Easy Party Buffet Ideas Slideshow

1. Pizza

It's a favorite comfort food and very easily customizable. Instead of traditional pizza crust, however, opt for flour tortillas and English muffins. They're perfectly sized for guests, and with tortillas, the flavor combinations are endless, as you don't need tomato sauce. Simply fire up the broiler to make "cooking" each creation only take minutes. Set out a spread of toppings, from the traditional sauce, cheese, and vegetables to more unusual garnishes — try honey, pears, and fontina, or carrot purée, chopped peanuts, and cilantro. Then dig in.

2. Desserts

This is the perfect party idea for those with a sweet tooth. Put out glasses of champagne, moscato, and perhaps coffee or cocoa (for spiking!), and then match them with a spread of sweet treats. Use a theme to tie together the sweets. A selection of cakes for an engagement party, bite-sized pastries for a shower, or even a selection of pies for a low-key alternative to the traditional cocktail party (think bourbon cocktails, blue jeans and cowboy boots, and some country music).

3. Soups

Chicken noodle soup, Mexican tortilla soup, and even beef and barley soup — they're all riffs on the same thing. But have you ever thought about allowing guests to customize their own broth when serving soup?

Start with a big pot of hot broth or vegetable purée (simmer on the stove or use a Crock-Pot). Set out a spread of additions like cooked pasta, grains, meats, diced vegetables, spices, and flavorings (be it ginger and coconut milk, or cinnamon, chile, and cocoa). Arm guests with big, deep bowls like this and then inspire them with combinations like chicken, rice noodles, bok choy, and scallion, or perhaps a medley of vegetables with a good topping of grated Parmesan. Serve along with fresh bread for dipping, and popcorn, croutons, or Goldfish for crunch.

4. Baked Potatoes

By themselves, baked potatoes — sweet or white — can be kind of boring. But imagine topping that spud with pesto, grated mozzarella, fresh tomatoes, and bacon bits (or coconut, toasted pecans, and maple syrup on that yam)? Now we're talking…

A baked potato bar is easy to set up. Keep the cooked spuds warm in the oven, then let guests add mounds of flavor to their meal, choosing sweet and savory toppings, from cheeses and chopped vegetables to things like pulled pork and Alfredo sauce, from small bowls and pitchers set out on the table. This is a fun, kid-friendly option that is perfect for game day.

5. Yogurt Parfaits


Hosting guests for brunch? A DIY yogurt parfait bar is a great option for when you want to offer something healthy and delicious, but don't want to have to get up early to make eggs and bake the coffee cake. All you need are a couple of large containers of yogurt (try plain and vanilla), and a creative array of toppings and sauces. Think cereals, chopped toasted nuts, granola, and crumbled coffee cake; dried fruit, berries, and fruit-filled syrups; and other toppings like sweet coconut, chocolate chips, honey, syrup, and even peanut butter.

6. Skewers

This is a perfect, make-ahead option for picky eaters. All you need are ready-to-eat ingredients, and a package of bamboo skewers (OK, and some sauces for dipping). Tweak your ingredients depending on your crowd, and the time of day. Try French toast, bananas, and bacon slices at breakfast, or grilled bread croutons, cherry tomatoes, chicken, basil, and tomato at lunch. Kids will love a sausage and potato (or hot dog and tater tots) combo come dinner time — just round out the meal with a salad or cooked vegetable dish. For something mini, try toothpicks at a cocktail party!

7. Burritos

It's the diner-friendly alternative to the taco with a mile-high assortment of toppings — no dripping sour cream or crumbling shells, but with all those great Mexican (or beyond, if you wish) flavors. Start with jumbo flour tortillas, kept warm in a steamer basket over the stove, then set out a spread of fillings, like braised beef, grilled mushrooms, vegetables, dried fruits, cheeses, sauces, and more.

8. Mac 'n' Cheese


If you've always found some kinds of mac 'n' cheese to be lacking in flavor, now's your chance to change that. This is perfect for a party where kids and adults both have to eat. Stick with the basics for the kiddies (with some extra cheese or diced hot dog, perhaps). For the adults, the sky is the limit. Consider different flavors with additions like diced jalapeño and tomato, or truffle oil and sautéed mushrooms. Add shredded braised beef for a cheesesteak-inspired meal, or lobster and chives for something special.

9. Cocktails

At brunch parties, make-your-own bloody mary and prosecco brunch cocktails are two of our favorite musts. It works for coffee, cocoa, and even vodka, as well. Set out a couple of different kinds of juices, sorbets, garnishes, and liqueurs for guests to choose from, along with glassware and utensils for mixing. There is no extra lifting for you and guests can make their drink as sweet, strong, or as spicy as they like.