When the sun is shining (and the drinks are flowing), the last place we want to be is in the kitchen. But turning up empty-handed isn’t exactly the best party etiquette. Enjoy the best of both worlds with these nine summer party recipes that can be made in advance so no one has to miss the fun—or that glorious sun.
1. Lemon Balsamic Summer Pasta Salad
Pasta salad is a super-smart recipe to master—and a super-easy one too. Not only can it be whipped up in minutes, but it’s also one of those dishes whose flavor intensifies every night, making it perfect for a no-fuss party dish and for leftovers. We particularly love the light, tart dressing in this recipe and the array of bright, crunchy veggies.
2. Loaded Veggie Summer Rolls With Cashew Tahini Dip
Veggie rolls are a breath of fresh air at summer parties. While we love chips and dip and meat kebabs galore, it’s always nice to sink your teeth into something light, fresh, and healthy. Filled with zucchini, carrot, bell pepper, mango, cabbage, and lettuce, these summer rolls are the perfect nibble between more decadent bites. Just make sure to give yourself plenty of time for prep, as rice paper wraps can be a little tricky the first time around. (Psst… try double wrapping for a sturdier roll.)
3. Balsamic Watermelon Feta Salad
We know: Salad isn’t exactly the most fun dish to prepare. But when it comes to parties, they’re certainly one of the most appreciated—and scarfed. This recipe makes things more fun, flavorful, and summery with chunks of watermelon, crumbled feta, and hidden fresh herbs. The best part: This salad tasted great with grilled meat or grains, making it easy for guests to transform into a filling main course.
4. Summer Farro Salad With Tomatoes
Forgot you’d promised to bring a dish to the party? This farro recipe is the perfect last-minute savior. While we love the recipe as is, what makes it truly special is that it tastes incredible with any veggies you have on hand (see, savior!). Broccoli, snow peas, kale, squash… the world is your oyster when it comes to this salad. And because farro is so sturdy, it won’t get soggy when you let it soak for a night (or two).
5. Yogurt Marinated Fajita Lime Chicken Kebabs
Not all meals need to be fully cooked when they’re made in advance. These skewers do the hard work overnight (the longer the meat marinates, the better!), can be popped straight onto the grill, and become the perfect party snack or side dish. You can even use different proteins, like shrimp or steak, adding extra variety to the extra-flavorful skewer assortment. Just make sure you adjust cooking time accordingly.
6. Sun-Dried Tomato Lentil Salad
Salads are a great party dish, but they can be difficult to make in advance. (Soggy lettuce? Thanks but no thanks.) We say skip the leafy greens—as healthy as they are—and opt for something with more flavor, fiber, and general awesomeness. This lentil salad is full of color from sun-dried tomato, bell pepper, and olives, and is held together with mixed lentils and a light cider dressing. We also love topping with crumbled feta (if you’re not vegan).
7. Potato Salad With Green Beans and Asparagus
Like grains, potatoes are pros at absorbing all that delicious dressing—which is why it’s so important to make potato salad in advance. This recipe skips the mayo and opts for a tart mustard and red wine vinegar dressing that can stand up to summer heat. (Creamy potato salads, not so much.) We love the crunch from walnuts, but also love adding extra crunch from crispy bacon.
8. Summer Wild Rice Salad
Can’t decide between a fruit, veggie, or grain salad? Why not use ’em all? Made with juicy blueberries and strawberries, earthy wild rice, and plenty of crunchy and vitamin-packed veggies, this summer salad is sure to be a hit. Though this recipe skips the lettuce, we like mixing in arugula right before serving. Bonus: It tastes great with added meat too.
9. Mexican Street Corn Casserole
Grilled corn should be served with a side of floss. But there’s actually a way to enjoy street corn without feeling the need to cover your teeth. Meet the Mexican street corn casserole, a genius riff on one of our favorite barbecue staples. Made with plenty of the good stuff—mayo, sour cream, cheese, butter—it’s a decadent dish that’s sure to steal the show. Go ahead: Smile! No corn stuck here.