Here are some Chinese New Year menu ideas to help you plan for your dinner party! I’ve planned a few themes for everyone, no matter whether you want to celebrate the Lunar New Year in the traditional style or entertain guests from all over the place.
To showcase the abundance, a Chinese New Year feast usually includes all types of meat, poultry, fish, and seafood. I’ve tried to cover all types of protein in each menu except the vegan menu. Like I mentioned in my other post on How to Host a Successful Chinese New Year Party, you want a balanced menu that includes heavier mains along with lighter veggie dishes. Noodles and dumplings are a must, not only because they represent fortune, longevity and good luck, but also because they are too delicious to miss! In each menu, I also tried to include dishes that can be prepared in advance, so you will have time to entertain your guests during the dinner party.
Here we go!
Chinese New Year Menus
The American Chinese Menu
This menu includes some of my most popular recipes that everyone loves. Some of the dishes are traditional and some have a modern twist. It’s a combo that keeps everybody happy if your guests are from all over the place.
- Char Siu (Chinese BBQ Pork) (Make ahead and serve as a cold dish)
- Steamed Salmon in Black Bean Sauce
- Cantonese Roast Chicken (Marinate a day before the party)
- Beef Dumplings (Wrap ahead and freeze)
- Sesame Noodles (Prepare the sauce and assemble before serving)
- Chinese Coleslaw (Make ahead)
- Chinese Broccoli with Oyster Sauce
- Soy Sauce Fried Rice (Make ahead)
- OR Sticky Rice Stuffing – If you want the meal to be meatier (Make ahead)
Northern Chinese New Year
I ate most of these dishes growing up and you can see many of them on my family’s Chinese New Year dinner table!
- Cucumber Salad (Prep ahead and assemble before serving)
- Egg Rolls (Make ahead)
- Huang Fei Hong Spicy Peanuts (Make ahead) – One of the most popular snacks in China using Sichuan ingredients to make addictive peanuts
- Winter Melon Soup with Meatballs (Make ahead)
- Lion’s Head Meatballs (Make ahead)
- Braised Beef with Tendon (Make ahead)
- Steamed Whole Fish
- 3-Ingredient Fried Shrimp
- Pork Dumplings with Napa Cabbage (Make ahead)
- Lamb Dumplings (Make ahead) – My family’s favorite. You can also use beef in this recipe.
- Northern Noodles with Savory Sauce (Da Lu Mian) (Make the sauce ahead and boil the noodles before serving) – A very savory tomato-based sauce with shrimp, pork, and lily flowers. It’s my family’s specialty.
- Baby Bok Choy Stir Fry
- Budda’s Delight (Can be made ahead)
- Steamed Eggplant in Nutty Sauce (Make ahead, assemble before serving)
- Sticky Rice Cake with Red Bean Paste (Make ahead)
Sichuan Food Lover’s New Year Menu
You can’t miss this menu if you want to host a Sichuan-themed party. Sichuan food is very trendy nowadays. The spicy and bold flavor is perfect for the holiday. Of course, you can’t make every dish spicy. I’ve added some lighter dishes here and there to help cleanse the palate.
- Pickled Cabbage (Make ahead)
- Fu Qi Fei Pian (Beef Brisket in Red Oil) (Make ahead)
- OR Bang Bang chicken (Make ahead)
- Candied Walnuts with Sichuan Spice (Make ahead) – Pretty hard to make but addictively good
- Egg Drop Soup – Keeping the soup course simple because the rest of the dishes are pretty heavy
- Sichuan Roasted Chicken (Marinate 1 day before the party) – roasted chicken recipe using the seasonings to make traditional tea smoked duck. The rub uses Sichuan peppercorn, salt, and black tea to create a super rich and fragrant taste. It has become my favorite roast chicken.
- Mapo Tofu (Make ahead)
- Sweet and Sour Fish (Can be made slightly ahead and kept warm in the oven) – using fish fillets and shallow frying to make the fish super crispy while maintaining the stunning presentation. Best of all, you can prepare it slightly ahead and use the oven to keep it warm and crispy.
- OR Suan Cai Yu (Spicy Poached Fish with Pickled Mustard Greens) – A more traditional course that’s popular in China. It’s for you if you like super savory dishes.
