Don't let Turkey Day downsizing ruffle your feathers.
mother carving a small turkey at the Thanksgiving table with her son watching
Credit: VioletaStoimenova / Getty Images

This year, Thanksgiving will look quite different as we celebrate with just the people we live with or perhaps our small quarantine bubble. But what do you do when all of the traditional recipes in your repertoire serve 12 to 16 people? Here's how to reduce your Thanksgiving preparations to a smaller, more manageable scale.

Small-Scale Thanksgiving Recipes


Look for a small, 9- to 10-pound turkey, or consider serving turkey breast, legs, or thighs instead. If you aren't committed to turkey, you can go with a large chicken or small picnic ham.


Some recipes are forgiving enough to halve or even quarter. Mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, and stuffing are all good candidates for this. You may, however, want to use less seasoning and fat than your divided-up recipe calls for. You can always add more butter or salt later, but you can't take it out.

It's also worth noting that Thanksgiving and Christmas menus feature a lot of the same foods. You can make these dishes without scaling down, freeze half for Christmas, and feel like a holiday hero. Cranberry sauce, gravy, soups, stuffing, sweet potatoes, greens, mac and cheese, breads, and sweets all freeze well.

Not planning a Christmas dinner? Make the full recipe and store extras in freezer-safe containers for ready-made meals all season long.

Desserts and Rolls

When it comes to baked goods, you're better off not dividing recipes. Baking is a science, and your measurements may not add up to a fabulous finished product. Instead, make the whole recipe and freeze the portion you won't use. You can freeze bread dough and rolls unbaked. Many cookies, cakes, cupcakes, cheesecakes, and pies hold in freezer, too.

More Ideas for a Smaller Thanksgiving

Divide the Cooking

Who's included in your usual celebration? Does your Thanksgiving crew live close by? Or do you have friends and neighbors nearby who will also be celebrating in small groups? Consider a Thanksgiving share.

Each household chooses one or two dishes to prepare in advance and makes enough for all of the groups to get a family-sized share. That way, no one has to make the whole meal on their own and the large-volume recipes can remain unaltered.

A Non-Traditional Thanksgiving Dinner

Finally, don't be afraid to think outside the box. Discuss the menu with your guests to determine what's on the must-have list and where there might be room to experiment. You may even discover new dishes that will become traditions from here on out.