39 Deconstructed Buffet-Style Meals To Please Everyone

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Deconstructed buffet-style meals can be one of the best ways to feed a family or any crowd. It's nearly impossible to offer one main dish to please everyone when your group contains picky eaters, people with dietary restrictions, or people with allergies. However, when you divide the dish into separate components, everyone can add whatever they like to their bowl or plate and avoid the ingredients they don't like or can't eat. Whether everyone in your family has different dietary needs or you're trying to feed a crowd of people at work, deconstructed buffet-style meals can be a lifesaver.

We've compiled a list of salads, soups, bowls, sandwiches, and other dishes that can be served in a deconstructed format. Some have very specific ingredients, while others allow for a little more creativity by allowing you to serve a variety of topping options. You can serve vegans, vegetarians, gluten-sensitive people, and people with allergies alongside people who want a little of everything you have to offer. Each base recipe is just a jumping-off point, but we've provided plenty of ideas to help you please everyone.

1. Burritos

You've already seen burritos served as a deconstructed buffet plenty of times at places like Chipotle and Qdoba where you point out the ingredients you want on your burrito. For a build-your-own-burrito buffet, simply supply a stack of tortillas and all the Mexican-inspired stuffing ingredients you want. Start with basic like black beans, Mexican rice, salsa, sliced green onions, shredded cheese, and cilantro. Then consider supplying a bowl of Mexican-style meat, shredded lettuce, guacamole, black olives, a jar of jalapeños, and even grilled onions and peppers. With so many ingredients, everyone can make their own perfect, personalized burrito.

Recipe: Giant Burritos

2. Taco salad

A taco salad buffet can be an especially good choice if someone in your group has gluten sensitivities since you can serve it with either corn or flour tortilla chips. You'll want to start by making taco meat. Then, you can add a variety of ingredients for everyone to choose from to build their own taco salad. For veggies, we suggest shredded lettuce, black olives, jarred jalapeños, tomatoes, and onions. No taco salad is complete without shredded cheese and salsa. You can also consider other condiments like guacamole and sour cream to make your taco salad even more indulgent.

Recipe: Taco Salad

3. Loaded baked potatoes

A baked potato bar is always a crowd-pleaser because it combines the starchy goodness of a potato with plenty of toppings. If you start with a good baked potato recipe, you really can't go wrong with additional baked potato options. Start with old standbys like real butter, sour cream, shredded cheese, green onions, and crumbled bacon. But there's no need to limit yourself to the standards. Try offering steamed broccoli, chili, diced tomatoes, or barbecued meat. Don't be shy about raiding your fridge for alternative condiments like ranch dressing and pesto, too.

Recipe: Simple Baked Potato

4. Salad

People enjoy salad bars when they're out at restaurants, so it's a tried and true idea to try anywhere. The trick is to provide enough variety from different food groups to please everyone and leave them feeling satisfied. Let the ingredients for a Cobb salad inspire you. Start with grilled and cubed chicken, crumbled bacon, shredded lettuce, avocados, cherry tomatoes, blue cheese crumbles, diced red onion, and boiled eggs. Other salad toppings you might offer include a variety of olives, nuts, shredded cheese, beets, pickles, croutons, and sliced fruit. Don't forget to offer plenty of dressing choices.

Recipe: Cobb Salad

5. Frito chili pie

Frito chili pie can be as plain or as fancy as you'd like. For the most basic Frito chili pie bar, you would only need to provide chili, Fritos, and shredded cheese. If you have vegetarians in your group, you can offer both regular and meatless chili. To take your Frito chili pie to the next level, consider offering toppings like sour cream, onions, cilantro, bell peppers, and jalapeños. Rather than make a five-alarm chili from the start, allow guests to add their desired heat level to their own bowl with a few dashes of cayenne pepper or hot sauce.

Recipe: Frito Chili Pie

6. Charcuterie board

Charcuterie boards are the epitome of the type of meal that allows everyone to pick and choose what they do and don't like. You can cater ingredients to the specific likes and dislikes of everyone, what's seasonal, or create it with a theme to match the next holiday. You want to hit as many food groups as possible to make your charcuterie board well-rounded. For proteins, consider cured meats, cheeses, and nuts. Provide a variety of veggies, along with fresh or dried fruit. Chips or crackers are great with dips. Don't forget something sweet like chocolates.

