Food & Drinks, Let's Party!, Lifestyle

Seasonal Summer Recipes Sure to Provide July Dinner Party Perfection

july dinner party ideas

This article was written by The Zillennial Zine’s summer editorial intern PJ Cunningham. Find him on Instagram at @peachycunningham. If you would like to share an article with The Zillennial, send us an email at

The post Fourth of July blues is real. After all the fireworks burst, all the grills stop simmering and all the partying dies down, it can feel as if the best of the month and summer are already in the past. However, there is a surefire way to combat these bad vibes; enter the dinner party!

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When spirits are low but temperatures are still high, a mid-to-late July dinner party is a surefire success story just waiting to go down. Key to any dining gathering however, is of course, the food in question. Therefore, without further ado, here are July dinner party ideas from drinks to desserts bound to not only please and nourish guests, but also end up as mainstays in your recipe books.


Staying refreshed, hydrated and happy is paramount to any July event, with dinner parties hardly being the exception. Therefore, before we begin our quest for the ultimate dinner party fare, let’s look at some drink ideas.

Lemonade, With a Twist

When your body is in need of hydration, few drinks lend as much aid as lemonade! While classic fresh-squeezed lemonade is a quintessential part of summer, there are so many unique twists on this classic these days. It’s only right that we get a little more creative.

With so many fruits in season in July, it’s only right that we combine a cornucopia of classic summer flavors to make an upgraded lemonade guests won’t soon forget.

Whether it be pineapple, strawberry, or even watermelon mixed lemonade, taking advantage of these new flavors, with recipes and lists present all over social media platforms such as Pinterest as well as cooking sites like, is a must this July!

Something Special From South of The Border

Many of you likely won’t be familiar with the paloma. This iconic Mexican cocktail provides the perfect mix of sweet, bitter and salty. Traditionally a mix of the ever-bittersweet juice of a grapefruit with the sourness of lime juice, the crisp refreshing chill of sparkling water and the powerful punch of Latin liquors such as tequila or mezcal, the paloma will bring a rush of intensity to your taste buds followed by a refreshing relaxation. Find out the recipe for a traditional paloma here.

However, those of us under-21, such as myself, have no reason to despair. Virgin palomas exist and they totally rock. For the sober or underage amongst us all, here is a recipe for a paloma mocktail.


No dinner party should ever skip out on appetizers. These small, shareable, starter snacks never fail to wow me, even if I end up filling up on them before the main course. Few aspects of a meal can capture the adventurous spirit and whimsical nature of summer more than creative, adventurous and flavorful appetizers that leave our palettes wondering what will come next. Therefore, as much as we love them, this won’t be your mini-burgers, pigs in a blanket, or even the ever-serviceable chips and guacamole. If we want to take July dinner party ideas to the next level, we need to think outside the box.

Salmon Ceviche with Mango

Salmon is all the rage these days, for good reason. This famously pink fish is an excellent source of protein and essential vitamins while also tasting delicious. Therefore, it was only fair to combine nutrition, taste and trend together with this unique starter that will have all your guests intrigued and hungry for more. Ceviche is a dish of Peruvian origin consisting of raw fish, shellfish, or shrimp that is ‘macerated’, or marinated in lemon, lime, or other citrus based juices making it both incredibly flavorful and also safe to eat. This particular brand of ceviche, presented by food newsletter the Spruce Eats, combines savory salmon, sweet mango and the bold flavors of other traditional garnishes such as cilantro into a uniquely light yet unrelentingly bold appetizer that pairs perfectly with tortilla chips or crostini toasts. It might be an adventure for some, but it’s a trip surely worth taking.

Some Sit-Down Street Corn

Continuing with our ad-hoc, unofficial Latin American theme is another trending dish that will combine different flavors for an incredibly tasteful combo that will leave even the most placid of palettes salivating.

While some of you may be familiar with elotes, the Mexican grilled street corn dish beloved on both sides of the Rio Grande, its salad-esque cousin esquites make the appearance here instead. Combining char-grilled corn, mayo, crumbled cojita cheese, lime, cilantro, spices and a variety of garnish and serving options, esquites bring the magic of elotes from the corn-cob to the plate or bowl. This makes it an easy dip or stand-alone appetizer.

With familiar flavors and a unique versatility, esquites is sure to make your boring potato and egg salads a thing of the past, while keeping the unique texture and flavor-base that made them staples. It will bring a zest and kick to any summer party, I guarantee it. Make it using this recipe today!

