Salt & Wind Travel

Make These 15 Easy Dinner Recipes For Guests

The holiday menu is planned, every last gift is bought, and the guest beds are all set up. You’re a lock for the best hostess, but you’ll be even more winning if you plan on what to serve everyone once they arrive chez toi.

We’re talking easy dinner recipes for guests that are healthy-ish, make-ahead, and won’t break the bank. But of course, will still steal the show!

First, A Few Tips

If you have guests coming over, here are a few tips so you enjoy their company and aren’t busy in the kitchen the whole time: 

  • Make Your Ingredients Multitask: Plan a series of recipes that use similar ingredients so, say you use part of a can of tomatoes for the Tortilla Soup and then use the reset to make the Baked Chicken Parm. 
  • Do As Much As Possible Ahead: If you’re going to make these easy dinner recipes for guests, do as much as you can manage ahead from making the sauces to even breading the chicken for the Oven-Fried Chicken. 
  • Don’t Have Every Meal Be Fully Homemade: If you have the time, go ahead and peel the shrimp or make the dough for from-scratch chicken pot pie. But don’t feel pressured to do so. Sometimes we pick up a rotisserie chicken and just make a salad to pair with it. Or we even just grab a bunch of dips and spreads and make a grazing board for dinner with charcuterie, cheese, dips, and lots of fresh veggies.
  • Turn To Plant-Based Meals To Save Money: We know from our various pop-up dinners and the events during our group trips, feeding a crowd can get pricey quickly. One way to help out is to make some plant-based meals — head here to check out our top vegetarian recipes
Baked Vegetarian Parm Recipe

More Than 15 Easy Dinner Recipes For Guests

From pasta to easy roasts, here are more than 15 choice recipes that will work for breakfast or lunch too.

These are our best easy dinner recipes for guests be they impromptu visitors or close friends who are staying well beyond tonight!

Baked Chicken Parmesan Recipe

gluten-free, nut-free

Breaded in Panko and topped with both pesto and marinara sauce, this healthy, baked version of classic chicken parm is still indulgent enough to be a satisfying weeknight dinner. Serve it with a big green salad, over pasta, or with quinoa as we did here.

Make Ahead: Use store-bought pesto and red sauce or make them both ahead. The salad can be prepped but not dressed in advance and you can even bread the chicken a few hours ahead (leave it on a cooling rack nested inside a rimmed baking sheet to keep it crispy).

Baked Butternut Squash Parmesan Recipe

gluten-free, nut-free, vegetarian

If it’s vegetarian chicken parm you’re after, we’ve got you covered. Instead of having to fry up eggplant, this recipe uses butternut squash for a dish that’s almost like individual lasagna meets vegetarian chicken parm. Serve it with crusty bread and some roasted broccolini and it’s a simple dinner. 

PS – You can also make this in an 8-by-8-inch baking dish if you don’t have individual dishes.

Make Ahead: Completely assemble these ahead (without the fried herbs and cream sauce, if using), wrap them up, and leave them in the refrigerator for up to two days before baking (or even wrap them really well and freeze them for a week).

Green Salad With Shallot Vinaigrette Recipe

Butter Lettuce And Blue Green Cheese Salad With Shallot Vinaigrette Recipe

gluten-free, nut-free, vegetarian

This is the green salad that sets the bar for all other green salads. And it’s also one of our easy dinner recipes for guests that’s healthy-ish. The crunch of the breadcrumbs with the tangy vinaigrette and salty cheese is a winner. Top it with your favorite cooked chicken or salmon recipe (or use leftovers!) to make it more of a meal.

Make Ahead: Clean the greens, prep the veggies, make the dressing, crumble the cheese, and toast the breadcrumbs ahead of time. In other words, do everything except assemble the salad and dress it in advance. 

Classic Basil Pesto Pasta Dish 


One of the most popular pasta recipes on our site is this classic basil pesto. It’s actually from our founder, Aida’s cookbook, Keys To The Kitchen. Though there she makes it the way you’d have it in Genoa (where pesto is from) with green beans and marble-sized potatoes mixed into the pasta. Do it that way to make this dish more substantial.

Make Ahead: Blanch the green beans and potatoes until tender and then store them refrigerated for up to a few days. Make the basil pesto up to three days in advance if refrigerating or freezing it so you always have some on hand. Just make sure you let it defrost on its own as heating it up too aggressively will break the sauce and make it an oily mess.

Creamy Chicken Tortilla Soup Recipe

dairy-free, gluten-free, nut-free

The most popular soup recipe on our whole site is this tortilla soup recipe and that’s because it’s one our best easy dinner recipes for guests. Leave out the chicken and use vegetarian broth to make it plant-based. Or make it to use up leftover Thanksgiving turkey.

Make Ahead: Make this recipe up to three days ahead and keep it refrigerated. Or freeze it for up to one month. Just don’t add the garnishes (ie tortilla chips, cheese, limes, herbs, etc) until the last minute. 

Creamy Polenta with Melted Peppers and Mushrooms Recipe

gluten-free, nut-free, vegetarian

We believe that there should always be a pot of polenta ready when the temperature drops. If you go easy on the dairy, it’s quite healthy and is a nice switch from mashed potatoes to a roast. Keep it warm in your slow cooker, and then you can use it as a quick side to a holiday dinner or topped with eggs for a savory breakfast.

Make Ahead: Make the polenta, the mushrooms, and the melted peppers recipe up to three days ahead and keep it refrigerated. Then just rewarm and wilt the greens and fry the eggs right before eating. 

