Crowd Pleasing Recipes

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Looking for some easy, crowd-pleasing recipes? Read on for some tips, tricks and recipes to help you feed a large group on a budget.


Growing up the eldest of five children, I learned early on how to cook for a crowd. My parents were both from big families (6 and 8 kids there) so family get-togethers, were, well HUGE. Today I regularly cook for a small army.

But, I realize that not all families are as big as ours. Cooking for many can be a challenge when it’s not your norm. When we have company, I, too, am plagued by the question of “What if there’s not enough food?”

Don’t let this put a damper on your bigger gatherings. Here are my strategies for feeding a crowd:

1. Choose something economical.

If you decide to serve lobster or steak at your next big gathering, it may be hard to keep costs down. You might be tempted to cut corners and end up with too few steaks.

Instead choose a budget-friendly main dish that you can afford to “over buy” in order to accommodate your crowd.

This might focus on beans and legumes, rice dishes, pasta, sale cuts of meat (often chicken and pork) and even pizza.

It’s no secret that going meatless can dramatically cut the cost of your meal. And the dinner will still be fabulous.

Try these menus on for size:

2. Plan a meal that you can easily stretch.

If your meal entails an individual-sized main dish, like personal chicken pot pies or chicken in parchment, you may be in a quandary if your guest list expands at the last minute. Instead choose a recipe that you can easily stretch.

Add a can of beans to the chili. Throw extra vegetables into the soup. Supplement that lasagne with a bowl of easy Alfredo noodles or an extra large Italian salad.

Plan for an emergency even if you don’t need to carry out the plan.

Some meals that fit the bill include:

3. Consider food allergies and special diets.

When you’re meal planning, allergens might not cross your mind and you end up selecting three dishes that all contain cheese or other dairy. But the guest with the food allergy will notice right away, especially when their dinner options are greatly reduced. Keep in mind how you can make your meal friendly to everyone, at least for a few courses.

Some things may surprise you! Nowadays when it seems that we’re much more aware of food allergies than we were twenty years ago, there are still some things that might throw you for a loop.

We once knew guys with very unique food preferences and allergies. Neither ate vegetables. One due to health issues, the other due to preferences. If I had served only a giant salad bar, they might have found themselves with slim pickings.

Try to vary what you serve and include some allergy-free items if you can. Consider these options that are both vegan and gluten- and soy-free:

4. Belly up to the bar.

Serving a DIY bar of some kind helps you take a load off and is an easy way to serve a lot of people. Diners can serve themselves in just the right amounts. Some of our favorite “dinner bars” include

Feasting with a crowd doesn’t have to be difficult, expensive, or boring. There are plenty of options when it comes to serving a large group of people, many of them tasty and easy to pull together.

What’s YOUR favorite crowd-pleasing recipe?

Crowd Pleasing Recipes

About Jessica Fisher

I believe you can get great meals on the table -- and still keep that pretty smile on your face.

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  1. Thanks for including the bit about allergy free foods. I’ve been gluten free for 6 years or so now and it’s always an added bonus when someone makes an effort to make sure I can eat (though I never expect it).

  2. I love a baked potato bar. People don’t seem to miss having meat or you use less meat when it is a topping. So many uses for the leftovers!

  3. Since we have several people in our extended family who eat gluten-free for health & medical reasons, I’m always looking for new ways to serve them well, while serving a crowd.

  4. My 6-year-old is allergic to dairy products. Thank you for the allergy shout-out. It’s amazing how many places it’s hidden, and people don’t always think about it. I try to be proactive without being pushy, but sometimes that line is hard.

    • I feel the same way! My son has a dairy and a peanut allergy. I’m always thankful when people take it into consideration. My extended family has multiple food allergies so we usually do some sort of bar/buffet so everyone can customize their meal to suit their dietary needs.

  5. Chicken thighs (at least in my area) are about the cheapest protein ever, so it’s easy to buy a huge pack or two and grill them off for a crowd.

  6. When we have to feed a crowd, I make spaghetti Bolognese served with Italian bread and a simple raw vegetable tray. Served over pasta you can very stretch a small amount of meat a long way and bread and vegetable are low cost.

  7. We have chosen for 2 graduation parties pulled barbecue pork sandwiches( some w/out for anyone that may need that). I cook the meat first w/ salt & pepper then put barbecue sauce on it. chips veggies & dip you can always add bake beans to it if need too. Then since its grad parties cake & icecream. Simple & delish. One time used hamburger buns, one time slider buns both worked great.

  8. Goodness! It all looks so good. I want to cook ’em all ! (especially the cornbread) Thanks for the post

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