With its bubbling pots of broth and plates piled high with thinly sliced meat, seafood, veggies and noodles, hot pot seems like a splurge meal. But is this interactive dining experience actually as budget-busting as it appears? As a hot pot fan on a budget, I’ve done some serious number crunching to figure out just how much this meal costs per person.
The answer, it turns out, is that it really depends. At a restaurant, hot pot for one can easily run you $25 or more once you factor in ingredients, sides and broth refills. But when made at home, you can put together a homemade hot pot for as little as $10 per person, and even less if you opt for affordable proteins and veggies. The broth itself only costs a few bucks for multiple servings.
In this post, I’ll share tips on calculating the per person cost of hot pot based on your ingredients. You’ll learn simple swaps to make hot pot more budget-friendly, whether dining out or cooking at home. With a little planning, you can still enjoy this fun meal without breaking the bank!
First, let’s look at the typical costs of key hot pot ingredients, and how you can scale them for any size gathering…
Hot Pot Cost at Restaurants
Hot pot is considered a special occasion meal in many Asian cultures, which is reflected in the price when dining out. Here are some typical costs per person:
All-you-can-eat restaurants: $25-$35 per person
- Includes unlimited broth refills and access to ingredient bar
- Quality of ingredients is middling
A la carte hot pot restaurants: $35-$60 per person
- Pay individually for broths, meats, veggies, etc.
- Ingredients are higher end
Chinese hot pot chains: $15-$25 per person
- Lower costs due to casual vibe and minimal service
- Ingredients lean affordable but not top shelf
As you can see, restaurants charge a premium for the experience, ingredients and service. Per person costs typically range from $25 on the low end for casual chains, up to $60+ at high end a la carte hot pot restaurants.
You’ll get the best value if you …
- Visit at lunch instead of dinner
- Choose chain hot pot on weekdays
- Stick to broth and veggies rather than pricey proteins
- Skip extras like dessert
Now let’s look at the DIY approach…
Hot Pot Cost at Home
When made at home, hot pot gets much more budget friendly. Here are some typical costs for ingredients:
Broths: $2-$5 for 4-6 servings
- Homemade broth: $2-3 for veggie, chicken or beef broth
- Store bought broth: $4-5 per 32oz carton or 4 cups
- Thin sliced beef: $7/lb (5-6 oz per serving)
- Pork shoulder or belly: $4/lb (5-6 oz per serving)
- Chicken breast: $3/lb (5-6 oz per serving)
- Shrimp: $10/lb (5-6 shrimp per serving)
- Tofu: $2 per 12-16oz package (6-8oz per serving)
Vegetables: $3-$5 per meal
- Cabbage, mushrooms, leafy greens, etc.
Noodles/Rice: $2-$3 per meal
- 1⁄2 cup uncooked rice or noodles per serving
Sauces: $1 per meal
- Soy, sesame, chili sauce
Total: Around $10 per person
By buying ingredients at the grocery store and making broth and sauces from scratch, you can easily feed one person hot pot for around $10 total. Having a group? Costs scale down further to $7-$8 when cooking for 4+ people.
Tips for Affordable Hot Pot
Want to maximize your savings when enjoying hot pot, whether dining out or eating in? Follow these money-saving tips:
Stick to Broth and Veggies
Focus on loading up on inexpensive broth, vegetables, tofu and minimal portions of meat to keep costs down. Veggies and tofu cost a fraction compared to meats.
Choose Economical Proteins
Pork shoulder, pork belly and chicken thighs offer the best value. Flank steak is the most budget beef. Limit pricey shrimp and scallops.
Make Your Own Broth
Broth is one of the most affordable elements. Opt for homemade chicken, vegetable or beef broth.
Cook at Home
You’ll save at least 50% by having hot pot at home rather than a restaurant.
Shop Sales and Discounts
Check circulars and clip coupons when buying hot pot ingredients like meat and produce.
Scale Recipes Down
Hot pot is highly adaptable. Make just what you need to avoid waste with smaller gatherings.
Skip Pricey Extras
At restaurants, avoid extras like dessert, drinks and fancy dipping sauces that drive up costs.
Sample Budget Hot Pots
Want some inspiration for wallet-friendly hot pots? Here are some of my go-to creations:
Veggie Lovers Hot Pot
Broth: Homemade vegetable broth
Proteins: Tofu, Tempeh
Veggies: Cabbage, mushrooms, sprouts
Starch: Rice noodles
Sauce: Soy, chili garlic
Cost Per Person: Around $8
Pork Belly and Kimchi Hot Pot
Broth: Chicken broth
Proteins: Pork belly, eggs
Veggies: Kimchi, green onions
Starch: Udon noodles
Cost Per Person: Around $10
Spicy Seafood Hot Pot
Broth: Seafood broth
Proteins: Shrimp, fish balls, scallops
Veggies: Bok choy, celery
Sauce: Soy ginger
Cost Per Person: Around $12
How much more expensive is restaurant hot pot compared to home hot pot?
Restaurant hot pot generally costs $25-60 per person, while a home hot pot meal can be made for as little as $10 per person depending on ingredients. The restaurant experience carries a premium.
What are the most budget-friendly proteins?
Pork shoulder, pork belly, chicken thighs/legs, and flank steak offer the best value. Shrimp, scallops, lobster and filet mignon are premium priced proteins.
Is hot pot cheaper for large groups?
Yes, costs scale down when splitting ingredients across more people. Hot pots for 4-6 people can be around $7-8 per person.
Should I make my own broth?
Absolutely – homemade broth only costs a few dollars for multiple servings versus $4-5 for store bought.
What are ways to save money at hot pot restaurants?
Go at lunch instead of dinner, choose a casual chain, stick to broth and veggies, avoid pricey extras like dessert, and limit portion of expensive proteins like seafood.
Is Hot Pot Worth the Splurge?
While hot pot may seem like an ultra-fancy meal best left to special occasions, with a little planning you can enjoy this interactive dining experience on a budget. Opt for affordable proteins like pork and chicken, make your own broth, and scale recipes down to avoid waste with smaller groups.
An at-home hot pot meal can easily be pulled off for as little as $10 per person – making this a fun meal for everyday gatherings with friends. With the right strategies, this special meal can work into your weekly rotation!