Are you inviting all your large family for a get-together dinner? Maybe you are throwing a party, or are you just sharing food on potluck?. Cooking for a large group can be challenging. Deciding on the right ingredients, quantities, cooking techniques can make all the difference and reduce the cooking stress.
Whenever my family invites many guests, I always follow a few simple rules and steps to cook stress-free and enjoy the party and food I prepared. Here are the five steps on how to cook vegetables for a large group:
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1# Choose the right vegetables 2# Calculate the quantities to avoid leftovers 3# Decide on the cooking methods for vegetables 4# Making in advanced, reheating, cooking on the spot 5# Keep your vegetables warm and crispy
How to choose the right vegetables when cooking for a large crowd
Choosing the right vegetables when cooking for a large group can be tricky. But if you know who is coming, you won’t have a lot of problems with selection. Let’s say your family is big and you are inviting all of them. Before you know it, you realize you just invited 40 family members.
When you’re cooking for a large group, it’s always better to choose the vegetables people are familiar with and vegetables that can last longer when placed on a buffet table.
Also, go with vegetables that you are also familiar with. Don’t try out something new but instead simply increase ingredient quantities with the recipes you already know how to make.
Avoid vegetables that don’t fit your schedule and use vegetables that can be made with cooking equipment you have on hand.
Best vegetables to choose when cooking for a large group
Carrots are one of those crowd-pleaser side dishes. They are also the most desired vegetable when serving veggies for a crowd. Carrots are easy to prepare, and it’s hard to mess them up unless you overcook them.
They can be prepared, cut, and cooked ahead of time and later reheated. Forming them into various shapes and sizes is a fun way to make food presentation more mouth-watering.
You can cook them in salted water and serve them hot or cut them julienne and use them in a stir fry. Making carrot pure is easy, and you can easily serve it alongside mashed potatoes.
Peas are another easy option. You can’t go wrong with cooked peas. There is no preparation, and cooking techniques are simple. The easiest way is to cook them in salted water. Keeping them warm is also easy. Just put them in a chafing dish, and that is it.
Broccoli is easy to clean and easy to cook. But when it comes to serving, they are a bit tricky. Broccoli cooks very fast, and if it is overcooked, it’s not something you want to serve your guests. That is why it is best to use broccoli if you cook on the spot or if you can make it just before serving. Heating broccoli and keeping it warm is not a good thing as it will not last crunchy on the inside for a long time.
Cauliflower is very similar to broccoli. It cooks longer than broccoli, but once it is cooked, it should be served and consumed. Making it ahead of time and later reheating it is not an option as it will quickly overcook and become a mesh.
Kohlrabi is not so common but a very convenient vegetable. It is similar to carrots. You can make it ahead of time and use it in a carrot and kohlrabi mix. Keeping it war is also not a problem just as long if it is not overcooked before you put it into a chafing dish
Zucchini or courgette, regular or overgrown
Zucchini is one of those vegetables that is loved by many. It’s easy to make, and you can make it very quick. The only problem with zucchini is that it will become watery and soggy if you make it ahead of time. Make this vegetable as the last one just before you put it under the heating lights.
Usually, we buy normal-sized zucchini, but if you grow your own and have some overgrown zucchini, you can also use them. They have a lot of flesh, that is why you won’t need many. You can check all about overgrown zucchini in my blog post “what to do with overgrown courgette.“
Eggplant or aubergine
Eggplants are one of those vegetables that can be made in advance. The most important thing you need to do with eggplant is to cut it and salt it in advance. This is to avoid the soggy structure and bitter taste. It is best to do this a few hours before the guests arrive.
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The salt will help in water release from the eggplant and collapse the spongy structure. This process is also called osmosis. If you do this, you will also use less oil when you pan fry it. If you don’t do this, you will end up with bitter and soggy eggplant.
Eggplants are also great to make them ahead. You can make them one day in advance, put them in a glass container, and wrap with aluminum foil. Heat them the next day just before serving. They can also stay in a chafing dish for a long time.
Tomatoes are one of those vegetables that are mostly used in salads. But if you do want to serve hot tomatoes, it is best to pan roast them. The best tomatoes for pan roasting are cherry tomatoes. The once that are still attached to the stem are perfect because you will easily rotate and turn them while pan roasting. The presentation of cherry tomatoes on a stem is also beautiful.
But if you decide to choose larger tomatoes, your best option is to cut them in half, and oven roast them. Do not peel them or core them, because you will place them on an oven pan upside down with skin on the bottom. This way, juices will stay inside the tomatoes and won’t run all over the baking dish.
You can make a colorful presentation if you choose bell peppers to serve your group or even potluck. You can buy bell peppers gree, yellow and red. Chopping all bell pepper colors and combining them will bring out the hunger even with the pickiest eaters.
The best way to make bell peppers is to pan roast them or stir fry them. This is one of those vegetables that is delicious if it is crunchy on the inside and soft on the outside. Bell peppers are also great if you roast them until tender.
If you are making stir fry or pan roast version, it is best to make it just before the party starts and place them under heating lights. If you are making a soft version, you can oven roast them or grill them. Then peel them. Arrange peel bell pepper in a container and add some salt, pepper, and finely chopped garlic that you previously fried in some olive oil.
You can make all these ahead or even a day or two in advance. Just store everything in an airtight container and place it in the refrigerator. Reheat before serving and place on a serving plate.
Aparagus isn’t available all year round, but these healthy veggies are a great way to impress the crowd when in the high season.
You can make them ahead but don’t over roast them. It is better to undercook them slightly. When serving, you can pour some hot cheese sauce over, which will keep them warm.
You could also make them before the guests arrive. Just place them on a baking dish, add salt and pepper and sprinkle parmesan cheese over. Broil parmesan cheese, and once it is golden brown, the asparagus will be done and still have some crunch.
Green beans and yellow wax beans
These beans are great if you don’t have a lot of time preparing vegetables for a crowd or if you want a vegetable that easily fills up a hungry person.
You can make them ahead of time. Cleaning, cutting the ends off, and cooking them one day ahead won’t make a difference in presentation. You can toss them in some butter and garlic on just before the event starts and put them in a chafing dish. It’s going to be a crowd-pleaser side dish.
Cabbage is very delicious, especially if you stir fry it. But making cabbage ahead of time is not an option. Even cutting it is not good. If you cut it ahead of time, it will become soggy, and a bit of water will be released from it. The best option is to stir fry it or pan roast it just before the guests arrive.
Everybody loves potatoes. They are a crowd-pleaser side dish. You can make a variety of them for your family get-together, potluck, or a massive crowd.
Potatoes are easy to make, but on the other hand, they are the one veggie that is not good if you reheat it. Some people can develop stomach ake if they eat reheated potatoes. You can prepare them in advance, but don’t cook them in advance. Blanch them in water or oil to speed up the process of cooking.
Calculate the vegetable quantities for a crowd and preparation time
At first, preparation time depends on whether you bought vegetables from the store, or you just picked them from the garden. If you just picked them from the garden, additional cleaning is necessary. Cutting off the stems and leaves and cleaning off the dirt takes quite some time, that is why you should always consider this. I have my own garden, so I always pick the vegetables one day in advance.
Assuming you will get vegetables from the store. Most vegetables you buy from a store are basically clean, and the only thing you need to do is wash them before you proceed with peeling, cutting, or slicing.
When preparing vegetables for a large crowd, consider that everything will take longer than you expect. Preparing vegetables for large groups is not the same as making dinner for five. It is better if you start early.
Make ahead vegetables for a crowd
Best vegetable to make ahead:
- Carrots (preparing, cutting, cooking or roasting)
- Bell peppers (preparing, cutting and roasting if you don want them to be crunchy)
- Eggplant (preparing, salting, roasting)
- Potatoes (only peeling and blanching)
- Broccoli and cauliflower (only cleaning and cutting)
- Kohlrabi (peeling and cooking)
- Green beans or yellow wax beans (cleaning, cutting, and cooking)
Keep in mind that some vegetables might oxidize if you peel or cut them ahead of time. That is why you should already know what kind of dish you will be making before you start cleaning and cutting your vegetables because not all vegetables can be made ahead of time.