Recipe: Valentine's Day Charcuterie Board

7. Mexican stuffed peppers

Of course, Mexican stuffed peppers go into the oven to bake. However, you can either allow your guests to build their own peppers before they go into the oven or just offer the final toppings a la carte. If there are some guests who don't want the standard filling (for example, no meat, no beans, or no rice), you can differentiate them with different colored peppers or multiple baking dishes. Once the peppers are out of the oven, guests can choose from toppings like sour cream, chopped cilantro, chopped onions, guacamole, and salsa.

Recipe: Mexican Stuffed Peppers

8. Phở

When you go to a restaurant that serves phở, it's not unusual for nearly everything to come separately from the soup. Every bite can be different as you layer on the flavors. To make a build-your-own phở bar, you'll start by offering everyone a bowl of broth and rice noodles. Then provide bowls of optional ingredients like bo vien (Vietnamese meatballs), bean sprouts, fresh jalapeño slices, cilantro leaves, basil leaves, fresh limes, and thinly-sliced onions. Don't forget to offer condiments like sriracha hot sauce and hoisin sauce.

Recipe: Delightful Phở

9. Ramen

A bowl of ramen can be as simple or complex as you want to make it. Creating a build-your-own ramen bar allows guests to elevate a humble bowl of broth and noodles as much as they would like. You can offer pre-cooked vegetables like cabbage and peas, along with a choice of meats, soft-boiled eggs (or soy-marinated eggs), and toppings. Some toppings to consider include bean sprouts, cilantro, fresh mint leaves, ground peanuts, and green onions. Don't forget to offer options for adding heat to the broth, like garlic chili oil and sriracha.

Recipe: Ramen

10. Pizza

Building your own pizzas is fun for all ages. You can go with full-sized pizzas or allow everyone to make their own personal pizzas with mini pizza crusts. Everyone has their favorite type of pizza, but having the most popular pizza toppings available for your guests can allow them to make the pizzas of their dreams. Of course, you'll need to offer plenty of mozzarella cheese. Pepperoni and sausage are good meat options to have on hand. Don't forget everyone's favorite veggies: mushrooms, sliced onions, olives, and bell peppers.

Recipe: Pourable Pizza Dough

11. Sub sandwiches

A sub sandwich bar is one of the easiest do-it-yourself buffets you can make. You don't have to cook a thing. Just pull everything out of the fridge and arrange it. A good sub starts with good bread. You could even get several really long baguettes and cut them down to more manageable sizes. You'll want to provide a selection of cold-cut meats, along with sandwich-ready veggies like sliced tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, sliced onions, and lettuce leaves. You can choose from ordinary condiments like mustard and mayo or offer oil and vinegar.

Recipe: Subway's Italian B.M.T. Copycat Recipe

12. Chicken kabobs

Chicken kabobs are a fun option when you have a group of people over to grill. Set out all the ingredients and let everyone skewer their own favorite ingredients to place on the grill. You'll want to place cubes of chicken in a flavorful marinade. Then, you can offer guests a variety of cubed and whole veggie choices to alternate between cubes of chicken. Some great options are bell pepper slices, onion slices, cherry tomatoes, and button mushrooms. It will be easy for everyone to identify their own kabobs. Kabobs also go great with rice, hummus, and pita bread.

Recipe: Easy Chicken Kabobs

13. Veggie kabobs

If you have vegetarians or vegans among your guests while grilling kabobs, consider offering a wider variety of veggies for veggie kabobs. Guests can choose their favorites and make their own personalized skewers of veggies to throw on the grill. Some of the veggies we recommend include small slices of corn on the cob, robust mushrooms, zucchini rounds, cherry tomatoes, and slices of red onion. Nearly any veggie you can skewer will work if you cut it to the right size. You can even add fruit like pineapple chunks. Like with meat kabobs, veggie kabobs go well with rice, hummus, and pita bread.

Recipe: Grilled Veggie Kabobs

14. Broccoli pasta salad

The best way to please everyone with a pasta salad is to let everyone assemble it themselves to their preferences. They can make a dressing-free pasta salad or even a pasta-free pasta salad to suit their individual tastes. For a broccoli pasta salad bar, you would separate out the cooked pasta, the dressing, and all the individual ingredients for everyone to combine as they please. At a minimum, you'll want small bowls of raw broccoli florets and red onions as options. Then, you can add other interesting add-ins like crumbled bacon, chopped nuts, sunflower seeds, or cheddar cheese.

