salads lined up for a group cookout

The Ultimate List of Easy BBQ Ideas for a Crowd (with Tips and Recipes)

Last Updated on May 27, 2022

Planning and preparing easy BBQ ideas for a crowd is a fun challenge.

It’s exciting to think about all the details involved in hosting a large crowd—what recipes go together, what side dishes compliment which proteins, how much food to cook, and even how far ahead of time to prep certain dishes.

We’ve put together the ultimate list of easy BBQ ideas for your next big shindig. By the end, you’ll be equipped with tips on how to best plan and prepare for your next backyard BBQ. Plus you’ll have a list of recipes to choose from by category: Main dish, appetizers and side dishes, and desserts.

We selected recipes that can b be doubled or tripled for larger crowds. And they pair well with almost any protein you could choose.

4 Tips for Planning & Pulling Off an Easy BBQ for a Large Crowd

There’s a reason party planning and catering is an entire industry. It can feel downright algorithmic when it comes to figuring out how much food you’re going to need to feed a large crowd at a BBQ.

Thankfully there are some tips that help simplify the planning process.

Tip #1 – Hone in on your setup

dining outdoors

 

An effortless and easy BBQ boils down to a simple and streamlined setup. With a classic buffet setup, you’ll need a large table or two for food, then an area for individual seating.

Consider the size of your space, and the flow of traffic when it comes to lining up for food. Have a separate drink area. And think about where your guests are going to gather and stand. Easy access to an indoor bathroom and the kitchen for carrying trays and refrigerated dishes in and out is key.

Tip #2 – Plan your proteins first

The main dish comes first. Deciding whether to grill, smoke, bake, or barbecue should be your primary consideration when coming up with easy BBQ ideas for a crowd.

If you’re going for burgers, then budget and plan for your headcount before deciding what else to cook. If you’re going to smoke pork butts, then plan your preparation and side dishes accordingly.

Tip #3 – Go big (but few) with side dishes

Going big with your sides doesn’t mean providing an endless variety of options. Choose side dishes that are going to be easy BBQ ideas for a crowd that you can scale up when preparing the recipes. Then depending on the size of your crowd, opt for as few side dishes as you can get away with.

For a backyard barbecue of 20-30 people, keep it between 5-8 side dishes. For 30-50, keep it at or under 10 side dishes. This will help you streamline your preparation while still giving your guests sufficient variety. Then double or triple your recipes to make sure you make enough for everyone.

Tip #4 – Keep drinks and desserts simple

Another tip for planning a BBQ for a large crowd is to keep drinks and desserts simple. The fun buzz of the crowd, the smoke coming off the grill that promises juicy meat, and the warm outdoor setting are entertainment enough.

There’s no need to add effort to your menu in places that are going to get overlooked. Drinks and desserts are two of these places. Prepare a single statement dessert with a few other pre-made options as alternatives.

Do the same for drinks. Have a cooler or beverage dispenser or two with a few options for drinks. If you want to go slightly fancier, consider picking a single cocktail and preparing it in pitchers. Or display the ingredients of a specialty cocktail or drink at a table with instructions that encourage guests to make it themselves.

20 Recipes for a Backyard BBQ

chicken thighs on skewers with lemons

Citrus and yogurt marinated grilled chicken thigh skewers are the perfect easy BBQ idea for a crowd.

1. Lemon-Marinated Grilled Chicken Thigh Skewers Recipe

These lemon-marinated chicken thigh skewers are the ideal easy BBQ idea for a crowd. Plus they’re budget-friendly and easy to eat for your guests. These marinated skewers use the most tender chicken thigh meat for a citrus and spice protein that’s hard to beat.

  • 10 Ingredients
  • Total Time: 30 Minutes

2. Mustard Chive Grilled Flank Steak Recipe

Easy is the name of the game with this mustard chive grilled flank steak recipe. Three added ingredients for a marinade and these cook up quickly and pair nicely with any side dish or menu theme you might choose.

