HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


Food Quantities for a Party

  • s

I'm planning a party for about a dozen friends soon, and am wondering how much food to make. It will be a soup party, with black bean, Portuguese kale, and Paraguayan meatball soup, and there will also be bread, salad (probably cole slaw) and dessert. We are in the upper reaches of middle age, and don't eat as much as we used to. Would a cup and a half of soup per person be a good amount to plan on? I don't mind some leftovers, but don't want to be left with quarts and quarts.

This is always a problem for me, and I appreciate any help you can give.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I used to do a lot of soup parties. The thing is, most people want to try all 3 soups so you need to account for that. I personally would make 6 to 8 servings of each, knowing that leftovers freeze so well. But then, soup for lunch always makes me happy.

    1. I agree with Gretchen. I would do eight servings for each soup. It's not that much extra, I would think. If everyone has a half serving....you just have an extra two servings per soup. And yes....soup for lunch is a perfect thing.

      1. I will third what Gretchen said. Make 8 servings of each; whatever you don't eat will freeze (I freeze kale & sausage soup ALL the time!). Pull out a container when you don't have anything else made for lunch, let it defrost on your desk at work, and reheat in the microwave. Voila! Lunch. :-)

        1. I read this as you were having one type of soup that included those ingredients. If that's correct, I'd plan two cups of soup per person. Soup freezes well and people often tend to eat a little more at parties, in my experience, because it's spread out and you're socializing and people continue to slowly munch.

          1. I read it as 3 soups like others - and agree people will want to try all three (if that is correct).

            The amount you'll need to make in this situation will also be directly impacted by the size of the bowls/mugs/cups you are serving the soup in.

            People will want to try all three - they will also fill up their container to a volume that seems appropriate (not necessarily full, but if you are using something wide they also won't just put a 1/2 cup of soup in if it barely covers the bottom of the container). Having the right size serving vessels will help you control portions and reduce soup being tossed down the sink so that they "don't run out of room" to try another soup . . .

            Just another consideration.

            1. Thank you all for your suggestions. Yes, it's 3 soups. I tried to clarify it above, but the window of opportunity had closed. I'm planning to offer a variety of bowls and mugs and I would love to have some leftovers. However, just as an example of the trouble I can get into calculating quantities to serve, I had a brunch for 30 older people a while ago. I made 3 lasagna pans of strata, and was left with 2-1/2 pans and no freezer space.

              2 Replies
              1. re: sr44

                was there a ton of other food? or did people simply not eat?

                agree with others that you should consider using smallish vessels since people will be serving themselves -- many tend to take more than they might finish even though their instinct will have them fill their bowl. my coffee cups hold 8 oz of liquid, but my soup bowls hold 12 oz. so if you can wrassle up enough 8 oz. cups, which people will fill with about 5-6 oz. of soup, figure about 2 cups soups per person.

                and i also agree that cole slaw seems out of place with wintery soups. i *do* like the idea of something crunchy though and would do a nice chopped salad with assorted assertive greens, fresh herbs, shredded carrots and some candied nuts.

                1. re: hotoynoodle

                  People ate a lot less than I had planned for them.

              2. I think an important consideration is what size is the serving vessel: bowl/mug/whatever. How many ounces, and would you expect guests to fill it to the brim? Say you are using mugs, which can be anywhere from 10-12 ounces unfilled. Figure an 8-10 ounce serving per person per mug, less since you are offering 3 different soups. It might be a good idea to actually measure the actual volume of your serviceware.

                I'd make about 1 gallon for each soup (128 ounces per gallon) which is about 10 servings.

                2 Replies
                1. re: alwayshungrygal

                  With 3 soups, AND bread, salad, and dessert, serving 8-10 oz. *per soup)* is a lot of food for people who don't eat that much anymore, per the OP.

                  "We are in the upper reaches of middle age, and don't eat as much as we used to."

                  Hell, it would be a lot of food for me as well.

                  1. re: LindaWhit

                    Exactly my point. The OP needs to consider the vessel in which the soup will be served, and the expectation of how full the vessel would get.

                    One gallon max of each soup, and freeze the left-overs (I neglected to mention that).

                    If you measure out a gallon, it really isn't that much volume. Visualize a gallon jug of milk from the dairy case and you'll see what I mean.

                2. I would plan on 2 cup of each, per person. You may have some people who may not want black bean soup, and decide to take more of the meatball soup, or something similar. Or someone likes the kale soup so much, they go back for seconds. I'd figure 2 cup of each, per person.

                  Also, use smaller bowls/mugs for eating. If someone takes a ladle of soup and it fills their small bowl up almost all the way, they'll stop there. If they pour it into a large bowl, and it only fills up 1/4 of the way, chances are they'll add a second ladle's worth because it doesnt look like much in the bowl.

                  Soup freezes well too, or you can always send leftovers home with some guests.

                  1. No offense sr44 - but if it was my party I'd serve a salad instead of coleslaw. I like coleslaw - but it's a fried seafood side in my world - not with soup. The salad doesn't have to be heavy or complicated - some good lettuce, cut up fresh vegies and I'd do a light dressing - a balsamic vinaigrette would be light and refreshing.