Recipe: Easy Broccoli Pasta Salad

15. Antipasto pasta salad

One of the nice things about setting up an antipasto pasta salad bar is that you need to chop fewer ingredients than with a regular salad. The most labor-intensive parts of this salad are cooking the pasta, making the vinaigrette, and halving cherry tomatoes. Then, all your antipasto ingredients come ready to go. You can offer artichokes, banana peppers, olives, and even pieces of cured meat like pepperoni or salami. You can use pre-cubed cheese to make prep a breeze.

Recipe: Effortless Antipasto Salad

16. Sushi bowls

Deconstructing sushi into a bowl allows you to enjoy all your favorite Japanese sushi ingredients or sushi-adjacent ingredients without the work of rolling them. Of course, a sushi bowl starts with rice, but everything else depends on your whim. Sliced cucumber, shredded carrots, and shredded cabbage are good options. Steamed edamame goes from being an appetizer to part of the main dish. You can also offer ingredients like avocado slices, fried onions, seaweed crumbles, and your favorite seafood. Don't forget to offer spicy mayo as a topping.

Recipe: 15-Minute Deconstructed Sushi Bowl Recipe

17. Bibimbap

Bibimbap is another type of bowl that allows those eating it to be as adventurous as they'd like when creating them. For this Korean dish, you'll offer bowls of rice as the base. Each person can add the ingredients that suit them best. You'll want to offer fried eggs, cooked bean sprouts, kimchi, and meat cooked with bibimbap sauce. Radish sprouts, micro greens, shredded carrots, and cucumber are also nice additions. Be sure to offer extra bibimbop sauce and sesame oil to drizzle over the top.

Recipe: Easy Bibimbap

18. Omelets

If you've ever experienced an omelet bar at a hotel, you already know how this works. Everyone adds their desired pre-chopped and pre-cooked omelet fillings to a small dish for the omelet maker to use when their turn comes around. Omelet eaters can choose from cooked breakfast meats, your favorite shredded cheeses, and cooked veggies for the fillings. Canadian bacon, sausage, bacon, grilled onions, and grilled bell peppers are a good start. Although, you're welcome to get a little fancier with cooked mushrooms, steamed spinach, or sun-dried tomatoes. Start with a base recipe and build from there.

Recipe: Veggie Omelet

19. Waffle bar

Whether you make your waffles from scratch or toast up some frozen ones from the freezer, a waffle bar is still fairly easy to make. Butter and maple syrup or honey are the most basic of offerings. However, you can bring the waffles up a notch by presenting other options like sliced fruit, chocolate chips, chocolate syrup, and whipped cream. Maybe they don't all go together, but it gives everyone a choice of just how naughty they want their waffles.

Recipe: Crispy Waffles

20. Shepherd's pie

A deconstructed shepherd's pie allows you to feed both vegetarians, picky eaters, and carnivores at once. To accomplish the deconstruction, you will offer a bowl of mashed potatoes; a bowl of cooked carrots, peas, and onions (mixed together or served separately); a bowl of meat; and a bowl of shredded cheese. There are two ways this can go. Either everyone can turn the shepherd's pie ingredients into a shepherd's pie bowl, or they can add their desired ingredients into personal-sized ramekins to bake in the oven so that the cheese gets melty.

Recipe: Classic Shepherd's Pie

21. Chicken pot pie

A deconstructed chicken pot pie allows both meat eaters and non-meat-eaters to enjoy the dish. You'll keep your veggies, chicken, and soup base all in separate bowls for serving. For vegetarians, you should make a secondary soup base using vegetable broth instead of chicken broth (or just provide cream of mushroom soup). Everyone can construct their chicken pot pie in their own bowl and top it with a separately-baked crust made from puff pastry.

Recipe: 30-Minute Chicken Pot Pie

22. Loaded baked potato tochos

Loaded baked potato totchos mix the concepts of loaded baked potatoes with loaded nachos. Because people like to load their tater tots with different toppings, you'll start out by making tots and melting cheese on top. Then, you'll provide a variety of toppings each person can choose to add on top of their own tots. Think about what tastes good on loaded baked potatoes for your inspiration. Sour cream, crumbled bacon, and green onions are a good start. You could also look to nachos for inspiration and provide diced tomatoes, peppers, and salsa.

Recipes: Loaded Baked Potato Totchos

23. Chicken risotto

Making a deconstructed chicken risotto allows pickier eaters to add or subtract whatever they would like to the dish. Start out making a plain risotto to serve alongside all of the possible toppings. You'll provide cooked chicken, butter, parmesan cheese, sauteed or rehydrated mushrooms, and herb toppings separately. Some other risotto add-ons you can offer include cooked seafood, cooked asparagus, green onions, and even lemon for squeezing. Providing truffle oil for drizzling over the top can also help take it to the next level.

