large crowd

Have you ever been put in charge of planning a menu for a large crowd? You know, like for a family reunion, community or church dinner, birthday celebration, baby or child blessing/baptism, etc? If so, you know that creating and carrying out a menu for a large group can be intimidating and kind of stressful and maybe even slightly annoying. But worry no more, because I’ve totally got your back. Today, I’m presenting you with three sample menus that will feed (and dare I say, amaze and please) 20 or more people. I’ve based the amount of food on 20 average-size eaters or a general mix of kids and adults. If you are feeding all adults or all children, you can increase or decrease as necessary.

Each menu includes the recipes and details what can be made in advance. It’s all there for you. To simplify your life.

My theory is to create a menu with a few recipes that will knock the socks of your guests. And then completely simplify the rest. For each menu plan, I’ve chosen recipes specifically because not only are they delicious, but they can, for the most part, be made in advance one way or another.

Make sure to read through the menu plan before taking my word for any of the quantities – your judgment will ultimately be best, but at the very least, the menu plans should give you a great start. I will warn you that my theory is: it is always better to have too much food than not enough. Can I get an amen to that? Clicking on the menu description will pull up a printable .pdf. Have fun!

Menu #1: BBQ Sandwiches and a Lot of Other Goodness

Menu #2: Lasagna Rolls with Love

Menu #3: Balsamic Glazed Pork Plus a Few Tasty Sides

76 Responses to Three Fabulous Menus for Feeding Large Groups

  1. Jamie says:

    Shouldn’t “Creamy 6 Cup Fruit Salad” actually be 5 cup? There’s six items, but only a total of 5 cups for a single batch. Hmmmmm…….

  2. Lindsay says:

    Hi Mel,
    I love, love your blog and cook from it several times a week. Thanks for all your great recipes! We are blessing our new baby next Sunday, so I decided to search your blog for recipes to feed a crowd. I knew you’d deliver! You are seriously the best!!

    Quick question, In your recipe for the gourmet green salad in this post, it looks like you increased the salad dressing measurements from your original recipe on the blog, but not the actual salad ingredients. Am I reading that right, or should I increase the other ingredients as well?

    Looking forward to a great meal. I’ll give you the credit, promise. 🙂

  3. Jess says:

    Hi, I have never made bread before by hand. So I am going to take the easy way out and just purchase it instead. But wanted to ask you what you recommend to substitute your awesome bread recipe for the pork sandwiches.

    • Mel says:

      Just a really good-tasting roll – buy something you would enjoy eating. I don’t buy store-bought rolls often so I don’t have a great recommendation (each bakery/store kind of differs in what they offer) so see what your local stores have to offer.

  4. Natalie says:

    I am planning to make the lasagna rolls for a crowd the day before serving and refrigerate them. When I bake them the next day, how long will they bake for? I assume the baking time will be longer after having them in the fridge. Thanks for your help!!

  5. Emily H says:

    Any new recipes good for large groups?? I need some ideas for a family birthday and these are great but I need more options! 🙂

  6. Heidi says:

    You are my hero. I’m about to have a nervous breakdown over planning food for our son’s first birthday, out of town, for 30 family members. Thank you SO much! (I’m going to cheat and buy bread… and skip desserts and have cake instead. I’m a wimp:)

  7. Jen says:

    Seriously amazing. Is there anything this website doesn’t have!? You are a lifesaver!

  8. Sophi says:

    Talented Mel, I have a little question: in the Balsamic-glazed pork recipe, it states 2 cups of water under ingredients but only 1/2 cup in the instructions. Just wondering which one. p.s. you rock! Thank you for helping me sweat less this coming weekend when I have a house full of guests.

    • Mel says:

      Nice catch, Sophi! I increased the ingredients to feed a crowd but didn’t change the instructions…so it should be the full 2 cups of water going in with the pork. Hope that helps!

  9. Kristine says:

    Thank you so much for sharing these recipes. I’m hosting 25 people for Christmas and may not have to freak out after all.