- Cumin Lamb (Can be made ahead) – You can also use beef to make this dish.
- Dry Fried Green Beans (Can be made ahead)
- 4-Ingredient Cabbage Stir Fry
- Egg Fried Rice (make ahead)
- OR Beef Fried Rice (make ahead)
- Dan Dan Noodles (prepare ahead, assemble before serving)
- Watercress Wonton Soup (make ahead) – A light and hearty dish that balances well with the rest of the menu.
- OR Shumai (Steamed Dumplings) (make ahead)
- Eight Treasure Rice (make ahead)
Vegan / Vegetarian Menu
This menu is for you if you want to host a vegetarian- or vegan-themed Chinese New Year party. On top of this menu, there are two other approaches:
(1) Host a Vegan / Vegetarian Hot Pot party – Asian markets usually carry a wide range of soybean products and mock meat that work perfectly in hot pot. See my Ultimate Hot Pot Guide for more info.
(2) Make a few dozen Duck Pancakes and serve them with various types of roasted or stir fried veggies. Use hoisin sauce or Chinese sweet bean sauce to serve. (Duck pancakes are vegan. They are the pancakes commonly served with Peking duck.)
- Huang Fei Hong Spicy Peanuts (make ahead)
- Pickled Cabbage (make ahead)
- Vegan Spring Rolls (From my husband’s blog) (make ahead)
- Vegetarian Hot and Sour Soup (contains egg but can be skipped)
- Sichuan Style Cauliflower Stir Fry (make ahead)
- Vegan Mapo Tofu (make ahead)
- OR Crispy Marinated Tofu – Not the easiest tofu recipe and tastes best if made fresh. But worth the trouble.
- Di San Xian (Fried Potato, Eggplant and Pepper in Garlic Sauce) – Needs to be made fresh to create the best texture. It takes some effort to make but is totally worth the trouble.
- Budda’s Delight (Can be made ahead)
- Stir Fried Bok Choy with Crispy Tofu
- Vegan Dumplings (make ahead)
- OR Steamed Momos with Spinach and Ricotta (make ahead)
- Vegan Dan Dan Noodles (make ahead, assemble later)
- Red Bean Soup (make ahead)
How to plan your own Chinese New Year Menu
There is never one menu that works for everyone. I’ve included many of my favorite dishes above, and hopefully you’ll be inspired and create your own menu.
How many dishes to prepare
I’ve included many dishes in each of my Chinese New Year menus. Of course, you don’t have to prepare so many dishes as I listed.
As a rule of thumb, the number of dishes you prepare should be equal to or slightly greater than the number of people eating. It usually doesn’t matter what type of dishes they are. Chinese dinners are usually served family style and it usually evens out.
For example, if I’m preparing a dinner party for 8, I would do 1 to 2 appetizers, 3 main courses, 1 soup, 1 to 2 side dishes, 1 noodle dish, 1 dumpling dish, and 1 dessert.
Just like cooking for Thanksgiving, it never hurts to prepare a bit more and have some leftovers.
Alternatively, you can also host a party that focuses on one big thing. For example, an artisanal themed party with homemade dumplings from scratch and / or hand-pulled noodles. In this case, you should make sure everyone gets a main-dish serving size for the dumplings / noodles. Then you simply need to add 2 to 3 cold dishes or vegetable dishes to balance out the meal. Maybe a dessert at the end.
How to serve
Sometimes the courses can be blurry when it comes to Chinese food, because the dishes are served family style. A few general rules of thumb:
- Serve cold appetizers and snacks first
- Main dishes along with side dishes and soup
- Dumplings and noodles come the last
- Serve dessert afterward
What kind of drinks to serve
Light beer is the default drink pairing for most Chinese dishes, especially when you serve something spicy. Prosecco is a great way to start the party, and it pairs well with many Chinese dishes too. It’s possible to serve wine, but it’s more like a standalone drink and might not go well with the food.
For non-alcoholic beverages, you can serve tea or juice.
If you want to showcase something homemade, check out my Citron Tea recipe (made with lemons). You can make it into hot and/or cold drinks, or a cocktail if you add in a splash of bourbon (highly recommended).
Now it’s your turn! If you host a Chinese New Year party this year, leave a comment and let me know what you’ve cooked. Looking forward to it!