Hosting a Holiday Party? Here’s How Much Food to Serve

When it's your turn to host, take the stress out of planning with our guide to how much food to serve to satisfy your guests, whether you have five or 50.

We have a secret: Planning how much food to serve at the holidays doesn’t have to be daunting! In fact, with our easy charts, you’ll be able to make sure all plates and glasses are full while having time to enjoy the festivities yourself. (These cheery slow cooker recipes can also help.)

Here’s a quick guide to how many drinks and how much food to stock, course by course.

How Many Appetizers to Make

On average, each guest will have about six appetizers, although this number may double if it’s a cocktail-style event. You want enough to keep your guests satisfied, but not so many that their appetites will be ruined. (Here are some quick crowd-pleasing apps in 15 minutes or less.)

Guests Appetizer
5 30 servings of appetizers
10 60 servings of appetizers
20 120 servings appetizers
50 240 servings of appetizers

Pro tip: Stock up on bulk items like nuts, pretzels and olives that guests can munch on when they arrive.

How Much to Make for Entrees and Sides

The main event! Remember, the more options you have available, the smaller each portion size will generally be.

  • Poultry, fish or meat: 6 ounces per serving
  • Grains: 1.5 ounces as a side dish, 2 ounces as a main dish casserole
  • Potatoes: 5 ounces
  • Vegetables: 4 ounces
  • Beans: 2 ounces
  • Pasta: 4 ounces (main dish-less for a side dish)
  • Green salad: 1 ounce, without dressing
  • Bread such as buns, rolls or cornbread: 1 to 2 pieces (or more if each piece is small)

These impressive Christmas recipes will be the star of your dinner table.

How Many Desserts to Make

We know that no matter how filling dinner was, there’s always room for dessert.

  • Cake, tart, pastry: 1 slice per guest
  • Creamy desserts: 4 ounces
  • Ice cream: 5 ounces
Guests Cake/Tart/Pastry Creamy Dessert Ice Cream
5 5 slices 20 oz. 25 oz.
10 10 slices 40 oz. 50 oz.
20 20 slices 80 oz. 100 oz.
50 50 slices 200 oz. 250 oz.

These traditional Christmas desserts are must-makes.

How Many Drinks to Serve

We can’t decide which would be worse: running out of dinner or running out of drinks. Several factors govern ensuring that everyone stays, ahem, hydrated, including its duration, where it will be held and your guests’ preferences. These general guidelines are for holiday parties that are two hours long. If you offer more than one type of alcohol, you can get away with buying less per type.

  • Ice: 1 pound per person
  • Wine: One bottle of wine for every two adult guests. It’s best for white to slightly outnumber red.
  • Beer: Two servings per guest for the first hour, and then one for each additional hour.
  • Champagne: 1.5 glasses per person for a premeal cocktail, three glasses per person at dinner. (We like to vary up the typical glass of bubbly by making a champagne punch.)
  • Spirits: Three drinks per person. You’ll get about 17 drinks per bottle.
  • Liqueurs and Post-Dinner Drinks: One drink per guest, 15 drinks per bottle
  • Nonalcoholic beverages: One drink per person if alcohol is provided, three per person if alcohol isn’t. (Here are some Christmas cocktails and mocktails.)

Here’s How Much To Buy

Guests Wine Beer Champagne Spirits Liqueurs Nonalcoholic Ice
5 3 bottles 15 bottles 3 bottles 1 bottle 1 bottle 5 (if alcohol provided)/15 (if not) 5 lbs
10 5 bottles 30 bottles 3 bottles 2 bottles 1 bottle 10/30 10 lbs
20 10 bottles 60 bottles 10 bottles 4 bottles 2 bottles 20/60 20 lbs
50 25 bottles 150 bottles 25 bottles 9 bottles 4 bottles 50/150 50 lbs

We’re assuming you’re only serving one type of alcohol. If you’re offering more, then reduce the amount of each type.

Luckily, spirits don’t go bad once open, so if something doesn’t get finished, you can save it for later. Still, don’t open anything you don’t need to; you don’t want to have several half bottles of wine leftover.

Making sure that you have enough servings to keep all guests happy-especially if they go back for seconds or thirds-is key to pulling off a holiday they’ll fondly remember down the road.

Keep in mind that our estimates are nearly exact, but a good rule of thumb is to round up from these and err on the side of having too much-and we doubt you’ll complain if you end up with a few leftovers. (And if you do, here’s what to make with leftovers!)

Up Next: Have Guests Coming? Here’s How to “Clean” Your Home in 30 Minutes or Less

Get Cooking With These Christmas Recipes
1 / 75

Popular Videos

Kim Bussing
Kim Bussing is a writer and editor living in Los Angeles. She has written for publications including Reader’s Digest, Modern Farmer, Clean Plates and Vice, among others, and she is working on her first novel. She is always on the hunt for the perfect gluten-free cinnamon roll.