  • 4 Ingredients
  • Total Time: 2 Hours 35 Minutes (Including marinade)
  • Diet: Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free

3. Grilled Pork Chops Recipe

Pork chops may not be your first thought when thinking about easy BBQ ideas for a crowd, but we think they’re perfect. They can be bought in exact quantities—planning 1 or 1.5 per person, and you’re preparation and cooking just got that much easier. Plus, this grilled pork chop recipe includes a tangy yogurt sauce that takes your average pork chop to the next level!

  • 15 Ingredients
  • Total Time: 55 Minutes
  • Diet: Gluten-Free, Keto

 

cilantro lime carne asada

Carne asada is a Mexican-inspired favorite for all barbecue lovers. 

4. Grilled Carne Asada with Cilantro Lime Marinade Recipe

This carne asada recipe makes for a juicy, Mexican-inspired meat choice for any BBQ for a large crowd. Estimating a half-pound of meat per person is a good way to plan for how much flank steak to purchase and prepare.

  • 10 Ingredients
  • Total Time: 2 hours 15 minutes

5. Cilantro Lime Hickory Grilled Flank Steak Recipe

Want a different take on flank steak? This cilantro lime flank steak version plays on the flavor of the hickory wood chips you use to grill with for extra flavor and body.

  • 8 Ingredients
  • Total Time: 30 Minutes
  • Diet: Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Keto, Paleo, Whole30

6. Grilled Sirloin Tips with Coffee-Bourbon BBQ Sauce Recipe

Sirloin tips are an easy BBQ idea for a crowd because they can be prepped in large quantities before your guests arrive. Then thrown on the grill at the ideal time before serving—they cook quickly and can be marinated any way you like. This grilled sirloin recipe includes a coffee bourbon BBQ sauce that is equal parts tangy, thick, smoky, and sweet.

  • 14 Ingredients
  • Total Time: 40 Minutes
  • Diet: Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free

 

Grilled and plated to perfection, these smoky citrus grilled chicken thighs are a must-try easy BBQ idea for a crowd.

7. Smoky Citrus Grilled Chicken Thighs Recipe

Similar to our pork chop idea up above, these smoky citrus grilled chicken thighs are an easy BBQ idea for a large crowd for planning purposes. Estimate 1-2 chicken thighs per person, and you can dial in your preparation, cook time, and budget for your backyard cookout. Not to mention, this recipe uses fresh lemon, lime, and orange rind and fruit for a blend of bright, citrus flavors.

  • 12 Ingredients
  • Total Time: 30 Minutes
  • Diet: Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Keto, Paleo, Whole30

8. Cider-Glazed Ancho Chili-Rubbed Ribs Recipe

Who doesn’t love ribs any time of year? Cider glazed with maple and chili, this ribs recipe is an autumn riff on the smoky flavors you find in barbecue sauces. Plus, racks of ribs are a great protein choice when it comes to planning for feeding a large crowd.

  • 13 Ingredients
  • Total Time: 3 Hours 25 Minutes

Appetizer & Side Dish Recipes for an Easy BBQ for a Crowd

9. Bacon-Wrapped Meatloaf Bites Recipe

These individual bacon and meatloaf bites take a little extra work. But think of your protein—are you already preparing ground beef for your main protein? Then add this extra appetizer to your menu. Plus, anything bite-sized options are great, easy BBQ ideas for a crowd.

  • 6 Ingredients
  • Total Time: 25 Minutes

 

pulled pork recipe with watermelon

What’s not to love about pulled pork and slices of fresh watermelon?

10. Pulled Pork and Watermelon Recipe

If you’re shredding meat for pulled pork sliders as the main dish for your backyard BBQ, there’s not much extra work that goes into this pulled pork and watermelon recipe. Top slices of watermelon (fresh or grilled) with pulled pork and your favorite tangy BBQ sauce.

  • 5 Ingredients
  • Total Time: 20 Minutes

11. Grilled Marinated Chicken Breast with Summer Watermelon Salad Recipe

If you know you’ll have extra chicken coming off the grill ahead of time, you can toss slices into this summer watermelon salad. Or leave out the chicken for a fresh vegetarian salad option. Full of fresh seasonal vegetables and fruits, this is an easy salad to make for a large crowd.

