Budget dinner party ideas

Enjoy luxury dining for less with affordable dinner party dishes that will still impress. We show you how to make the most of quality ingredients on a budget.

Steak & chips pie on a plate

Saving the pennies doesn’t have to mean cutting back on entertaining or treating yourself. Just spend on one luxury ingredient and use it to add flavour to a dish that serves several people to get value for money. Of course, one lobster between six in a luxury macaroni cheese is considerably cheaper than one lobster each, just as a truffle from a jar that costs less than a tenner can add perfume to a whole tray of chicken and potatoes, or a few spoonfuls of pistachio paste can transform a dinner party dessert.

Discover how to make fine ingredients go further with our pick of comforting dinner party meals...

Ibérico pizzetta bianca

Three slices of pizza bianco with different toppings

Our elongated Spanish-style pizzas work as an elegant dinner party starter and it's well worth the effort making your own base. Top with creamy ricotta cheese, parmesan, chargrilled artichokes and Ibérico ham for a fiesta of flavours.

Ibérico ham is graded according to the percentage of the pig that is black Iberian (it must be at least 50%) and its diet. The highest quality ham comes from free-range, purebred acorn-eating pigs, but you can try tasting various grades and choose depending on personal taste and affordability.

Ibérico pizzetta bianca

Truffle chicken & potato gratin

Chicken and truffle gratin in a deep square serving dish

If you're going for fine dining, this gorgeous gratin will be sure to impress your guests. As truffle has quite a strong, perfumed flavour, a little goes a long way and it is better coming through as a hint rather than a punch. Jars sometimes contain more than one truffle, so if there are lots of very small ones, you may want to use two. 

Truffle chicken & potato gratin

Lobster mac & cheese

Lobster mac and cheese in two pans

This creamy bake makes a special treat for cold wintry nights and we've added lobster for a touch of luxury. A whole lobster can cost as little as £6 if you buy a frozen one, or spend a little more on two lobster tails if you want to avoid the effort of getting all the meat out. Brown crab meat will seriously bump up the flavour and costs about £3.99, so you could go half and half with Cornish crab for around the same price.

Lobster mac & cheese

Steak & chips pie

Steak and chips pie on a plate with gravy jug side

Serve an indulgent comfort food mash-up by combining steak, chips, red wine gravy and wild mushrooms in one pie. While this dish may not scream sophistication, it packs a punch with layers of great flavour. Use frozen oven chips or make your own using our best ever oven chips recipe.

Season shop-bought pastry with rosemary, parmesan, mustard powder, smoked paprika or chilli powder. This is a quick and easy way to enhance flavour and save yourself time in the kitchen.

Steak & chips pie

Pistachio soufflé with pistachio ice cream

Two pistachio souffles with ice cream

Elevate your pudding to cloud nine levels with these wonderfully light and fluffy soufflés that will wow everyone at the table. Top them with scoops of creamy, homemade, no-churn pistachio ice cream that you can prepare the day before. In order to maximise on the rich nutty flavour, we recommend that you get the greenest pistachio paste you can find. We bought ours from Artimondo for £4.62, plus p&p.

Pistachio soufflé with pistachio ice cream

5 other luxury ingredients to try in small doses

1. Saffron

Made from the stamens of crocuses, you only need a pinch of saffron to add a floral flavour and yellow colour to dishes. Use it in saffron risotto or to poach pears

2. Wild mushrooms

Wild mushrooms (not farmed varieties) are seasonal and expensive, but a few go a long way. Use them to spruce up a budget soup, gratinrisotto or tart.

3. Cognac

A decent bottle of this fine French brandy costs £35-£40, so buy half bottles or miniatures and use it to add finesse to rich cream and crème fraîche-based sauces, or to soak dried fruit.

4. Manchego

Made from the rich milk of the Manchega sheep in the La Mancha region of Spain and aged for at least two months, it has a complex nutty flavour. Shave into thin slices and add to salads, cauli cheese, or even scones.

5. Matcha

Matcha is an ingredient gaining in popularity. A very finely ground green tea, it’s used in baking to add both flavour and texture. Try it in everything from matcha latte to blondies, pancakes and mousse cake.

A pile of green matcha powder

Like this? Get more budget dinner inspiration....

10 easy budget family meals
5 nights of budget family suppers
5-ingredient dinners
Cheap slow cooker recipes
Tom Kerridge's six ways you can save money but still cook like the professionals




Which other special ingredients do you use for budget entertaining? Leave a comment below...

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