13 inexpensive meals for large groups to save your next dinner party

13 inexpensive meals for large groups to save your next dinner party

Confession: I sometimes lose sleep the night before hosting a dinner party. I blame it on a combination of excitement and nervousness, but wow, hosting can be stressful. Of course, there’s the matter of deciding what to cook for large groups, but you also have to pay for that. Cooking for more than four people can get very expensive, very quickly. As part of my mission to solve my own host anxiety, I’ve compiled a list of delicious, easy, and inexpensive meals for large groups that I always come back to and that literally every guest will love. The main takeaway? Impressive does not mean expensive. These meals use grocery store staples, store-bought ingredients, and affordable meats, without sacrificing flavor. Where quality. Read on for my inexpensive meals for large groups, plus Camille’s tips for cooking for a crowd.

Featured Image by Hannah Haston

Camille’s top tips for cooking for a crowd:

  • Choose dishes that will appeal to everyone and that everyone can enjoy.
  • Take advantage of batch cooking and “build-your-own” components.
  • Do all you can to prepare ahead of time so you can enjoy the evening as well.

13 Inexpensive Meals Perfect for Large Groups

Italian stuffed shellfish

Why we love it: Alison Hersel from Plumcot Farm shared this delicious and easy stuffed shell recipe that is fit to feed a crowd. Everything can be prepared in advance and baked when needed (note: it’s always time for stuffed shells). This recipe can also be made gluten-free by using gluten-free pasta shells.

Hero Ingredient: The ricotta is a real delight.

Get the recipe for Italian Stuffed Shells.

Cauliflower Nachos

Why we love it: This low carb alternative to traditional nachos is a great inexpensive meal idea for large groups. Replace tortilla chips with cauliflower and top with toppings of your choice. If you’re serving a large group with multiple dietary restrictions, this is also a great “build it yourself” recipe where you prepare the base and let each guest customize their toppings.

Hero Ingredient: Cauliflower has some serious herbal power.

Get the cauliflower nachos recipe.

Hatch Chili 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 big dinner parties? One word: casserole. Not quite useful when I was trying to get my creative juices flowing, but when it comes to serving casserole, you really can’t go wrong. And if it’s this Chili Hatch enchilada recipe, your guests are in for a decadent dinner. It’s healthy, comfortable, hearty, and easily doubled or tripled depending on the size of the party.

Hero Ingredient: Hatch chilies are the name of the game.

Get the recipe from Hatch Chili Enchilada Casserole.

Pork Carnita Tacos from What’s Gaby Cooking

Why we love it: Gabby from What is Gaby cooking says this recipe is one of her favorite meals for entertaining, and it’s one of my inexpensive meals for large groups. It uses a whole pork butt, giving you plenty of meat for a crowd. This is another great buffet style option for dinner parties and it tastes so good. My favorite toppings are pickled onions and guacamole.

Hero Ingredient: The shredded meat in this recipe…a total treat.

Get the Pork Carnita Tacos recipe.

Rigatoni with Brussels Sprouts and Kale Pesto

Why we love it: We all love a good pasta dinner, and this recipe is endlessly customizable and easily doubled. In fact, Camille lays out all the possible swaps and her top tips for cooking this for a crowd in the recipe article. Aside from how easy this dish is to prepare, it has all my favorite things: rigatoni, pesto, and crispy brussels. If you’re looking for no-fuss, spectacular pasta for a large group, this is it.

Hero Ingredient: Caramelized, crispy, garlicky Brussels sprouts taste even more indulgent than noodles.

Get the recipe for Rigatoni with Brussels Sprouts and Kale Pesto.

Lime Chicken Tacos with Jicama, Avocado and Mint

Why we love it: These tacos are one of my favorite Camille Styles recipes for the simple preparation and flavors that are anything but. You can prepare the chicken in advance and chop all the vegetables in advance. All you have to do is toast the tortillas and serve. You don’t even have to build the tacos yourself – let guests assemble their own.

Hero Ingredient: Key lime chicken is affordable and addictive.

Get the recipe from Lime chicken tacos with jicama, avocado and mint.

Pita and Kebab platter

Why we love it: I love a meal that requires no plating and no stress, especially when it’s still bursting with flavor like this Smorgasburg Pita and Kebab. This is one of those no-recipe recipes that’s perfect for large groups. You can put together as many boards as you want and let guests build their own plate. Or, you can scrape the plates completely and serve them as a casual meal to go.

Hero Ingredient: Hummus is a must.

Get the Pita & Kebab Board recipe.

Semi-cooked pasta with pesto from the Alla Vodka harvest

Why we love it: I had the chance to eat this Vodka Pesto Pasta Alla at Camille and Tieghan’s holiday dinner, and not to be dramatic, but I’ve been dreaming about it ever since. Aside from the taste of the dish itself, I also got to watch the preparation and I can honestly say anyone can do it. It’s ready in 30 minutes and can be easily doubled, making it perfect for weeknight dinners and large group special occasions.

Hero Ingredient: Basil pesto is a unique twist on my favorite pasta sauce.

Get the recipe for Half-Baked Harvest’s Pesto Pasta Alla Vodka.

Whole Roast 30 Jars from The Defined Dish

Why we love it: Charcoal roasts are another great dinner staple, and this is my favorite recipe. It’s Whole-30 compliant, full of nostalgic flavors and most of all hands-free. Plus, you won’t even need to light any candles: this dish fills your whole house with mouth-watering aromas.

Hero Ingredient: Potatoes are my favorite part of a charcoal roast. What is your?

Get the recipe from Whole Roast 30 Jars 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 cooking time is hands-off. Also, as long as you have a big enough pot, it’s easy to double down. To date, this is one of Camille’s most popular Instagram recipes, so if you haven’t made it yet, this is your sign. It is also the ideal recipe for large gatherings.

Hero Ingredient: Homemade tortilla strips are next level.

Get the recipe for Chicken Tortilla Soup.

Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala

Why we love it: If you were looking for a recipe that required minimal effort with maximum flavor, this is it. This healthier chicken tikka masala has all the flavor of your favorite takeout meal, but all the magic happens in a slow cooker while you run errands. Again, it’s great to get into “serve yourself” mode and it’s easy to double down too.

Hero Ingredient: Whole coconut milk deserves a medal for making it so creamy.

Get the recipe from Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala.

Sheet Pan Alla Vodka Pizza from Half-Baked Harvest

Why we love it: If I am invited to a pizza dinner, 10/10 times I will accept. Everyone loves a good pizza, and this recipe will be ready faster than Domino’s can deliver. It has all the delicious creamy vodka sauce, but on a pizza topped with pepperoni. If you’re looking to make this meal the main event of a night out, you can also let couples customize their own pizzas.

Hero Ingredient: The sauce? Superb.

Get the recipe from Sheet Pan Alla Vodka Pizza from Half-Baked Harvest.

Thriving Home Baked Italian Meatballs

Why we love it: IMO—baked meatballs are still one of the best inexpensive meals for large groups. This is a 30 minute version that can be doubled and frozen…if you don’t eat them all first. If you have a busy week before a dinner party, I suggest making these when you have down time and putting them in the freezer until the day comes. Pile them on spaghetti, serve them on a sub or simply dip them in marinara.

Hero Ingredient: The breadcrumbs make the meatball.

Get the recipe from Thriving Home Baked Italian Meatballs.

Do you have some favorite inexpensive meals for large groups? Drop them in the comments, we’ll take all the ideas we can!