Taco Tuesday is just the beginning.
Meal planning day in, day out can get to be a bit of a drag—and can result in a bit of dinner rut. (Pasta again?) So if you're looking for a way to spice up your weekly dinners (or surprise your guests for your next dinner party), consider creating a dinner theme—where you opt to plan your menu around a certain time period, country, or other thought. (And if you want to really get into it, table decor, mood music, and perhaps even what you wear can be part of the whole experience.)
If you need a little inspiration, check out our list of creative starting points to guide you to the perfect dinner theme ideas—and even some specific themes (and recipes!) in each category that you can run with for your own culinary adventure.
Spin the Globe
Sampling a favorite country's cuisine may be the one of the most popular (and easiest) dinner theme ideas to pull off. Pick a favorite vacation destination (or something from your travel bucket list), research a menu from there (don't forget dessert!), and perhaps go a little further by playing music or watching movies from that country.
Obviously, most countries have their own amazing cuisines, so it all depends on where your tastebuds care to take you. (And don't be afraid to travel to more than one destination in your culinary travels—you can offer a trip around Asia with a dish from each destination, or opt to serve different cultures' versions of dumplings as appetizers, main dishes, and desserts.
A few ideas to get you started:
Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches
Want to keep it all American? Consider choosing delicacies from places you've visited or lived. A few suggestions:
New Orleans Cajun or Creole fare
Chicago-style deep-dish pizza
Try Some DIY Options
If you're looking for a fun dinner theme idea that's low-effort, high reward, choose a menu theme that's really interactive. Setting up DIY food bars may require a bit of prep and presentation, but your guests (or your family) will take it from there to build customized creations. (Bonus: This is an excellent option when your fellow diners have dietary restrictions or are simply picky eaters, as they can skip over any ingredients that don't work for them.
Some make-your-own dinner theme inspiration:
Make your own pizza
Tacos, burritos, or nachos
Make your own sandwich
Mac-and-cheese bar (with fun toppings!)
Think Outside the Dinner Box
Sometimes, the best dinner isn't actually dinner. Consider dining options that aren't usually served in the evening (or as a full meal). Some options to consider:
Breakfast for dinner (think egg dishes or waffles!)
Charcuterie boards (add enough veggies and fruit alongside the meat and cheese, and it's a meal)
Hors d'oeuvres as a meal
Use Your Setting for Inspiration
Take your meal on the road—or just to a different room in your home—to liven up an everyday dinner. Some ideas to try:
Themed picnics (we have several fun picnic themes to choose from, from a kid-friendly picnic menu to a full-on French fete)
Tailgating before a sports game or concert
Breakfast for dinner–but in bed! (Break out the breakfast trays!)
Resize Your Dishes
Look for ways to minimize (or maximize!) your menu to have a little fun with your dinner. Consider serving all miniaturized foods (think sliders, mini hot dogs, and tiny desserts) or supersize (giant cookie for dessert). A few recipes that'll help you play with size:
Take a trip back in time, whether you opt for retro favorites from a bygone era, or want to take it way back to medieval times or the Victorian era. Parties like this are even better if costumes are involved—think disco costumes and a menu with a 1970s vibe. A few dinner menu theme ideas:
Make it a Competition
Rather than whip up the meal (and the menu) yourself, turn your next dinner into a Chopped-style competition, where you give a set secret ingredient, open access to the kitchen, and a time limit to produce something awesome.
Pro tip: This is an easy way to get rid of leftover or soon-to-expire ingredients and reduce food waste.
Celebrate Every Holiday
Obviously, there are the big holidays like Thanksgiving, New Year's, and the 4th of July. But honestly, any day can be a celebration. Get inspiration from those fun food holidays like Ice Cream Day on July 16th, or National Hamburger Day on May 28th, celebrate minor holidays (like creating a red-white-and-blue something for Flag Day on June 14th), or even make up your own holiday and a menu perfect for it.
Get Inspired by Pop Culture
If you're plotting dinner party associated with a binge watch or movie marathon, take inspiration from what you're showing, and your book club may love having a book-inspired menu. (I recently hosted my book club's discussion of Lessons in Chemistry, and opted for a chicken pot pie and brownies, as they were featured in key plot points in the book.)
Or maybe you'll want to find a theme with a twist, like only serving TikTok famous recipes. (It's the perfect opportunity to revisit the viral baked feta pasta, cowboy caviar, upside-down puff pastry, or whatever they dream up next.
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