Graduation Party Food Ideas

Graduation party outdoor set-up of catering with appetizers and mini glasses

Graduation party food ideas and a successful menu starts with a good plan.

A graduation party is more than just a celebration of academic achievement, it’s a chance to bring family members, friends, and loved ones together around a momentous milestone. Unfortunately, planning and hosting an incredible graduation party isn’t without its challenges. 

One of the biggest hurdles to overcome involves coming up with graduation party food ideas that not only match the theme of the occasion but impress a wide variety of guests with different palettes and preferences. Fortunately, as experts in event catering, we’re pros at planning the perfect menu. 

Today, we’re going to guide you through the process of building a mouthwatering menu, including starters, entrees, and delectable desserts. 

Getting Started: The Basics

Appetizers and finger foods are perfect for setting the tone of your graduation celebration. They give your guests an excellent opportunity to graze on delicious food while they mingle, catch up, and embrace the party spirit. Depending on the theme of your party, there are plenty of finger food options you can explore. Some of our top picks include:

  • Mini sliders: Small but satisfying, mini sliders are great for both appetizers and buffet-style meals. Give your guests a range of options to choose from, including vegetarian sliders made with mushroom patties, grilled chicken sliders, and classic mini beef burgers.
  • Mini quiches: These mini savory tarts are fantastic for giving your guests a taste sensation in a single bite. You can even consider creating gluten-free options
  • Caprese skewers: Great for summertime celebrations, caprese skewers bring a refreshing touch of sophistication to your celebration with colorful cherry tomatoes, rich mozzarella balls, and tangy balsamic glaze. 
  • Miniature hot dogs: The ultimate mini food choice for a summer celebration, top your miniature hot dogs with tangy mustard and rich ketchup.. 
  • Spinach and artichoke dips: What would a grad party be without chips and dip? Spinach and artichoke dip with pita chips is a crowd pleaser sure to appeal to any taste or preference. You can serve it warm or cool and even add a dash of hot sauce.
  • Stuffed mushrooms: Not just a favorite food for vegetarians, stuffed mushrooms can delight a wide range of guests, and they look fantastic when placed alongside your other entrees. 
  • Veggie trays: A veggie tray is great for giving your guests an extra dose of nutrients, as well as plenty of colorful foods to enjoy. Serve with a side of ranch and hummus for dipping. 
  • Bruschetta: Classy but simple, bruschetta is a staple of many graduation party recipes, offering a burst of flavor in every bite with a mix of chopped tomatoes and basil. 
  • Shrimp cocktails: Shrimp cocktails are ideal for bringing a luxurious feel to your graduation party menu. The tangy sauce can be an excellent palette cleanser before a main course, too. 
  • Devilled eggs: There’s a reason devilled eggs are such a popular party food, they look impressive, they’re easy to make, and they’re incredibly delicious.

Graduation Party Food Ideas

Main Courses and Entrees

For the main course at a graduation party, it’s up to you to decide whether you want something simple, and light, or more indulgent. For larger gatherings, we usually recommend buffet-style meals, which make it easier for your guests to enjoy a range of different flavors at once. Here are some amazing entrees to consider:

