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How To Host a $5-Per-Person Dinner Party

·14 min read
DGLimages / Getty Images/iStockphoto
DGLimages / Getty Images/iStockphoto

The holidays are just around the corner, which means that Americans are getting ready to eat, drink and be merry. For many, that means hosting a holiday dinner party -- a trend that has picked up during the pandemic.

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According to a recent study from ButcherBox, Americans planning to host a dinner party in their home rose by 25% over pre-pandemic levels. Forty-six percent of respondents said that they were very excited to host and entertain guests in their home (when safe to do so), and 44% of that group said that hosting a dinner party isn't about celebrating life milestones, it's just about hosting the event.

The only downside with hosting a dinner party is that it can be expensive. A 2019 poll conducted by BJ's Wholesale Club found that when counting food, drinks and decorations, the consumers spend $1,422.65 a year on party planning, on average.

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That's an awful lot of money to spend on these one-time affairs, but if you make low-cost entrees and appetizers, you can walk away with significant savings. GOBankingRates consulted foodies and chefs to learn their favorite recipes for dinner parties that cost $5 and under per serving.

Some of these recipes are surprisingly fancy for being so affordable, so your guests will leave not only sated, but also impressed!

Last updated: Oct. 27, 2021

HausOnThePrairie / Getty Images/iStockphoto
HausOnThePrairie / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Sweet Potato Tacos

Cost: $2 per serving

Ingredients Needed:

  • 2 large sweet potatoes, cubed

  • 2 tbsp preferred vegetable oil

  • 2 tsp ground cumin

  • 2 tsp chili powder

  • ½ tsp fine sea salt

  • 8 corn tortillas, warmed to soften

  • 3 cups finely chopped fresh spinach

  • 1 ripe avocado, sliced (optional)

Cooking Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.

  2. On a large baking sheet, toss sweet potatoes, oil, cumin, chili powder and salt. Bake for 25 minutes or until tender and lightly browned.

  3. Divide sweet potatoes between tortillas, and top with spinach and avocado.

  4. If desired, serve with salsa, hot sauce and plain yogurt or sour cream.

Recipe Submitted By: Megan Scott, senior culinary director at Heart Creative

What Makes It Great: "We love this recipe because not only is it extremely affordable at $2 per serving but the tacos are also extremely easy to make -- even for a novice home cook," Scott said. "Most of the cooking is hands-off after you cube your sweet potatoes. While they are roasting in the oven you can prepare your desired toppings like baby spinach and sliced avocado. Then of course there is the fact that sweet potatoes are packed with fiber (leave those peels on!), antioxidants and nutrients like vitamins C and B6."

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Derkien /
Derkien /

Pad Thai

Cost: $5 per serving

Ingredients Needed:

  • Rice noodles

  • Cooking oil

  • Chili paste

  • Stir fry veggies (frozen is fine)

  • Eggs

  • Peanuts

  • Protein of choice (optional)

Cooking Instructions:

  1. Boil water for rice noodles.

  2. Heat up a wok or skillet with two tbsp of cooking oil.

  3. Stir fry your veggies and protein and season them however you'd like.

  4. Boil rice noodles until tender. Drain and rinse with cold water to prevent sticking.

  5. Add noodles to cooked veggies/protein

  6. Add eggs into the mixture and stir until cooked.

  7. Dish up the mixture and place crushed peanuts and any additional veggies on top.

Recipe Submitted By: Angie Chung, founder of BakingHow

Why It's Great: "This isn't a traditional holiday dish, but everyone always appreciates it, and it's a hit within my friend group," said Chung. "There are also a ton of variations in this dish that can accommodate different preferences or dietary restrictions."

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Art of The Table
Art of The Table

Mussels With White Wine Sauce

Cost: $3 per serving

Ingredients Needed:

  • To feed 4 people, buy about 2 pounds of mussels. (You can buy them cleaned and debearded or debeard and clean them yourself before the party).

  • 4 cloves of garlic

  • Olive oil

  • White wine (as cheap as $3.99 at Trader Joe's)

  • Red pepper flakes

  • Dried basil

  • 1 lemon

  • Bread

Cooking Instructions:

  1. When you're ready to cook, cook 4 garlic cloves in 2 teaspoons of olive oil in a large pot.

  2. If you need to clean the mussels, rinse them under cold running water in a large colander. Scrub the shell with a brush to clean off debris and remove the beard using your hands or a small paring knife.

