6 Easy Recipes to Serve a Crowd (Wherever You May Be)

updated May 1, 2019
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(Image credit: Christine Han)

When friends come around for a backyard barbecue, it tends to feel simple. You’re comfortable in your surroundings; you know your grill and you know your pantry. But move that gathering to an unfamiliar place, like that beach house you’re renting for the week, and suddenly all bets are off — you’re most definitely in alien territory.

So how do you serve a house full of people when you’re out of your element, but still trying to channel that easy, breezy vacation vibe? These six recipes — covering everything from breakfast to dinner — streamline the cooking process to make vacation-kitchen cooking both fun and carefree.

Embrace Conveniences

It’s no fun starting dinner completely from scratch at 7:00 p.m., when you’re sandy and sticky from the beach or lake. That’s why vacation cooking should lean on grocery store conveniences and embrace the make-ahead factor. These recipes call for things like store-bought tortellini and jarred marinara to quicken the cooking process, and for assembling as much as possible ahead of time, whenever you might have a few moments, so it’s ready to go when you are.

Don’t Fuss with Too Many Kitchen Tools

What you’re left to work with in a rental kitchen is always a bit of a surprise. One slightly warped baking sheet? An incredibly dull knife? These recipes can be made with ease, whether you’re left with a fully stocked kitchen or one with the bare minimum — like using just a sheet pan to make a whole chicken fajita dinner. Plus, cleanup is a breeze, so you can get back to relaxing.

Think 10 Ingredients or Less

Whichever grocery store you might be nearest to is also foreign territory. So instead of hoping that they’ll have your favorite spice that your local store sells, lean on a short list of common ingredients and pantry staples that can be picked up at any grocery store. That doesn’t mean that these recipe will lack flavor — on the contrary, they rely on ingredients that are already flavor-packed, like basil pesto and smoked cooked turkey.

Make It a Crowd-Pleaser

This isn’t the time to make one dish for Johnny and another for Suzy. These recipes are guaranteed to please each and every member of your vacation home, including yourself, since they’re easy on the cook too. Some can be made ahead, like a streusel-topped pancake casserole, or are vegetarian to meet everyone’s needs. Others can work as both a hearty side or an easy lunch, and a few travel well, so you’re set for a long day at the beach.