank/Getty Images

    You can't go wrong with guacamole; everyone loves the creamy, green dip when served with the crispiest tortilla or pita chips. This recipe makes a perfectly balanced, slightly spicy version that will brighten up your appetizer options. Store it with plastic wrap pressed right to the surface of the dip to prevent it from browning and you can make it a few days ahead.

  • 19 of 30

    Make-Ahead Chili Mac

    Tex-Mex Style Macaroni and Cheese
    Photo: Diana Rattray

    For a dish that really feeds a crowd, this one-pot, make-ahead chili macaroni casserole will do the trick. Chock full of beef, beans, cheese, and noodles, it has all the elements of a full meal, but works as part of a buffet. Assemble it ahead of time and refrigerate, so you can pop it in the oven when you return from the ceremony. Just let it come to room temperature beforehand to adhere to the cook time.

  • 20 of 30

    Vegan Couscous Salad

    Vegan Couscous Salad with Chickpeas

    Philippe Desnerck-Getty Images

     

    This vegan couscous salad comes packed with chickpeas, bell peppers, cucumbers, and a zippy lemon dressing. It can chill in the fridge for up to a few days—just toss it again before serving to ensure the dressing incorporates fully. It also makes a nice light lunch the next day if you have leftovers.

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  • 21 of 30

    Homemade Turkey Burgers

    Homemade Turkey Burgers

    The Spruce

     

    Homemade turkey burgers on the grill taste so much better than store-bought. You probably won't have time to form them individually on the day of the event—instead, mix and form these garlicky patties ahead of time, wrap them tightly, and either refrigerate for a couple of days or freeze for up to three months. On party day, defrost them completely and then hit the grill. Serve with leaf lettuce, sliced beefsteak tomato, buns, and burger fixings.

  • 22 of 30

    Frozen Chocolate Velvet

    Frozen Chocolate Velvet
    Linda Larsen

    If you need a chilled dessert to go alongside the congratulations cake, go for this frozen chocolate velvet. The fluffy filling won't freeze completely solid and it also won't melt into a puddle in the heat. Remove it from the freezer at least 10 minutes ahead of time so it slices easily. This recipe also serves a bunch, so scale it down for smaller gatherings.

  • 23 of 30

    Garden Pasta Salad

    Garden pasta salad with rotini

    The Spruce

    This veggie-packed pasta salad can turn into a main dish if you add chopped chicken, canned tuna, pepperoni, cheese cubes, deli ham, or roast beef. It also lends itself to variation; use any vegetables that look good at the market. Toss it together and chill until party time. The dressing will marinate the veggies and pasta as it sits.

  • 24 of 30

    Meatball Sliders

    Mini Italian Meatball Sliders

    Grilled Cheese Social

     

    Please everyone from the graduate's friends to grandma with these simple meatball sliders. Guests can assemble them as they get hungry if you keep the meatballs warm in a slow cooker until needed. Serve with Hawaiian rolls and extra sauce and cheese for topping. Note that this recipe only makes a few sliders, so scale it up as necessary.

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  • 25 of 30

    Easy Meat and Cheese Stromboli

    Spicy Meat and Cheese Stromboli

    Elaine Lemm

     

    Because it works just as well hot as cold, this spicy meat and cheese stromboli is great for a summer get-togethers. Serve it warm from the oven on a chilly or rainy day or slice it cold as part of a buffet on a scorcher. Vary the types of meat and cheese for different flavors, too.

  • 26 of 30

    Texas Sheet Cake

    classic Texas style sheet cake
    Diana Rattray

    Every graduation party needs a cake, so you can write your congrats right on the dessert. This rich Texas sheet cake gets a slight tang from buttermilk. Frost it with the included chocolate recipe or use a white frosting if you want writing to really pop. Chill it in the fridge before serving, so the frosting doesn't melt all over.

  • 27 of 30

    Classic Fruit Punch

    Fruit Punch

    Fotosearch Value/Getty Images 

    Nothing says "it's a party" like a festive fruit punch. This classic recipe tastes just like the one served at church socials and potluck dinners from childhood and it takes just four ingredients to make. Vary the flavors by using different fruit juice concentrates or dress it up with orange and lemon slices. For an adults-only alcoholic version, just add 1/3 cup of light rum to the finished fruit mixture.

  • 28 of 30

    Tropical Planter's Punch

    The Easy Planter's Punch Non-Alcoholic Fruit Drink Recipe

    Shannon Graham

    The tropical fruit flavors of Planter's Punch taste like summer, with enough zing to wake up your taste buds and that sweet syrup of grenadine to balance it out. It also lends itself well to a crowd, but you can scale it down to a single drink if you prefer. Serve it with lots of fresh fruit like oranges, limes, lemons, and a few whole cherries for a pretty presentation. For the best flavor, mix it up ahead of time to let the fruit marinate a little overnight.

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  • 29 of 30

    A Baby Bellini

    Baby Bellini Non-Alcoholic Cocktail
    Rob Palmer / Photolibrary / Getty Images

    For dressier events, you can't go wrong with bubbles. But for those who don't imbibe, this Baby Bellini fits the bill. Sweet peach nectar and sparkling cider taste very similar to the boozy version without the kick. Try using a dry cider for a less sweet flavor or a sweeter cider for a more dessert-like drink.

  • 30 of 30

    Green Lemonade

    Colleen Graham's Green Lemonade Mocktail

    S&C Design Studios

    Nothing tastes quite as good as lemonade on a hot day. This "green" version, which uses kiwi and limeade for a slightly different twist, will level up the traditional refresher for a special occasion. It also batches well, so you can scale it up to serve the entire party.