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How to Host a Smaller, Smarter Thanksgiving

A small Thanksgiving dinner can still be plenty memorable. These smart shortcuts will help you scale down your dinner.

7 min read

Thanksgiving conjures up images of large gatherings with family and friends, complete with an endless array of dishes on the table and a boisterous, celebratory spirit. This year, things are going to look different. The packed get-together will likely be replaced with a small Thanksgiving dinner at home with just your immediate family, or even Thanksgiving for two. It may not be the same as what you’ve done in the past, but it shouldn’t be any less fun.

While we love Thanksgiving leftovers just as much as everybody else, this year, if you’re cooking for just a handful of people, consider scaling down. These four easy shortcuts ensure you’ll still get to enjoy each of your favorite holiday dinner components, scaled down to smaller serving sizes. It’s a smart, creative way to make the most of what’s different about Thanksgiving this year while still ensuring it’s special, festive, and most importantly, delicious.


Even a small turkey serves upwards of eight to 10 people. Instead of searching for the tiniest turkey, which can be hard to find, swap it out for a smaller bird entirely: Roast a chicken rather than a turkey. A whole chicken usually weighs about three pounds and perfectly feeds four people. It’s also an ideal bird for a Thanksgiving for two, because it’ll yield leftovers.

Roast a Smaller Bird


Streamline your mashed potatoes. Instead of working hard to achieve the silkiest, smoothest mashed potatoes, embrace an easier, more rustic approach. To do this, simply cut a few potatoes into chunks. Aim for about one medium potato per person. You can peel them, but it’s not necessary. Place the chunks in a large pot, cover them with water, and bring to a boil. Simmer the potatoes until they’re tender.

While the potatoes cook, warm some butter, half-and-half, and salt together in a small pot until the butter is melted. Drain the potatoes, transfer them to a deep serving dish, and mash them right in the dish. Add the warm butter mixture, stir until combined, and sprinkle with chopped chives.

Stick with One Simple Veggie

Here’s how: Preheat the oven to 450ºF. Stuff a whole chicken with fresh herbs, lemon wedges, and garlic cloves, rub it with olive oil or softened butter, and season it with salt and pepper. For additional flavor, season it with lemon zest and fresh herbs. Tie the legs together with twine and place the chicken on a roasting rack set inside a roasting pan. Turn the oven temperature down to 400ºF — this helps brown and crisp the skin without drying it out — and put the chicken in the oven. What’s great is it will only take about an hour to cook at 400ºF rather than the multiple hours it takes to roast a turkey. To check if it’s done, insert an instant-read thermometer into the thickest part of the chicken’s thigh, not touching bone, to check that the turkey’s internal temperature is 165°F.

S(mash) Your Potatoes


Rather than overwhelm yourself with a mix of different vegetable sides, just choose one for your small Thanksgiving dinner. Since the chicken will be taking up oven space, cook your veggie on the stovetop. Green beans are a Thanksgiving classic and easy to prepare. Opt for a generous handful per person and trim them before cooking. When the trimmed green beans are ready to go, melt butter in a large sauté pan, add the green beans and some minced or thinly sliced garlic, and use a pair of tongs to sauté them until tender and glossy, 5 to 6 minutes. Season the green beans with salt and a spritz of lemon juice before serving. For an extra crunch, top them with sliced almonds.

Go for a Galette


While pie is traditional, a galette is just as festive and a whole lot easier to make. It also serves four to six people rather than the eight to 10 slices you usually get out of a pie. Its rustic appearance feels quite celebratory.

Start with store-bought pie crust and a fall-inspired apple galette comes together in no time. If it’s not already rolled out, roll it out into a large round, about 12-inches in diameter. Chop a few apples and toss them with a bit of sugar, flour, lemon juice, and spices like ground cinnamon and nutmeg. Spread the apple mixture out into the center of the pie crust round and fold up the edges over the apple mixture. Top with pats of butter and a generous sprinkle of cinnamon-sugar, brush the pie crust with egg wash, and bake the galette at 425ºF until golden-brown. Since it can be served at room temperature, this is a perfect thing to tackle before you start roasting the chicken — the oven will then be preheated for cooking the bird.

While parts of Thanksgiving will look different this year, some things will never change. Though your get-together may be smaller, you can still enjoy a scaled-down version of all your favorite festive flavors. For more Thanksgiving recipes and cooking tips, read more on the blog.


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