When I need to cook for more than a few people, my default is to whip up a big batch of pasta or maybe a pot of stew. But it's something I do only occasionally, which means a couple of solid recipes are enough for me. On the other hand, if you're cooking for large groups on a regular basis, there's a good chance that turning out the same vat of pasta night after night is going to get old pretty quickly.
The good news is that we have a variety of more creative dishes that will feed half a dozen people or more, giving you plenty of options for getting a dinner on the table that'll make your entire crowd happy. Here are 23 of our favorite big-batch dinner recipes, from steak fajitas to pulled pork sandwiches to a Mexican-style tamale pie.
At Least 6 Servings
This smoky, spicy New Orleans classic is actually remarkably simple to make for such a complex-tasting dish: It takes only about half an hour to sauté all the meat and vegetables, after which you'll add the rest of the ingredients and simply...let it cook. After the beans have turned tender and the liquid has reduced, you'll have a creamy, flavorful stew that's ready to serve over heaps of steamed white rice.
A single two-and-a-half-pound flank steak is plenty of meat to feed a crowd, and the regularity of its shape makes cooking and serving easy. Good fajitas are all about a flavorful marinade and cooking the meat properly. Here, we treat the steak with a mixture of soy sauce, oregano, ground ancho chili, cumin, garlic, sugar, oil, and lime juice, then grill it using a two-zone fire until it's charred on the outside and tender on the inside. Serve with your favorite fajita fixings—though, with the flavor it'll get from this marinade, we don't think you'll need much more than lime juice, onion, cilantro, and maybe a little salsa.
Massaman curry is a Thai dish with Middle Eastern roots, meaning that instead of the intense heat of a red or green curry, it's infused with a softer, richer warmth. We make our version of the dish with store-bought massaman curry paste, but doctor it up with star anise, cinnamon, and palm sugar. Belgian wheat beer might seem like an odd addition to a Thai/Middle Eastern dish, but its bitter, citrusy notes work quite well with the other flavors.
Before everyone starts yelling: I'm sure that your chili is in fact the best ever. But for those of you looking for a new recipe, we stand firmly by this version. The best chili is complex, incorporating plenty of sweet, hot, bitter, fresh, and fruity elements; to that end, we flavor ours with an intense combination of dried and fresh chilies, plus cumin, cloves, coffee beans, unsweetened chocolate, and more. The secret weapons here? Anchovies, Marmite, and soy sauce—you can't pick any of them out in the finished dish, but they seriously boost the chili's savoriness. If you're scandalized by the very thought of a chili with beans, move right on down to the chili con carne recipe below—and if you're not a meat-eater, don't miss our fantastically rib-sticking vegan chili.
For the Texas-chili purists out there, this chili con carne remains faithful to tradition. No beans here; just hulking cubes of beef chuck, an onslaught of dried chilies—some sweeter, some hotter, some fruity—and spices. At the risk of making some enemies in the Lone Star State, we do add a couple tablespoons of fish sauce for extra umami—honestly, your guests will never know it's there!
I can't think of many ways to feed half a dozen mouths that are easier than this chile verde. Roughly chop some vegetables and pork, throw it all in the pressure cooker, and purée everything but the pork (an immersion blender makes easy work of this step) after it's done cooking. That's it. The result is a stew of tender chunks of pork smothered in a deeply flavored sauce that tastes like it takes all day, but actually comes together in less than an hour.
Have leftover roast poultry on your hands? Put it to use in this simple white-bean stew flavored with a potent mix of jalapeños, Poblanos, and roasted Hatch chilies. Keeping it easy, we use canned beans here and dump them straight into the pot along with all of their starchy liquid, which helps give the chili some extra body.
Yes, you can make a satisfying beef stew on a weeknight, thanks to the wonders of pressure-cooking. Searing beef chuck in large pieces helps the meat retain moisture, while two separate batches of vegetables—one long-cooked with the rest of the stew, the other added near the end—give the stew optimal flavor and texture. As with our chili recipes, we look to a few umami bombs—Worcestershire, soy sauce, and anchovies—for help enhancing the stew's meatiness. With a pressure cooker to speed up the process, the whole thing is done in an hour and a half.
Sophisticated yet comforting, this Milanese classic is made by braising veal shanks in a hearty wine- and vegetable-based sauce until their rich marrow renders out. For a little balance, we serve the dish with a bright mixture of parsley, lemon zest, and garlic, called gremolada. Pair the osso buco with saffron-tinged risotto alla milanese to keep it traditional.
There are a few noteworthy details about our take on cassoulet, but perhaps the most striking is our choice of poultry. Though the French stew is typically made with duck confit (duck being a cheap protein in medieval southern France, where cassoulet originated), we find that using chicken along with some duck fat keeps the dish truer to its peasant roots when made today. Regardless of whether you use duck or chicken, make it fresh poultry—confit comes out drier and stringier than fresh meat when stewed.