                    As far as amounts of soup - 1 1/2 C of each soup per person should be okay - I personally love soup and eat it all the time. Leftovers are great and I bet some of your friends would love to take some home if you don't want to deal with them!

                    Please report back!

                    1. Agree with Jeanne. I'm sure guests would love to take some home if you have more leftovers than you want. You might let everyone take home a favorite...

                      1. I suggest a total of 2 1/4 cups of soup per person = to 3/4 cup of EACH soup, but preparing on the safe side with probably 1 1/4 cup of each per person, in the event some guests prefer one soup over the others. If you are serving a salad, bread & dessert also, people may want to try each soup but they probably won't eat a full cup of each one.

                        I agree that you should provide the proper serving cup/bowl/dish but I don't think it should be an assortment of different cups/bowls. One type should suffice - 8 to 10 oz. is the perfect size.

                        Cole slaw seems out of place with soup, IMO. It goes great with sandwiches, fried chicken & barbecue but a tossed garden salad with two dressings or a Caesar salad would pair better.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: Cherylptw

                          I've been making a fennel and celery slaw, no cabbage products, dressed with lemon and olive oil. I like a tart slaw, not a sweet one. One of my reasons for serving a slaw is that it's easier to handle if there are more of us than fit around the dining table, but a chopped salad would fill that bill as well.

                          1. re: sr44

                            ooh, i love fennel. might add some clementine or blood orange segments for color?

                            1. re: hotoynoodle

                              That would be lovely and seasonal.

                            2. re: sr44

                              Yum, I know what I'm putting in my lunchbox next week!

                          2. I personally would rather toss leftovers than not have enough for a party. I hate wasting food, but I really hate not having enough of "the hit dish" of the evening.

                            I would suggest assigning everyone his/her own mug when the eating commences. Have a variety of mugs so everyone can identify his/hers. The best grandma/grandpa mug, the souvenir mugs, the random mugs that come with life and being in a kitchen. So all are basically the same size. I would plan on a cup of soup per style per person. Which would give each person a chance to try each soup, but should allow for the kale soup lover to have seconds and the bean soup fiend to go back for more.

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: autumm

                              Mid size ramekins are also great for someone that just wants a try.

                              1. re: LaLa

                                I had never thought of ramekins - I have lots of those too - and I like soup parties with lots of fun breads . . . great idea can't believe I never thought about using them . . .

                                1. re: thimes

                                  Make sure you have appropriate size spoons for the ramekins.....

                              2. re: autumm

                                Yes, I certainly want there to be plenty of soup, but I'm still feeling a little scorched by my last effort at plenty mentioned up thread. I can provide containers so people can take some home.

                                1. re: sr44

                                  I am sure your guests would be delighted to take home soup for later if you end up with too much to keep yourself.

                              3. I'd make three full pots and get some take-home containers with screwtop lids and let the guests take some of their preferred soup home if there's leftovers...

                                1. I'm curious as to how you are going to do the service.

                                  Will it be buffet style and each guest will help himself to a soup and then go back to the buffet to try a different soup?

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: laredo

                                    Yes, buffet. It will be very informal. I'm not sure we'll all fit around the dining table. This group is very unreliable with RSVPs, and I'd be very hot, cross and bothered if I had to set and reset the table multiple times.

                                  2. IF everyone had 16 oz of soup, which they probably won't, that would be 2qts of each type of soup. I suggest that as a guideline, because one soup might be more or less popular than the others. You should have SOME left over, but not a lot. Black bean soup is hearty but I don't know what the others entail. If it's cold where you live, I suggest all the soups be substantial, not brothy.

                                    I'd suggest a crudite platter with a couple of dips rather than a salad/slaw. That way if you have left over vegetables, they can be put back into the fridge to await use in the rest of your cooking for the week.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: greygarious

                                      I like the crudite idea. I also suddenly remembered a marinated broccoli salad I made a few years ago, but some spice-phobes will be attending, so probably not.

                                      1. re: greygarious

                                        I like the suggestion of the cruditie platter with dips - something they can munch on prior to and with the soups.

                                        I can easily eat 16 oz of soup (I'm a soup fanatic) - a little more is much better than not enough!

                                      2. Reporting back...
                                        I made single batches of each soup, about 2--3 qts each, and served 9 people using smallish mugs and bowls. People were free to get up and help themselves, and most had some of each. I got a sleeve of 2 c. plastic containers and a few took soup home. I unloaded several more containers on my brother and sister-in-law the following night. Now I have about a quart left. Perfect.

                                        The crudites worked well, and we didn't need another plate for them. The bread baker bailed, and I didn't rush to buy some to replace it.

                                        A good time was had by all. Thanks for all your advice.

                                        P.S. The Paraguayan meatball soup was the star. It's from Maricel Presilla's Gran Cocina Latina, a recent COTM.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: sr44

                                          So that worked out to about 3 cups per person right? Just thinking for myself in the future. It's cold here and a soup party could be perfect.