Planning food for large groups can be challenging — too little food and guests go hungry but too much means money wasted. According to Food Network, expect guests to consume about three drinks, five appetizers for a meal and 12 or more for an hors d’oeuvres-only gathering and 1/4 to 1/3 lb. of meat and 1/2 cup of any side dish you serve. Use these guidelines when considering these crowd-friendly menus.

Appetizers Galore

Feeding a crowd can be expensive but you can save money by cooking up an appetizers-only menu. Choose appetizers that are inexpensive to make and go a long way in terms of servings. Serve rich and flavorful appetizers so guests will get full sooner. Include dips like a seven-layer taco dip that goes far with tortilla chips, an artichoke cream cheese dip paired with french bread or spinach dip to pair with bread and vegetables. Go with a bacon-wrapped theme — all you need is bacon, a bottle of teriyaki sauce and whatever it is you want to wrap; wrap up scallops, mushrooms and pineapple and brush them with teriyaki sauce before baking. Serve four or five different appetizers for a group of 10 to 15 with more selections as the crowd gets bigger.

Mexican Feast

Mexican food is easy to make and you can serve large portions for any size of crowd. Create a taco bar with a selection of shells, meat, beans, veggies like lettuce, green onions, tomatoes and olives. Also include sauces like salsa, guacamole and sour cream; a taco bar requires little cooking but instead mostly prep work, which saves you time to mingle with your guests. Whip up a Mexican-inspired soup like tortilla soup or Caldo de Res, a beef soup, which allows you to make large batches in a small amount of time. If you need a main course enchiladas and burritos work well for large groups; make several varieties in disposable baking pans for easy serving and even easier clean-up. Lastly, a Mexican feast is not complete without Spanish rice, refried beans and chips and salsa.

Pasta Party

If you have a crowd of Italian food-lovers make a selection of pastas to please their palates and their stomachs. Start the pasta meal off with large bowls of green salad then add in your pasta selections. Include spaghetti and meatballs, ravioli and manicotti and fettuccine Alfredo with chicken or shrimp. Serve pastas with their respective sauces together or serve pastas and sauces separately so guests can choose their pasta-sauce combinations. One pound of pasta serves approximately four guests.


Serve up a barbecue-themed meal, which will easily serve a large crowd. Think ribs, roasted chicken, brisket and salmon. Side dishes like potato and pasta salad, cole slaw, baked beans and bread are heavy dishes, but they will go further because the meat is so filling as well. If you think your guests still won’t be satisfied consider desserts like bread pudding and chocolate brownies to top off their barbecue appetites. If you really want to go all out with your barbecue feast you can smoke a whole pig. A large smoker is necessary to properly cook something on this scale so it may not be appropriate unless you have access to this kind of equipment.