This recipe supplements Greek spanakopita, a savory spinach and feta pie wrapped in phyllo dough, with chicken, turning an appetizer into a one-pot dinner. The addition of a creamy, garlicky gravy makes this a pleasant sort of spanakopita–chicken pot pie hybrid. Draining the spinach well in a colander after it's wilted ensures that you don't end up with spinach soup.
This recipe transforms the caramelized onions and bubbly Gruyère of French onion soup into a savory bread pudding that will feed six easily. Unlike a sweet bread pudding, which requires the bread to be super soft, here we soak it only briefly so that it bakes up with a range of textures. Caramelizing onions is as slow a process as you want it to be—we recommend adding a little sugar to speed things along.
Order bouillabaisse—a rustic French seafood stew flavored with saffron, fennel, and orange zest—at a restaurant in the United States, and you're likely to get something packed with scallops, mussels, lobster, and other shellfish. That can make for a delicious dish, but an authentic bouillabaisse is focused squarely on the finfish. We like to use a variety of lean, firm, oily, and gelatinous fish, in order to pack the stew with complex flavors and textures.
This simple Portuguese stew is made with inexpensive ingredients and comes together in just half an hour. Packed with shredded kale and two kinds of potatoes (russets, which break down to thicken the soup, and Yukon Golds, which hold their shape to stay in distinct chunks), caldo verde is one of my favorite dinners for a chilly weeknight. I usually make it with chicken stock and linguiça; use vegetable stock and cut the sausage to make this recipe vegetarian.
Not to be confused with American tamale pie, which is chili covered with cornbread, tamal de cazuela is essentially a giant tamale made in a cast iron skillet—which is much easier than making real, individual tamales. Our version uses a masa dough leavened with baking soda and is filled with ancho chili–spiked refried black beans; it's easily made vegetarian by replacing the chicken stock in the dough with water.
Ribollita is a rustic Tuscan stew packed with vegetables and thickened with bread. This recipe calls for summer squash, zucchini, green beans, and spinach, but part of ribollita's beauty is that you can throw in basically any vegetables that look good at the market. As the weather cools down, this recipe for a more winter-appropriate ribollita will give you inspiration on how to adjust the dish for cold-season produce.
Baked pasta dishes are generally some of the easiest ways to feed a hungry horde. This baked ziti, in particular, is a snap because you don't need to boil the noodles—simply soak them in water before mixing them with tomato sauce, cream, and ricotta cheese. We also add eggs, to give the casserole some structure, and cubes of mozzarella, which melt into gooey, stretchy pockets.
At Least 8 Servings
A whole smoked pork shoulder is a delicious way to feed a crowd, but I don't always have the energy for real-deal barbecue. Fortunately, oven-roasted pulled pork is almost as satisfying, much easier, and achievable in any weather. If you miss the flavor of actual barbecue, a little bit of liquid smoke is not out of place here. Be careful, though—it's really easy to add too much, so err on the side of caution.
The southern United States doesn't have a monopoly on barbecued pork shoulder. Yucatecan cochinita pibil isn't spicy, but instead gets a sweet, earthy aroma and flavor from achiote seed, Ceylon cinnamon, oregano, cloves, and citrus, plus the banana leaves it's smoked in. Traditionally, the dish is made with hard-to-find Seville oranges, but a combination of lime, orange, and grapefruit juices will get you pretty close. We recommend serving with warmed corn tortillas, Yucatán-style pickled onions, and a fiery salsa typical of the region.
This celebration of pork may not ever become a regular part of your diet—and that's probably for the best—but it's a great splurge for special occasions. Choucroute garnie translates to "garnished sauerkraut," which, we admit, seems like an understatement considering the mountain of pork shoulder and loin, salted pork belly, slab bacon, ham hock, smoked pork chops, and assorted sausages that the cabbage is served with. Yet underneath all that meat, this dish really is about the choucroute, so make sure to find good-quality sauerkraut—or make your own.
Our version of this pub favorite features a carrot- and pea-studded meat sauce—lamb is traditional, of course, but the recipe will work just as well with ground beef, or a combination of the two—topped by a layer of rich, creamy mashed potatoes. For extra depth and complexity, we add a trio of ingredients you're more likely to find in ragù than in shepherd's pie—red wine, tomato paste, and Parmesan cheese—and we sneak in a couple of noted British umami powerhouses, Worcestershire sauce and Marmite.
The best spinach lasagna requires getting two things right: the spinach, and the noodles. That means sautéing the spinach in a mixture of butter and olive oil for the best flavor, and using fresh pasta sheets rather than store-bought no-boil lasagna noodles. The last trick is in the ricotta—we process half of it until it's smooth and add the other half as is, ensuring that the filling turns out creamy but with the small ricotta curds you expect in lasagna.
At Least 10 Servings
Not to be outdone by their Alsatian neighbors to the northwest, Italians have a meaty feast of their own: bollito misto. The dish is traditionally made with cuts of beef that you're not likely to find in an American butcher shop, but you can make a good version improvising with what you can find: oxtail, tongue, short rib, shanks, and chuck roast, plus chicken. There are many sauces to choose from, but we're happy to pair our bollito misto with a cilantro-based salsa verde and a tomato- and red pepper–based salsa rossa.
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