21+ Graduation Party Food Ideas for Large and Small Groups



Last Updated: Jul 18, 2023

Graduation day represents a major milestone and is a great cause for celebration. Many students graduate at the end of their last semester, usually in the spring or winter months—this may influence the location of graduation day celebrations. Whether or not your graduation party occurs indoors or outdoors, you’ll want to offer guests some tasty appetizers, main dishes, desserts, and drinks to appeal to all guests!

The following lists offer our classic graduation party food ideas, many of which work perfectly for both the warm and cold seasons. To prepare for your grad’s celebration, jot down the ideas you like and head over to Instacart to start shopping!

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Classic graduation party main dish ideas

To get started planning your graduation party menu, consider your options for main dishes. The following represents some classic main courses that are perfect for accommodating large groups.

1. Festive Nachos

decoration of a party table for graduation

Nachos are a great appetizer item to have on the menu for your grad’s celebration. Tortilla chips pair well with ground beef, cheese, tomatoes, salsa, sour cream, among other toppings!

2. Hotdogs

Hotdogs are another great option for large graduation ceremonies, whether indoor or outdoor events. Ketchup, mustard, onions, relish, chili, and other toppings are great options to satisfy your guests.

3. Hamburgers

Hamburgers are a classic graduation party dish that is easily customizable and can go a long way toward feeding a crowd. Toppings and options can include beef patties, vegetarian burgers, pickles, onions, cheese, tomatoes, mayonnaise, mustard, and ketchup. Place toppings out to allow guests to build their own hamburger or cheeseburger and pick up seconds at their own pace.

4. Graduation diploma burritos

Burritos are a fantastic go-to for winning your guests over this graduation season. To really make this dish a hit, dress up your burritos by tying green onion stems around them to mimic a diploma!

5. Pizza

Pizza is a classic graduation day dish and can be super easy to whip up. Frozen pizzas can be purchased well in advance and take no time to heat up on graduation day.

6. Chicken and vegetable kabobs

Chicken and vegetable kabobs are a simple do-it-yourself main dish that is sure to go over well with your graduation day guests. Each item on the kabob can be prepared either together or separately and taste especially good when cooked on the barbecue. Then spear the chicken and any assortment of vegetables, like peppers, onions, and zucchini, in alternating order, and your dish is ready to go!

Graduation party appetizer ideas

Your graduation party will also need some appetizers to tide your guests over until the main course. Consider adding some of the following selection of graduation day appetizers to your celebration menu.

1. Decorative sliders

mini hamburgers on a table.

Sliders are a great option for an appetizer, as these mini burgers offer just enough flavor to hold your guests over before the main course. You’ll need to stock up on mini buns, patties, and other toppings and condiments, or look for pre-packaged options! Hold the sliders together with graduation cap sticks to add a festive touch.

2. Wings

Chicken wings pair well with all kinds of sauce, like buffalo or barbecue. Cauliflower is a great substitute for guests with dietary restrictions!

3. Veggie tray

Placing a tray of mixed vegetables out for guests for the duration of the party is sure to be a hit. Refreshing vegetables like celery, carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, and snap peas can offer guests a refreshing snack before the main dish.

4. Mozzarella sticks

Mozzarella sticks are an easy fix on graduation day and can really win the crowd over when served as an appetizer. This item is also convenient to purchase and store as a frozen snack leading up to graduation day.

5. Spinach artichoke dip

Spinach artichoke dip is another nice appetizer to provide for graduation day guests. Don’t forget to pair it with chips, fresh vegetables, or bread!

6. Guacamole

Guacamole is a must-have for graduation day celebrations. This dip can work well as an appetizer and can also come in handy if you plan to make tacos or nachos as a main dish.

7. Jalapeño poppers

Jalapeño poppers are a crowd-pleasing appetizer and are really easy to prepare. Frozen jalapeño poppers need to be re-heated before serving, and the subtle kick will go over well with many party-goers.

8. Pretzel bites

Pretzel bites are an easy finger food to prepare for graduation parties. These bite-sized and salty snacks go well with many kinds of dipping sauces, especially cheddar cheese.

Graduation party dessert ideas

Once the main course has been served, your guests are sure to enjoy something sweet for dessert. The following list includes popular dessert options to consider for your graduation day party.

1. School color cupcakes

Yellow and blue theme graduation party cupcakes with cap hats toppers

Cupcakes are another classic dessert often found at graduation parties. These mini cakes are single-serving items that are easy to bake or pick up pre-made at the store. You can even customize your cupcakes by selecting frosting in your graduate’s school colors!

2. Graduation cake

Cakes are available in a ton of different flavors and frostings and are a staple among graduation celebrations. Flavors like chocolate, vanilla, carrot, red velvet, and many more are sure to win over your guests and can easily feed a large group. To celebrate your graduate, decorate your cake with the graduation year, their name, school colors, a diploma, or any other details specific to your graduate.

3. Diploma Cookies

Diploma-shaped cookies are an easy and tasty dessert option for this special celebration. However, most party guests will be happy with plenty of other cookie options including chocolate chip, white macadamia nut, gingerbread, or sugar– all of which can be made from scratch or purchased in packs.

4. Doughnuts

Doughnuts come in many styles and flavors, including glazed, chocolate covered, or sprinkle, and can be placed out buffet style for guests to help themselves.

Graduation party drink ideas

Drink options are crucial for any graduation party menu. Consider adding any of the following drink menu items to your graduation day plans from the list below.

1. The Essentials: Water

Water is an essential beverage option for parties. Depending on your preferences and party location, you may choose to serve water out of coolers or opt for bottled water instead.

2. DIY Soda Bar

Watermelon lemonade with ice and mint leaves.

If you’d like to take it a step past serving soda favorites as they are– consider a soda bar. Include plenty of toppings and additions like fruits, decorative straws and labels, and even custom ice cubes. You can also stock up on two-liter bottles or cases of cans, depending on your needs.

3. Summer Beers

For college graduations and celebrations which only include guests aged 21+, having a few different types of beer on the drink menu is sure to please your graduation party guests. You may want to include bottle or can options and offer a light pilsner, lager, or ale, as well as some darker beers to appeal to all different tastes.

Stock up on the items you need to celebrate your graduate with Instacart

With graduation season just around the corner, it’s time to stock up on the items you need to make your grad’s party a hit. To get started, select the items you need from local grocers and retailers and choose between our same-day delivery or pick-up options. 



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