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How to Host an Indian Party + Sample Menus

Gathering family and friends together whether to celebrate an event or just to catch up calls for fabulous food, drinks, and decor. I’m excited to walk you through my step-by-step approach and timeline guide that will take the stress out of planning. The goal is a successful and memorable dinner party that the guests will enjoy and is fun for you to host!

For me, the beauty of Indian cuisine is that each dish evokes so many memories—from my childhood, from trips abroad, and from special meals. Hosting a dinner party affords you and your guests the opportunity to create new and lasting memories of food, friends, family, and fun! The best kind of parties also let you walk down memory lane together, telling unforgettable stories that never get old. 

I’ve gotten an overwhelming request on Instagram for tips on how to plan and host a party, as well as, how to come up with the menu. I couldn’t be more excited to delve straight into this topic and share everything I’ve learned through years of experience!

The biggest question when hosting an Indian Dinner Party is “What’s on the menu?” With the variety of dishes in Indian cuisine, it is really easy to come up with a menu that will work with all your guests’ food preferences. That still leaves the questions of how to pair different dishes and how much food to prepare for the number of guests. This is where I can help!

Jump to:

Indian Party Planner Checklist

Click on the image below to download this printable checklist that will help you keep track of planning and will make hosting stress-free for you!

Make a Guest List (As soon as you have a date in mind)

Make a Guest List to get a head count. This will also help you decide on the menu based on dietary preferences ie, vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, no red meat, etc. It’s also an opportunity to take into account any allergies such as nuts, dairy, or shellfish. As you go through your list, keep these preferences in mind and if you don’t know, you can ask. To keep things as simple as possible, I usually go with a vegetarian-heavy menu and from there I’ll add one to two non-vegetarian dishes like chicken curry, shrimp curry, or baked fish.

Plan a theme (Up to a month before)

Although this step is optional, planning a theme is a great way to start getting excited about the party. If you do like themed parties, start planning as soon as you have a date and number of guests you would like to invite–this can be up to a month in advance and at least a week before.

From Indian festivals like Diwali and Holi to Movie/Game Nights, BBQs, Milestone Birthdays, and Anniversary Parties–a theme can determine every aspect of the event and help bring all of the components together. 

Another fun idea is basing your theme around the type of regional cuisine you would like to serve (North Indian, South Indian, Western Indian, etc). Pull ideas from the dress, architecture, natural elements, and famous sights of the region.

Of course, if you are hosting something last minute you can skip the theme and serve foods that you are most comfortable making with! An inviting table will set the tone and having fun is the most important thing!

Plan the Menu 

Once you have the headcount start planning the menu. For a lunch party, a two-course meal with a main and a dessert is perfect. For a dinner party, I would suggest a three-course menu with appetizers, mains, and desserts. At the end of this post, I am going to share some of my GO-TO recipes for Indian parties that I’ve served many times and are certified crowd-pleasers.

How Much Food To Cook & Making the Grocery List 

Now that we have salivated over all the food options, the next big question is how much food to make! Here is my estimate that can be scaled up or down: 

For up to 8 guests – 1 to 2 appetizers, 2 main courses, and 1 dessert

For up to 16 – 2 appetizers, 3 mains, and 2 desserts

More than 16 – 3 to 4 appetizers, 4 mains, and 2 to 3 desserts  

As far as servings go…..

I like to make one serving per person of most Indian dishes. The number of servings is always included in the recipes on my blog ministryofcurry.com. The only two dishes I usually wind up having extra of are usually the bread (naan, parathas) and the rice. Some people choose only one carb and so you may end up with extras. The best part of having leftover naan or rice is that they can be turned into Naan Pizza, Fried Rice, or frozen to use another time. 

Everyone loves Indian leftovers and your guests will be happy to take some food home so make sure to keep some Tupperware handy! 

Buying supplies (2 to 4 weeks before)

Depending on the theme buy the supplies a few weeks in advance and remember to allow enough time for delivery. For a more elaborate party with a lot of decorations, I like to have the decor set and crossed off my list at least 2 to 3 days ahead of time.

Decor 

If you are planning to host a festive party with a theme go ahead and gather your supplies. For Diwali or Holi Party you may already have some party decorations like artificial Marigold strings, Diyas/candles, table runners, and placemats. If you need any of these party supplies, you can order them from vendors like Krishna Home Decor and Shagun Arts and Crafts. Some of the decors can also be purchased from Amazon or Party City.

Tableware

Setting the table the day before is a big time saver. For a Casual Party, disposal tableware works well especially if you have more than eight guests. Make sure to buy paper plates (small and big), paper cups, napkins, and cutlery. If you are into hosting often you may want to get bigger packs from wholesale stores like Costco which can save money in the long run or look for eco-friendly disposables from Etsy or Amazon. 

