61 Low-Maintenance Summer Dinner Party Ideas

When it’s hot outside, we face a classic dilemma: entertaining a crowd with ease. Lugging around three bags of groceries and turning out a five-course feast in 90-degree heat? Not gonna happen. So when you’re in the mood to entertain but really don’t feel like cooking for hours, try one of these 61 effortless summer dinner party ideas—from easy appetizers to impressive desserts—that taste (and look) spectacular.

1. Mini Key Lime Pies

Silky, sweet, tart and crunchy in every bite—bring out the muffin tin.

2. Lamb Chops With Buckwheat and Black Pepper Strawberries

A seven-ingredient entrée that comes together in a single skillet? Be still our heart. This one features strawberries for a pop of seasonal sweetness.

3. Bitter Greens Salad with Herby Ranch Dressing

Homemade dressing sounds like a drag, but this entire salad takes just 15 minutes to toss together. Skip the bottled; your guests will thank you.

4. Grilled Melon With Tahini, Chili Oil and Sesame Seeds

We’re suckers for grilled fruit, but we’ve never seen it like this. The tahini adds creaminess and a subtle nutty, savory flavor that would pair great with grilled fish.

5. All-Year-Round Tomato and Mozzarella Salad

A little olive oil, salt and heat can do wonders for out-of-season produce, but if you’re making this dish in late summer with ripe tomatoes, it will taste *that* much better.

6. Baked Cheese with Hot Honey

New party trick: Warm an entire wheel of cheese until it’s gooey, then smother it in spicy honey and set out crackers for dipping. The crowd will go wild.

7. Seared Scallops with Citrus-Shallot Salad

This refreshing dish looks fancy but is secretly so simple. Scallops are sneaky like that.

8. Easiest-Ever Blueberry Biscuit Cobbler

This bubbling berry skillet is best served with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream. (Go ahead, use store-bought biscuit dough if you must.)

9. Strawberry Galette with Whipped Cream

The secret ingredient that takes this freeform pie over the top? Balsamic vinegar, which adds a subtle tang and brings out the sweetness of the berries.

10. Caesar Pasta Salad

Lettuce, pasta, crispy croutons: It turns out your salad can have it all.

11. Sheet Pan Gnocchi with Sausage, Peppers and Onions

Well, isn’t this a delicious (and effortless) excuse to not do dishes. It’s inspired by one of our favorite lazy summer meals, sausage and peppers.

12. Strawberries and Crème

The definition of elegant? Pairing fresh fruit with whipped cream. (Psst: It’s no cook and ready in 15 minutes.)

13. Green Beans with Garlicky Pistachio Vinaigrette

These beans are served cold instead of hot—refreshing in every sense of the word. Blanching them will ensure the texture and color are just right.

14. Tomato and Yellow Zucchini Risotto

The best way to use up all that fresh seasonal produce is to put it into this creamy, dreamy, secretly vegan risotto.

15. Bruschette with Heritage Tomatoes and Burrata

For the best results, use the freshest heirloom tomatoes you can get your hands on. (But with all that burrata, you can’t really mess it up.)

16. Roasted Salmon Tacos

Wait ’til you try the grilled pineapple salsa and cashew lime crema. You’ll never go back to a store-bought seasoning packet.

17. Rodney Scott’s Pimento Cheese

It’s spicy, creamy and cheesy—the ultimate party dip. Serve it with celery, carrots, crackers or chips. You can’t go wrong.

18. Roasted Radishes with Butter

This riff on the classic French pairing of radishes and butter takes just 25 minutes and fewer than five ingredients.

19. No-Churn Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

If you can make whipped cream, then you can make this dessert, which is just as creamy as buying a pint at the store (except better, because it tastes like fresh mint).

20. 5-Minute Bean Salad

It starts with canned white beans for ultimate ease. Add a few fresh herbs and some lemon zest to work total magic.

21. Weeknight Skillet Paella

We never knew it was possible to make paella in one hour. The trick is to let your oven do most of the hard work.

22. Mini Skillet Pizzas

The surface of your cast iron skillet gets extremely hot, which is the secret to the crispy, pizzeria-style crust.

23. One-Ingredient Watermelon Sorbet

Freeze, puree, freeze, eat. How easy is that? (Psst: Not sure how to break down a watermelon? Use our guide.)

24. Melon Caprese Skewers

Aren’t these skewers the cutest? Your guests will go wild for the combination of sweet and savory.

25. Skillet Nacho Dip

They’re ready in half an hour and devoured in seconds. No complaints here, since we can practically make them with our eyes closed.

26. Broiler S’mores

The ’mallows will be toasty and the chocolate melted just enough—without all the fuss of setting up a campfire.

27. Skillet Pasta with Summer Squash

This one-pan meal is ready in half an hour, plus it will use up some of your overflowing zucchini crop.

28. Skillet Lasagna with Corn and Cherry Tomatoes

Corn and cherry tomatoes have the same cheesy, carb-y taste you crave, minus the hours of assembly time.

29. Summertime Rosé Tequila Sangria

Tequila in sangria? We’ll start chilling the glasses. Using rosé instead of red wine keeps things light for hot nights on the patio.