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These apps should get your party rolling, but in the event they don’t, or in the more likely scenario that you want even more starters, the folks at the Food Network have graciously provided a list of 90 different appetizer ideas for your summer party.

Main Courses

It’s dinner time folks! 

As the name dinner party suggests, the main course is central to the event in question. It is important to get this part right. Luckily, I am here to make sure you do just that with these two potential July dinner party hits.

Pesto Pizza Party

Pesto is a summer-y taste if ever there was one. With an aroma, look and flavor of freshness, a proper basil pesto is sure to wow anyone. Pizza, unsurprisingly, is also a classic, with nearly 3 billion of the round, doughy delights being consumed by Americans each year. However, if you want creative yet successful July dinner party ideas, revolutionizing this classic is not a bad place to start. While not as ubiquitous as red cousin and fellow-Italian marinara, pesto, which is generally comprised of crushed basil, pine nuts, light cheese, garlic and olive oil, is just as deserving of a place on the mantle of Italian-American cuisine. Though presented by numerous different online publications and recipe guides, the pesto pizza we are making is based off of the recipe provided by seasonal recipe blog “with spice.”

Featuring a how-to for homemade dough and a three-cheese blend of classics mozzarella and parmesan alongside the more unorthodox goat cheese, this pesto pizza will bring back the memories of July pizza parties while still carrying the refined air of sophistication and cosmopolitan class that only a sauce as deliciously extravagant as pesto can create. Another plus, it’s also vegetarian.

Christmas in July

If you’ve enjoyed this list but felt it lacked a real hearty main course, hopefully this next recipe can ease your mind. If you’re anything like me, one of your favorite meals of the entire year is Christmas ham. What? It’s not? Well it will be after this.

It’s time to celebrate Christmas in July with this seasonal take on a perennial dinner party hit. While it might be heavier and more traditional than our other options, it will still bring the flavors of summer to life.

This particular recipe, from Melissa Southern’s online southern recipe guide site, features a bourbon, pineapple and brown sugar glaze that creates a delicious sweet, flavorful  taste and caramelized, candied texture. Even if it’s 80 degrees out, this recipe will bring holiday cheer while also providing a taste of summer.

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For those who want more, or perhaps seek alternative options, here’s over 100 main course options for summer dinners provided by the team at EpiCurious.


C’mon, you know you were just waiting for this part. I was too.

Desserts are the highlight of any summer party, so we intend to keep it that way.

Seasonal Strawberry Turnovers

As you may have sensed by now, I aim to embrace the many unique seasonal flavors available in the peak of summer. July brings sweetness to the forefront of flavors and few desserts scream sweetness quite like the turnover.

Pastry pockets filled with fruit and coated in sugary icing, turnovers are a hallmark of baking and a delectable dessert option for a post-dinner party treat. While turnovers of any kind are delicious, its strawberry season and therefore, it only felt right to highlight the trending strawberry turnovers. 

Using this amazing and easy recipe from online food guide Our Happy Mess, you will be able to turn over a new chapter in your culinary journey by making these turnovers for your next dinner party this July.

If you require more to soothe your sweet tooth, I suggest pairing the turnovers with vanilla ice cream, homemade or store bought.

Extravagance, Affluence… Affogato

Another trendy dessert, the affogato plays a contemporary, refined counter to the humbler, family bakery vibe of the turnover. A favorite of sweet-toothed coffee snobs (a community I count myself a part of, for better or worse), this dessert essentially is gelato (or ice cream) served in a coffee cup containing espresso. Think of it as a cappuccino without humility or shame, just what any dessert should aspire to be.

This might not be an everyday dessert, but hey, these aren’t ideas for an everyday party. These are July dinner party ideas, which demand creative solutions. In a time of year where the sun tires us all out, sometimes a bit of caffeine and ice cream can be the boost we all need. This dessert, though usually light, provides a big enough boost to keep even the most tired or overstuffed partygoers the energy they need to keep the night going.

Online cookbook A Couple Cooks provides a fail-proof affogato recipe, complete with multiple flavor options for your ice cream/gelato as well as a range methods for brewing and serving your coffee.

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For you dessert lovers still looking for more, check out A Couple Cooks’s 25 summer desserts everyone should try and see what else is out there!

So, now that we have a comprehensive list of July dinner party ideas, it is time to close the laptops, open up the wallets, grills and kitchen cabinets and start cooking! From drinks to dinners to desserts, July is gonna rock. All we need now is an excuse to party and eat, which, if you’re anything like me, shouldn’t be too hard.

Do you like these July dinner party ideas? What other recipes would you recommend? Let us know in the comments!

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