Throwing a Christmas dinner party has never been easier with our lineup of delectable delights, designed to elevate your festive holiday buffet. Consider this post your go-to guide for crafting an unforgettable special occasion, complete with an assortment of both inventive and delicious holiday party recipes tailored for the perfect buffet spread. Whether you’re craving savory bites or have a sweet tooth to satisfy, we’ve carefully curated a medley of culinary creations guaranteed to delight your taste buds and infuse your holiday season with joy.

Table of Contents
  1. Planning Your Menu for a Christmas Party Buffet
  2. Recommended Christmas Party Buffet Recipes
  3. 10 Easy Holiday Appetizers
  4. 17 Make-Ahead Main Courses and Side Dishes for a Holiday Buffet
  5. 15 Festive Christmas Desserts and Sweet Treats
  6. 8 Festive Cocktails
  7. Presentation and Decor Ideas for A Holiday Buffet Table
  8. Conclusion

Planning Your Menu for a Christmas Party Buffet

As a seasoned party host (I hosted my first dinner party at age 16!), I’ve learned a few things about creating the perfect menu. Over the years, I’ve honed my tips and techniques, learned from others, and grown from my mistakes. So, here are my top secrets for crafting a festive buffet style menu that will impress your guests and make your party a success:

  • Include diverse flavors that work well together. Offer a variety of appetizers, main courses, side dishes, and desserts that complement each other in terms of taste, texture, and temperature. Consider including a mix of hot and cold dishes, as well as light and hearty options. And don’t forget to add a touch of crunch, such as chopped nuts or seeds, to one or two dishes.
  • Vary the food colors. A colorful table is a festive table! When arranging your buffet spread, keep in mind the colors of your dishes. Additionally, try to avoid clustering similar colors together.
  • Address dietary considerations. Be sure to offer at least a few dishes that are gluten free, vegetarian, dairy free, and/or nut free. This will ensure that everyone at your party has something to enjoy.
  • Think about presentation. Select a total number of dishes that allows you to arrange your buffet table in a way that’s both inviting and visually appealing.
  • Consider the setting. Don’t serve a dish that’s complicated to eat based on the setting. When guests won’t be sitting down at a table, serve only foods that don’t require a knife, ensuring easy eating with a fork or fingers.
  • Focus on make-ahead dishes. Prepare as much ahead of time as possible, so that you during the party you can focus on your guests.

I hope these tips help you create a delicious and festive Christmas dinner party buffet menu!

In the following sections, you’ll find a variety of delicious and festive Christmas recipes for easy holiday appetizers, main courses, side dishes, desserts and holiday cocktails. From classic favorites to more creative and unique offerings, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.
Whether you’re hosting a small gathering or a large crowd, these recipes are sure to make your special occasion memorable. And, with most of them being make-ahead, you’ll have more time to relax and enjoy your party!

10 Easy Holiday Appetizers

Impress your guests with a selection of easy and delicious holiday appetizers. Start your party off on a festive note with a variety of passed small bites and hors d’oeuvres. As guests arrive and mingle, they’ll appreciate having something tasty to nibble on. Then, place a few dips and other simple finger food on the buffet table for guests to enjoy at their leisure.

large white platter holding many Olive Cheese Balls, sitting on top of an orange napkin and a green platter

Baked Olive Cheese Balls

Olive Cheese Balls are a delicious, impressive and crowd-pleasing appetizer. Tangy pimiento-stuffed green olives are baked in a cheesy, flaky crust and served hot. The best part? These little bites of heaven can be prepared up to 1 month ahead, frozen and then heated just before serving.

platter holding two bite Tomato, Pesto and Goat Cheese Crostini

Tomatoes and Pesto with Goat Cheese Crostini

Quick and easy to prepare with only 6 ingredients, these vibrant and scrumptious Goat Cheese, Pesto and Tomato Crostini are a family favorite. Can also be served as a layered dip with toasted bread on the side.

a glass holding cheese straws atop a white platter, with a few cheese straws in front and dipping sauce on the side

Crispy Cheddar Cheese Straws – Easy Recipe!

These savory treats combine the rich flavors of Cheddar cheese, chili powder, and cumin with a delicate, flaky dough, resulting in a crispy mouthwatering delight that is both elegant and alluring in its simplicity. For a unique twist, serve spicy pepper jelly alongside as a dipping sauce!