  • 15 Ingredients
  • Total Time: 40 Minutes
  • Diet: Gluten-Free

12. Summer Potato Salad With Grilled Bacon And Herbs Recipe

Nothing says summer BBQ like a potato salad. This summer potato salad with bacon and herbs version is the ultimate easy BBQ idea for a crowd because you can double (or even triple) the recipe easily. Just boil extra potatoes and total up your extra add-ins, and you’re good to go!

  • 14 Ingredients
  • Total Time: 1 Hour
  • Diet: Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free

 

grilled veggies on a white tray

These large pieces of chargrilled vegetables are a tasty addition to your next backyard BBQ menu.

13. Grilled Veggies With Aged Balsamic Recipe

While you’ve got the grill fired up, cook up this perfectly-charred grilled veggie side dish. This recipe specifically plans for large cuts of veggies that require less cutting and preparation before going directly onto the grill grates. And it’s topped with an aged balsamic drizzle that ties it all together.

  • 11 Ingredients
  • Total Time: 27 Minutes
  • Diet: Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Paleo

14. Classic Mashed Potatoes Recipe

Everyone knows what to expect when they see a dish of mashed potatoes. This classic mashed potato recipe is an easy and traditional way to make this favorite backyard BBQ side dish.

  • 6 Ingredients
  • Total Time: 1 Hour

15. Roasted Carrots with Pesto and Breadcrumbs Recipe

One perk of a roasted vegetable is that it can be served hot or cold. Adding side dishes that aren’t temperature sensitive is an easy BBQ idea for a crowd. Plus this whole carrot with pesto breadcrumb dish is a winner with its presentation.

  • 8 Ingredients
  • Total Time: 35 Minutes

 

apple brussels sprout salad

A fresh salad with texture, flavor, and crunch is a crowd-pleasing, easy BBQ idea for a crowd.

16 – Brussels Sprouts Salad with Apples, Hazelnuts, and Pecorino Cheese Recipe

A shaved brussel sprout salad is a dish that should be on everyone’s to-cook list. It’s textural, flavorful, and jazzes up your idea of a shaved slaw or chopped salad. Add chopped apples, nuts, and pecorino cheese to this version for richness and crunch.

  • 10 Ingredients
  • Total Time: 20 Minutes

17. Sweet and Smoky Mixed Nuts Recipe

You may not think of mixed nuts as something to prioritize when planning your menu for your next BBQ. But this sweet and smoky mixed nuts recipe is the perfect addition when thinking through easy BBQ ideas for a crowd. It earns its spot on the buffet table as a quick-prep dish that people can add to salads as a garnish or scoop out a handful as an appetizer.

  • 15 Ingredients
  • Total Time: 40 Minutes
  • Diet: Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free

Dessert Recipes for an Easy BBQ for a Crowd

grilled peach shortcake

Throw some fresh peach slices on the grill for this grilled peach shortcake recipe.

18. Grilled Peach Shortcake Recipe

A grilled peach shortcake is a super easy BBQ idea for a large crowd because you can use an already-hot grill top to charr up the peaches for this recipe. Cook your shortcake the day before, and this dessert comes together fast!

  • 14 Ingredients
  • Total Time: 35 Minutes

19. Apricot-Cardamom Bread Pudding Recipe

This bread pudding is a unique take on a traditional favorite. Using Middle Eastern flavors like cardamom and a rosewater whipped cream, this apricot bread pudding recipe is sure to wake up your taste buds. It can be sliced and served warm or cold. You could make several loaves for dessert for a large crowd at a backyard BBQ.

  • 17 Ingredients
  • Total Time: 1 Hour 5 Minutes

20. Bacon-Chocolate Mini-Cupcakes Recipe

If you want a dessert you can make in batches ahead of time, this is a great one! Cupcakes are the ultimate easy BBQ idea for a crowd when it comes to doubling or tripling a recipe to feed a crowd. And this mini cupcake recipe is inspired by none other than bacon.

  • 17 Ingredients

If you’re looking for more easy BBQ ideas for a crowd, check out these resources:

And for more recipes, head over to the JustCook blog.

 

olivia groves
Olivia Groves
Olivia is a Charlotte-based writer and content strategist. Olivia has over 6 years of experience freelance writing for many different companies and publications focused on retail and consumer goods & services. When she's not writing, she can be found in her garden, growing her own food and flowers.