Graduation Party Food Ideas

Graduation party food can be tailored to compliment any theme, milestone achievement or budget. Before planning the graduation party menu, consider the number of guests to be served, party venue, guest of honor's preferences and the party's theme.

Buffet

A buffet brimming with an array of food choices can be the perfect solution for a graduation party. A buffet works for both indoor and outdoor parties featuring a casual theme. A graduation buffet presents the opportunity to serve several different food choices, including hot and cold items.

Slow cookers are a great way to cook large amounts of pulled/shredded meat for sandwiches and the meat can be served from the slow cooker on the buffet. Arrange the buffet table(s) near outlets in order to utilize slow cookers. Food served in a slow cooker needs to be kept at a temperature of 140 degrees Fahrenheit, reminds the United States Department of Agriculture.

Menu ideas include pulled pork sandwiches, cold pasta salads, fresh cut vegetables, fruit salad, slow cooked baked beans and sides such as broccoli slaw or red potato salad.

Barbeque or picnic

Many graduations happen in the spring as the weather begins to warm. A barbecue or picnic can be planned at home or at a venue such as a public park or forest preserve. When planning any party at an outside venue, be sure to secure any permits needed for the event.

Barbecue and picnic food are similar menus. Depending on budget, the graduation party food can be kept simple, grilling hot dogs, burgers and sweet corn, or more elaborate with a whole pig roast slow cooked on a spit.

Incorporating a party theme into a barbecue or picnic menu is easy. If using the graduate's school colors for the theme, serve a cold salad to match. Combine cubed pineapple with sliced bananas and fresh blueberries for a blue and gold themed fruit salad. Present a red and gold color themed pasta salad combining corkscrew noodles with sliced cherry tomatoes, julienned red and yellow bell peppers tossed with light vinaigrette.

Sundae bar

When celebrating a graduation from grammar or middle school, consider serving just dessert instead of a full lunch or dinner meal. Plan the party for the afternoon or early evening. Adults and kids can create elaborate ice cream sundaes with multiple toppings. Provide two or three flavors of ice cream as well as one container of vanilla frozen yogurt as a lighter option.

Toppings should include classic favorites such as sprinkles, chopped nuts, maraschino cherries and hot fudge. Offer butterscotch as well as caramel and marshmallow toppings. Provide several dishes with chopped fruits such as strawberries, kiwi and pineapple. Crushed chocolate sandwich cookies, chocolate chip cookies and vanilla wafers make great toppings as well. Don't forget candies such as gummy bears, chocolate chips and any other candy that tempts tastebuds. Include your graduate in the planning for the sundae bar and allow him or her to select favorite toppings to share with the guests.

Quick tips

When planning any party menu, be aware that some guests may have food allergies or restrictions. If a guest has a food allergy, take all precautions to ensure the guest will stay safe when dining at the party. This may mean eliminating nuts from the menu or providing an alternative entree for a vegan.

Most graduation parties, especially high school graduations, center on a casual gathering of friends and family. Don't feel pressured to go too formal or to create a menu featuring dozens of choices. It's okay to keep it simple, just be sure to have enough for each guest to have a hearty serving and/or seconds if desired.

If you choose to cater the party, the caterer may suggest erring on the side of caution and providing food for an additional five to ten people, in case extra guests arrive.

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