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Start with vegetables that take the longest to prepare. For example, peeling is a process that usually takes the longest, so start with carrots and potatoes. Since these are the most common vegetables used for large groups, making them ahead of time is best.
You can peel and cut carrots one day ahead and store them in an airtight container. The same goes for potatoes, but you should always keep peeled potatoes in cold water with water covering potatoes completely.
Vegetables that don’t require a lot of prep time
Best vegetables that don’t require a lot of prep time:
- Asparagus (only cleaning and cutting of the wooden stems)
- Cauliflower and broccoli (only cleaning and cutting into florets)
- Peas (only cleaning and cooking)
- Tomatoes (only cleaning if you use cherry tomatoes and additional cutting in half if you use larger tomatoes)
- Zucchini (only cleaning and cutting)
If you are making vegetables for a crowd, picking vegetables that don’t require a lot of prep time can save you a lot of stress and work. Go with veggies that are easy to clean and are cut or sliced relatively fast.
Don’t choose vegetables that need to be peeled as peeling takes a lot of time, especially if you are cooking vegetables for a crowd. The once that can be made ahead of time and don’t require a lot of prep time are the best.
How to calculate vegetable quantities if you are cooking for a large crowd
Vegetables usually don’t represent the main course, but a side dish. So when you are making vegetable side dishes for a crowd, it is crucial to know what you will serve with your veggies. To help you decide on how much vegetables you need as a side dish, I put together a simple table where you can check the quantities you need for your group:
How to cook vegetables for a large group quantity calculator per person 10 gests 20 guests 25 guest 50 guests Asparagus 3.5 oz 2.1 lb 4.2 lb 5.25 lb 10.5 lb 100 g 1 kg 2 kg 2.5 kg 5 kg Carrots 3.5 oz 2.1 lb 4.2 lb 5.25 lb 10.5 lb 100 g 1 kg 2 kg 2.5 kg 5 kg Broccoli 3.5 oz 2.1 lb 4.2 lb 5.25 lb 10.5 lb 100 g 1 kg 2 kg 2.5 kg 5 kg Green and yellow wax beans 3.5 oz 2.1 lb 4.2 lb 5.25 lb 10.5 lb 100 g 1 kg 2 kg 2.5 kg 5 kg Cauliflower 3.5 oz 2.1 lb 4.2 lb 5.25 lb 10.5 lb 100 g 1 kg 2 kg 2.5 kg 5 kg Peas 3.5 oz 2.1 lb 4.2 lb 5.25 lb 10.5 lb 100 g 1 kg 2 kg 2.5 kg 5 kg Black eyed peas 3.5 oz 2.1 lb 4.2 lb 5.25 lb 10.5 lb 100 g 1 kg 2 kg 2.5 kg 5 kg Sweetcorn kernels 3.5 oz 2.1 lb 4.2 lb 5.25 lb 10.5 lb 100 g 1 kg 2 kg 2.5 kg 5 kg Corn on a knob 0.50 ear 5 ears 10 ears 12.5 ears 25 ears Potatoes and yams 1 medium 2.7 lb 5.4 lb 6.75 lb 13.5 lb 125 g 1.25 kg 2.5 kg 3.125 kg 6.25 kg Rice and grains 1.5 oz 1 lb 2 lb 2.5 lb 5 lb 44 g 0.44 kg 0.88 kg 1.1 kg 2.2 kg
What cooking methods should you use for cooking vegetables for a crowd
Pan frying or roasting vegetables for a crowd
Using a round pan for roasting or frying your vegetables is one of the fastest ways to make your veggies crispy and delicious.
Using a frying pan saves a lot of time, and controlling the crispiness with a frying pan is much easier than in an oven. You can put much more veggies in a roasting pan than in a frying pan. That is why when you use a frying pan; you will need to batch roast veggies.
It is essential to choose high quality and a large frying pan. If you often make vegetables for a crowd, the best frying pans are stainless steel or carbon steel pan.
If you choose a carbon steel pan, you will first need to season it, so veggies don’t stick to it. There is no need for seasoning on a stainless steel pan. Both are perfect to use when making large and many batches of vegetables, so be sure to buy a high-quality one. I would recommend you get 14-inch pans like these:
Oven roasting vegetables for a crowd
Roasting vegetable for a crowd in an oven is a great way to save space on a cooktop and to keep your veggies warm until the guests come.
