How to Make Thanksgiving Dinner for Two

A no-stress plan plus easy, scaled-back recipes.

Making Thanksgiving dinner for two should be a lot easier than cooking for a crowd. You’ve just got to figure out how to tailor a menu and recipes that are typically designed for a larger group of people. Brilliant pro tip: if you don’t like green beans or mashed sweet potatoes, don’t make ’em. If you never eat that side salad, nix it. A fast and easy way to scale down the meal is to cut out a few sides — but read on for some more smart tips.

Take a Minimalist Approach to Tools and Decorations

The benefit of cooking for two is that you don’t need to shell out a bunch of cash on fancy tools and decorations (if you don’t want to). A small turkey or chicken means you can roast it on a baking sheet and skip the roasting pan. And did you know that you don’t really need a baster? You can baste that turkey by spooning roasting liquid up and over your turkey with a large spoon. The only two tools we really recommend you have? An instant read thermometer for taking your meat’s temperature and a potato ricer, for achieving ultra-smooth mashed potatoes. When it comes to decorations, chances are your table will be so filled with food there won’t be much room … but lighting a candle always sets the mood. Another seasonal, but easy flourish is covering the table in some brown butcher paper. It feels rustic-chic and makes cleanup a breeze.

Herb-Roasted Turkey Breast; Ina Garten

Photo by: Tara Donne

Tara Donne

There’s No Need to Cook a Whole Turkey

Turkeys are large and hard to cook. There, we said it. If Thanksgiving won’t be the same without a whole turkey, opt for the smallest one you can find. For perspective, a six-pound bird feeds four people. That’ll give two people enough meat for leftovers galore. If you’re a fan of white meat, consider just roasting the turkey breast. Ina Garten’s Herb Roasted Turkey Breast has hundreds of five-star reviews because it’s easy to maneuver, cooks evenly and ends up way juicier than breast from a whole bird. Alternatively, you don’t even have to cook a whole breast to attain that classic turkey flavor. Inexpensive turkey tenderloin cooks up just like chicken tenderloin; this Roasted Turkey Tenderloin with New Potatoes and Tarragon Broth recipe is in the oven for just 40 minutes.

Swap the Turkey for a Chicken

Considering most people roast turkey once a year but roast whole chickens all year long, it’s not a stretch to conclude we’re all probably better at roasting chickens than turkeys. It’s all about the practice, people. Plus, a whole roast chicken is more appropriately sized for two people. And if you add seasonal herbs to the chicken, it’ll taste just as festive. Food Network Kitchen’s Roast Chicken is the perfect option. Stuffed with garlic, shallot, thyme, rosemary, sage and lemon, it tastes just like Thanksgiving. Want to knock out the sides in one recipe? Our Thanksgiving Chicken Over Roasted Vegetables makes it even easier to get all that traditional flavor while taking a scaled-down approach.

Food Network Kitchen’s Small-Batch Green Bean Casserole.

Photo by: Matt Armendariz

Matt Armendariz

Make Smaller Batch Sides

Some Thanksgiving dishes, like casseroles and pies, are designed specifically to feed lots of people. Instead of foregoing them, you could make Food Network’s scaled-down versions. Take Food Network Kitchen’s Small Batch Green Bean Casserole. It has all the classic flavors, down to the addictive crispy onions, but is made in a pie plate instead of a casserole dish. Or Food Network Kitchen’s Small Batch Sweet Potato Casserole, which is made in cutie ramekins. A happy result? Just the right ratio of sweet potato to marshmallow. Small Batch Dinner Roles are a great option for the duo who loves a buttery role but doesn’t want to drown in them for days. While a Small Batch Sweet Potato Pie for Two is just the recipe you should make if you want to indulge once, but not be tempted leftovers. Last but not least, we’d be very remiss not to mention Food Network Kitchen’s Sheet Pan Thanksgiving for Two, which is just as magical as it sounds: an entire small-scale meal that roasts on your sheet pan.

Food Network Kitchen’s Stuffing Crust Chicken Pot Pie.

Photo by: Matt Armendariz

Matt Armendariz

Combine the Flavors of Several Classic Dishes Into One

Maybe you love sweet potatoes and gravy and stuffing and turkey … but don’t want to dirty all of those dishes. Have you thought of mashing them up into one glorious dish? Stuffing Crust Chicken Potpie is waiting for you. Yep, it’s made with chicken and not turkey, but you could easily swap in turkey tenderloin instead of the chicken if you’d prefer. Although if you do start with boxed stuffing and rotisserie chicken … no one will be the wiser. Tyler Florence’s Green Bean Casserole is another great example. Instead of topping it with green beans, you crown it with shortcut stuffing. Creamy green beans + stuffing = pure deliciousness. For a healthier option, look no further than Giada’s Cornbread Panzanella Salad, which leans on cornbread croutons (it’s okay to use store-bought!).

Photo by: STEPHEN MURELLO

STEPHEN MURELLO

Use Up Leftovers Within Four Days (Or Freeze Them)

You have until the Monday after Thanksgiving to use up any leftovers, or you can totally freeze items like stuffing, gravy or mashed potatoes for later. There’s no shame in simply reheating and eating leftovers. But if you’re looking for some new recipe inspiration, turn to something that’s super easy and brings new flavors to the table. For leftover Leftover Thanksgiving Nachos, you’ll simply scatter your leftovers over tortilla chips, melt cheese over them, and garnish with cilantro, chipotle sour cream, black olives and pickled jalapenos. That’ll wake up your tastebuds. This Turkey Waldorf Salad is like a breath of fresh air — light, crisp and creamy.

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