Stress-Free Ways to Serve Individual Portions When Entertaining a Group

Trade buffets and family-style service for individual portions—without making more work for you.

Hawaiian chicken grilled kabob summer food concept
Photo: Forty Forks/Getty Images

If you're hosting a big group of people, chances are you're whipping up crowd-pleasing dishes like garlic Parmesan chicken wings or chicken spaghetti casserole, and serving them alongside some delicious batch cocktails. However, there's no rule that says you need to serve dishes to your guests that are only suitable for a sizable bunch. In fact, sometimes you want to make your guests feel extra special by treating them to individual portions or individually wrapped foods—be it at an intimate celebration or a cozy backyard gathering. Plus, serving food to each guest may cut down on the transfer of germs, which is especially useful during the dreaded cold and flu season.

That said, individually plating and serving meals for multiple guests is no easy feat, especially if there is more than one course involved. To help you navigate the art of serving individual portions without losing your sanity, we've compiled a list of tips and pointers to keep in mind for your next elevated dinner party.

01 of 09

Go Big (at Home)

Big-batch meals are meant to share, but they are also super-easy to portion out. Whether you're making a big pot of gumbo, clam chowder, or pasta salad, whip up your group dish the way you usually would. Then, instead of serving buffet style, ladle single portions into individual ramekins, paper dishes, or any other size-appropriate serving pieces you have around the house. If you don't feel like cooking, that's also fine. You can use the same method after buying big batches of takeout.

02 of 09

Get Creative With Containers

Saving takeout containers can help pre-portion snacks and meals, but plenty of other household items can help make serving individual portions easier. Consider filling shot glasses and silicone or disposable cupcake wrappers with condiments, dips, or sauces that would typically be served in larger bowls.

03 of 09

Meal Prep With Mason Jars

If you'd prefer to portion cold food in advance, buy a set of mason jars, which will seal and preserve dishes for days (though the sooner you consume them, the better). Fill them with homemade slaw, pasta salad, or dip topped with crunchy crudites.

RELATED: 4 Mason Jar Meals That Make Lunchtime So Much Easier

04 of 09

Stick to Skewers

Grilling hamburgers and hot dogs is a great way to serve individual portions, but to prevent queues of hungry guests with open buns near the grill, consider a dish that can be distributed more efficiently by a grill master. Meat, seafood, and veggie skewers can all be seasoned and assembled ahead of time, thrown onto the grill for a few minutes, and served quickly and easily. Uncooked skewers, like fruit salad, caprese skewers, or shrimp cocktail skewers can also be prepared in advance and plated individually.

05 of 09

Consider One-Bite Wonders

Perhaps the best single-portion meals are the ones that portion themselves out, i.e., finger food. Prepare plates featuring a spread of your one-bite dishes in advance, and distribute to each guest when you're ready to eat. Chicken wings, taquitos, soft pretzel bites, pigs in a blanket, dumplings, and tiny quiches all work for this (and can be kept warm in a 200 degree oven until it's time to plate). Cold bites like tea sandwiches, deviled eggs, summer rolls, and crostini also work well. Who doesn't want to make a meal out of appetizers?

06 of 09

Lay Out a Sheet Pan

Sheet pan entertaining makes displaying spreads and cheese plates outdoors easy, without sacrificing aesthetics. For a couple or family, consider using quarter or half-sheets to lay out a spread of chips and dip, hummus and veggies, cheese and crackers, mezze and spreads, or guac and nachos.

07 of 09

Let the Food Be the Bowl

Bread bowls, hollow watermelons, coconuts, hollow avocado halves, and other easy-to-make food vessels are not only adorable ways to serve food and drink, but limit the need for single-use plastics and keep germs off your favorite plates. If you compost, the food-bowls can go straight in there when everyone's done eating.

RELATED: 10 Major Mistakes You're Making That Are Causing Food Waste

08 of 09

Think About Drinks

We all know mini-anything is adorable, and everyone loves a bubbly libation. Single serving, 187 mL bottles of cava from Segura Viudas, prosecco from Mionetto, or Usual rosé wine are all good bets.

09 of 09

Serve S'mores

A backyard fire pit can be used to create solo s'mores. In baggies or containers, create s'mores kits with graham crackers, chocolate, marshmallows, and roasting sticks. Every guest gets one (or two) before spreading out around the fire and roasting their marshmallows for a dessert only they eat.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles