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Need to Feed A Crowd? Serve Chili!

Many, many moons ago (many years ago, in fact), I worked in Corporate America in a job that wasn’t going well.  I had been there for years and had loved it, but things were quickly going down hill when we took on WAY more work than we could get done.  Truth be told, I had taken on WAY more work than I could successfully handle.  I was single and had no kids and quickly, had no life.

It was that time that I found a cartoon that said “Stop Me Before I Volunteer Again”.  Man, did that resonate with me!  I hide that cartoon up in my cube in a semi-hidden space and tried to remember to say No before taking on more than I could chew.  I wasn’t very good at it, so I eventually left that company.  But it had been a wonderful place to work before that.

Chili that feeds a crowd

That said, I felt that way again last month.  My son’s preschool does a big Chili Feed kind of thing as a fundraiser for their preschool.  It raises LOTS of money for the preschool.  With games, food and bounce houses, it’s a good time for the church and the families that go to preschool there.  They get volunteers to run a booth by decorating it and providing chili.  Another family volunteered to decorate and man the booth and I volunteered to bring the chili.  10 gallons of it.  I quickly learned that’s ALOT of chili!  Over 2 roaster pans full.

I googled.  I pinterested.  I looked for a recipe that was:

  • Fairly economical to make.
  • Easy to double.  Quadruple.  And then some.
  • Appeals to the masses as kids to adults were going to eat this chili.

In the end, I found the perfect chili. It’s my own chili recipe!  But I just had to figure out how to multiply it to make 10 gallons!  So I did the math.  And I bought supplies.  And then I started making the chili.  Then I realized that I was wayyyy off!  Considering I had never measured my original recipe in terms of gallons, I was just guessing what I had to multiply it by.  Ultimately, I had only about half the ingredients that I was needing.  After an emergency trip to the grocery store, I got all that I needed.

Now, it isn’t often that you need to make that much chili.  But it might be common to want a big roaster pan of chili.  For things like:

To save you the trouble of having to do the math and figure it out, here’s what it takes to make an 18-quart roaster pan of chili.  Filled to the brim, that’s 4.5 gallons of chili, which would feed about 30-40 people, depending on what else you’re serving.

bowl of chili
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5 from 1 vote

Chili For A Crowd

Easy chili recipe to feed a crowd
Course Soup
Cuisine American
Keyword chili
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 4 hours
Total Time 4 hours 20 minutes
Servings 35 servings


  • 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


  • Brown beef with onion, bell peppers, and celery.  Drain.
  • Add all ingredients to roaster pan.  Mix well. Cook on 400 for 3-4 hours to ensure all flavors mix well and chili gets hot.


Makes enough chili for an 18-quart roaster pan, which is 4.5 gallons of chili to feed 30-40 people.
Most measurements are approximate. If you have just 90 ounces of tomatoes, use that. Want to use less beans? Use less. Want a really meaty chili? Use more beef. There's lots of flexibility here.

Jayme is a wife to 1 and a mother to four little boys. She tries to coupon, builds a smart stockpile, and always meal plans. While she likes to cook, she’s in the stage of life where simple is usually better – she never knows how many hands she’ll have free at dinner time! You can find her at No Regrets Living.

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{ 19 comments… add one }
  • Re September 18, 2019, 9:31 pm

    This was very helpful. Thank you.

  • Sharon Johnson January 1, 2020, 5:06 pm

    How big is the serving size

    • Jeff d December 13, 2020, 6:33 am

      Do the math.The recipe tells you all you need to know to figure out the serving size.Tells you how many gallons,how many servings,etc

  • Kirk Graham March 20, 2021, 3:40 am

    Used this recipe for my 2nd cook-off since the mid 80’s did very minor adjustments to the recipe wish me luck today

  • Rickybobby December 10, 2021, 2:58 pm

    How full will the 18 quart roaster pan/nesco be making this recipe? I usually add a couple more meats to my chili so I want to make sure I have the room for it. Thanks!

    • Jayme Massman December 10, 2021, 3:14 pm

      You’ll be fine! It’s maybe 3/4 of the way full. Not to the brim.

  • Sonja January 18, 2022, 1:03 am

    Thank you for this recipe!! I had to make dinner for an entire college football team and your recipe made it so much easier and less stressful. I made 4 roasters full to feed them! I can’t imagine trying to figure out the math from a different recipe haha. So thank you for putting in the work for me! I got a lot of compliments on the chili too!! I also thought it tasted great! Thank you again for making this event a lot easier (and tasty!).

  • Megan October 24, 2022, 6:56 pm

    Hey thanks for the massive recipe I have been searching for a bulk recipe to cook chilli for my balling on a budget wedding next month…
    My question is did you cook the chilli in an actual roaster pan or the roaster oven? If the pan did you do both pans stove top at once or how? I’ve never used this pan so honestly curious!❤️

  • Sarah March 22, 2023, 12:42 pm

    If making this in roasting pans in the oven, should the lid be on or off?

    • Jayme March 22, 2023, 1:29 pm

      I keep it on.

  • Lee June 14, 2023, 2:32 pm

    Was wondering if you could tell me what size cans of beans for the kidney and the black how many ounce cans did you add for the small cans or the large cans there’s a 15 ounce can of red beans and there’s a 14 ounce canned red beans same thing with the black beans

    • Jayme June 14, 2023, 3:33 pm

      14-15 ounce cans are normal, so those size. I didn’t use the mega big sizes – just the normal sized ones.

  • Theresa McDonald December 5, 2023, 11:15 pm

    This is beyond helpful!!! Thank you so much!!

  • Dorray carpentier January 24, 2024, 8:07 pm

    If I was to make this on top of the stove how long should I cook it?

  • Penny Berg February 19, 2024, 9:26 am

    Just won a Chili Cook Off with this recipe.

  • Cheryl Rainey February 19, 2024, 10:38 am

    Is this able o be cooked on the stovetop? I don’t have a roaster pan…I have a 20Qt stewpot

    • Jayme February 19, 2024, 10:54 am

      That should be fine – on the stovetop. My roaster pan fits 26 Qts, it says and this doesn’t fill it all the way. So 20 qts might be tight, so just watch it and maybe cut the recipe back a bit (like a little less meat and canned tomatoes) until you see how it fits. Stirring will be harder, but it’s doable.

  • Cheryl Rainey February 19, 2024, 10:39 am

    Is this able to be cooked on the stovetop? I don’t have a roaster pan…I have a 20Qt stewpot


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