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From tear and share bread to sausage rolls, and from scones to mini butterfly cakes, here are the best buffet food recipes and ideas to serve at a party.
Making party food from scratch is doable with our selection of delicious, easy buffet food ideas. These party food ideas include both sweet and savoury recipes. Our collection of buffet food ideas and recipes cater between six to 75 portions so it doesn't matter if it's just you and a couple of friends, or the whole street - you're sure to find a selection of recipes to suit. Each recipe is easy to multiply up or reduce down to make as many servings as you need for your guests.
If you're after a salad that you can make in bulk, try our coleslaw and potato salads. Served up in big bowls, people can help themselves - all you need to provide is plates and cutlery. There are also easy canapés (opens in new tab) like vol-au-vents and cheese puffs, with quick cheats so you can knock them up in no time. We've also included a collection of afternoon tea ideas (opens in new tab), for themed parties and some kids' party food ideas (opens in new tab) too. "When it comes to hosting a buffet it's best to include a number of dishes that can be prepared in advance any replenished throughout the day," says Senior Food Writer, Jessica Ransom (opens in new tab).
"Salads with dressings will wilt quite drastically so where possible serve with the dressing in a small jug or bowl to the side and allow your guests to help themselves. It's nice to include dishes that cater to all dietary requirements as it makes it less stressful and more inclusive. Dips such as hummus are a great option and can be served with a selection of vegetables, bread, or cured meat on the side so people can choose what is best for them."
Buffet food ideas: Easy party food
1. Coronation chicken
Serves: 8-10 | Skill level: Easy | Total time: 45 mins
The cornerstone of any street party and the original buffet food. This was invented for Queen Elizabeth’s coronation lunch in 1953. Originally called Poulet Reine Elizabeth, it’s been a hot favourite at royal celebrations ever since. Don’t forget to serve it with little flags or mini bunting sticking out.
Jessica Ransom, says: "This is one of my top buffet dishes as it can be served a number of ways. Try it in wraps, and pitta bread or as a traditional sandwich filling. You can also bulk it out with boiled new potatoes and serve it as a side salad. If you want to make the recipe dairy and egg-free, try swapping the mayo for coconut yogurt."
Get the recipe: Coronation chicken (opens in new tab)
2. Stilton, apple, and walnut salad
Serves: 8-10 | Skill level: Easy | Total time: 15 mins
A salad that should tempt even guests who aren’t usually lettuce nibblers. It’s great buffet food for vegetarians as it’s so filling - more like the main event than a side dish. If you’re not keen on blue cheeses, swap it for a crumbly goat’s cheese instead. This is ready in just 15 minutes, and you can multiply the ingredients as needed depending on how many you are serving.
Get the recipe: Stilton, apple, and walnut salad (opens in new tab)
3. Vegetable tortilla
Serves: 8-12 | Skill level: Easy | Total time: 1hr 45
If you’re on a budget this is a brilliant option. Tortillas are packed with potatoes which are cheap and filling. It makes great buffet food because once it's cold you can slice it into portions ready for people to help themselves. Plus it’s another good veggie offering - though make plenty because your meat-eating guests will want some too. Although it takes 1 hour 45 to make this recipe, an hour of that is simply baking time. You can make it a day or two in advance and keep it in the fridge until needed.
Get the recipe: Vegetable tortilla (opens in new tab)
4. Crushed potato salad
Serves: 4-6 | Skill level: Easy | Total time: 25 mins
It’s quick and cheap to put together, and always popular in summer. It's a great side dish for a barbecue as well. Jessica says; "This is easy to prepare ahead and can be enjoyed warm or cold. It's best not to serve this dish fridge cold so bring it to room temp approx 30 mins before you want to eat it. Try serving with flaked hot smoked salmon or trout for a more substantial meal. To make this vegan use a plant-based mayonnaise and be sure to check the mustard label."
Get the recipe: Crushed potato salad (opens in new tab)
Serves: 4-6 | Skill level: Easy | Total time: 20 mins
You can buy coleslaw in large supermarket packs but they don't compare to the homemade versions, which have much better crunch and freshness. It only takes 20 minutes to make this, with only three ingredients for the veg and three more for the dressing. Serve it with cold meats or picnic staples like pork pies and sausage rolls. Coleslaw is also a great dish if you have guests with dietary requirements, as it's vegetarian, gluten-free, and dairy-free.
Get the recipe: Coleslaw recipe (opens in new tab)
6. Pasta Niçoise
Serves: 8 | Skill level: Easy | Total time: 25 mins
Based on a classic South of France salad Niçoise but bulked up for bigger numbers with pasta shapes. You can make this well in advance and multiply the amounts as needed. Also, if it doesn’t all get eaten, it’s a great one for packing up for lunch the next day.
Jessica says, "Budget-friendly and easy to prepare ahead, this is a lovely option for parties and buffets. Try using smaller pasta shapes as they are easy for people to eat when using just a fork or spoon. And it's a good idea to have several serving spoons available so that your guests don't have to wait in line too long."
