Making Chili for Large Groups: Quantity recommendations & and tips

Chili is a cold-weather group staple. This easy soup/stew is the perfect simple crowd-pleaser. Too often, however, there is not enough to go around or too much to know what to do with.

On average, the typical adult male will eat 2 cups of chili (adult female 1.5 cups) per sitting. Therefore, in order to serve a group of 35 people, one should make 70 cups of chili. However, this may vary depending on the demographics of the group and whether or not other food is available at the time.

In this article, we will be looking at every aspect of how to successfully cook chili for large groups in nearly every circumstance.

Cooking for Certain Events


At your standard neighborhood potluck, there are typically 20-50 guests in attendance.

Now before you jump down to the best bulk recipes for 50 people. It’s important to remember that at a potluck there are many dishes to choose from.

In studies, we’ve found that the highest frequency of guests that typically take from the same dish at a potluck is never more than half.

Taking this into account, it’s a safe bet to take the number of guests that will be at a potluck and divide it in half before you pick a recipe size.

Keep in mind also the number of dishes provided. If there are relatively few, make a bit more and vice versa.

Family Reunion

If you are responsible for cooking for your family reunion, bless your heart. In all seriousness though, we can help.

Other than the sheer volume of people, figuring out how much to cook for a family reunion isn’t too difficult. The reason, you can pretty much bank on the idea that everyone will be eating your chili.

From there it’s just some simple math.

Using the answer in the bolded paragraph above, adult males eat two cups of chili on average per sitting. In order to make the correct amount of chili, take the number of people in your party, multiple it by two, and that’s the number of cups you’ll need to feed your whole group.

Now we know your entire party doesn’t consist of adult males, however, cooking to the portion size of two cups per person will account for variations of how much people eat.

Also, when it comes to family reunions, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Nothing turns a fun family reunion into a brawl faster than leaving people unfed or hungry. So if you have a little extra at the end, it’s not the end of the world.

Chili Cook-off

If we are being completely honest, this is the most difficult to gauge when it comes to determining how much to cook. Here’s why.

At a chili cook off there are a couple of factors which include

  • How many contesters there are
  • How many judges there are
  • Whether they use bowls, cups, or a spoonful to judge
  • Number of guests
  • How good your chili really is

Considering all of these factors, determining just the right amount of chili to make to ensure that you don’t have an extra is somewhat difficult.

The good news is that, unlike at a family reunion, you don’t have to worry about running out. If you run low on Chili, it’s not the end of the world because there are ten or more other chilis to choose from.

With this in mind, we suggest sticking to making a recipe that is equivalent to 1/3 of the guests. This typically allows for wiggle room regarding the judge’s sample size and the number of guests there.

Although cooking for that fraction suffices for most chili cook-offs, if the group is extremely large with few contesters feel free to increase the fraction. The same thing goes for if you feel like your chili is award-winning, which we are sure it is.

Best Bulk Recipes

10-25 People

Ten people may be a typical family dinner for you, but it’s still very much a crowd. Here is a stellar 15-18 cup chili recipe to satisfy everyone in the house. What you’ll need is

  • 4 pounds ground chuck
  • 2 medium onions
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 (14 1/2-ounce) cans diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 4 (8-ounce) cans tomato sauce
  • 1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 (16-ounce) cans light red kidney beans, rinsed and drained (optional)

start by cooking the ground chuck, in batches, in a large skillet; stirring until meat crumbles and is no longer pink then drain. Place meat in a 6-quart slow cooker; stir in onions, next 12 ingredients, and beans. Cook, covered, at HIGH 5 to 6 hours or at LOW 6 to 8 hours. Remove and discard bay leaf. Serve with desired toppings.

For more in-depth instructions visit in a new tab.

If you’re in the mood to try something new, visit Opens in a new tab.

20-35 People

When you’re cooking for this many, things can also get a little pricey. Here is a recipe from a website that feeds the masses while still being money sensitive. Here’s what you’ll need.

  • 5 pounds ground beef
  • 5-6 onions, diced
  • 2 green peppers, diced small
  • 5 stalks celery, diced small (or 2 more green peppers)
  • 102 ounces diced tomatoes
  • 56 ounces Rotel tomatoes with chiles
  • 90 ounces tomato sauce
  • 3 tbsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 2 cans black beans, drained & rinsed or 4 cups cooked beans
  • 3 cans red kidney beans, drained & rinsed or 6 cups cooked beans

Begin by browning the beef along with your onion, bell peppers, and celery.  Drain once cooked. Next, combine all the ingredients into a roaster pan. Mix well. Cook at 400 degrees for 3 to 4. in a new tab.

50-65 People

Almost to 100, but not quite? This recipe is for you.

  • 12lbs 80% lean ground beef
  • 1 lb Bob Evans sausage (regular)
  • 1 lb Bob Evans sausage (hot)
  • 9 ounces canned chopped green chili peppers 
  • 112 ounces canned crushed tomatoes
  • 112 ounces tomato sauce
  • 1 ounce ground cumin
  • 12ounces ground chili powder
  • 5 large yellow onion, diced 
  • 42 ounces kidney beans
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 head garlic, crushed 
  • 42 ounces kidney beans

Brown the beef and the sausage then add the onion and garlic, saute until translucent. Add tomato sauce, crushed tomatoes, chiles, and spices. Simmer at least 30-45 minutes. Add kidney beans 15 minutes before finishing.