  3. Add the 2 pounds of mussels, juice and zest of 1 lemon, 2 cups of white wine, 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes and 1/2 teaspoon dried basil to the pot.

  4. Cover the pot and simmer over medium heat until mussels are steamed open, about 4-6 minutes.

  5. Discard the unopened mussels and serve mussels and remaining sauce with crusty bread and lemon wedges.

Recipe Submitted By: Rima Kleiner, MS, RD and blogger at Dish on Fish

What Makes It Great: "There are so many awesome qualities about this dish," said Kleiner. "First of all, this restaurant-quality dish will wow your guests. Secondly, I love that mussels are incredibly nutritious! They are high in protein (about 20 grams in a 3-ounce serving) and other important nutrients, like vitamin B-12 for a healthy nervous system, selenium for immune function and omega-3s for heart and brain health."

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vanillaechoes  /
vanillaechoes /

Smoked Trout Dip

Cost: $1.50 per serving

Ingredients Needed:

  • 6 ounces of flaked smoked trout

  • 3 ounces of light cream cheese

  • ½ cup of plain Greek yogurt

  • 2 teaspoons of lemon juice

  • 1 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce

  • 3 tablespoons minced chives

  • Salt, pepper and cayenne pepper to taste

Cooking Instructions:

  1. ​Mix 6 ounces of flaked smoked trout, 3 ounces of light cream cheese, 1/2 cup of plain Greek yogurt, 2 teaspoons of lemon juice, 1 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce and 3 tablespoons minced chive.

  2. Add a dash of salt, pepper and cayenne pepper to taste and maybe drizzle on a tad of olive oil. Then, refrigerate until ready to enjoy.

Recipe Submitted By: Rima Kleiner, MS, RD and blogger at Dish on Fish

What Makes It Great: "Every party needs a good dip," said Kleiner. "Those are just two reasons why this Smoked Trout Dip makes a repeat showing at my house. Plus, it pairs so well with carrots, celery, cucumber rounds, crackers, pita chips or mini rye toasts. This takes only five minute to prepare."

Savory Leek and Kale Tart

Cost: $9.50 for 8 to 10 servings


  • 1 store-bought pie shells

  • 3 cups chopped leeks (about 2 leeks)

  • 3 cups chopped kale

  • 1-2 tbsp oil for cooking

  • 4 eggs

  • 1/4 cup heavy cream

  • 1/2 tsp salt

  • 1/4 tsp black pepper

  • 1 fresh mozzarella ball (or any soft, mild cheese), chopped into cubes

Cooking Instructions:

  1. To a large skillet, heat some oil over medium heat. Once hot, add the chopped leeks. Turn the heat to low and cook for about 15 minutes until they start to caramelize. Then, add the kale and cook for 2-3 more minutes. Transfer the vegetables to a plate and set them aside to cool.

  2. In the meantime, to a medium bowl, add the eggs, cream, salt, and black pepper and mix well.

  3. Preheat oven to 350ºF (180ºC).

  4. Add the vegetables to the pie shell and spread them into an even layer. Pour the egg mixture. Finally, add the mozzarella on top. Bake for 35-40 minutes. You may need to cover with aluminum foil halfway through if the tart starts to brown quickly.

  5. Let it cool for at least 20 minutes before serving.

Recipe Submitted By: Petranka Atanasova, the blogger and recipe developer behind Sunglow Kitchen

What Makes It Great: "This savory tart has always been my go-to for any holiday or dinner party, because it's so easy to make, and is quite impressive," Atanasova said.

Bernd Juergens /
Bernd Juergens /


Cost: $15 for 12 servings

Ingredients Needed:

  • Roughly 12 lasagna noodles

  • 4 cups of mozzarella cheese

  • 2 cups ricotta or cottage cheese

  • ½ cup parmesan cheese

  • ½ pound ground beef

  • ½ pound sausage

  • 1 diced onion

  • 2 cloves minced garlic

  • 1 can of tomato sauce

  • 2 tbsp tomato paste

  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning

  • 1 beaten egg

  • Salt and pepper to taste

Cooking Instructions:

  1. Cook the noodles in a large pot of salted water.

  2. Once done, drain the noodles and put on a cookie sheet, separating the layers with some olive oil so they don't stick.