30. Skillet Peach Cobbler

This is everything a cobbler should be: Simple, cinnamon-y and jam-packed with fruit. Be still our summer-loving hearts.

31. Avocado Avenger Salad

Let’s face it: Everyone’s just eating around the lettuce to get to the avocado anyway.

32. Key Lime Pie

This pie combines white chocolate and coconut with tart lime juice, transporting you to the tropics in just one bite.

33. Greek Lemon Chicken Skewers with Tzatziki Sauce

Just throw ’em on the grill and set the table. The Mediterranean flavors pair perfectly with white wine, a salad and warm pita.

34. Blackberry Jam Pie Crust Straws

You’ll use store-bought jam and frozen puff pastry. It’s giving “pie for lazy-but-elegant people.” Swoon.

35. Corn, Feta and Tomato Salad

We paired two of our favorite in-season vegetables into one summery side dish that’s delicious enough on its own, but also an excellent condiment for tacos or grilled meat.

36. No-Bake Avocado Lime Cheesecake

It’s creamy, rich and doesn’t need an oven. Need we say more?

37. Greek Wedge Salad

The classic dish is wonderfully simple, but tomatoes, feta and a lightened-up dressing give it a summery update. (See ya later, blue cheese.)

38. Asparagus, Pea and Ricotta Tarts

Puff pastry always makes dinner look so fancy. Feel free to swap out the vegetables for something summery, like squash or peppers.

39. Panzanella Salad

A light yet satisfying side that won’t take all day to make. The recipe serves one, so scale it up for a crowd.

40. Cheater’s Mini Strawberry-Vanilla Galettes

Remember what we said about puff pastry? It works for dessert too. Pair these cuties with ice cream, whipped cream or even a drizzle of cold heavy cream.

41. Pasta alla Norma with Eggplant, Basil and Pecorino

Pasta is always a good idea, and this vegetable-forward one is ready in an hour.

43. Summer Corn and Heirloom Salad

We wish all of our meals looked this colorful and tasted this fresh. Use gluten-free bread or sourdough depending on your preferences.

44. White Sangria Recipe with Peaches and Berries

Sure, it’s extremely sippable, but as an added bonus, this concoction is also totally white-jeans-friendly.

45. 20-Minute Burrata Salad with Stone Fruit

This dish is practically no-cook, feeds a crowd and won’t wilt in a hurry. What more could you ask for on a summer night?

46. White Sangria Ice Pops

Your dinner party guests will go bananas over these boozy pops. Mix things up by adding different types of fresh fruit.

47. Corn Fritter Caprese with Peaches and Tomatoes

It’s fancy enough that it will elicit oohs and ahhs (but simple enough to make). Make sure your peaches and tomatoes are pristine, since they’re kind of the star flavors here.

48. Mini Strawberry Ice Cream Pies

All you have to do is roast strawberries, crush graham crackers and scoop ice cream. (Can’t all desserts be this easy to make?)

49. Creamy Chicken, Corn and Tomato Skillet

A handful of ingredients and just three simple steps are all it takes to make this 30-minute crowd-pleaser.

50. Blistered Green Bean and Veggie Skillet

You eat veggies every day, sure, but these go beyond the usual roasted ones. Charring them slightly adds a ton of flavor, so don’t skip that step.

51. Zucchini & Tomato Ragù

It’s ratatouille’s chic Italian cousin, and it’s good on everything from pasta to toast.

52. Berry Galette

A galette is basically a free-form pie. It’s easy to assemble, and the crust doesn’t have to be perfect—our ideal.

53. Creamy Sweet Corn Pappardelle

This delightful dish just so happens to be vegan. The sweet, juicy corn kernels paired with the ‘milk’ from the cobs become a perfect cream sauce without using actual cream.

54. Shrimp and Pasta Stew

Making stew doesn’t have to mean spending hours in a hot kitchen. This one is ready in around 30 minutes.

55. Skillet Chicken Fajitas

After marinading, these babies are ready in about 15 minutes. Just add the tortillas and extra guac.

56. Watermelon Cucumber Salad with Feta and Honey-Lime Dressing

It’s juicy, sweet, tangy and ready in five minutes. Store-bought fruit salad, see ya never.

57. Marinated White Bean and Tomato Salad

The new summertime motto: less time cooking, more time eating this seven-ingredient stunner in the backyard.

58. Bacon Jalapeño Smashburgers

Burgers are a dime a dozen, but these are made with chicken, ready in 25 minutes and don’t need a grill.

59. Lemongrass-Ginger Coconut Grilled Steak

Once it’s marinated, this savory, umami steak takes ten minutes to cook. How’s that for effortless entertaining?

60. Tomato-Peach Caprese Skewers

It doesn’t get simpler than a no-cook finger food that feeds a crowd. If appetizers seem like too much work, this one has your back.

61. Za’atar Grilled Eggplant and Zucchini

Pair this spiced side dish with a yogurt, tahini or herb sauce for maximum effect.

Katherine Gillen is PureWow’s senior food editor. She’s a writer, recipe developer and food stylist with a degree in culinary arts and professional experience in New York City restaurants. She used to sling sugary desserts in a pastry kitchen, but now she’s an avid home cook and fanatic baker.