Prosciutto, Fig and Goat Cheese Puff Pastry Tarts

Prosciutto Fig Tarts are an easy appetizer to prepare and freeze up to 2 months ahead. Puff pastry squares are filled with chopped prosciutto, fig spread and goat cheese, frozen and then baked until bubbly and puffy. A perfect make ahead, two-bite appetizer for a Christmas Eve gathering!

rectangular white platter filled with 5 Shrimp Curry Bites; dip in a bowl in the background

Curry Shrimp Appetizer Recipe

Scrumptious Shrimp Curry Bites are not your everyday shrimp appetizer – and they’re the perfect new finger food to serve at your next gathering. These bite-size wonders are easy to prepare ahead, elegant, colorful on the plate, and bursting with flavor!

Rowes of Curried Chicken Bites

Curried Chicken Bites

Curried Chicken Bites are colorful, a bit spicy (depending on how much curry powder you use), a bit earthy, and super flavorful. They are easy to prepare, make ahead two-bite appetizers that are sure to please!

Smoked Salmon Cream Cheese Spread with Avocado on a serving platter surrounded by crackers

Smoked Salmon Cream Cheese Spread

This sophisticated and impressive appetizer is guaranteed to satisfy. Creamy cheese is elevated by the addition of tangy goat cheese, creating a perfect harmony with smoky salmon. Avocado brings a refreshing touch and adds a nice pop of color. Although this smoked salmon appetizer requires some time for preparation and refrigeration, the resulting taste is absolutely worth the effort. And, you can be confident in achieving perfection by following my detailed instructions. Prepare to receive an abundance of compliments once you serve this elegant, make ahead appetizer!

glass stand holding Cilantro Mousse ring filled with flowers

Cilantro Mousse

Cilantro Mousse is an easy, elegant, slightly spicy appetizer that can be prepared up to 3 days ahead, making it perfect for entertaining. Fresh cilantro leaves are mixed together with jalapeño peppers, mayonnaise, cream, stock, onion, lemon and lime juice, soy sauce, and seasonings. Gelatin is added to keep it all together. Super flavorful, super colorful!

Blue bowl filled with Mushroom Pâté, with toasted baguette slices on the side

Luxurious Mushroom Pâté

Earthy and savory, luxurious Mushroom Pâté will soon be part of your regular recipe rotation. Made with dense, meaty cremini (baby Portobello) mushrooms, it’s easy to prepare, too! And, it’s so full of deep umami flavors, even your meat-eating friends will love it.

Blue bowl filled with Artichoke, Jalapeno and Cheese Dip, sitting on a white platter with tortilla chips

Artichoke Dip with Jalapeno and Cream Cheese

Artichoke, Jalapeno and Cheese Dip is a creamy, spicy, scrumptious appetizer – that’s also quick and easy to prepare!

17 Make-Ahead Main Courses and Side Dishes for a Holiday Buffet

A great way to simplify your party prep it to choose mostly simple make-ahead main courses and side dishes. This will free up your time on the day of the party so you can focus on enjoying your guests. Offer a mix of protein-based dishes, vegetarian options, and sides that all complement each other, creating a cohesive and satisfying dining experience.

Farfalle Bolognese Pasta Casserole

Mom’s Farfalle Bolognese Pasta Bake recipe is a richly flavored, satisfying dish that’s perfect for a cozy dinner or a festive gathering. This long time family favorite (over 50 years!) combines farfalle pasta with a meaty bolognese sauce, tender spinach, sour cream – and, of course, cheese. Not only is it super delicious, this pasta casserole is easy to prepare ahead of time, and can be frozen.

Scoop of crab and shrimp lasagna above dish

Seafood Lasagna

Seafood Lasagna – creamy, cheesy deliciousness that’s super easy to prepare ahead with no-boil lasagna noodles. Cooked shrimp and crabmeat are combined with a mushroom and vermouth spiked sauce, layered with a ricotta-cream cheese mixture and lasagna noodles, and baked. Super flavorful, super delicious!