  3. To prepare the inside, brown the meat in a pan with the onion, garlic, Italian seasoning and salt and pepper. Add the tomato paste and sauce and let the sauce thicken slightly.

  4. Once cooked, let it cool slightly and start assembling the lasagna.

  5. Make sure to save about ¼ cup of tomato sauce to put in the lasagna pan.

  6. Mix the egg and ricotta cheese together and then layer the tomato sauce on the bottom of the pan.

  7. Put one layer of noodles, then the ricotta mixture and mozzarella and then the sauce.

  8. Repeat this process until the lasagna is assembled.

  9. Sprinkle the parmesan cheese and the rest of the mozzarella on top. Cook at 375 degrees for around 45 minutes with tin foil on top.

  10. Remove the tinfoil at the last 10 minutes of cooking to brown the top.

Recipe Submitted By: Laura Ritterman, owner of Recipe Fairy

What Makes It Great: "A lot of these ingredients many people have in their homes already which makes it an even cheaper meal," Ritterman said. "However, when shopping for these ingredients, always keep an eye out for specials and always buy the block of cheese versus shredded as it tastes better and is cheaper."

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Cowboy Caviar

Cost: $1.51 per serving

Ingredients Needed:

  • Canned fire-roasted tomatoes

  • Canned black beans

  • Canned black eyed peas

  • Canned corn

  • Red onion

  • Cilantro

  • Bell pepper

  • Avocado

  • Jalapeño

  • Lime juice

  • Olive oil

  • Agave nectar

  • Cumin

  • Chili powder

  • Garlic powder

  • Salt

  • Tortilla chips (optional)

Cooking Instructions:

  1. Open and drain each can.

  2. Rinse the black-eyed peas, black beans and corn, but do not rinse the fire-roasted tomatoes.

  3. Dice the red onion and the bell pepper. Slice the jalapeño and remove the seeds and stems. Finely chop the cilantro and dice the avocado. Juice the limes.

  4. In a small bowl, mix together lime juice, olive oil, agave nectar and all of the spices.

  5. Whisk these together ensuring no clumps remain.

  6. Add all of the prepared ingredients to a large bowl and mix thoroughly.

  7. Add the dressing and mix again.

  8. Taste and adjust levels of chili powder and salt.

  9. Serve with tortilla chips or as a topping on protein!

Recipe Submitted By: Emily Eggers, owner of the food blog is Legally Healthy Blonde

What Makes It Great: "Cowboy Caviar Dip is a great option for a holiday dinner party because it's very affordable, vegan, gluten-free, and it's so easy to share," Eggers said. "This would be a perfect appetizer, snack, or side dish for a dinner party. The entire bowl costs $9.05 to make, which comes out to only $1.51 per serving for six people, and even less if you split it up for more than six."

Broccoli Rabe

Cost: $4.12 per serving

Ingredients Needed:

  • 1 lb pasta

  • 1 lb ground meat (beef, turkey, and chicken all great here)

  • 28 ounces crushed tomatoes

  • 6 cloves garlic, crushed, divided

  • 1 onion, diced

  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flake

  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning

  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, divided

  • 1 lb broccoli rabe, trimmed

  • 1 teaspoon caraway seeds

  • 1 loaf of Italian bread

  • Salt

  • Pepper

  • Olive oil

Cooking Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees, and set a large pot of salted water on to boil.

  2. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in dutch oven over medium-high heat.

  3. Add in ground meat, season with 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper, and brown 8-10 minutes.

  4. When meat has browned, remove from dutch oven.

  5. Add in onion and sauté for 3-4 minutes, then add in 1/2 of garlic to dutch oven. Stir for 1 minute, then add in tomatoes, herbs, red pepper, and meat. Bring to a simmer and hold for 15 minutes.

  6. In a large bowl, toss broccoli rabe with a light drizzle of olive oil, 1/4 of the garlic, caraway seeds, salt, and pepper. Roast for 10 minutes.