  10. Kelsey Servin says:

    Thank you! I just made the lasagna rolls and three people told me it was the best lasagna they had ever tried!

  11. Shannon says:

    This post is great. Thanks for taking your time to put something like this together.

  12. katie says:

    Hi there!
    Long time reader, first time comment-er 🙂 I loved what you had to say in the “why I blog when sometimes I think I should quit” post (hope I got that right lol) blogging is lots of work! I’m of the same opinion as you…I do it when I feel like I want to and choose (or try to choose) not to get overwhelmed by all the other…stuff!
    Anyway…I LOVE this post. I run a blog all about entertaining (parties, some recipes, how-to tips) I’d love to post a link to this, as we discuss how to feed large parties next week. I love how you put it together and I’d love to introduce you to my readers. Let me know if that’s okay!
    Thanks so much! I depend on your recipes for dinner most nights : )
    [email protected]

  13. Jerie H says:

    You. Are. Awesome!

  14. Stacy says:

    I am planning my daughters birthday party and wonder if I can sub chicken breasts for the pork in the pulled pork sammies. My oldest sister can’t have pork. Thanks!

  15. Laurel says:

    Three cheers for Mel! This posted just saved the day! or should I say party. Thanks a million!

  16. teresa says:

    mel, this is sheer genius! when i pulled up your recipe plan i thought, YES!! why aren’t there more things out there like this. seriously, if you wrote a cookbook with nothing but large crowd menus just like you did, i’d be the first in line to buy it!

  17. gyen says:

    Thank you so much! I have eight children so I cook for ten every day. When we invite a few families over after church, or host a Bible study for the youth, we often end up with 20-40 people. These are great ideas!

  18. Tara says:

    Seriously.. Can I be you when I grow up??? You amaze me! Thank you for this! Just in time for my daughter’s first birthday party!!

  19. Marni says:

    Making pulled pork for a church activity. I don’t have liquid smoke. Is it essential or can you leave it out?

    • Mel says:

      Hi Marni – I think the liquid smoke adds a very essential flavor. If you absolutely don’t have it, you could make it anyway but the flavor will be different.

  20. Jenny says:

    I was reading through your slaw recipe and noticed you mentioned it got watery. We eat a LOT of different varieties of slaw in this house, and this may be a pain for others, but I salt the cabbage before mixing the salad. Now, it just gets better with age and I only make it once or twice a week.

    I make half a head at a time, slice or chop it, toss it with 1/2 to 1 tsp kosher salt and let it sit in a colander for 30-45 minutes. Rinse it well with cold water, dry it WELL (the salad spinner). Decrease the salt in your dressing a little. For more cabbage, I’d probably go with 3/4 tsp for the first head, 1/2 to 1/4 tsp kosher salt for each remaining head (or less salt, more time or less salt, more time and weight the cabbage in the colander). It’s the awesome. I just love having a salad ready to go in the fridge.

    Most of my slaws are vinegar based, so often, I’ll reduce the vinegar on the stove (tossing in the spices, onion, garlic). That also helps compensate for any juice the cabbage wants to share with everything else in the salad.

    Love your site and you do a spectacular job, thank you.

  21. Logan says:

    Mel! I have made your recipes on numerous occasions for large groups! You are my go to for recipes:)
    Recently I catered a meal for 30. Used your pulled BBQ sandwiches, loaded baked potato salad, gourmet leafy green salad with red wine vinaigrette and Oreo truffle brownie recipes! Turned out great!

  22. Christine says:

    I see you are a pro at baking bread and rolls. What is your secret? I never seem to get mine to rise properly (unless I use my bread machine!) and it just turns out to be a dense, tastless blob. I would love to be a success at it! Thanks 🙂

  23. Jana says:

    You melt my butter. Your recipes have saved my marriage. (Okay, at least enhanced). I just wanted to say thanks – I never have, and that’s lame. So, I’m sorry I’ve been lame. Thank you for your work and yummy recipes and your sense of humor.

