4 Easy Party Foods for All of Your Summer Gatherings

If you’ve forgotten what it’s like to host a party—or even attend one—you’re forgiven. And if you need some easy party food ideas to get yourself back in a festive mindset you’re in the right place. (Hey, our social lives are headed in the right direction, but our kitchen creativity fizzled out around the same time as the Tiger King.)

Whether you’re having a party at your place or need a dish to bring to a friend’s gathering, good food brings people together. And when you’re cooking for a crowd, especially, remember that “good” doesn’t have to mean “fancy”: Skip the show-stoppers and instead look for recipes with great flavors and—above all—ease.

Below, the easy party food ideas we plan on coming back to all season long.

Korean popcorn chicken

For bite-sized bits of excellence, Sue Pressey, creator of My Korean Kitchen, seems to have unlimited ideas. Fortunately, she narrowed them down for us, starting with a Korean spin on the KFC classic: her Korean popcorn chicken.

“These are boneless chicken nuggets deep-fried and coated with Korea’s special sticky, spicy, tangy, and sweet sauce,” says Pressey. “They’re crunchy, delicious, and addictive.”

She says they’re also a perfect game-day snack, when guests are drinking and want to focus on the team, not table manners.

Bulgogi kimbap

Another one of her favorites: Bulgogi kimbap—seaweed-wrapped Korean rice rolls that are filled with crunchy vegetables and bulgogi (marinated and barbecued beef that’s savory, slightly sweet, and tangy). The rolls can be served whole, like seaweed burritos, or cut into rounds like sushi rolls. “Kimbap is a popular picnic food, but it is also commonly served at a party as bite-size pieces that are easy to eat,” says Pressey.

Mix-and-match cookies

No matter the host, the guest list, or the party theme, you can’t go wrong with cookies. “Cookies are my favorite treat and they make for a super easy party food,” says baker Lara Gelmetti. “Nothing beats a homemade, fresh-out-the oven cookie. They’re a crowd-pleaser for all ages, and they take less than 30 minutes to make.”

To get them extra-chewy, Gelmetti recommends making your cookies with soft, almost fully melted butter. To enhance their sweetness, try adding a pinch of salt.

The best part about cookie recipes is their versatility. “[They’re] a blank canvas,” says Gelmetti. “The simplest of cookie recipes can be enhanced with just about anything to make so many different flavor variations.” She’ll start with a basic cookie dough and swap regular chocolate chips for different varieties, or add in nuts, dried fruits, sprinkles, pretzels—or even pieces of other cookies. (One more tip: Try our tiny, no-effort secret to perfect chocolate chip cookies.)

Pinata cupcakes

If your sweet tooth needs some variety beyond different types of cookies, cupcakes are just as versatile—and just as delicious. (Especially with the perfect icing-to-cake ratio!) “Cupcakes are another great easy party food,” says Gelmetti. “They’re one of the first things I learned to bake and are really easy to make from scratch.” You’ll probably have most of the pantry ingredients on hand.

Since most of us have been eating cupcakes since we started attending birthday parties, there’s room to take things up a notch: “Use fillings to give the element of surprise,” says Gelmetti. Use a sharp knife and cut a small circle from the center of the cupcake, and fill it up. (Find detailed pinata cupcake instructions here.) “Some of my favorite fillings are jam, lemon curd, chocolate spread, nut butter, caramel, or cream,” says Gelmetti. “Or fill them with sprinkles, small chocolates, or candy.”

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