For a Formal Party, up to 16 people, I like to set the table and use porcelain or ceramic dinnerware (preferably white) but you can also mix and match 2 to 3 dinner sets. Using silverware cutlery, cups for water or other beverages, a pretty tablecloth or a runner, placemats, and pretty napkins all add a wonderful decorative touch!

Servingware

Make a plan ahead on how you will be reheating food (Stovetop, Instant Pot, Air Fryer, Oven, or Chaffing Dishes) and the dishes you will be using. Order any supplies if needed 

Buying groceries (2 to 5 days before)

Make a list of all the ingredients you need for your menu including any drinks and buy all the groceries 2 to 5 days before. If you are serving store-bought items like naan, appetizers, and chutneys this is a good time to buy them. While shopping make sure to pick up some fresh flowers (I love trader Joe’s flowers) and candles. 

Start prepping and cooking (1 to 2 days before)  

Go ahead and make the curries, dal, chutneys, and marinades one day before the party. Cool down all cooked food to room temperate and then refrigerate. Depending on what dessert you are planning to serve, the desserts can also be made 1 to 2 days ahead of time. *Tip: If your guests want to bring something ask them to bring a dessert. Not only does this make them feel like they are contributing, but it also gives them the opportunity to show off their creativity, and baking skills, or the simple pleasure of sharing something from their favorite bakery. It also takes a whole course off of your to-do list!

Getting Ready (The night before) 

  • Prep the appetizers – have everything ready to assemble: steam potatoes or beans for chaat, chop veggies for salads and garnishes, grate cheese, etc
  • Serveware – Take out and label the serving dishes for each dish on your menu along with serving spoons, tongs, etc
  • Tableware – Arrange all of the tableware the night before. This includes setting table for a formal party or simply arranging all the cups, plates, bowls, cutlery, and napkins in one area that is easy for guests to access. 
  • Add some fresh flowers and candles to your kitchen and dining area.
  • Don’t forget to pick out the party day outfit and accessories 

Party Day 

Make sure to reserve 1 to 2 hours for yourself to get ready and relax! If you are relaxed, your guests will immediately feel relaxed and welcome at your party!  

  • Take out the refrigerated curries, dals, etc 2 to 4 hours before the party. 
  • Make raita, salad, rice, and drinks 
  • Set up Appetizers 
  • Get Dressed up and ready to welcome the guests. Warm naan, and parathas along with the mains just before serving. *Tip: Get help from your guests with warming up food, they will love to help out and many also feel more welcome into your home when they can help out.  

Fav Recipes To Serve

The food you serve will depend on your guest list and your party theme. Here are some easy-to-make, tried, and tested dishes that you can add to your menu! From drinks to appetizers to main courses and desserts, I have several delicious options for you to pick from and create your own custom menu. If you’re short on time or if you would like to take the guesswork out on how to pair different dishes I have several sample menus at the end of this post.

Drinks (Prep the day before)

Notes: Guests love a good homemade welcome drink. Pick one or two from the list below or make mocktails with store-bought juices and sodas that simply need to be mixed in. I also make sure to keep flavored seltzer and sparkling water on hand as sugar-free options.

Appetizers (prep the day before)

Notes: A Chaat station is easiest to put together and looks beautiful with premade or store-bought chutneys and fixings like sev, papdi, and puri! Simply place all of the fixings in bowls and place them on a wooden board or a large platter Chacuterrie style!  All of the below non-chaat appetizers can be made ahead and reheated just before serving although they also taste great at room temperature! 

Main Dishes 

When making Indian main dishes you do not have to quite make full servings as they are served with rice, parathas, or naan and a side of raita or a salad. Simply make sure you have 2 to 3 main dishes and make sure to pick dishes with different colors to make them look colorful and appetizing! 

Vegetarian Mains (cook the day before) 

Chicken and Seafood Mains (cook the day before)

Rice (Cook on the day) 

Bread (cook/reheat on the day)

Sides (prep 4 to 5 hours before and refrigerate)

Dips and Chutneys (Make ahead 2 to 3 days)

Desserts (Make/Prep the night before)

Sample Menu Ideas 

Parties are lots of fun, but they can also be a lot of work. Even putting together a menu can sometimes be overwhelming, given how many amazing combinations there are! But it doesn’t have to be. I am sharing some of my favorite sample menus for a fun Indian party!

Indian Vegetarian Menu 

Non-Vegetarian Menu 

Maharashtrian Vegetarian Menu

Movie/GameNight Menu 

Lunch Menu #1

Lunch Menu #2

Remember when preparing for larger gatherings, most Indian food can be made in advance as many dishes taste better the day after they are prepared to give the flavors time to meld and develop. 

I hope this helps you plan and host parties better and without much stress. If you are looking for any other sample menus specific to a theme, let me know and I will be happy to add them here. Happy Cooking!

Author: Archana

Hey there! I am a techie turned recipe developer, cooking instructor, and food blogger. I love food and enjoy developing easy and healthy recipes for busy lifestyles. I live in New Jersey with my husband and two sons.

Source: Ministry of Curry

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