Easy Recipes for Large Groups–When you’re planning to feed a crowd figuring out the menu can seem overwhelming. You want the food to taste good, not break the budget, be done on time and stretch far enough that everybody gets full. Here are several Instant Pot and slow cooker ideas that will help you feel confident that you can pull your event off with flying colors. These recipes can feed 20-30 people, no problem.
Easy Recipes for Large Groups
Are you in charge of making a meal for a family reunion? Or maybe it’s for your bible study group? Or you’re in charge of feeding the teachers at your kid’s elementary school for teacher appreciation week? Whatever the event is, you can make it happen! And it doesn’t have to be super hard or overwhelming. Plus the food can and will taste amazing. Gather up a few crockpots or Instant Pots and let them do the bulk of the work for you.
Easy Recipe Idea #1: Cafe Rio Salads
The reason I love Cafe Rio salads so much for large groups is that each person can create their own food experience. Don’t like beans? No problem. Want to make it vegetarian? Easy. Have a picky kid that just wants chips and cheese? That works. If I was in charge of dinner for 20-30 and I chose to make Cafe Rio salads this is how I would do it:
Make one large pot of rice. You can make it in the Instant Pot or on the stovetop. Here is the Instant Pot recipe for cafe rio rice. If you make the Instant Pot recipe you’ll need to double the recipe. You can double all the ingredients and keep the cooking time the same. If you double the recipe it will make 14 cups of rice. That will feed about 28 people if each person takes a half cup of rice.
If you want to make the rice on the stove you can do that too. This particular recipes makes 18 cups of rice. So that’s enough for over 30 people if each person took a half cup of rice. The good thing about rice is that it’s cheap and if you make too much, who cares? My sister got this recipe from her friends, the Wagstaff’s:
Stovetop Cilantro Lime Rice (Big Batch):
- 4 Tbsp butter
- 2 yellow onions, chopped
- 8 cloves garlic, minced
- 12 1/3 cup water
- 6 cups long grain rice
- 5 Tbsp chicken bouillon
- 1 bunch cilantro
- 4 tsp cumin
- 4 small cans diced green chiles
- 2 Tbsp lime juice
- 1 tsp salt
In a small pan, saute the onions and garlic in the butter. In a large pot, boil the water with the bouillon, cilantro, cumin, green chiles, lime juice and salt. Add the rice and onions to the boiling water; reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
Make lots of chicken. Okay so now you have one pot of rice going either on the stove or the Instant Pot. Now you’ll make chicken. Chicken is cheap and you can buy it on sale for less than $2.00 per pound. I like the chicken instead of the pork because Cafe Rio pork is sweet flavored meat and I don’t like sweet pork. That is just my preference.
If you want to use your Instant Pot to make chicken here is the recipe that I use. This makes 5 pounds of chicken which is probably enough to feed 20 people. If you’re looking to feed more than that you can make another Instant Pot full (if you have the luxury of 2 Instant Pots).
You can also make this chicken in the slow cooker. This recipes makes 5 pounds of chicken, so enough for 20 people. You can use 2 slow cookers and double this recipe.
Slow Cooker Cafe Rio Chicken (Big Batch)
- 2 1/2 lbs of boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 2 1/2 lbs of boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of excess fat
- 1 cup Italian dressing
- 1 Tbsp chili powder
- 1 Tbsp cumin
- 1 Tbsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- Place chicken in bottom of slow cooker.
- Combine remaining ingredients and pour over the chicken.
- Cover and cook on LOW for 4-8 hours (if chicken is thawed then closer to 4 hours, if frozen closer to 8)
- Shred chicken
Make tomatillo ranch dressing. You have to have the dressing to go with you Cafe Rio salads or else it won’t be the same! Make the dressing in your blender and store it in a pitcher with a lid in the refrigerator. Use it when you are ready. You can make the dressing up to two days in advance. I like to make mine about 3 hours in advance so the flavors can really come together. Here is the recipe for the tomatillo dressing. It makes about 16 servings. If you’re serving 30 people you’ll want to make two batches of this dressing. Make one batch at a time since your blender won’t have enough room to double the recipe.
Gather the rest of your ingredients. Usually I serve cafe rio salads with a tortilla. I buy the smallish fajita size tortillas. My favorite are the uncooked tortillas that you quickly cook on a skillet. Since you’ll be serving a ton of people you may want to forego the tortillas altogether and use tortilla chips instead. My favorite tortilla chips are Juanitas. But an easy bet would be to buy the Kirkland brand tortilla chips from Costco because it is a huge bag and is very inexpensive.
You’ll also want to cut up some romaine lettuce for the salads. I like to buy the romaine from Costco and wash it and cut it up. You’re going to need quite a few heads of romaine. For the smaller heads of romaine from Costco I use the rule of about 3 salads per head of romaine. This salad has so much other stuff on it that you won’t need as much lettuce as you think.
Next open a few cans of seasoned black beans. Sometimes I make my beans from scratch but in this case I find it’s easier just to get the seasoned black beans in cans and open them up and pour them into a bowl. I don’t warm my beans up but if you want you can. Each can of beans can serve about 4 people.
Some other optional but delicious ideas for this salad are fresh pico de gallo or salsa, grated cheddar cheese, sour cream and guacamole. Plan a tablespoon per person for these items.
My favorite way to eat this cafe rio salad is to start with a large bed of romaine lettuce and then top with the rice, beans, tomatillo dressing, chicken and finally some tortilla chips. Place the items in bowls and line them up in this order. Start with paper plates and then have each person serve themself, buffet style.