  • Build-your-own-taco bar: Set up a fun taco station with options that appeal to everyone, from hard and soft shells to ground beef and shredded chicken and even plant-based alternatives. Make sure there are plenty of toppings to explore, too. 
  • Stir fry: A stir fry is a great way to impress your guests. It features fresh veggies, delicious sauces and spices, and a range of protein options, including tofu. 
  • Pasta station: A pasta station is a great way to appeal to a variety of tastes and diets. With the right caterer, you can even find vegan and gluten-free pasta options. Consider offering add-ons such as meatballs, grilled chicken, and roasted vegetables, too. 
  • Roast chicken: Versatile and delicious, roast chicken can feature everything from herb marinades to unique sauces to cater to a range of tastes. 
  • BBQ buffet: Everyone loves a great BBQ. For the ultimate hearty meal, make sure you include all of the classic hots, from hot dogs to BBQ ribs, grilled chicken, and sides, like coleslaw, baked beans, and cornbread.
  • A pizza station: Great for appealing to a younger range of guests, a pizza station allows everyone to create their own ideal slice. 
  • Pulled pork sandwiches: Juicy and tender, pulled pork sandwiches always leave a lasting impression on guests. You can even let your guest customize their flavor with a selection of salad options and sauces. 
  • Chicken pasta salad: Refreshing and light, this is an ideal option for a summer graduation party. Combine diced chicken with cooked pasta and a range of veggies like spinach and cherry tomatoes to compliment the flavor. 
  • Grilled salmon filets: If you’re going for a luxurious theme, impress your guests with grilled salmon filets accompanied by a lemon-dill sauce or garlic butter glaze. 
  • Beef brisket: If you’re looking for a classic, home-cooked vibe, beef brisket is delicious, tender, and mouth-watering, particularly when combined with BBQ sauces. 

Side Dishes and Salads

Salads and side dishes play an essential role in rounding out your graduation party food ideas. You don’t have to stick with boring plain salads or fries, either. There are plenty of great options to choose from with the help of a professional catering company, such as:

  • Salad bars: Give your guests control over their own side dishes with a fully stocked salad bar, featuring fresh vegetables, different types of lettuce, and dressings. 
  • Potato salad: A time-honored classic, potato salad is a creamy and delightful addition to just about any meal, particularly when you include the right herbs and spices. 
  • Baked beans: A great accompaniment to a BBQ-style graduation menu, baked beans are hearty and satisfying and can be customized with a dash of bourbon or smoked bacon. 
  • Grilled vegetable platter: Healthy and colorful, a platter of grilled vegetables can include everything from zucchini and bell peppers to mushrooms and asparagus. 
  • Quinoa Salad: Refreshing and nutritious, a quinoa salad with mixed vegetables and a tangy citrus dressing will immediately capture the attention of any health-conscious guests. Plus, it’s perfect for those in search of vegan catering options.
  • Macaroni and cheese with bacon: Decadent and delicious, this side dish combines the comfort of a favorite home-cooked meal with the rich and smoky flavors of bacon.
  • Rice pilaf: Combine fluffy rice with cooked onions, carrots, and peas for one of the top graduation party recipes, sure to impress your guests.
  • Sweet potato fries: Ditch the standard fries in favor of something more flavorful, with seasoned sweet potato fries served with spicy aioli or a dusting of sea salt. 
  • Cornbread: Let all of your guests relive their childhood with the perfect sweet and buttery cornbread, great for pairing with BBQ and pulled pork sandwiches. 
  • Mashed potatoes: Ideal if you’re looking for a wholesome menu experience, mashed potatoes can be served plain or with a delightful garlic butter.

Desserts and Sweet Treats

When it comes to choosing the best graduation party food ideas, don’t skimp on the desserts. This is the part of the meal most of your guests will be looking forward to. Get creative with themed treats and deliciously decadent morsels no one will be able to ignore, such as:

  • Graduation cupcakes: Customizable and delicious, cupcakes are the perfect fit for a graduation party, particularly when they’re decorated with mini graduation caps or icing in your graduate’s school colors. 
  • Cookie platters: Fuss-free and beloved by everyone, a selection of cookies gives your attendees something they can easily enjoy at their leisure. 
  • Ice cream sundae bar: Add a little fun to the party experience with a sundae bar brimming with different flavors of ice creams, toppings, and sauces. 
  • Fresh fruit platter: Combine healthy eating with decadence with a fresh fruit platter accompanied by chocolate dipping sauces and sprinkles. 
  • Diploma cookies: Create amazing rolled wafer cookies tied with a thin ribbon to resemble diplomas and celebrate the occasion.
  • Cheesecake bites: Small and irresistible, cheesecake bites can feature a range of toppings, from chocolate and caramel sauces to fresh fruit. 
  • Mini tartlets: Offering plenty of flavor in a single bite, mini tartlets are great for anyone who just wants a light treat after a big dinner. 
  • Chocolate mousse: Rich and creamy chocolate mousse looks as elegant as it tastes, and it’s not too heavy on your guest’s stomachs either. 
  • Macarons: Colorful, fun, and lightweight, macarons look amazing, particularly when displayed in a tower for guests to enjoy.