Get the recipe: Pasta Niçoise (opens in new tab)
Serves: 4 | Skill level: Easy | Total time: 15 mins
You won't believe how easy it is to make your own hummus. Serve it up in bowls with teaspoons in, so people can transfer a portion to their own plate. Or lay out some chopped vegetable crudités next to it.
Jessica says, "A great value dish that's easy to make and tastier than shop-bought. If you don't have chickpeas you can also make a dip using cannellini beans. Have fun and experiment with whatever plain beans you have in your cupboard and you might just find a new favourite. To improve the presentation, always serve with an additional drizzle of quality olive oil. You can also top it with toasted seeds, nuts, or a spice mix such as Dukkah or Zaatar." Make this up a day or two in advance and keep it covered in the fridge until needed.
Get the recipe: Hummus (opens in new tab)
8. Barbecue chicken drumsticks
Serves: 8 | Skill level: Easy | Total time: 30 mins
Drumsticks are one of the cheapest cuts of chicken to buy, so you can feed a whole crowd for not too much cash. This chicken is marinated in a really simple dressing, to keep costs down.
If you have a barbecue at your event you can simply make them up in the marinade beforehand - up to 24 hours ahead of time. Then just take them along to be added to the flames. Alternatively, cook them in advance (in the oven or under the grill) and bring them warm, or allow them to cool completely in the fridge before packing them up.
Get the recipe: Mediterranean-style barbecue chicken (opens in new tab)
9. French onion tart
Serves: 18 | Skill level: Medium | Total time: 45 mins
This French-style picnic staple is called a pissaladière and it’s a cross between an onion tart and a pizza. The topping is made from really slow-cooked onions, which sweeten and caramelise to perfection. Then there’s the salty hit of the anchovies and the sour olives. This recipe makes three little pizzas, and you can cut each one into six slices - making 18 small portions. It’s a marmite dish - anchovies are always divisive - but you will find that guests who like this definitely want more than one piece.
Get the recipe: Pissaladière (opens in new tab)
10. Brie quiche with cranberries
Serves: 6-8 | Skill level: Easy | Total time: 1 hr 20 mins
This quiche is a full from-scratch recipe, but if you want to make it speedier use a pack of ready-rolled shortcrust pastry. We recommend slicing it down yourself into portions to make it easier for people to serve themselves at the buffet. Add some fresh green salad leaves with a light dressing over the top in a big bowl, and it’s a whole mini-meal.
Get the recipe: Brie quiche with cranberries (opens in new tab)
11. Tear and share bread
Serves: 12 | Skill level: Medium | Total time: 1 hr
Making your own bread might sound like a challenge, but this recipe is pretty simple. It uses a shop-bought bread mix - the art is in the toppings you add. The great thing about taking homemade bread to a buffet is that it goes with so many other dishes, so make plenty.
"This will look very impressive on your buffet food table and is easy to customise depending on your preferences," says Senior Food Writer, Jessica Ransom. "We recommend making a vegetarian and meat option to give guests more choice. You can prepare ahead then gently warm in the oven before serving, however it's also delicious cold."
Get the recipe: Tear and share bread (opens in new tab)
12. Gluten-free olive bread
Serves: 8-10 | Skill level: Medium | Time to make: 1 hr 10
This olive bread uses gluten-free flour. It has so much flavour from the herbs, olives, and Parmesan cheese, it’s bound to be a hit. This recipe contains Parmesan cheese, which is not suitable for vegetarians. However, you can swap these for a vegetarian hard cheese, to make the recipe veggie-friendly.
"If you want to bake one bread that's good for everyone, this is a great choice," says Jessica. "You could slice this loaf into fingers for dipping into hummus or another homemade dip or use the bread to make sandwiches. It's a fantastic option that even those who are not gluten-intolerant will enjoy."
Get the recipe: Gluten-free olive bread
13. Cheese and bacon scones
Makes: 25 | Skill level: Easy | Time to make: 30 mins
Scones are an absolute must on a buffet table, and these aren’t the only ones you’ll find on this list. But for a little twist, go for a savoury version. The salty bacon and the creamy cheese pair perfectly together. They're the perfect buffet food option as you can make over two dozen in just half an hour. Serve these with extra chutney and a slice of cheese on the platter, and people can make up their own.
Get the recipe: Cheese and bacon scones
14. Sausage rolls
Makes: 10-12 | Skill level: Easy | Time to make: 1 hr 10
It's the quintessential British picnic snack (even if some sources say they originated in France). If you want a classic version, check out all the tips you could possibly want in our ultimate guide on how to make sausage rolls (opens in new tab). There's even a video to guide you through the process.
But for something extra special, we love this recipe which makes a dozen sausage rolls, served with their own cocktail-inspired sauce, with tomato, tabasco and Worcestershire sauce.
Get the recipe: Bloody Mary sausage rolls (opens in new tab)
15. Cheese and pickle straws
Makes: 25 | Skill level: Easy | Time to make: 35 mins
You can buy cheese straws in the shops, but these cheese and pickle straws take things up a notch. Quick to make - only a little over half an hour, they’re always popular at parties. They’re easy to serve up - just stick them in beakers so they stand upright and people can help themselves.
