Graduation Party Food Ideas for a Crowd

Looking for awesome graduation party food ideas for a crowd?  Then you’ll want to check out this great list of over 50 unique food ideas that are perfect for any grad party – indoors or outside!

Graduation Party Food Ideas for a Crowd - Looking for fabulous food ideas for your son's or daughter's grad party?  Click to see 60+ graduation party finger foods, food bars and food stations that your guests will love!  #FINDinista  #gradparty #graduationparty

Graduation Party Food Bar Ideas

One of the trendiest grad party food ideas for 2023 is to offer a themed food bar.   Elevate your party to the next level by serving up one of these clever build your own food station ideas!

Simply choose a food theme and set out the main ingredient.  Then add as many different toppings or mix-ins as you’d like…your guests will have a ball creating their own delicious concoction!

Mexican Themed Food Bars

Why not throw a colorful fiesta-themed graduation party?  Mexican food is popular, inexpensive,  and easy to make yourself or have catered (check with a local Mexican restaurant, or try Moe’s, Qdoba or Chipotle).

And since you’ll probably be serving rice and beans, it’s easy to accommodate vegan or vegetarian diets.  

Savory Food Bars

Looking for salty treats that are sure to impress your guests?  These fun savor food bars are perfect for an afternoon or evening grad party! 

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Sweet Food Bars

Dessert bars are always a hit at any party!  Think beyond the cake and candy dessert bar…WOW your guests with these scrumptious sweet food stations.

Brunch/Breakfast Food Bars

You don’t have to plan your grad party for the afternoon or evening!  Get a jump on the day by throwing a festive brunch or breakfast party.

Grad Party Finger Food Ideas

Finger foods are perfect choices for a graduation party buffet or open house!  Since many people will drop in to several parties on the same day, it makes sense to serve smaller, appetizer-sized portions rather than a full meal. 

It’s also much easier to eat finger foods at an outdoor party than to try to tussle with a knife and fork.  These finger foods listed below are sure to be a hit with both kids and adults!

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What Is the Best Food to Serve at a Graduation Party?

Your kid’s favorites – after all, a graduation party is all about celebrating the graduate!  With that in  mind, there are a few things to consider when picking the best grad party food.

If you’re making the food yourself, look for easy and stress-free!  You’ll definitely want to choose foods that can be made ahead of time…preferable that can be frozen and just re-heated on the day of the party.

Most grad parties are open house, outdoor affairs, so it’s best to serve casual foods.  Think finger foods or simple-to-eat foods that don’t require using both a knife and fork.

How Much Food Should I Plan on Serving?

One of the hardest things about hosting an open house grad party is that you really have no idea how many people will show up!   And many people will attend several parties during the day, so you don’t really know how much people will eat.  

For general planning purposes, assume that about 60-70% of those invited will attend.   Ask your graduate how many other kids are likely to attend.

Once you have a rough guess of how many people might attend, you can use these general guidelines to estimate how much food to serve:

  • Protein – about a 1/4 lb of meat or cheese per person.
  • Salads and side dishes – 1/2 cup per person.
  • Fruit – 1/2 cup per person.
  • Relish trays – a large veggie tray will feed about 30 people.
  • Bread – Plan on 1 1/2 sandwiches (or 1 1/2 tacos) per person.  To save money, use the smaller size buns.
  • Desserts – Figure on one piece per person.  If you’re serving 2 desserts, some people will sample both, so plan on 1 1/2 pieces per person.

If you’re serving appetizers, you should plan on about 5 appetizers per person for the first 2 hours of your grad party.  For each extra hour, add another 2 appetizers per person.

What if I Run Out of Food?

If you’re really worried about running out of food, stock up on large bags of chips and cookies….items that you can use during the summer if you don’t serve them at your party.  Then just put some of those out if your food runs out.

And you can always order pizza as a back-up…what teenager doesn’t like pizza?

As the food is eaten up, remove the empty containers and push the remaining items closer together so the table doesn’t look empty.

What Should I Do with Lots of Leftovers?

If you’re like me, you’ll have way more food that you actually need (I live in terror of running out of food).  Hopefully, you’ve chosen items that can freeze well and that your family can enjoy during the summer.

Before the party, you might want to check with a nearby homeless shelter to see if they will accept leftover food.  Some will gladly accept it; others can only accept food from a restaurant. 

How Should I Keep Foods the Right Temperature during a Grad Party Open House?

You definitely don’t want to be known as the party that gave everyone food poisoning!  You’ll need to take care to keep all the food at a safe temperature, which can be tricky during hot summer months.

Definitely don’t set all your food out at once.  Make multiple trays of each item, and replenish as necessary.  Food should not sit out for more than 2 hours if the temperature is below 90° F or 1 hour if the temperature is above 90°F.

Place cold foods on top of ice.  You can pick up inflatable serving bars that you can fill with ice, which are so convenient and pretty cheap at Amazon.

If you’re not near a sink, be sure to use sanitizer or sanitized wipes to keep your hands clean.

If you’re grilling out, be sure to use a thermometer to make sure that any meats are cooked to the proper temperature.

Check out these great graduation party guides:

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