Shell shaped dish holding an individual serving of Shrimp and Crab Gratin

Shrimp and Crab Au Gratin

Shrimp and Crab Au Gratin is a luxuriant, elegant and impressive main dish that can be prepared earlier in the day (or up to 1 month ahead and frozen), making it ideal for a make ahead dinner. This scrumptious seafood au gratin is also flexible – you can use various shellfish (only shrimp, only crab, or lobster or crawfish), and cheeses, to your taste. Plus, bake it in either individual dishes or as one casserole!

overhead showing slices of Parmesan Crusted Salmon with bowl of Herb Mayo

Parmesan Breaded Salmon Recipe with Herb Mayo

Charming, delightful and crowd-pleasing, Parmesan Breaded Salmon with Herb Mayo will be the star of your next gathering. I’ve been serving this timeless recipe at my dinner parties for years. Not only is it fresh, enticing, and full of flavor, it’s also easy to prepare. All the prep work can be done the day before, leaving you to enjoy your guests!

plate holding one portion of chicken pot pie with biscuits, with baking dish holding the rest in the background

Indian-Inspired Chicken Pot Pie Topped with Biscuits

In this mouthwatering recipe for Biscuit-Topped Chicken Pot Pie, tender chunks of chicken and colorful veggies are all swimming in a savory, creamy sauce, and topped with buttery, flaky biscuits. It’s comfort food at its finest. And the best part? This recipe has been tested to be fuss-free and achievable!

Copper gratin dish filled with Butternut Squash Gratin

Butternut Squash Gratin

Cooked squash is layered with sharp and flavorful Gruyere cheese, baguette slices and a leek-white wine mixture in this scrumptious Butternut Squash Gratin. Easy to prepare, and vegetarian, too!

small red dish with broccoli,mushroom, spinach and cheese pasta with larger pot in the background

Veggie Casserole with Broccoli, Mushroom, Spinach, and Cheese Pasta

Broccoli, Mushroom, Spinach and Cheese Pasta is a sophisticated and healthier vegetarian version of macaroni and cheese, using Fontina and Parmesan instead of Cheddar cheese. It’s easy to prepare ahead of time, too!

white plate holding Lamb Curry, with 4 small bowls alongside, showing condiments

Lamb Curry and Rice

Rich in flavor while not heavy, this divine Lamb Curry Recipe has been a family favorite for years. Easy enough for everyday, it’s also perfect for entertaining. Both savory and sweet, curry powder, herbs, beef stock and red wine give the sauce a warm, deep and earthy flavor. Apple, green pepper, onion, coconut and raisins provide contrasting sweetness. And, lemon juice provides brightness.

overhead shot of Shepherd's PIe, with a corner scooped out showing the filling

Shepherd’s Pie

Hearty and satisfying, Shepherd’s Pie is the perfect warm and comforting dinner on a cold evening. Ground beef and lamb, root vegetables and mushrooms are simmered in a rich sauce of beef broth, tomato paste, herbs and spices. Topped with creamy mashed potatoes, it’s baked until all the flavors meld together into a perfect blend of earthy, deep deliciousness that will please even the pickiest of eaters!

arugula spread on a blue platter, topped with roasted tomato halves, cheese and olives

Arugula and Tomato Salad with Balsamic Dressing

Tomatoes roasted with a mixture of fresh herbs and olive oil are the star in Arugula and Tomato Salad. These tantalizing beauties are served atop peppery arugula and surrounded by briny Kalamata olives and delicate fresh Mozzarella cheese. It’s all finished with a luscious, slightly sweet while still tangy Balsamic Dressing.

Pear and Goat Cheese Salad with Walnut Vinaigrette pouring out of a white pitcher

Salad with Pear and Goat Cheese

Pear and Goat Cheese Salad is perfect for fall and winter months. Crisp, fresh greens are topped with slices of juicy, sweet pears, crumbles of tangy goat cheese, candied walnuts and dried cranberries. It’s finished off with a walnut vinaigrette that’s super quick to prepare with only 3 ingredients!

Square plate showing a generous portion of Apple Walnut Salad with Stilton Cheese

Apple Walnut Blue Cheese Salad with Mixed Greens

Crisp, juicy red apples are the star in this refreshing salad. They provide color, sweetness and crunch that pairs perfectly with the earthy toasted walnuts and hearty mixed greens. What really sets this salad apart is the delightful, tangy Walnut Vinaigrette dressing. It’s quick and easy to prepare, with just 3 ingredients, too!