{Enfrijoladas} Black Bean-Smothered Enchiladas Recipe

gluten-free, nut-free, vegetarian

You may have had enchiladas or enmoladas but have you had enfrijoladas? This recipe hails from Oaxaca and is even easier to make than those other recipes. Black beans get blended up to make a sauce that is full of flavor and quite healthy and a great contender for easy dinner recipes for guests. 

Make Ahead: If you’re in a hurry, use canned black beans and make the sauce ahead of time. You can then just warm the sauce and coat the tortillas when you’re ready to eat. 

Healthy Thai-Style Lettuce Wraps

dairy-free, gluten-free, nut-free

Instead of ordering takeout, make this easy version of Thai lettuce wraps. There are quite a few ingredients but they can all be prepared and cooked in just a few minutes. Use ground pork or ground turkey depending on whichever you prefer. 

Make Ahead: Prepare any lettuce or greens and chop the ingredients a few hours ahead.

Bacon Grilled Cheese Recipe

Grilled Cheese with Slow-Roasted Tomatoes, Bacon, and Chipotle Mayo Recipe


Anyone who doesn’t love grilled cheese — especially one made like this with bacon, slow-roasted tomatoes, and gooey cheese — isn’t a friend of ours. Pair it with a green salad or tomato soup for a classic, comforting addition to your easy dinner recipes for guests.

Make Ahead: We make slow-roasted tomatoes and chipotle mayo on the regular and just keep them in our refrigerator (keep the tomatoes stored in olive oil in an airtight container) to use anytime we need a little extra flavor in a dish.

{Ribollita} Tuscan Bread Stew

nut-free, vegetarian

Speaking of slow-cooked stews, this Ribollita is perfect if you have vegetarian guests coming over. And it’s a pretty perfect way to get a veggie-ified dish in to keep you from going agro with the cookies.

Make Ahead: This is better when made ahead! Just don’t try to freeze it!

Rosemary And Lemon Cornflake-Crusted Oven Fried Chicken Recipe

gluten-free, nut-free

In search of a classic chicken dinner? This oven-fried take on fried chicken is less messy and easier to make than the classic. Top it with hot honey and serve it with a salad and dinner is served. PS – Use gluten-free breadcrumbs to make it gluten-free!

Make Ahead: Bread the chicken a few hours ahead (leave it on a cooling rack nested inside a rimmed baking sheet to keep it crispy) and then just pop it in the oven when you’re ready to cook them.

Roasted Cilantro Chile Lime Spatchcock Chicken Recipe

dairy-free, gluten-free, nut-free

A little spicy and a little Latin, this is one of the most crowd-pleasing roast chicken dishes we know of. Not to mention that spatchcocking the bird before roasting means it’s done in a fraction of the time.

Oh, and if you want another option, make this Smoked Paprika and Oregano Spatchcock Chicken recipe. PS – Cook it in a cast iron skillet to get the most even cooking. 

Make Ahead: The recipe requires that you prep the chicken a few hours ahead. Then just pop it in the oven when it is go time. 

Roasted Sweet Potatoes Feta Grain Bowls Recipe

gluten-free, vegetarian

If you’re trying not to be naughty between all the holiday parties, this filling but healthy grain bowl is a must.

Make Ahead: Do all the individual parts (cook the quinoa, roast the sweet potatoes, crumble the cheese, chop the almonds) ahead of time and just have guests assemble the bowls as they get hungry. 

Simmered Shoyu Chicken Recipe

dairy-free, gluten-free, nut-free

One of our all-time favorite way to make chicken thighs is in this recipe that hails from Hawaii. The slow simmering makes for tender chicken that’s full of flavor. Serve it with hapa rice and you’re good to go. PS – It’s classically made with Shoyu but swap it for Tamari to make gluten-free.

Make Ahead: This recipe tastes better when made ahead. Cook the chicken up to two days ahead then cool and store in the cooking liquid. Then reheat and serve with hot rice.

Sweet Sausage and Three Cheese Lasagna Recipe


From weekends at music festivals to watching bowl games, this lasagna is a serious crowd-pleaser, which is why it’s a top contender on our list of easy dinner recipes for guests. Feel free to use ground turkey or ground beef instead of Italian sausage if that’s what you have on hand!

Make Ahead: Another recipe that tastes better when made ahead! Cook the lasagna up to three days ahead (or store it uncooked and frozen and then cook when you need it — it will need an extra 20 minutes or so FYI) then reheat and serve.

Classic Carne Asada Recipe

Tequila Citrus Carne Asada Recipe

dairy-free, gluten-free, nut-free

When we don’t want to make a messy kitchen, we turn to the grill for the ultimate in easy on our list of easy dinner recipes for guests. This twist on the classic carne asada recipe couldn’t be quicker to make. We like it best with skirt steak but flank steak also is perfection.

Make Ahead: Prep all the ingredients and marinate the steak in advance. Then you’ll just have to grill it up when you’re hungry. 

Truffled Mushroom Prosciutto Pizza Recipe


This more adult, sophisticated pizza is loaded with flavor and is as fitting with a glass of red wine as it is for family movie night.

Make Ahead: Feel free to roast the mushrooms and make the crisp prosciutto up to two days ahead but, tbh, this is a quick recipe so you can just do it all at once.

Okay, there you have our easy dinner recipes for guests. If you need other inspiration, check out our other recipe roundups here

Opening photo by Alie Lengyelova

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