Summer is in full swing – and the warm days and long nights mean it’s the ideal time to socialise. Whether it’s sunny BBQs, alfresco evening meals, or formal dinner parties, there’s something special about coming together with friends at this time of year and sharing a meal.

If you’ve been asked to bring a dish along to a social event, you might be wondering what type of dishes are most suitable, and how you can impress other guests without spending too long working at a hot stove. So, we’ve got you covered!

From spicy, succulent kebabs and fresh, zingy salads to gorgeous-looking sweet treats, here are 10 easy yet impressive dishes to take to dinner parties and BBQs.

1. Indian-inspired chargrilled summer vegetables

If you’re going to a BBQ, one of the easiest dishes to bring along is a salad. It can be prepared earlier, doesn’t require any cooking or assembling, and it means that once you’re there, you can relax and focus on eating and enjoying yourself!

Rather than the usual pasta or potato salad, why not mix things up and make a chargrilled summer vegetable salad with dhana-jeera dressing? Dhana-jeera is the fancy name for the pairing of cumin and coriander. But while it’s simple, the flavour isn’t; earthy, smoky cumin is perfectly complemented by the light, citrusy taste of coriander.

Summer vegetables like courgettes, tenderstem broccoli, corn on the cob, and red onions work perfectly for this, and cooking them on a BBQ or griddle pan brings out their flavours beautifully. When drizzled with dhana-jeera and lemon juice, the end result is crisp, smoky, sweet, and tongue-tingling.

To make Indian-inspired chargrilled summer vegetables, try this recipe by The Guardian.

2. Antipasto bites

f you’ve been asked to bring a dish to a dinner party, then why not make some antipasto bites?

Antipasti is a traditional Italian starter, and it’s usually made up of small, bite-size portions that are served on a big platter. Typical antipasto items include cured meats, cheese, olives, artichoke hearts, and vegetables in oil or vinegar.

If you’re looking to impress other guests, however, and do something a bit different, then these antipasto bites are the way to go. By threading the ingredients onto a skewer, you’re not only making this dish easily transportable, but you’re also allowing guests to have a bit of everything in one go. Plus, these skewers are perfect for BBQs, picnics, and dinner parties, so they’re super versatile.

Because antipasti is such a diverse dish, you can use whatever ingredients you like. Although sweet, ripe tomatoes, marinated vegetables, creamy mozzarella, savoury meats, and fresh tortellini or chunks of bread are a perfect combination. Just add and adapt according to taste and dietary requirements – and try to make each skewer as colourful as you can.

To make antipasto bites, try this recipe by Delish.

3. Tomato and gnocchi kebabs

Kebabs are a BBQ staple – but if you’re looking to impress, it’s best to think outside the box. If you want to make some veggie kebabs, forget the usual courgette and halloumi recipes, and instead go for something totally different: tomato and gnocchi kebabs.

There are few people who don’t like gnocchi – its succulent, chewy texture is incredibly satisfying – but cooking it on the grill until it’s brown and crisp takes it to a whole other level. When paired with blistered tomatoes, tender red onion, and homemade salsa verse, it’s even more mouthwatering.

These kebabs are really simple to make but look seriously impressive – and they’re also endlessly customisable. Add some roasted garlic, asparagus, chunks of tofu or halloumi, and scatter over fresh herbs like basil and mint. Just thread onto a skewer in advance and cook when you’re ready.

To make tomato and gnocchi kebabs, try this recipe by Delish.

4. Minted melon, tomato, and prosciutto salad

One of the best things about summer is the fact that fresh produce comes into its own, which means you can make incredibly simple dishes that are astonishingly delicious. The only requirement is that you take time to source good quality ingredients: it’s absolutely worth it!

This tomato, melon, and prosciutto salad is perfect for warm weather, and while it only uses a few ingredients, it’s a showstopper of a dish – and not just in terms of its vibrant colours. Tangy heirloom tomatoes, sweet cantaloupe melon, and salty prosciutto di Parma are the perfect fusion of flavours.

If this dish wasn’t tasty enough, it’s elevated by its zingy, fragrant dressing and a scattering of fresh mint leaves. To make a vegetarian alternative, just swap the prosciutto for salty cheese like feta or halloumi – or keep it entirely plant-based by using a vegan alternative.

To make this minted melon, tomato, and prosciutto salad, try this recipe by BBC Good Food.

5. Korean chilli, sesame, and honey chicken

This may be another kebab recipe, but it’s certainly not your usual one! When it comes to meat kebabs, many of the most popular recipes include Southern BBQ flavours, Greek-inspired souvlaki, or Indian-inspired chicken tikka recipes…but if you want to do something different, look to Korea.

Korean-style BBQ sauce is fiery, smoky, salty, sweet, and sticky – and it can be used as a marinade or dipping sauce. While many Korean BBQ sauces use multiple ingredients and can be time-consuming to knock up, this recipe uses Gochujang paste to get that deep, savoury, umami taste in minutes.

Just cook your chicken until nicely charred but not fully cooked, coat it in this tantalisingly tangy sauce, and cook until crisp. Then, scatter over some chopped spring onion and be transported to the bustling street markets of Seoul! If you’re veggie, you can just swap the chicken for tofu or seitan.

To make this Korean chilli, sesame & honey chicken, try this recipe by BBC Good Food.