Spinach Salad with Lemon Dijon Dressing

Prepared with eggs and fresh herbs, this Baby Spinach Salad is a light, easy to prepare starter or side dish. A tangy Lemon Dijon Dressing keeps it bright and fresh.

oval dish showing Couscous with cranberries and pecans

Couscous Cranberry Salad with Pecans

Couscous with Dried Cranberries and Pecans is quick and easy to prepare, full of fall flavors like cranberry and cinnamon, and beautiful on the plate. It’s savory with a tad of sweetness and a bit of crunch.

Easy Lemon Rice Side Dish

Lemon Rice is bright, creamy and easy enough for everyday, while elegant enough for entertaining. Long grain white rice and lemon zest are briefly sautéed in a bit of butter, then simmered in flavorful chicken broth. Five minutes before serving, lemon juice and cream are added. So easy, so delicious!

Wicker basket lined with a green napkin and filled with Easy Drop Biscuits, with more biscuits on a cooling rack in the back

Quick Homemade Drop Biscuits – Easy Recipe!

Craving a warm, buttery biscuit straight from the oven? Our Easy Drop Biscuit Recipe is all you need! Crafted with pantry essentials and ready in less than 25 minutes, you’ll be well on your way to biscuit perfection.

three slices of Anise Bread on a red square plate; full loaf to the right

Anise Bread

This distinctive Anise Bread is different than any savory bread you’ve ever had. A crisp, brown crust flecked with sesame seeds surrounds a moist interior spiced with anise seeds. And no licorice flavor here; I don’t like black licorice and I love this bread!

15 Festive Christmas Desserts and Sweet Treats

End your holiday party on a sweet note with a festive selection of desserts and treats. Curate a variety of festive flavors and textures to satisfy everyone’s sweet tooth. Don’t forget to include a few classic holiday favorites, as well as some more unique and creative offerings with a festive twist.

Light blue cake stand holding a Sticky Ginger Cake

Sticky Ginger Cake

Intensely flavorful and super moist, Sticky Ginger Cake isn’t your typical gingerbread – and it’s super easy to prepare, too. The warm, earthy flavor of ginger is combined with molasses, cinnamon and allspice, resulting in a deeply spiced, scrumptious cake. A two-ingredient lemon-sugar glaze is the perfect finish!

Sticky Toffee Pudding Cake

Sticky Toffee Pudding is a scrumptious cake spiked with dates and served with an amazing toffee-flavored sauce. Easy to prepare, the cake can be prepared up to one month ahead, the sauce earlier the day of serving. Super delicious!!

Two slices of Baked Cheesecake with the rest of the cake in the background

Aunt DeeDee’s Cheesecake with Sour Cream Topping

There’s nothing quite like the indulgent, creamy goodness of a homemade cheesecake. And when it comes to this classic dessert, Aunt Dee-Dee’s Cheesecake with Sour Cream Topping is simply divine. With a buttery, slightly crunchy graham cracker crust and an ultra-smooth filling that’s perfectly baked in a pie dish, this cheesecake is a dream come true for any dessert lover. And the best part? You don’t even need to bother with a water bath.

overhead shot of Rum Pumpkin Tart with a slice on the side

Rum Pumpkin Tart

Rum Pumpkin Tart is lighter, fluffier and more flavorful than a traditional pumpkin pie. The crust is comprised of gingersnap cookie crumbs, butter and rum. In addition to traditional pumpkin pie ingredients, the filling includes crystallized ginger – and more rum!

Biscuit cake on a cake stand with a slice on a plate in front

Royal Chocolate Biscuit Cake Recipe

No-Bake Royal Chocolate Biscuit Cake is a decadent treat that’s sure to satisfy your sweet tooth. Made with crumbled biscuits (cookies), nuts, dried fruits, melted chocolate, creamy butter and cream, this cake is a luxurious and indulgent dessert that’s fit for royalty. The combination of crunchy biscuits (cookies), smooth chocolate and silky cream creates a heavenly texture that will melt in your mouth with every bite. Chopped nuts add a bit of crunch and dried fruits give it a chewy tang. Get ready to indulge in this rich and heavenly dessert!