Follow this link for the exact instructions in a new tab.

75-100 People

Church Supper Chili the perfect name for a Chili for large crowds. This recipe has a serving size of 100 at 1 cup per serving. Here’s what you’ll need.

  • 9 cans (29 ounces each) tomato sauce
  • 9 cans (28 ounces each) diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 9 cans (16 ounces each) kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 9 cans (15-3/4 ounces each) pork and beans
  • 3 pounds onions, finely chopped
  • 9 large green peppers, finely chopped
  • 7-1/2 cups finely chopped celery with leaves
  • 5 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon pepper
  • 9 bay leaves
  • 21 pounds of beef, ground and drained

For the step by step process visit in a new tab.

Method: Slow Cooker of Stock Pot?

Slow Cooker

This method is optimal for cooking chili.

In most of the recipes above, the cooking time takes a couple of hours. Chili, after all, is stew-like and requires a bit more time for all the flavors to steep together.

It can be seen daunting using a burner of any sort since it would require consistent attention. Slow cookers were made for those without that kind of time commitment.

When using a slow cooker, you can set it on low, leave for hours, and come back to a dinner well done. This is also optimal for chili that needs to be cooked at a specific temperature.

It’s also the best option for reheating, but more on that later.


There is only one thing that a slow cooker lacks when it comes to cooking chili. Volume.

If you’ve made it this far in the blog, you know that this article is specifically for large groups. I mean we are talking massive groups of people.

In that regard, you may not have a slow cooker big enough to fit 21 pounds of ground beef. The likely hood of you owning a stockpot that could fit that amount is significantly more likely.

Cooking chili in a stockpot isn’t impossible, actually, it’s relatively easy if you don’t have to go anywhere that day.

Stockpot instructions for chili are generally the same as slow cooker instructions, the main difference is that in order to be as safe as possible, you should stay close by.

We would suggest using a stock pot as soon as you reach over 35 people.

Pots, pans and other utensils you need.

The largest reasonable slow cooker holds roughly 28 pounds or 22 quarts of liquid. Any slow cooker larger than that is typically used for commercial use.

Any larger than the largest in-house slow cooker we would suggest a stockpot that holds 80-100 quarts.

You will also need a large frying pan to ground the meat and an extra-large spoon to stir with.

How to transport

Transporting extremely large amounts of chili is a risky business. Our first recommendation would be to make it at the destination you would be serving it at.

But for those of you where that’s just not possible (and for those who like to live on the edge) here are some helpful tips.

Trying not to spill

The best advice there is to give is to drive very carefully. Avoid sharp turns and driving fast over bumps or up and downhills.

When transporting Chili one of the best options is to put it in a pot that is either twice its size or has at least a one and a half-inch depth from the top of the pot to the actual chili. This greatly reduces the risk that it will spill.

Another great way to prevent the chili from spilling while driving is to actually have someone hold it, maybe not your grandma, but someone. This way they can both watch the road and adjust the pot of chili accordingly.

If you don’t have someone to hold it, do not stick it in the back seat and buckle it in. This has proven time and time again to be ineffective.

Rather, it is better to keep it on the floor in the front seat. This way you can keep a sideways eye on it while still driving. Having it lower also reduces the effect that turns will have on the pot itself.

Keeping it warm

This may be easy, or relatively hard depending on how long your drive is. If you decided not to cook the chili in a crockpot or transfer it to a place without a burner to reheat we would suggest blankets.

Yes, you read that right, blankets.

If it is nearly impossible to reheat your chili once you get to your destination, stick it in a cardboard box that will fit on the floor of your car. Then surround it with blankets.

This will keep the heat in as much as possible and will also prevent it from sliding and spilling even more.


As mentioned before, this is best accomplished with a slow cooker. Keeping your chili in a slow cooker means that when you get to the venue you will be serving at, you just need an outlet.

That’s it. No hassle with a kitchen or transferring it to a different pot.

When reheating in a slow cooker, turn it on the low setting. This way you can keep it on the entire time your serving, staring occasionally.

If you’re reheating in a stockpot, make sure there is a kitchen with adequate burners at your destination. Do everything to can to keep the heat in while transporting to reduce the time it will take to reheat.

When you get to your venue, turn the burner on high to jump-start the reheating process. Since you most likely won’t be reheating throughout the night, get the chili as hot as you can (while keeping it safe and edible) before taking it off the burner to serve.

Doing this will increase the odds of every serving being warm.

Don’t want to cook? Catering is for you

If this article has overwhelmed you. No need to worry. We also have suggestions for the no mess no stress option of catering.

Catering options vary depending on where you are located. Regardless, almost everywhere there is an event place that caters to chili.

Catering an event like a family reunion would be an excellent idea. Catering to a chili cook-off would most likely be frowned upon so pick your chili catering wisely.

If you have questions regarding catering, visit our other blog posts about how caters transport, charge, and keep food warm.


Being part of a really big family, cooking for big groups of people is just how we do things. Cooking, baking, and outdoor cooking have all been huge parts of my life, and I love sharing what I've learned with you.

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