’Tis the season for holidays, tailgating and Friendsgivings galore, which means it’s also time to cook for a crowd! We’re rounding up some of the best appetizers, sides and desserts to whip up the next time you get invited to a big dinner party. These are the most potluck-friendly dishes imaginable, meaning they’re easy to bring along in the car, not especially complicated to make and totally group-friendly so everyone’s happy. Read on to discover our favorite potluck recipes for a crowd.
What Makes a Good Potluck Recipe?
What makes a dish particularly potluck-friendly, you ask? It comes down to a few important factors: ease (as in: it’s easy to make, transport and dish out when you get there) and universal appeal (as in: everyone likes it). Consider the following factors the next time you’re plotting your big potluck presentation.
- It’s Easy to Transport—Don’t forget the fact that you have to get that giant salad or pot of chili to the party venue, which may be all the way across town. The best potluck recipes are those that are easy to toss into a secure carrier, with no worry of spillage on the way over. Avoid any multipart recipes or anything that needs to be finished or warmed in the oven when you get there. Oven space is always limited, so don’t assume there will be any left!
- It’s Easy to Make—Let’s be honest: During the holiday months, everyone wants to spend time with friends and family and not slave away cooking all day. Good potluck recipes are often made using small kitchen appliances, such as slow cookers and pressure cookers, to simplify the process and eliminate any intense cleanup. Plus, many allow you to transport them in one piece without the need to transfer to a separate container. You don’t want to wind up with a dishwasher full of dishes when you’re done cooking.
- It’s Not the Main Dish—Traditionally, the host or hostess will supply the table with the main dish (if it’s during the holidays, a turkey is a likely menu item), while the partygoers supply many of the apps, sides and desserts. You don’t want to steal anyone’s thunder! Make sure to check with the host or hostess to get a better idea of what to bring.
- It Suits Most Dietary Needs—We’re not saying every potluck dish should be vegan, soy-free, dairy-free, gluten-free and nut-free, but if there’s someone on the guestlist with a severe allergy or sensitivity, definitely take this into account. If you don’t know everyone who will be there, it’s probably a good idea to avoid some of the most common food allergies, such as shellfish and nuts.
- It’s Good for a Crowd—On the same token, try to take into consideration what flavors and kinds of foods will appeal to a large group of people. Things you can pretty much always assume: everyone likes cheese, everyone likes dessert and everyone likes bacon. As long as there are no overarching dietary no-nos—which should be translated by your host—then you can assume these ingredients will please everyone.
20 Perfect Potluck Recipes
So, without further ado, here are 20 recipes that check all of the above boxes and more, so they’re guaranteed to earn you the designation of MVG (Most Valuable Guest, of course) the next time you’re invited to a big feast.
Let’s talk about apps. These crowd-pleasing pre-dinner munchies are all about feeding the masses but not skimping on flavor. Dips, one-bite apps and puff pastry options are the keys to easily delighting a crowd before the main event.
- Cheesy Bacon Wrapped Puff Pastry—Remember how we said everyone loves cheese, dessert and bacon? This is one of the rare recipes that combines all three in a way that will have you drooling from the minute you read the recipe. It features warm puff pastry, sharp cheddar cheese (or a cheese of your choice) and some brown sugar for a little sweetness.
- Crescent-Wrapped Brie Wheel—Note to self: Refrigerated dough is your best friend when feeding a crowd, especially if you want to give basic recipes a fancy upgrade without any complicated ingredients. This classic pre-dinner munchy is always a crowd-pleaser. Be sure to bust out your fave cookie-cutter to top it with some seasonal personality.
- Homemade Israeli Hummus—Vegan, dairy-free, soy-free, gluten-free! Homemade hummus is a big hit among crowds with lots of dietary restrictions. We love the Israeli version for parties, since it’s usually topped with decorative but edible garnishes, like whole chickpeas, sprinkled paprika and pools of olive oil, which looks very fancy on the app spread. There’s no cooking involved—all you need is your trustiest food processor. Pile on the fresh pita and veggies for a creamy, dreamy display.
- Cheesy-Stuffed Mushrooms—This classic hors d’oeuvre was born out of the no-salt cooking era of the 1980s, and though salt is back in vogue (or at least no longer banned), the appetizer tray mainstay has endured. We recommend using small mushroom caps to create yummy one-bite apps for an instant flavor bomb that preps you for dinner.
- Slow Cooker Queso Dip—The perfect use for your slow cooker, this tasty cheese dip is about as easy as it gets. Just brown some meat and toss it in the slow cooker alongside some spices, cheese and salsa, and you’ve got an instantly addicting cheese dip. It should be served with your favorite tortilla chips for the total package.
- Three-Ingredient Slow Cooker Meatballs—Another award-winning slow cooker app, these sweet and spicy meatballs combine just three ingredients—frozen meatballs, chili sauce and raspberry preserves—to create a party favorite guests won’t soon forget. This one is all about the set and forget method. Just toss everything in the slow cooker and cook on low for six to eight hours or on high for three to four hours.