Two slices of Chocolate Pecan Pie topped with whipped cream, with a bowl of whipped cream on the side and a partial view of the whole pie in the background

Chocolate Pecan Pie Recipe

Indulge your taste buds with the irresistible combination of rich chocolate and crunchy pecans in this homemade pie that rivals the famous Cracker Barrel restaurant version. With its flaky crust, luscious, gooey filling, and perfect balance of sweet and nutty flavors, my family’s delicious recipe for Chocolate Pecan Pie is a dessert lover’s dream. Plus, it’s a delightful variation on the traditional pecan pie, making it perfect for the holiday season.

One Pavlova on a cake stand, with a second one and a bowl of berries in the background

Best Pavlova with Berries: A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating the Perfect Dessert

This heavenly dessert is a delightful combination of crispy outside, chewy inside meringue, fluffy whipped cream, and bright, fresh fruit – a showstopper on any occasion. In this step-by-step recipe, I’ll guide you through the process of making a Pavlova from scratch – from whipping the egg whites and sugar correctly for the base, all the way through assembling the final masterpiece.

glasses filled with Berry Cream Parfaits

Cream Cheese Berry Dessert Parfait

Berry Cream Parfaits are quick and easy to prepare with only 6 ingredients, with flavors reminiscent of a creamy cheesecake. A blend of cream cheese, crème fraiche (or sour cream), lemon juice, sugar and cinnamon is layered with fresh berries in a fun glass and, presto! you have a scrumptious and beautiful dessert.

3 different shaped glassware holding Easy Chocolate Mousse

Kahlua Chocolate Mousse

This Easy Chocolate Mousse with Kahlúa can be prepared in 10 minutes with no whipping or folding of egg whites or cream. With an ultra-silky texture and an intense chocolatey flavor, it’s the perfect make-ahead dessert for any occasion.

Frozen Lemon Velvet Pots de Crème

Frozen Lemon Velvet Pots de Creme is an easy, make ahead dessert, that’s basically cheesecake with added layers of lemon (zest and juice) and whipped evaporated milk, then frozen in a graham cracker crust. Can also be prepared a single pan.

Red and white pots de creme filled with Rum Pumpkin filling

Rum Pumpkin Pots de Crème

Rum Pumpkin Pots de Crème are basically a deconstructed pumpkin pie with crystallized ginger and rum added. They are fluffy and mousse-like, light and full of flavor. If you don’t have pots de crème, use wine glasses or ramekins.

green ruffled plate filled with Grandma Clayton's Sand Tarts

Pecan Snowball Cookies (Inspired by Grandma Clayton’s Sand Tarts)

Sand Tarts (also known as Snowball Cookies or Powdered Sugar Cookies) are tender butter cookies filled with chopped pecans and rolled in powdered sugar. With only 6 ingredients, these tasty morsels are super easy to prepare, and packed with flavor.

four pecan chocolate toffee bars stacked with one leaning on the side

Pecan Chocolate Toffee Bars

Full of buttery toffee flavor, Pecan Chocolate Toffee Bars are simply heavenly. A cookie base reminiscent of shortbread is prepared with brown sugar (providing that luscious toffee flavor) and, once baked, is topped with melted chocolate and chopped toasted pecans. Super easy to prepare, these Toffee Bars are true crowd pleasers!

Almond Raspberry Cookies

Almond Raspberry Cookies are scrumptious bites of love! Raspberry jam is sandwiched between two cinnamon and almond-flavored cookies, that are then dusted with powdered sugar.

Square plate with a stack of Cheesecake Squares cookies

Cheesecake Squares

These easy to prepare Cheesecake Squares are full of luscious flavors, calling for chopped pecans instead of graham cracker crumbs in the crust, and lemon juice and zest in the batter.

8 Festive Cocktails

Complement your Christmas party buffet with a festive drink station or bar. Offer a mix of spirited libations, non-alcoholic beverages, and seasonal sips. You can even feature a signature cocktail (or two) for the occasion!


A Delicious Champagne Cocktail

A great alternative to the traditional mimosa, this recipe perfectly complements brunch, special occasion, and of course, Christmas and New Year’s Eve celebrations. And with only four ingredients, it’s a snap to put together!