Recipe: Chicken Risotto

24. Eggrolls in a bowl

Eggrolls in a bowl are far easier to make than regular eggrolls, and they take just 20 minutes. Providing eggrolls in a deconstructed format makes it that much easier for everyone to get just the ingredients they want. You can separate out the seasoned and cooked pork as well as the stir-fried cabbage and carrot shreds. Choose a base for your eggroll bowls, whether it be rice noodles, rice, or another grain. Then serve extra toppings like sesame seeds and cilantro. You can also offer condiments like soy sauce, chili oil, or sesame oil for additional flavor.

Recipe: 20-minute Egg Rolls in a Bowl

25. Poke bowl

Poke bowls were made for deconstructed-style serving when you're in the mood for rice plus fresh ingredients. A big pot of rice is the first thing to make, along with sushi-grade marinated fish. Alternatives for the raw-fish squeamish could include cooked fish, cooked chicken, or tofu. Then, raid your fridge for fresh ingredients to serve to add to the poke bowl. Watermelon radish slices, cucumber slices, green onions, onion slices, avocado, steamed edamame, seaweed salad, and shredded carrots are good options. You could also provide cubed fruit like mango and pineapple. Don't forget garnishes like sesame seeds.

Recipe: Easy Homemade Poke Bowl

26. Pasta bar

A pasta bar has the potential for lots of creativity and individuality. In the summer, it's a great way to feature the bounty you picked up from the farmer's market or what's been growing in your garden. Of course, pasta is your base, but you can offer multiple types like regular and gluten-free. You could go with just marinara sauce or also offer Alfredo. Provide plenty of cooked veggies ranging from zucchini to bell peppers and onions. Think about what you have for toppings like meats, cheeses, fresh herbs, and pepper flakes.

Recipe: Easy Fresh Summer Vegetable Pasta

27. Fajitas

When you get fajitas at a restaurant, they come to your table sizzling and deconstructed. So, you already know how this works. Grilled onions and peppers are your base veggies. However, you can make vegetarians happy by also offering other grilled veggies like mushrooms and zucchini. You'll want a choice of sliced, grilled meats. Plus, toppings like salsa, guacamole, and shredded lettuce are essential. Providing a choice of flour or corn tortillas will accommodate anyone who has gluten sensitivities.

Recipe: Homemade Chicken Fajitas

28. KFC Famous Bowl

The beauty of offering all the ingredients for a KFC Famous Bowl on a do-it-yourself bar is that people can choose to mix it all together into a bowl or eat the ingredients separately on a plate. The basic offerings for a KFC Famous Bowl are chicken nuggets, mashed potatoes, whole-kernel corn, shredded cheese, and gravy. You can go a step further than the original and provide green onions or some parsley as a colorful topper.

Recipe: Copycat KFC Famous Bowl

29. Paella

You normally think of paella as being a one-pot dish. However, it's also possible to cook ingredients separately to accommodate people who perhaps don't like seafood or sausage. The flavor of paella requires that you cook the rice together with ingredients like garlic and tomato. However, you can serve the rice portion separately from the cooked seafood and meats and also provide sides of cooked peas and fresh herbs like parsley or rosemary for topping.

Recipe: Paella

30. Baja bowls

Baja bowls combine the freshest flavors of Mexican cuisine with whole grains for a healthy do-it-yourself dish everyone can personalize. Baja bowls start with a base of cooked brown rice and red quinoa, which you can offer separately for picky eaters. Other ingredients include canned black beans, canned whole-kernel corn, cooked chicken, cherry tomatoes, cheese crumbles, and cubed avocado. Excellent topping options include regular salsa or salsa verde, yogurt or sour cream, and fresh cilantro.

Recipe: Copycat Panera Baja Bowl

31. Fettuccine Alfredo pasta bar

A good, rich Alfredo sauce is the star of a fettuccine Alfredo pasta bar. You can start by cooking up some nice fettuccine noodles and then making a thick Alfredo sauce from scratch. The real fun comes in dreaming up toppings. Chicken and shrimp are excellent meat choices. Steamed broccoli is always nice with Alfredo sauce, but you could also branch out to steamed asparagus, micro greens, cooked spinach, peas, mushrooms, and even cherry tomatoes. You'll also want to have some freshly-grated hard cheese on hand as well as red pepper flakes for heat.

