Confession: I sometimes lose sleep the night before hosting a dinner party. I blame it on a combination of excitement and nerves, but wow, hosting can be stressful. Of course, there’s the matter of deciding what to cook for large groups, but then you also have to pay for it. Cooking for more than four people can get real pricey, real fast. As part of my mission to solve my own host-xiety, I’ve compiled a list of delicious, easy, and inexpensive meals for large groups that I always return to–and that literally every guest will love. The main takeaway? Impressive doesn’t have to mean expensive. These meals utilize grocery store staples, store-bought ingredients, and affordable meats–without sacrificing flavor or quality. Read on for my go-to inexpensive meals for large groups—plus Camille’s tips for cooking for a crowd.
Feature image by Hannah Haston
Camille’s Top Tips for Cooking for a Crowd:
- Choose crowd-pleasing dishes that everyone can enjoy.
- Leverage batch cooking and “build-your-own” components.
- Do all possible prep in advance so that you can enjoy the evening, too.
13 Inexpensive Meals Perfect for Large Groups
Italian Stuffed Shells
Why We Love It: Alison Hersel of Plumcot Farm shared this delicious, easy stuffed shells recipe that’s fit to feed a crowd. The whole thing can be prepped in advance and popped in the oven when the time is right (note: the time is always right for stuffed shells). This recipe can also be made gluten-free by using gluten-free pasta shells.
Hero Ingredient: The ricotta is a whole-lotta yumminess.
Get the recipe for Italian Stuffed Shells.
Why We Love It: This low-carb alternative to traditional nachos is a great inexpensive meal idea for large groups. Swap tortilla chips for cauliflower and load them up with the toppings of your choice. If you’re serving a large group with multiple dietary restrictions, this is also a great “build-your-own” recipe where you make the base and let each guest customize their toppings.
Hero Ingredient: The cauliflower has some serious veggie power.
Get the recipe for Cauliflower Nachos.
Hatch Chile Enchilada Casserole from The Defined Dish
Why We Love It: My friend’s response when I asked her what she thinks of when she thinks of large dinner parties? One word: casserole. Not entirely helpful when I was trying to get my creative juices flowing, but when it comes to serving a casserole, you really can’t go wrong. And if it’s this Hatch Chile Enchilada recipe, your guests are in for a decadent dinner. It’s healthy, cozy, filling, and easily doubled or tripled depending on party size.
Hero Ingredient: Hatch chiles are the name of the game.
Get the recipe for Hatch Chile Enchilada Casserole.
Pork Carnitas Tacos from What’s Gaby Cooking
Why We Love It: Gaby from What’s Gaby Cooking says that this recipe is one of her favorite meals for entertaining, and it’s one of my go-to inexpensive meals for large groups. It uses an entire pork butt, giving you plenty of meat for a crowd. This is another great buffet-style option for dinner parties and is SO good. My favorite toppings are pickled onions and guacamole.
Hero Ingredient: The shredded meat in this recipe… a total treat.
Get the recipe for Pork Carnitas Tacos.
Rigatoni With Brussels Sprouts & Kale Pesto
Why We Love It: We all love a good pasta dinner party, and this recipe is infinitely customizable and easily doubled. In fact, Camille lays out all of the possible swaps and her best tips for cooking this for a crowd in the recipe post. Aside from the simplicity of making this dish, it has all of my favorite things: rigatoni, pesto, and crispy brussels. If you’re looking for a no-fuss, show-stopping pasta for a large group, this is it.
Hero Ingredient: The caramelized, crispy, garlic-y Brussels sprouts taste even more indulgent than the noodles.
Get the recipe for Rigatoni with Brussels Sprouts & Kale Pesto.
Lime-y Chicken Tacos With Jicama, Avocado, & Mint
Why We Love It: These tacos are one of my favorite Camille Styles recipes for the simple prep and flavors that are anything but. You can make the chicken beforehand and chop all of the veggies in advance. All you have to do is char the tortillas and serve. You don’t even have to build the tacos yourself–let the guests assemble their own.
