Mystery Dinner

Today I am sharing an easy and fun mystery dinner activity that you can do with your kids, friends for a party or any time you need a simple and fun activity. I have always loved celebrating holidays and throwing parties, but as a busy mom sometimes it all becomes too much and it's not so fun anymore.

This mystery dinner idea is how I am celebrating Valentine's Day this year with my kids all while keeping my stress level low and the fun, memory making times high.

We had our first mystery dinner a few years ago. I was trying to figure out a way to keep my kids entertained during spring break and I stumbled upon this idea. Little did I know that my kids were going to LOVE it!  It's really quite simple and you can dress it down or up according to your aim.

As for me, I like to keep it simple. Basically to do a mystery dinner you want to plan a meal that has multiple elements in it (think haystacks, taco salad, waffle bar etc). Then you create a menu using code words to represent each item they might possibly have in the meal. If your meal does not have a lot of elements, you can also include utensils, drinks or dessert in the coded menu.

Once you decide on the coded words you'll want to make a key for which item matches each code word (very helpful when you are assembling meals). 

Then it's as simple as giving your guests (in my case the kids) their menus and letting them check some of the boxes. Then you will gather up all their menus and serve them whatever they ordered. 

It's so fun to see what everyone ends up with.  After we have served everyone my kids try to guess which coded word matches the foods they got. Once they figure out ALL the coded words I allow them to dish up whichever foods they actually want.

And that's it. So simple and yet so fun. I think once a month my kids beg me to make a mystery dinner. From the toddler to the teenager they all enjoy the nights when I serve a mystery dinner.

I'm sharing a sample menu so that you can see how I usually do my menu.  Honestly most of the time I just make one hand written menu and then make columns with boxes so each of the kids can check a few boxes to "order" their dinner.

mystery dinner

If you want to do a spaghetti dinner like I am, here is the key for my menu. And this will take you to a menu that has three columns if you are making the dinner for more people. You can write their initial or name above each column to keep it organized.

This year for my Valentine's menu I am keeping the code words generic. The theme comes into play with our food because I am going to add something red to each part of the meal.

The best part about this is you can really customize it for what YOU need. I'll share a few sample menus for what I might do for different themes.

Coded Menu Ideas for a Themed Mystery Dinner

Disney Princesses (Individual Pizzas)





canadian bacon






I like to make it a bit obscure so it's not really obvious for the kids. You could just assign a different princess to each food item or try to match the foods to a color associated with each princess.


Pirates (Hawaiian Haystacks)











For a pirate theme you could use a bunch of pirate terms or throw in the names of a few famous pirates. It's really up to you how much you want the coded names to match the foods. For us it is more fun when they don't really match so it's a challenge for the kids to try and figure out which word matches each food.


I hope my sample mystery dinner ideas will inspire you to create the perfect mystery dinner for your family and friends. 

If you host a mystery dinner, please share your pictures on instagram and tag me. I would love to see what you come up with!


For more fun party ideas look here. For holiday printables click here.  

Add new comment

Restricted HTML

  • Allowed HTML tags: <a href hreflang> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote cite> <code> <ul type> <ol start type> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <h2 id> <h3 id> <h4 id> <h5 id> <h6 id>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.