Pomegranate Vodka Martini

My Pomegranate Martini (or Red Carpet Martini) is elegant, colorful, delicious – and perfect for holiday celebrations! It’s also easy to prepare, calling for only 4 ingredients.

hands holding a Cosmopolitan Martini

Cosmopolitan Drink Recipe

Cool and refreshing, a Cosmopolitan Martini is the perfect treat. With their pale pink color, Cosmos (as they are called for short) just look like summer in a glass that you can enjoy all year around. Developed with input from experienced bartenders around the world, my Cosmopolitan recipe is time tested to be perfect, every time.

lemon ginger bourbon cocktail over ice in a glass, garnished with a lemon slice

Ginger Lemon Whiskey Drink

Bourbon cocktail mixed with a rosemary-infused honey simple syrup, lemon juice, and ginger. YUM!

Robert’s Perfect Manhattan Drink

My husband Robert’s Perfect Manhattan cocktail is smoky and full-bodied, but isn’t as sweet as most – he uses rye instead of bourbon!

close up of a martini glass holding a portion of Frozen Brandy Alexander cocktail

Brandy Alexander with Ice Cream

Frozen Brandy Alexanders with Ice Cream are a memorable, fun and elegant dessert that I’ve been making for years. Traditional brandy Alexander ingredients of brandy and creme de cacao are turned into into a frosty milkshake by swapping out the cream for ice cream.

glass holding one serving of Irish Cream Liqueur with a blue bottle in the background

Homemade Baileys Irish Cream Liqueur Recipe

Irish Cream Liqueur, most commonly known as Baileys, is a favorite of mine. It’s a rich, creamy, chocolate and caramel-flavored alcoholic beverage with hints of almond and coffee. It’s super quick and easy to prepare – in only 10 minutes!

Glass mug filled with a Snowblower Cocktail

Snowblower Cocktail

Mom’s Snowblower Cocktail is the perfect warm pick-me-up on a cold winter evening. Cranberry juice and apple cider are steeped in cinnamon and cloves, then topped off with a shot of rum. (Can also be made without the rum.)

Presentation and Decor Ideas for A Holiday Buffet Table

The presentation and decor of your Christmas party buffet play a crucial role in creating an inviting and visually captivating dining experience. Here are my tips:


  • Make sure there is enough space for guests to move around the buffet comfortably, with all of the dishes easy to reach. I put the cocktail bar in a separate room, and designate a separate area for desserts.
  • Arrange the buffet spread in a logical and accessible way, keeping in mind the colors of your dishes.
  • Make sure there are serving utensils, and enough plates and napkins available for your guests. And, also adequate glasses at the bar.
  • Label all of your dishes, and include dietary information. I create a place card for each dish, noting its name and if it’s “vegetarian,” “nut-free” or “gluten free.”
  • Keep hot dishes hot and cold dishes cold. You may want to use chafing dishes and ice baths to ensure that your food stays at the proper temperature.
  • Replenish the buffet regularly to ensure there is always plenty of food available for your guests.


  • Incorporate festive elements such as greenery, twinkling lights, and holiday accents. Consider using small crystal Christmas trees of varying heights to add a touch of sparkle and elegance.
  • Use thematic tablecloths and serving platters to create a cohesive look.
  • Create a warm and inviting atmosphere with candlelight or soft string lights.
  • Set the mood with festive music that’s already playing when guests first arrive, ensuring the volume is comfortable for conversation while creating a welcoming ambiance.


As the festive season approaches and Christmas Day draws near, it’s time to start thinking about how you can make your holiday celebration truly special. I hope that, with all the great ideas provided in this post, you’re now well on your way to creating a memorable and enjoyable holiday gathering that will make you proud. So get ready to gather your friends and family, put on some festive music, and create memories that will last a lifetime.

Collage of 8 recipe photos that are some of the 50 recipes included in this post on christmas party buffet ideas

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About the author

Hi, I'm Lee.

I am inspired by my mother, Sally’s, love of cooking and entertaining to gather friends and family together over great meals and conversation. In fact, I held my first dinner party at the age of 16. Throughout the years, I’ve provided recipes, menu advice and cooking tips to friends seeking uncomplicated and delicious ideas for home entertaining.

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