How Much To Serve

Following are “rule of thumb” per person estimates for various party foods.  They are meant to provide a starting point for planning your menu.  If you are having a lot of people and not very many menu items, you may want to increase quantities of each item to allow more per person.   

If you are having a small group and a wide variety of menu items, you should probably still stick with these per person estimates.  The people who really like an item will eat more than the average, and those who don’t will eat less.  The idea is to have enough of each dish to satisfy those who really like it.  If you know your guests’ tastes well, you should adjust accordingly too, although it’s always wise to have a mix of spicy and not spicy.  Most party food is pretty indulgent, but it’s considerate to have a few (relatively) healthy options as well.

If the party displaces dinner, it’s also wise to offer more to eat than if the party ends by 7 PM or begins at 8 PM or after.  A dinner party would typically include 1-2 appetizers, a main dish, 2-3 side dishes and dessert.  A game day party that lasts several hours would likely offer several appetizers as well as 1-2 main dishes and 2-4 side dishes; dessert is optional.

No matter how carefully you plan, you may run out of prepared food before the party is over.  It’s a good idea to have a couple extra bags of chips or party mix on hand, just in case.  If you have significant leftovers, most dips work quite well as sandwich spreads, and most other appetizers are nice as part of a “grazing” dinner menu, which means one meal you don’t have to cook.

Keep this information handy for future entertaining, and don’t hesitate to add to it, or share with friends.


Meatballs:  Allow 4-5 meatballs per person

Shrimp:  Allow 4-6 large shrimp per person, 6-8 medium shrimp per person, 7-9 small shrimp per person

Sausage slices:  Allow about 5 slices per person (1/4” slices)

Veggies for dipping:  Allow about 4-6 pieces per person

Note:  have at least 6 pieces of each vegetable used

Canapés:  Allow 2-3 canapés per person

Cheese:  Allow 1-2 oz per person

Tasting Spoons:  Allow 2-3 spoons per person if serving in buffet

Appetizer soup:  Allow about 1/2 cup per person

Main dish soup:  Allow about 1 cup per person

Main dish meat, chicken or fish:  Allow 3-4 ounces per person

Pasta salad:  Allow about 1/2 cup per person as side dish, allow about 1 cup per person for main dish

Vegetable side dish:  Allow about 1/3 - 1/2 cup per person

Fruit or cookies for dipping:  Allow about 3-5 pieces per person

French toast bites:  Allow about 5-6 per person

French toast sticks:  Allow about 3-4 per person

Cannoli:  Allow 1 regular cannoli per person or 3 mini-cannoli per person

Cream Puffs:  Allow 1 regular cream puff or 3-4 mini appetizer size cream puffs per person

One cup of dip yields about 48 teaspoons (average serving):  Allow 4-6 servings per person

One cup of chunky fruit salsa yields about 32 half tablespoons (average serving):  Allow 3-5 servings per person  Note:  1/2 Tablespoon = 1-1/2 teaspoons

One cup of mousse yields 16 Tablespoons.  This will fill:

About 16 mini-cannoli
About 4-5 regular cannoli
About 24 appetizer size cream puffs (about 2 teaspoons each)
About 4-6 regular size cream puffs (made with just over 1T dough, or about 2” wide after baking)

One full recipe of mousse yields about 1-1/2 quarts:  Allow 1/2 cup per person

Beverage tasting:  Allow about 2 oz of each drink being tasted per person


If you find you need more help planning your menu or making decisions for your particular party, ask Penny.