How to Throw a Fancy Dinner Party Using Canned Food

Having friends over for fancy-schmancy dinner always sounds fun … until you realize how much time and money it takes to make the food and drinks.

Every experienced host knows dinner parties often turn into gabfests for guests on the patio, while the chef sits alone in the kitchen, chopping up vegetables.

Sometimes, it just seems easier to meet your friends at a restaurant. But don’t worry. If you rely on canned foods and juices, you can have an elegant dinner party guaranteed to impress without causing you stress.

The menu

Throwing a dinner party doesn’t mean you have to invest time, or money, at the farmer’s market that morning.

“Canned foods can open an entire collection of gourmet recipes in minutes,” says Elizabeth Ann Shaw, a registered dietician and founder of cooking and nutrition website Shaw’s Simple Swaps.

The secret ingredient to a fancy dinner party is canned beets, Shaw says. “They can take a traditional hummus to a whole new level and create a wonderful, vibrant spread for pizzas and toast,” she says. “I’ve also whipped up these beet falafel burgers that seem fancy but are so simple to make.”

The Canned Food Alliance’s database has hundreds of recipes that involve canned foods you may already have in your pantry. If you’re not in the mood to browse, Katie Calligaro Toulouse, communications manager for the alliance, offered her go-to gourmet dishes: fajitas primavera, pork chops with chipotle tomatoes, and Tuscan-style pasta with cannellini.

Fancy the tastes of the sea, instead? Why spend time grilling fish when you can pop open a variety of tinned seafood? Canned tuna and salmon are great options that don’t require a lot of prep, Shaw says. “One of my favorite recipes is this fun twist on hummus using canned tuna in place of mayo.”

Although we’re apt to point out how inexpensive and healthy canned foods can be, a generous host could still find ways to splurge. These sardines cost over $50 per can, for example, and here are some cans of caviar that start at $40. Epicurious recommends you purchase two tins of fish per person.

Drinks and dessert

One thing every hoity-toity dinner party must include – alcohol.

But that doesn’t mean you have to buy expensive wine. Pop open a canned cocktail, instead, or stock up on pineapple juice, a commonly used mixer that you can only find in cans because the juice must be protected from light. You can also make this sangria even more delicious by adding a can of fruit cocktail.

Assuming your guests have room left in their stomachs, you’ll want to serve them dessert.

Delmonte offers a variety of recipes using canned fruit on their website, including these fruit tartlets that look like they come from a Parisian sweet shop, but really only take 15 minutes to make.

The décor

If you follow our advice, you’ll have a lot of empty cans on your counter. Before you toss them in the recycling bin, consider using the cans as centerpieces.

While candles can add a sense of intimacy to a dinner party, most aren’t that great for the environment. Cheap candles are made from paraffin wax, which release a number of carcinogens into the air.

Instead, consider this eco-friendly centerpiece:

  1. Rinse out your empty cans with hot water.
  2. Peel off the labels.
  3. Decorate the cans with ribbon, yarn or twine.
  4. Pop some fresh flowers, or dried pasta, inside.

Voila. You have a vase.

For more can-terpiece inspiration, check out this Pinterest board.