Easy Recipe Idea #2: Pulled Pork Sandwiches with Coleslaw
Pulled pork sandwiches are a super easy way to feed a large group of people. I recommend making this smoky pulled pork recipe in the Instant Pot or slow cooker. I like to buy the carnitas meat from Winco for this recipe. It tastes so amazing! My recipe makes about 12 servings. You can double the recipe and make it all in the same pot. Sometimes you will have to cut the meat and arrange it in the pot so that it will fit better. Once the meat is shredded up add in some Sweet Baby Ray’s barbecue sauce and stir a bit. I like my pork with some sauce but not a ton. It’s up to you and how you like your pork on how much sauce you will add.
Buy some buns from Costco or another favorite grocery store, plan one bun for each person. Then make your coleslaw (or you can buy it). Here is the recipe I use for coleslaw:
Cabbage Coleslaw for Pulled Pork Sandwiches (Big Batch)
Makes enough for 30 sandwiches
1 head green cabbage, finely shredded
1 head red cabbage, finely shredded
4 large carrots, finely shredded
1 red onion, finely sliced
1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
6 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Combine the red and green cabbage, carrots and red onions in a large bowl. Whisk together the mayonnaise, cider vinegar, sugar, and some salt and pepper in a medium bowl, and then add to the cabbage mixture. Mix well to combine. Taste for seasoning; adjust with more salt, pepper or sugar as needed.
To serve have each person take a bun and top it with pork and a scoop of coleslaw. This dinner idea is great served with watermelon and a veggie tray with dip.
Easy Recipe Idea #3: Chicken Gyros
Chicken gyros are a family favorite. The flavors are so delicious! Start by making the recipe for the chicken in the Instant Pot or the slow cooker. The recipe makes enough chicken for about 8 gyros. So you’ll need to quadruple the recipe. You’re going to need a couple of Instant Pots or slow cookers to be able to do this.
While the chicken is cooking you’re going to need to make the tzatziki sauce and cut up a few veggies. The tzatziki sauce recipe can be found here. You can triple the tzatziki sauce recipe and that will be plenty for up to 30 people. Then cut up some tomatoes and lettuce to top the gyros with.
I love buying my pitas at Costco, the Papa Pita brand. They come in a package of 12 and they cost around $3. It’s up to you if you want to warm up the pitas or not. Usually I just warm them briefly in a skillet or in the microwave but for a big group I probably wouldn’t bother.
Let each person make their own Greek taco by spooning the chicken down the middle of the pita, topping with tzatziki sauce, tomatoes and lettuce. This recipe is good served with fresh fruit and a veggie tray.
Easy Recipe Idea #4: Taco Salad/Nachos Bar
Taco salad is another easy recipe idea. You can make the meat ahead of time and freeze it or refrigerate it. Or you can make it quite easily in the Instant Pot or slow cooker the day of the meal. You should plan about a quarter pound of meat per person. So if you’re feeding 20 people you’ll need about 5 pounds of meat (so times my recipe by 5).
While the meat is cooking you can prepare all the rest of the ingredients. You’ll need lettuce. You can buy a bag of lettuce or cut up your own. Plus you’ll want tortilla chips (Kirkland brand from Costco is good), shredded cheese, salsa, sour cream, guacamole and tomatoes. Lay out all the ingredients and let each person create their own taco salad.
Easy Recipe Idea #5: Hawaiian Haystacks
When I had my family reunion in April I was in charge of making dinner one of the nights for 29 people. I decided on Hawaiian Haystacks. It’s sort of a fun/funny meal but everyone loved it. You start with a bed of rice. Then top with a chicken and gravy and then a bunch of toppings. Everyone can make their meal exactly how they like it. Plus you can get really creative with the toppings.
Instant Pot or Slow Cooker Hawaiian Haystacks (Big Batch)
Makes 20 servings
3 cups chicken broth
5 (13.75 oz) cans cream of chicken soup
5 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts
5 cups sour cream
Salt and pepper
Topping ideas: tomatoes, peppers, mandarin oranges, chow mein noodles, celery, olives, shredded coconut, pineapple chunks, cashews, green onions, grated cheese
For Instant Pot: Stir the broth and cream of chicken soup together in the Instant Pot. Add in chicken. Secure the lid on the Instant Pot. Set to manual high pressure for 10 minutes. Make sure the valve is set to “sealing.” When the timer goes off let the pressure release naturally for at least 10 minutes. While the chicken is cooking, prepare the toppings that you’d like by chopping and dicing them up. We put ours in little bowls or ramekins. Shred the chicken and then stir the sour cream into the chicken and sauce. Then add plenty of salt and pepper to taste. Scoop some rice into a bowl and then top with the chicken and gravy. Top with desired toppings to make a visually pleasing and tasty dinner!
For Slow Cooker: Stir the broth and cream of chicken soup together in the slow cooker. Add in chicken. Cover and cook on low for about 6-8 hours. While the chicken is cooking, prepare the toppings that you’d like by chopping and dicing them up. We put ours in little bowls or ramekins. Once chicken is cooked through, shred the chicken and then stir the sour cream into the chicken and sauce. Then add plenty of salt and pepper to taste. Scoop some rice into a bowl and then top with the chicken and gravy. Top with desired toppings to make a visually pleasing and tasty dinner!
Besides making the chicken, sauce and toppings you’ll need to make rice. You can do this in another Instant Pot or on the stovetop. You’ll need about 1/4 cup dry rice per person you’re serving. So if you want to make enough for 20 people make 5 cups of dry rice.
Let everyone create their own Hawaiian haystack bowl! The starch, protein and vegetables are all in one bowl so you really don’t need anything else to go with this meal.
Have some other easy recipes for large groups that you make? Let me know! I’d love to add more to my repertoire.
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