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Small Thanksgiving Dinner Ideas

Created October 30, 2023

Looking for what to do on Thanksgiving with a small family? Thanksgiving is still Thanksgiving, no matter if it’s 2 or even up to 6 people gathering. You can still have all the favorite flavors of a traditional feast, without making crowd-size recipes. Cooking for just a few can be a lot of fun and less daunting (you may only need a turkey breast, rather than a whole turkey and there will be less potatoes to peel, for example). Check out our great small Thanksgiving dinner menu ideas here for 2 or 3, 4 or 6 people.  Pick from the turkey, sides, and sweets options to pull together a small Thanksgiving dinner menu, no matter how few are seated around your table.

Miss having an entire tableful of guests? You could alternatively fill those empty seats at the table by inviting friends, neighbors or co-workers that wouldn’t otherwise have another place to go! We’ve got even more Thanksgiving dinner ideas, plus all the tips and tricks you could ever need, in our Thanksgiving Cheat Sheet.

Cooking for a smaller crowd can be a lot of fun, especially when you plan well. Here’s how to do a small-group Thanksgiving the Betty way.

  • Pick your menu from the list above. Then, save, print or pin your recipes, so it’s easy to make a list of the ingredients you need.
  • Before you make a shopping list, don’t forget to check your pantry. A quick check can add up to lots of savings at the grocery store.
  • Once you know what you need, you’ll be ready to shop. We love to plan early, so we can take advantage of any sales that come up in advance of the holiday. For all the tips on buying the right size turkey for your crowd, check out this guide to buying a turkey.
  • Your star, the turkey, needs special attention, especially if you’re starting with a frozen bird. Consult our handy poultry thawing chart to calculate how far in advance you’ll need to begin defrosting and remember, always thaw in the fridge.
  • Brining is one of our favorite ways to add flavor to a turkey, but this requires advance planning. For example, you may need to begin dry brining up to two days ahead. Find out all the details on how to brine whole turkey in Betty’s guide.
  • The day before Thanksgiving is a great time to do a couple of things ahead. For example, pumpkin pie is served chilled and will be perfectly fine in the fridge overnight. It’s the same story with cranberries. There are even some sides that can be at least partially prepped in advance, such as mashed potato casserole. The more you do ahead of time, the more time you’ll have to enjoy the actual holiday.
  • It’s a relatively simple task, but setting the table ahead is usually a good idea. It gives you the time to have fun decorating too.
  • You might want to take a peek inside your oven and see if your shelves need any rearranging in order to accommodate the bird and any sides that’ll need to be baked at the same time. It’s a whole lot easier to rearrange your shelves when they’re not already scorching hot.

Are you ready for the coziest Thanksgiving ever? We hope so and don’t forget, Betty’s got plenty more Thanksgiving recipes, plus all the tips and tricks you could ever need, in our Thanksgiving Cheat Sheet.