Roasting is very straightforward. Mix vegetables that require the same roasting time add only salt and pepper to preserve the original veggie taste, and mix in some olive oil. Put in the oven and roast on high heat until veggies get golden brown.
The best vegetables to roast are (mix them) carrots, bell peppers, onions, cherry tomatoes, and zucchini
Since you are cooking veggies for a large crowd, it is important not to overfill the roasting tray. If there are too many vegetables, they won’t roast properly, and you will end up with soggy veggies. To achieve crispy vegetables, use high heat on a ventilator function and broil in the end. If you want to get the job done perfectly, I suggest you get a high-quality large roasting pan like this one:
Cooking vegetables for a crowd
Cooking vegetables is the easiest way to prepare them for a large crowd. You simply put the vegetables in salted boiling water and cook them until they still have some crunch. When you keep them warm on a buffet table, they will further cook and get more tender.
Cooking vegetables on the spot in for a large crowd
If you are not a star guest of the gettering that you are making food for then, you could also cook on the spot. It’s a fun way of presenting dishes and entertaining the crowd at the same time.
The best way to cook on the spot is to use a frying pan and a propane burner. But you can be a star chef if you stir fry by using a wok and a wok burner. If you don’t know what a wok burner is or which one to choose, you can check my post on the best wok burners. But you are in a hurry a recommend you choose a carbon steel wok and 100000 BTU wok burner like these:
You can stir fry almost any vegetable. The benefit is that they are freshly prepared and crunchy. You can batch cook the veggies and fill the chafing dishes if you don’t serve all of it from the wok.
How to reheat and how to keep vegetables warm for a large crowd
The biggest challenge when making vegetables for a crowd is reheating and keeping them warm.
Not every vegetable is suitable for reheating. The best once are root vegetables, corn, beans, or bell pepper if you make a soft version. Other veggies tend to lose texture and crispiness if you reheat them.
If you can’t reheat vegetables, the best option is to make them before the event starts and keep them warm.
Luckily you can get perfect food warmers to make the job easier. Here are the best food warmers and the once you will need the most if you are making vegetables for a crowd:
- Chafing dish buffet set
- Buffet warmer server or hot plate food warmer station
- Freestanding heat lamp
- Stainless steel bain marie buffet food warmer
Chafing dish buffet set
Chafing dish buffet set is a must if you are making food for a crowd. These hand stainless steel dishes come with a water pan, food pan, and methanol gel fuel canisters.
These three things are all you need if you want to keep your food warm properly. Chafing dishes are great for root veggies, green beans, yellow wax beans, potatoes, and many more.
The only downside is that all crispy veggies will lose their crispiness if they stay in the dish for too long, mostly if the dish is covered.
You will not use these chafing dish set only for your vegetables but also all other main dishes. They are very sturdy and durable, so you will most probably buy them only once. I recommend you get a high-quality set like this one, too keep your food warm like a pro:
Buffet Warmer Server or Hot Plate Food Warmer Station
The buffet warmer is similar to the chafing dish. The most significant difference is heat adjustment and the heating source.
Adjusting the heat on a food warmer station is very straightforward. Just turn the knob for high and low heat. The best part of the food warmer station is that it can be used for a large crowd or a small family.
You can use it for the main dish or side dishes, vegetables or meat. If you are making food for a crowd, you don’t want the warmer to stop working when you just put your food in. That is why I suggest you get high-quality food warmer like this one because you have invested a lot of time and effort in preparing your food:
Freestanding Heat Lamp
Heat lamps are another essential source of heat to keep your food warm for the group. These lamps are great if you want to keep your veggies or other food crispy. The texture stays firm for longer. With chafing dishes and warmer stations, food is usually covered, and the steam still cooks the food, which is bad if you want to keep the veggies crispy.
With the freestanding heat lamps, food stays uncovered. The heat is directly applied to the food’s surface, keeping it crispy for a longer time. You can put in heating 250W bulbs or infrared bulbs for some extra heat. Again I advise you to choose the high-quality lamps like these once because there is nothing better than biting into a crunchy potato or breaded filet:
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