- Easy Spinach Dip—If you’re in the market for a vegetarian, no-cook appetizer that’s perfect for group get-togethers, you’ll be charmed by this super-simple spinach dip. All it takes is combining a few key ingredients—sour cream, mayo, soup mix, spinach and water chestnuts—into a big bowl and refrigerating it overnight. Add a sourdough bowl for serving and you’ve got yourself the perfect dip!
Casseroles, salads and one-pot meals are what you need when you’re looking to come out as the side dish hero of the potluck. Many of these sides can be made ahead, too, so you can keep things simple on the day of the get-together. Prep the day before and toss in the oven right before you head out the door. Breezy!
- Slow Cooker Mac and Cheese—You’ll be the MVP of your friend group when you come strolling in with this mac and cheese. You can customize it to your liking with your choice of pasta style and cheese, but we recommend keeping it classic for an ultra-creamy texture.
- Broccoli Cauliflower Casserole—Casseroles are a potluck-goer’s best friend. These tasty, self-contained meals are easy to toss together and transfer easily to the party location. This yummy casserole combines two of our fave veggies as a hearty, healthy base and then takes it up a few notches with cream cheese and seasoned breadcrumbs. Yum!
- French’s Green Bean Casserole—Your mom or grandma probably made this classic Thanksgiving side dish when you were growing up, and it’s still one of the best main dish accompaniments ever. The crispy fried onions bring this casserole to a whole different level, and it’ll surely spark nostalgia among your fellow attendees.
- Pesto Veggie Pasta Salad—Another perfect vegetarian side dish that’s apropos for feeding a big crowd, this pasta salad gives the classic summer side a flavorful upgrade with chunks of zucchini and creamy, comforting pesto. If it’s a summer potluck (and the basil is abundant) or you have an indoor herb garden, you can make your own pesto to top it all off.
- Roasted Carrots with Parsley and Thyme—Sometimes it’s best to not complicate things. Simple, roasted veggies are the unsung hero at big feasts, and they’re cheap and accessible enough that you can make them in huge batches (you’re going to get lots of use out of that extra-large wall oven this year)! This recipe lets the simplicity and texture shine through with a light dressing of olive oil, parsley and thyme.
- Duchess Baked Potatoes—Potatoes are a side dish must among virtually every crowd, especially during the holiday season. This recipe from Epicurious is a big hit because it replicates the creamy, comforting texture of mashed potatoes but eliminates many of the mashed potato-related pain points that stand in the way. It can be baked ahead and is super easy to transport!
- Orzo Salad with Tomatoes and Chickpeas—Chickpeas and orzo are the potluck chef’s secret weapons, since they’re both hearty and affordable enough to feed a big crowd. This recipe combines the two with chicken broth, grape tomatoes, red onion, basil, mint and red wine vinaigrette for a fresh but filling side dish that’ll get lots of upvotes.
Looking for desserts for a crowd? There’s one thing you need to succeed: a sheet pan. This oft-overlooked kitchen heavy-lifter turns once-petite desserts into big dishes for a crowd. Bars, slab pies and cookies—all made on your trusty sheet pan—will get you far at your next potluck!
- Apple Slab Pie—You can’t go wrong with a delicious apple pie for your holiday get-together. For a pie that’s easy to make, try baking this sheet pan pie that’s perfect to serve to a big hungry group. It’s also impressively simple when you use rolls of refrigerated pie crust as just the base.
- Sheet Pan S’mores—Another amazing crowd-friendly dessert featuring a sheet pan, these s’mores feature all the layers of delectable campfire favorites guaranteed to charm both the grown-ups and adults in attendance. This recipe is super simple to make and is always a crowd favorite.
- Big Fat Chocolate Chip Cookies—As one of the most popular dessert recipes on Allrecipes.com, this chocolate chip cookie recipe promises big, fat, chewy cookies like the ones you find in gourmet bakeries. Cookies of any sort are a great option for big crowds since they’re made by the dozen and recipes can easily be doubled or tripled as needed.
- Simple Chocolate Sheet Cake—If you’re celebrating a birthday and want to make sure dinner is followed by a proper helping of cake (or if you’re like us and just really love cake), then this simple chocolate sheet cake is an awesome option. It’s a huge winner because it can be cut into easy-to-cut and serve squares, quickly pleasing a crowd.
- Amish Sugar Cookies—If it’s classic you’re after, you can’t go wrong with these mouthwatering Amish sugar cookies. Featuring all the hallmarks of a perfect—and perfectly simple—sugar cookie recipe, including the signature fork impression on top, these are the crowd-pleasing desserts you need to get invited back every year.
- Apple Cranberry Slab Pie—Skip the basic pumpkin pie this holiday season! This apple and cranberry slab pie brings all your favorite holiday flavors to the table—flaky pie crust, tart apples, cranberries and coarse sugar—for that classic pie package, but serves 16 so it’s ideal for a crowd of hungry potluck-goers.
Recipes That’ll Become Your Signature
With any of these amazing recipes, we’re pretty sure the host or hostess will ask you to return year after year with your now-signature dish (don’t say we didn’t warn you). Make sure you’re prepped and ready for potluck season with the best small kitchen appliances from Abt. We’re happy to help you make stressful potluck prep as easy as can be.