Hero Ingredient: The lime-y chicken is affordable and addictive.
Get the recipe for Lime-y Chicken Tacos with Jicama, Avocado, & Mint.
Pita and Kebab Board
Why We Love It: I love a meal that requires zero plating and zero stress–especially when it’s still bursting with flavors like this Pita and Kebab smorgasburg. This is one of those no-recipe recipes that’s perfect for large groups. You can assemble however many boards you want and let the guests build their own plate. Or, you can scratch plates altogether and serve these as a casual grab-and-go meal.
Hero Ingredient: Hummus is a must.
Get the recipe for Pita & Kebab Board.
Half-Baked Harvest’s Pesto Pasta Alla Vodka
Why We Love It: I was lucky enough to eat this Pesto Pasta Alla Vodka at Camille and Tieghan’s holiday dinner party, and not to be dramatic, but I’ve dreamed about it ever since. Aside from the taste of the dish itself, I also got to watch the prep and can honestly say that anyone can do it. It’s ready in 30 minutes and can be easily doubled, making it perfect for both weeknight dinners and special, large-group occasions.
Hero Ingredient: The basil pesto is a unique twist on my favorite pasta sauce.
Get the recipe for Half-Baked Harvest’s Pesto Pasta Alla Vodka.
Whole 30 Pot Roast from The Defined Dish
Why We Love It: Pot roasts are another large dinner party staple, and this is my favorite recipe. It’s Whole-30 compliant, full of nostalgic flavors, and mostly hands-off. Plus, you won’t even need to light candles—this dish fills your whole home with mouthwatering aromas.
Hero Ingredient: Potatoes are my favorite part of a pot roast. What’s yours?
Get the recipe for Whole 30 Pot Roast from The Defined Dish.
Chicken Tortilla Soup
Why We Love It: Soup is one of the best things to serve to large groups because it’s inexpensive and most of the cook time is hands-off. Plus, as long as you have a big enough pot, it’s easy to double. To this day, it’s one of Camille’s most popular Instagram recipes, so if you haven’t made it yet, this is your sign. It’s the perfect serve-yourself recipe for big gatherings, as well.
Hero Ingredient: The homemade tortilla strips are next-level.
Get the recipe for Chicken Tortilla Soup.
Slow-Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala
Why We Love It: If you’ve been looking for a recipe that’s minimal effort with maximum flavor, this is it. This healthier chicken tikka masala has all the flavor of your favorite take-out meal, but all the magic happens in a slow-cooker while you’re out running errands. Again, it’s great to set out in “serve yourself” fashion and is easy to double as well.
Hero Ingredient: The full-fat coconut milk deserves a medal for making this so creamy.
Get the recipe for Slow-Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala.
Sheet Pan Alla Vodka Pizza from Half-Baked Harvest
Why We Love It: If I’m invited to a pizza dinner party, 10/10 times I’ll accept. Everyone loves a good pizza, and this recipe will be ready faster than Domino’s can deliver. It has all the delicious, creaminess of vodka sauce, but on a pizza topped with pepperoni. If you’re looking to make this meal the main event of an evening, you can also let couples customize their own pizzas.
Hero Ingredient: The sauce? Superb.
Get the recipe for Sheet Pan Alla Vodka Pizza from Half-Baked Harvest.
Baked Italian Meatballs from Thriving Home
Why We Love It: IMO—baked meatballs are always one of the best inexpensive meals for large groups. These are a 30-minute version that can be doubled and frozen… if you don’t eat them all first. If you have a busy week leading up to a dinner party, I suggest making these when you have some downtime and throwing them in the freezer until the day comes. Pile them on top of some spaghetti, serve on a sub, or simply dunk them in marinara.
Hero Ingredient: The breadcrumbs make the meatball.
Get the recipe for Baked Italian Meatballs from Thriving Home.
Do you have a few favorite inexpensive meals for large groups? Drop them in the comments—we’ll take all the ideas we can get!
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