  24. Barb says:

    How did you know I am hosting a graduation party next weekend? Was planning on pulled pork sandwiches, and your menu is the perfect help to balance the meal. Thank you so much for posting!! This will be so helpful, I was feeling overwhelmed and now I think I’ve got it…I’ve been following you for a few months and love your recipes. Thank you!!

  25. I love these hearty, big-crowd-friendly meals you pulled together, Mel! Great for family reunions, picnics and BBQs that call for something more than burgers and hot dogs!

  26. Kim says:

    I’m wondering if you could post a sample of that chart so it could be used for different recipes. Like a word doc or something?

  27. Jackie Gonzales says:

    Seriously…I could do this kind of thing for a living! I love making plans and timeline for cooking! Love it!

  28. It’s like you read my mind. Every now and then, I need a big recipe. thank you!

  29. I love that you put the timing for prepping everything. That always seems to be the part that is the most annoying for me… trying to make sure everything finishes at the same time.

  30. Jody says:

    The Balsamic Pork worked great for my 300 person Church Christmas Party (thank you, thank you, thank you again for all your advice!). These other two look great and I can’t wait to refer back to them next time I’m feeding a crowd!

  31. Amanda says:

    Wow! You did all the work for me! Thanks:)

  32. bluebaker says:

    This is the most amazing thing I’ve seen in a loong time! Alot of my fear of entertaining large groups is this kind of thing- what happens when, and how do you time it all out so its ready at the same time. I plan on doing the BBQ sandwich menu for the 4th of July, and also adding my red white and blue jello , a long standing tradition :). Would you consider
    expanding this idea to Thanksgiving and Christmas menus? The gift of less stress would be a great thing.

  33. Beth says:

    Yay! Love this! Cooking of large groups is always intimidating and time consuming, and you’ve taken a lot of the hard work out for us here. Can’t wait to try these menus the next time I am feeding all 26 of my inlaws!

  34. Jackie says:

    Impeccable timing. I am planning a family reunion this summer and was going to make pulled pork. I was just thinking I had better start figuring out how much I would need. This will help a ton. THANK YOU!!!

  35. Julianne says:

    This is AMAZING, this breakdown of WHEN to do everything in preparing a big meal. Thank you!

  36. Lisa says:

    How fabulous to share this concept! I am scared to enterain because I never know how to feed a crowd. Only my peewee family of 3! Great to have! I would love to read more ideas.Thanks for sharing and caring about us non-entertainers!

  37. Deanna says:

    This is so unbelievably helpful! Thanks so much for doing this!

  38. Stacie D. says:

    I have been the beneficiary of your wise advice in this regard in the past, so this is a really awesome tool! Just prepared the balsamic pork for a group a couple weeks ago, and it is always a hit! Also recently had the lasagna rolls, though not for a group, but my family enjoyed the leftovers!

  39. Jennifer G. says:

    Saving these for sure. Between church and family occasions I will use these menus! I’d love it if you did this again sometime with different recipes. 🙂

  40. Tahnycooks says:

    I’m a caterer and this is so helpful! Thank you! Love your site btw!

  41. AnnCP says:

    I cook for a crowd many times during the year. You have captured the foods that are winners in my book. Great job for those who “fear” this assignment. I found a couple of recipes I have’t tried (some of your sides), that I am going to try out. This is a very useful post.

  42. I love doing pulled pork sandwiches, potato salad, homemade pico and great chips. Oh, and a giant tub o’dranks. Yum.

    Popping in from Oh, Mrs. Tucker!

  43. Katie says:

    This is AMAZING! Thanks for doing all the hard part! This is seriously incredible. Can’t wait to have a party!

  44. Aisha says:

    AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Do you have any ideas for feeding a large crowd but for a church banquet (with “fancy” food)?

