The Best Summer Dinner Party Recipes, According to Eater Editors

Labor Day weekend is almost upon us, and you might find yourself in the position of hosting or attending one last summer dinner party, barbecue, or porch hang. But we’re also in the languid depths of the season’s end, so if you, like us, are trying to maximize the deliciousness and minimize the stress of entertaining, look no further. Among the menu suggestions below, there are plenty of ideas for making good use of those late-summer tomatoes (see also: the best summer tomato recipes) and sweet corn, but also outside-the-box ideas for mains, and even a baking project to make the most of the holiday weekend.

Spiced-Tomato-Braised Fish

Rachel Gurjar, Bon Appétit

This recipe is a winner on several levels, starting with its super-approachable ingredient list — besides the fish itself, it’s pretty much pantry basics, down to the canned tomatoes — as well as its versatility as a dairy-free, meat-free, one-pot affair. My husband Daniel (who handles all the cooking around here) made just a few adjustments, swapping in powdered cumin for cumin seeds (again, pantry basics!) and adding turmeric and coriander for good measure. It’s a nice, light, flavorful dish that captures that late-summer tomato vibe — and if you’re planning on entertaining this Labor Day weekend, it’s an impressive dish that is easier to make than it looks. — Ellie Krupnick, director of editorial operations


Kay Chun, NYT Cooking

I love elotes, but as a New Yorker I do not have a backyard with a grill (ok I do have a grill on our balcony which may or may not be legal, don’t snitch). Anyway, grilling is an ordeal, which makes this esquites — basically elotes off the cob — recipe an incredible way to use up your sweet summer corn if you don’t have access to a grill, or if you’d just rather not spend all night flossing. Even though it’s full of cheese and mayo, none of it overpowers the charred, bursting corn kernels, which are all I want to eat at the end of summer. I also added some crumbled Flamin’ Hot Cheetos as a garnish for extra color, kick, and just to say I put Flamin’ Hot Cheetos on them. — Jaya Saxena, staff writer

Melon Salad

Adapted from

I found this recipe years ago on a now-defunct cooking blog called Jan’s Sushi Bar, but it’s easy enough to duplicate and tweak. Slice up three tomatoes, a pound of cantaloupe or watermelon (or both), a large cucumber, and half a red onion. (Mango would probably also be good, or any other summery fruit you prefer.) Whisk together 3 tablespoons of white wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, some salt and pepper, and pour it over the chopped fruit. Let it sit for a few hours in the fridge, toss again, then top with a chiffonade of basil. Easy and delicious. To make it even easier, I often buy pre-chopped fruit from the grocery store. — Brittanie Shey, Eater Houston + Dallas associate editor

DIY Hand Rolls

Christina Chaey, Bon Appétit

My queen Ina Garten once said something that I swear by: The best kind of cooking is no cooking. And DIY hand rolls are a perfect example of a no-cooking, highly-rewarding, and fun dinner party option. You only need to prepare a few essential components, which are highly customizable and come together in less than a half an hour: seasoned rice, a tangy, spicy protein, and a few fresh vegetables. The best part is that you don’t even have to turn on the stove. As the host, you let your dinner guests assemble their ideal bites, sparking interesting conversation, naturally. How easy is that? — James Park, social media manager



When I was in college, my friends and I would squat around a tiny charcoal grill while my friend Eric seared pork belly, short ribs, and marinated slices of steak for our summer Korean barbecues. These days, I still try to grill bulgogi and galbi on Labor Day; I find the gently sweet, sort of fruity Korean barbecue marinades far surpass a slather of ketchup-based barbecue sauce on a chicken thigh. But I kick myself for not finding Maangchi’s fantastic japchae recipe earlier, which would have been a natural pairing for Eric’s pile of grilled meats. Japchae, sweet potato starch noodles tossed with stir-fried vegetables, are mellow enough to stand alongside any piece of grilled meat, while the nutty touch of sesame oil, colorful mix of julienned vegetables, and the bass note of rehydrated shiitakes make it an uncomplicated, crowd-pleasing side. I tend to opt out of the beef in this recipe, simply because I have a number of vegetarians in my life who may be relying on it for a main course. It’s easy to double for larger groups, and it’s great hot or cold if you have leftovers. If you’re looking for a knockout bulgogi marinade for the top billing, Maangchi’s remains my go-to. — Brooke Jackson-Glidden, Eater PDX editor

Corn Chowder Salad

Beekman Boys, Smitten Kitchen

Corn salads can be a little ho-hum to me (corn + can of black beans + diced bell pepper = you know the drill), but I really enjoy corn in the summer, so I perk up when I come across a recipe with a bit more personality. Smitten Kitchen’s corn chowder salad (adapted from the Beekman Boys) definitely qualifies; bacon and cooked potatoes add fat and heft, with a little cider vinegar for a spark of acid. It’s even more of a winner during corn season, but no judgment if you just use it as a way to make frozen kernels a bit more exciting; you’ll just have to estimate a little on the swap. — Missy Frederick, cities director

Tomatoes with Fig & Prosciutto; Minty Limeade

Andy Baraghani, Bon Appétit

I am never lazier than when the temperature soars. I have no will to do anything — let alone cook! for a crowd! So, I don’t. Luckily, I can rely on the glory of late-summer tomatoes and figs to split the difference between my sloth and my entertaining aspirations. Why sweat that too-involved, “show-stopping” dish most guests might not even finish? I’ll shop in air-conditioned bliss to stock up on chilled slivers of prosciutto, large bottles of sparkling water, and a few lemons and limes to whip up not only a cooling fig, tomato, and prosciutto salad showered with mint, freshly ground black pepper, and beautiful, beautiful salt but a crisp, minty limeade as well. And when my friends arrive, heat exhausted and hungry, I can always say, “Oh, this? It was nothing!” and mean it. — Jesse Sparks, cities editor

Beautiful Burger Buns

King Arthur Flour

This summer, I honed an excellent party trick: I would show up to barbecues with homemade hot dog and hamburger buns. People automatically think you’re a baking genius and there really is something special about grilling up a dog and eating it on a bespoke bun — so soft, so pillowy, so not dried out from years of sitting on a grocery store shelf. With cooler weather incoming, opportunities to grill are shrinking, so take this chance to impress a crowd while you still can. Luckily, the King Arthur recipe for hamburger buns is basically as easy as they come. (If you’re looking to do hot dog buns, divide the dough into slightly smaller pieces and watch this shaping video for assistance.) Trust me: you’ll be the star of the party and your grilled meats will taste infinitely better. It’s a win-win. — Dayna Evans, Eater Philly editor

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