Recipe: Easy Fettuccine Alfredo

32. Pizza rigatoni

Pizza rigatoni is usually a one-pot pasta dish that substitutes pasta for pizza crust. So, when you think about all the components to offer for a build-your-own pizza rigatoni, just think about your favorite pizza toppings. At a bare minimum, you need to offer rigatoni pasta, warm marinara sauce, and shredded mozzarella cheese. Some other topping options include pepperonis, sausage, bell peppers, onions, mushrooms, and even pepperoncini peppers. Be sure to put out some freshly-grated Parmesan cheese, fresh herbs, and red pepper flakes so people can dress up their pizza rigatoni to their liking.

Recipe: Pizza Rigatoni

33. Breakfast burritos

What people like on their breakfast burritos can be highly individual, so creating a breakfast burrito bar can be a crowd-pleaser. Start by offering scrambled eggs and a variety of breakfast meats. Then, consider providing veggies like grilled or fresh onions and bell peppers, sliced cherry tomatoes, and cubed avocado or guacamole. Hash browns or home fries provide a filling option, especially for vegans. You'll also want to give everyone a choice of toppings like sour cream and salsa. Fresh cilantro is also a nice addition to a breakfast burrito bar.

Recipe: California Breakfast Burrito Recipe

34. Cheesy fondue

Fondue has always been a fun way to allow multiple people to pick and choose the ingredients they want to dip into the cheesy sauce. While a fondue pot is helpful for serving fondue, it's not necessary. You can use kebab skewers for stabbing and dipping food into a pot of cheese sauce instead. However, a loaf of crusty bread is absolutely necessary. You can get creative with other items for dipping like sliced apples, cherry tomatoes, baby carrots, grapes, broccoli fleurets, or even cured meats.

Recipe: Copycat Melting Pot Cheesy Fondue

35. Chocolate fondue

For a dessert to please everyone, chocolate fondue is a winner. You'll start with a warm chocolate sauce and add anything you can dip in it. You need not be completely concerned with just offering items you can skewer like marshmallows, so cookies and pretzels are an option here as well. Even if guests aren't interested in dipping items in chocolate sauce, providing plenty of fresh fruit can stand as a healthy alternative to make everyone happy.

Recipe: Classic Chocolate Fondue

36. Greek stuffed peppers

Greek stuffed peppers are a Meditteranean twist on regular stuffed peppers. You can either bake the peppers separately from the fillings or allow guests to stuff their peppers with the ingredients they want before baking. As with regular stuffed peppers, assigning different colored peppers to guests can help keep fillings straight. Filling choices include rice, cooked ground beef or lamb, zucchini, and fire-roasted tomatoes. For a vegetarian or vegan option, you can provide chickpeas. Then, there are a variety of post-baking toppings you can offer like feta cheese, olives, and fresh parsley.

Recipe: Greek Stuffed Peppers

37. Pozole

The Mexican soup pozole is the perfect soup to serve buffet-style. It's notorious for having all sorts of possible toppings available for everyone to fancy it up to their liking. You can practically raid your fridge for fresh ingredients to add to the buffet. Start with your base soup and serve cooked chicken on the side, along with a cornucopia of fresh ingredients. Possible fresh toppings include jalapeños, fresh cilantro, sour cream, Fritos or crunchy tortilla strips, limes, sliced radishes, avocados, shredded cabbage, and sliced red onions.

Recipe: Pozole

38. Shabu shabu hot pot

There's certainly a communal element to a shabu shabu hot pot. Guests sit together around a boiling pot filled with ingredients. However, there are some more individualized elements that allow guests to personalize what they want. You can provide a choice of noodles as well as a choice of dipping sauces. Plus, anyone who wants meat will be dipping it into the pot with chopsticks to cook. It's as fun to eat together as fondue but with Japanese flavors.

Recipe: Easy Shabu Shabu

39. Banh mi bar

A banh mi bar offers a Vietnamese twist on the idea of sub sandwiches. French baguettes are a must for these sandwiches as are slices of Vietnamese Cha Lua (pork rolls). Those partaking in the banh mi bar should be able to choose from fresh ingredients like sliced cucumbers, shredded pickled carrots, sliced daikon radish, jalapeños, and cilantro. Be sure to also offer toppings like kewpie mayo and Maggi seasoning for sprinkling to complete the sandwich.

Recipe: Classic Banh Mi