Parties & Entertaining

What to serve at a buffet

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Tasty, easy choices will make your buffet a success
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What to serve at a buffet starts with the right food choices make a memorable

If you're planning a party or get-together, a buffet is a great way to serve a lot of people without the work or expense of a sit-down meal. But you may be wondering what to serve at a buffet that will satisfy all of your guests without breaking the bank.

Actually, a buffet is one of the most economical ways to feed a crowd. But you have to pick the right foods to keep costs down and guests happy. Here are some foods that work both ways.

Fruits and raw vegetables

Fresh fruit is a wonderful and inexpensive addition to any buffet. Including whole apples, peaches or whatever is in season offers guests a filling item without prep time or high cost. Just wash the fruit and display it in an attractive bowl or basket.

Fresh vegetables are another filling, low cost choice. Buy veggies in bulk at the farmers' market or discount warehouse store and cut them up yourself to save money. Cut them the day before and store separately in zipper bags until it's time to set up serving plates.

Bread and rolls

From simple sliced bakery loaves to fancier croissants, bread is another buffet staple. Offer guests spreads such as herbed butter, garlic cheese and all-fruit preserves, or provide the fixings for sandwiches for a more substantial option.


Salads generally hold up well on buffets, so be sure to include several versions. Place salad in glass bowls, then set the bowls into larger glass bowls filled with ice to keep them fresh. Be creative with salads, including nuts, dried fruits and other unexpected elements to keep the offerings unique.

Baked pasta dishes

Lasagna, baked ziti and other baked pasta dishes are perfect for buffets. Include a gluten-free version for those on special diets, and make sure at least one is vegetarian, and you'll be sure to please everyone on your guest list.

Keep extra pans of pasta in a warm oven until you need it. Place a second pan of hot water in the oven, and your pasta won't dry out.

Cold fish and meats

Serving chilled meats, smoked meats and fish dishes frees you from spending hours in the kitchen right before the buffet starts. Prepare the dishes the evening before or early on the day of the event, then chill them on serving platters until party time.

Simple sides

Side dishes are a wonderful way to round out the meal. Look for recipes that can hold up during their time on the buffet table. That means skipping the souffles and opting for flavorful choices like cooked carrots or green beans, grilled asparagus or baskets of oven-baked potatoes.

Keep your side dishes warm in a water bath serving dish or chaffing dish, and guests will enjoy them all evening long.

Desserts and sweets

It wouldn't be a buffet without dessert. Fortunately, you can wow your guests without exhausting yourself or your budget. Consider a dessert bar, with frost-and-decorate-yourself cupcakes, or an old fashioned candy bar. Add a couple of tasty pies and a cake, and your dessert selection is set, and your buffet is ready to serve.

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