Graduation Party Drinks and Beverages

Finally, we come to the most refreshing part of the menu—your graduation party drinks. Offering plenty of hydration options is crucial to keeping your guests happy throughout the event. Make sure you offer both alcoholic and non-alcoholic options to cater to all guests. You can explore ideas like:

  • DIY lemonade stands: Set up a lemonade bar where your guests can choose from a range of flavors like raspberry, peach, strawberry, or lemon and elderflower. 
  • Signature mocktails: Let the youngsters have some fun during the graduation party with a range of signature mocktails brimming with color and fresh flavors. 
  • Iced tea: Great for midday and afternoon events, iced tea will keep your guests feeling refreshed all day. Experiment with a range of green tea and herbal blends.
  • Infused water options: Water is one of the most popular drinks for a reason. Make it more exciting with infusions of fruit, herbs, and unique flavors.
  • Alcoholic cocktails: For adults, consider hiring a bar service to distribute custom-made cocktails like mojitos and cosmopolitans. 
  • Fruit punch: Mix one batch of punch with soda and fruit juices and another with alcohol to create options for all of your guests. 
  • Coffee and tea: Ideal for those who want something relaxing, or reinvigorating, coffee and tea are fantastic additions to any graduation party menu.
  • Prosecco or wine: Toast to the graduate’s success with glasses of chilled prosecco, red or white wine, or even champagne. 
  • Craft beers: Show your modern side with a selection of locally brewed craft beers, stored in ice buckets for the perfect refreshing experience. 

Graduation Party Menu Extras

Now that you have dozens of graduation party ideas to work with, we wanted to share a few extra tips to help ensure your event is as successful as possible, here are some quick things to keep in mind when you’re planning for the big day:

  • Know your guest numbers: Try to find out in advance exactly how many guests will be coming to your event so you know how much party food you’ll need. Ensure you offer a wide range of options and include plenty of beverages for each guest. 
  • Consider dietary needs and preferences: Ask your guests about any dietary restrictions or requirements they might have in advance. Ensure you’re including graduation party menu options that cater to people who are vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free. 
  • Plan the budget in advance: Think carefully about how much you can afford to spend on the food, alongside the amount you’ll be paying for your venue, decorations, and any entertainment you might be hiring. 
  • Choose the right venue: Based on the number of people attending your graduation party, explore a range of venue options, from your backyard to local event halls. Consider whether you’ll need extra support at the venue, such as help managing buffets and distributing food.
  • Pick a theme: A great theme can tie an event together perfectly. You don’t just have to stick to the standard graduation theme. You can explore a range of different ideas, from a “heroes of tomorrow” theme to one that matches a school’s colors or motto.

Consider Hiring a Professional Catering Service

One of the best ways to make sure that your graduation party goes smoothly is to invest in the right support. Hiring a professional catering service like Marbled LA can simplify the process of hosting an amazing event, taking the stress of meal preparation off your shoulders. 

At Marbled LA, we specialize in making fantastic events hassle-free, with customizable menus that cater to every preference and theme. We always strive to deliver exceptional presentations, high-quality service, and truly delectable food that will keep people talking about your party for weeks.

Plus, our cost-friendly and convenient services can support any budget. Find out how you can create the ultimate graduation party menu with help from the professionals today.

Contact Marbled LA for more graduation party food ideas or to start planning your celebration.

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