6. Summer vegetable and feta galette

Due to the fact that they’re easy to transport, pastry dishes like tarts, pies, and galettes are excellent options if you need to bring a dish to a dinner party, BBQ, or picnic. But while pies and tarts can take a bit of precision to knock up, galettes are another matter.

Part of the appeal of a galette is its rustic appearance. You don’t need to fiddle around crimping or making sure the edges are even; the whole point is that it should look rough, with the edges folded over on themselves. Just make sure the filling is delicious, colourful, and beautiful, and you’ve got an easy dish that’ll still impress guests.

This summer vegetable and feta galette makes a great starter for a dinner party, but it can also be cut up and served as a side at a BBQ. Packed with seasonal veg like peas, courgettes, and broad beans, drizzled with olive oil, and scattered with salty feta and peppery nigella seeds, it’s delicious served hot or cold.

To make this summer vegetable and feta galette, try this recipe by Delicious Magazine.

7. Smoked aubergine, red pepper, and walnut salad with pomegranate

Looking for a super simple side dish that’s strikingly beautiful and can be enjoyed in two different ways? Look no further than this smoked aubergine, red pepper, and walnut salad with pomegranate. Inspired by Middle Eastern flavours, this is a dish that’s fresh, smoky, and vibrant.

Roasting the aubergine and peppers until they’re so soft they melt in your mouth brings out that delicious smoky flavour, while adding chopped walnuts adds a satisfying crunch. Then, parsley, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and cinnamon are mixed together to make the perfect fragrant dressing.

Though technically it’s a salad, the soft texture of this dish means it can be eaten as a dip; scooped up with slices of flatbread. It’s delicious when served warm from the sun, so it’s an excellent side for BBQs or picnics – but it’s also really tasty served chilled, which makes it an excellent dinner party starter.

To make this smoked aubergine, red pepper and walnut salad with pomegranate, try this recipe by Olive Magazine.

8. Chargrilled courgette, lemon, and caper orzo

Pasta salads are another summer staple, though these dishes often end up being bland and uninspired. Many recipes feature creamy, mayonnaise-based dressings, which swamp the light, crisp flavour of summer veg. Perfect pasta salads should contain plenty of fresh herbs and be fresh yet punchy.

The shape of the pasta you use is also important, otherwise you can end up getting too much pasta on your fork and not enough veg. That’s why orzo is arguably the best shape for pasta salads: its small size means it’s easy to scoop up along with other ingredients, making sure every mouthful is a fragrant, flavoursome delight.

This chargrilled courgette, lemon, and caper orzo can be served as a hot dish, but it’s even better served cold, when the orzo has had time to marinate in the lemon, chilli, and pepper dressing. Plus, it’s easily transportable and is just as perfect for a dinner party starter as a BBQ side dish.

To make this chargrilled courgette, lemon and caper orzo, try this recipe by Riverford.

9. Gooseberry and white chocolate frangipane tart

If you’ve been asked to bring a dish to a dinner party, more often than not it’s a starter, side dish, or dessert. Few dinner party hosts ask their guests to provide the main! If you’re on dessert duty, you’re probably looking for a sweet treat that looks and tastes complex yet is super simple to make.

If that’s the case, look no further than this gooseberry and white chocolate frangipane tart. The pairing of these ingredients may not be traditional – but that’s part of what makes this dessert so special. Plus, the sweet creaminess of white chocolate beautifully complements the sharpness of the honey-glazed gooseberries.

The frangipane also helps take this dish to the next level, as its fluffy texture and bitter almond taste are the perfect vehicle for the chocolate and fruit. It only takes 30 minutes to prepare, and it doesn’t need to be refrigerated before serving, meaning it’s also a wise choice for a BBQ.

To make this gooseberry and white chocolate tart, try this recipe from Delicious Magazine.

10. Raspberry ricotta cake

Another dessert that’s portable, won’t melt, and is an all-round crowd pleaser is this gorgeous raspberry ricotta cake. Though this beautiful berry-streaked dessert definitely looks impressive, it only takes 15 minutes to whip up and can be made in one bowl.

Raspberries are best in the summer months, so this recipe also encourages you to make the most of the fresh summer produce. The combination of fresh, juicy raspberries, creamy ricotta, and subtle hints of vanilla is incredibly moreish and the cake itself is light, moist, and fluffy.

While this cake is intentionally not overly sweet, you can always add extra sugar if you have a sweet tooth – or why not swirl in some raspberry jam? You can swap or supplement with strawberries if you have some that need using up, and if there are even excellent vegan versions of this lovely cake!

To make raspberry ricotta cake, try this recipe by The Cooking Foodie.

Final thoughts…

Whatever social events you’re going to this summer, we hope these recipes have given you some inspiration – and even if you don’t have any dinner parties or BBQs lined up, there’s nothing stopping you from making these dishes to enjoy yourself at home!

From juicy kebabs that are bursting with flavour to refreshing salads, and summer-veg-packed tarts to fruity desserts, all the dishes featured above are quick and easy to prepare, yet so delicious that every mouthful will be savoured.

For more BBQ inspiration, have a read of our articles, 8 sizzling barbecue recipe ideas, 5 side dishes to go with your next barbecue, and 10 of the best vegan BBQ recipes. Alternatively, you might want to check out our other article; 10 top tips for planning an outdoor dinner party or picnic.