  7. Slice bread in half. Rub cut sides with remaining garlic and a drizzle of olive oil. Bake for 6-8 minutes or until golden, then garnish with a bit of the Parmesan cheese.

  8. As sauce simmers, cook pasta 2 minutes shy of package instructions. Drain pasta and put back in the pot with 2 tablespoons of oil to prevent sticking.

  9. Check seasoning on sauce and serve over the pasta, garnished with parmesan cheese.

Recipe Submitted By: Jim Mumford, creator of Jim Cooks Food Good

What Makes It Great: "Everything can be prepared ahead of time, (veggies cut, bread sliced, bolognese in a slow cooker), minimizing prep in the moment," said Mumford. "It is a classic and familiar dish, with enough little extras to make it unique."

haoliang /
haoliang /

Spaghetti Bolognese

Cost: $5 or less per serving

Ingredients Needed:

  • 1 lb ground beef or turkey

  • 1 medium onion

  • 2 cloves garlic

  • 1 jar of marinara sauce

  • ¾ cup of water

  • ½ cup of milk

  • 8 ounces uncooked spaghetti

  • ¼ dry red wine (optional)

  • Grated parmesan (optional)

Cooking Instructions:

  1. Using a medium or 12 inch non-stick skillet, heat on medium high temperature. Add a cap full of virgin olive oil, then diced onions and minced garlic.

  2. Sauté for one minute, then add ground beef seasoned with season salt and black pepper to taste. Cover and cook until beef is well browned.

  3. Stir often to separate beef.

  4. Pour off any excessive fat.

  5. Add sauce, 1 3/4 cups water, 1/2 cup of milk (1/4 cup dry red wine optional), and uncooked spaghetti.

  6. Allow to cook to a boil making sure spaghetti is combined well into mixture.

  7. Cook for 12 minutes on medium-high heat. Stir occasionally.

  8. Serve (offer grated parmesan as a topping).

Recipe Submitted By: Michelle Madison, lifestyle expert.

What Makes It Great: "Spaghetti Bolognese is especially great for a dinner party because not only is it simple with a flare, the one pot cooking option makes it a great conversation starter," Madison said. "Guests will be beyond satisfied with this delicious recipe but who isn't enamored by a one pot dish that saves time on prep and clean-up."

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LauriPatterson / Getty Images
LauriPatterson / Getty Images

Hidden Treasure Quesadillas

Cost: $2.19 per serving

Ingredients Needed:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil, divided

  • 1 small sweet potato, shredded with cheese grater

  • 2 cups butternut squash shredded

  • 1 (15-ounce) can pinto or black beans, rinsed and drained

  • 1 lb grilled and shredded turkey

  • 4-6 large flour tortillas

  • 3-4 cups shredded Mexican-blend cheese

  • 1 cup chopped fresh cilantro

  • Guacamole (optional)

Cooking Instructions:

  1. Return the sauté pan to the stove, and reduce heat to medium.

  2. Place a tortilla* in the center of the pan and immediately sprinkle your desired amount of cheese evenly over the surface of the tortilla.

  3. Add a few large spoonfuls (about 1 cup) of the veggie mixture on one half of the tortilla, followed by ¼ lb of shredded chicken, then sprinkle on some cilantro.

  4. Fold the other side of the tortilla over to create a half moon.

  5. Continue cooking for another 30 seconds or so, or until the bottom of the tortilla is crisp and golden (lift it up and take a peek to see when it's ready to go).

  6. Carefully flip the tortilla over and cook for an additional 30-60 seconds on the second side.

  7. Transfer to a serving plate, slice into triangles, then repeat with the remaining ingredients.

  8. Serve warm and top with guacamole if desired.

Recipe Submitted By: Matt Steffen, executive chef of Temecula Creek Inn

What Makes It Great: "The dish isn't fussy, people know immediately what it is, yet they'll be pleasantly surprised by the ingredients," Steffen said. "It's easy to make a lot of them and you can even leave the turkey out for your vegetarian guests and the dish proves hearty enough for a Thanksgiving feast. To make the entire thing will cost about $13 in ingredients (for six servings), and that's not using up the entirety of your ingredients."

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This article originally appeared on How To Host a $5-Per-Person Dinner Party

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