This recipe makes 25 straws each about 20cm long. You can cut them in half before baking and make double the amount of shorter straws. The onion and herb dip is optional, but it makes a great addition if you have time.
Get the recipe: Cheese and pickle straws (opens in new tab)
16. Potato cakes with sweet chilli dip
Makes: 16-20 | Skill level: Easy | Time to make: 35 mins
These are simple to make and look so tempting on a serving platter. Spiced up with a hit of sweet chilli in the dip, they are always popular with grown-ups. This recipe makes up to 20 cakes but they are really mini, so you’ll probably find people want more than one each.
Serve hot or cold. If you’re going cold, you can make them up to 2 days in advance and store them in a sealed container in the fridge. It’s also another good vegetarian option.
Get the recipe: Potato cakes with sweet chilli Philadelphia dip
17. Cheese, bacon, and coronation chicken vol-au-vents
Makes: 24 | Skill level: Easy | Time to make: 35 mins
A delicious retro option. This recipe includes two different kinds of filling for the vol-au-vents - a classic coronation chicken and melted cheesy bacon. You can experiment with other options though - try smoked salmon mouse and cucumber, or pimento cheese for vegetarian guests. To make them even speedier, buy readymade vol-au-vont cases.
Get the recipe: Cheese, bacon and coronation chicken vol-au-vents (opens in new tab)
18. Pork pies
Makes: 6 | Skill level: Medium | Time to make: 1hr 25
A little more skilled than some of the recipes on this list, but these are so impressive to serve up. Homemade pork pies are absolutely delicious, and the hot water crust pastry is a fun challenge to make. Unlike most pastry recipes, this one actually contains no milk or butter, so it’s suitable even for people with a dairy intolerance. Serve with a bowl of Branston pickle or piccalilli, which guests can spoon onto their pies.
Get the recipe: Pork pies (opens in new tab)
19. Chicken satay kebabs
Makes: 8 mini kebabs | Skill level: Easy | Time to make: 20 mins
These chicken satay kebabs are given a wonderful flavour from the coriander, cumin, and tarragon rub. You can add the chicken to the marinade in advance and leave it to soak it up for a few hours before cooking, or you can do the whole thing in just 20 minutes.
This recipe should be gluten-free - just check the ingredients on the curry paste and peanut butter to be sure. It contains yogurt, so it’s not dairy-free, but you can easily swap this for a dairy-free version if required.
Get the recipe: Chicken satay kebabs (opens in new tab)
20. Ham sandwiches
Makes: 12 | Skill level: Easy | Time to make: 10 mins
Sandwiches are important for a street party spread: quick and simple to make and they feed a lot of people cheaply. Of course, you can make a selection of whatever filling you fancy - for most options, you won't need a recipe. However, we've included this one because of the fabulous Tewkesbury butter. It's quick to make and the hot horseradish in it gives the sandwiches a fiery kick.
Serve with a selection of other sandwiches including vegetarian and meaty options. Try cucumber, cheese and pickle and coronation chicken for starters. If you have vegans to cater to, try hummus and cucumber or smashed avocado and sun-dried tomato.
Get the recipe: Ham and Tewkesbury butter sandwiches (opens in new tab)
21. Sausage, bacon and mustard pies
Makes: 6 | Skill level: Medium | Time to make: 1 hr 10
Another take on a pork pie. This recipe uses the hot water crust pastry, so classic for pork pies. However, if you want to make a quicker and simpler version, just use a ready-rolled shortcrust pastry. This recipe makes six, but you can easily double all the quantities to make a dozen. These pork pies are much heavier in meat than the classics with a combination of both sausage and bacon. Not forgetting a kick of spice too, thanks to the mustard.
Get the recipe: Sausage pie with bacon and mustard (opens in new tab)
22. Vegetarian Scotch eggs
Makes: 6 | Skill level: Medium | Time to make: 50 mins
"These are a fun meat-free take on the classic which can be prepared ahead of time. Your guests may find it daunting to take a whole Scotch egg so cut into wedges and serve with cocktail sticks for easy snacking," says Jessica.
The prep takes a little time and patience, but once they’re ready to go you can cook a batch in just 10 minutes. For mini versions, you could use quails eggs instead. Serve with some mayo for people to dip in, topped with a pinch of paprika.
Get the recipe: Vegetarian Scotch eggs (opens in new tab)
23. Cheese and chive puffs
Makes: 16 | Skill level: Medium | Time to make: 35 mins
These are like a savoury version of profiteroles. A light-as-air choux pastry with just a hint of cheesiness, filled with a delicious cheese and chive mousse centre. They're ideal buffet food because guests can pick them up without getting greasy hands. For vegetarians, make sure to use Cheddar cheese or vegetarian hard cheese, rather than Parmesan. You could also do a version without cheese and fill them with chocolate cream as a pudding.
Get the recipe: Cheese and chive puffs (opens in new tab)