    • Mel says:

      Hi Aisha – hmmm, I’m probably the wrong one to ask since I consider lasagna rolls fancy. 🙂 It sounds like you are probably wanting more of a fancy buffet-type meal. You might want to talk to an official caterer or someone with more professional knowledge if you want it fancier than these menus. Good luck!

  45. Court says:

    Love this, thank you! Do you think I could make the lasagna rolls recipe a few days ahead of time & freeze (omitting the remaining sauce & cheese until bake time)?

    • Mel says:

      Court – yes, you could probably freeze the lasagna rolls ahead of time – I’d go ahead and assemble the start to finish (even with the sauce and cheese) and freeze. Then either bake from frozen or let them hang out in the fridge for 24 hours to thaw. Haven’t tried it myself so you’ll have to do a bit of experimenting…

  46. Em says:

    Wow!! This could be a major time-saver for me! thanks Mel!

  47. Anne says:

    Fabulous idea!! We have family get togethers (with 20 of us) several times a year…this will be a life saver. By the way, your BBQ Sauce is the bes!!

  48. Jess in ND says:

    You are a saint walking upon this earth. Truly, the Betty Crocker of our time…and your recipes and methods will be passed down through more families than you can dream of. Thanks for loving our guts!

  49. I love you and this post (and this blog!!!). Fantastic post 😀

  50. Kathy says:

    This is awesome Mel! I never know when I can make things ahead, so your charts are wonderful!

  51. Missy says:

    The BBQ sandwich recipe is fantastic! I made it the other month and even my young girls loved it. I have tried other recipes but this one was by far the easiest to make and most tasty! I added hickory and honey BBQ sauce at the end of cooking and the combination of flavors was perfect. Thank you, Mel. Another winning recipe in our home!

  52. Emily F says:

    so…just curious, when can we expect the next installment of the wheat series? I’ve been *patiently* waiting!

  53. mommabean says:

    This is wonderful Mel! We don’t entertain much in the winter because our house is smaller, but we have a large back yard perfect for our summer parties and these menus are just right to help me feed everyone! Thanks for putting so much time into these menus! Love them!

  54. JaimetheJam says:

    I’ve made this Balsamic Glazed Pork twice in the last few weeks – such a big hit! I serve it with honey glazed carrots and roasted brussels sprouts (if you want an alternative to the above menu.) Thanks for the great recipe Mel!

  55. Kim says:

    I love the chart! I have a graduation party and then two weeks later I have my son’s (the groom) rehearsal dinner. I plan on making all the food for both events. Call me crazy.

  56. Nathalie says:

    Wow Mel this is awesome! You’ve def. taken the time to put this together and the fact that it has a schedule of exactly what to do doesn’t seem to make it so overwhelming. We love to entertain, but the thought of cooking for a crowd with the kids sometimes is one reason I don’t do it too often…with the nice summer weather here, and three yummy choices from your list, I have have an excuse anymore! 🙂

  57. Heidi says:

    Thank you, thank you! I have a large group of family coming this summer and I was already starting to plan what I could feed them all. This is very helpful. You are wonderful! Oh- I made your brown sugar crinkle cookies last night- they are incredible with the browned butter. Yum.

  58. That pulled pork sandwich literally had me salivating! There’s nothing I love more than sweet/tangy barbecue sauce!

    Thanks for the recipes 🙂

  59. Becky says:

    Thanks for the great ideas! I love cooking for a crowd and am always on the look out for some new recipes!

  60. Terry A. says:

    These are great. With the accompanying to-do plan, they’re invaluable. Thanks so much!

  61. Jen T says:

    Wow! Thank you!!!! This is awesome and will be extremely useful this summer! Bless you!

  62. I rarely cook for a crowd, but when I do I go into panic mode! These are three great recipes to keep in mind. Thanks 🙂

  63. Ann says:

    This is fantastic! I especially love the calendar to organize yourself. Thank you so much!

  64. Renee says:

    This is great Mel! I cook for large groups of people all the time. Sometimes 300 or more. Most of the time it is less than a hundred. Thanks so much for doing part of the work for me. 🙂

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