Thanksgiving Dinner Portion Planner

While ensuring you have everyone's Thanksgiving favorites on the table can be daunting, figuring out how much of each dish to have doesn't have to be. Take the guesswork out of portion size and shopping math with our Thanksgiving planner.


The number of appetizers you serve depends on their type and on how much other food you are having. Their purpose is to make everyone feel welcome and comfortable, to take the edge off people's hunger and to whet their appetites. Three or four bites of food per person should be plenty. For shrimp cocktail, oysters or larger crostini, plan about two pieces per person. If you're serving smaller, one-bite hors d'oeuvres, allot three per person total. For dip, 3 ounces per guest will be plenty. Consider putting out some raw vegetables with your dip as a lighter, healthier pre-dinner alternative to chips or crackers.

4 guests: 12 small hors d'oeuvres, 12 ounces dip; 8 guests: 24 small hors d'oeuvres, 1 1/2 pounds dip; 12 guests: 36 small hors d'oeuvres, 2 1/4 pounds dip; 16 guests: 48 small hors d'oeuvres, 3 pounds dip

Illustrations by Marilyn Pollack Naron

See More Photos: 82 Thanksgiving Appetizers That Are Sure to Impress


If you serve cheese before the meal, offer 2 ounces of cheese per guest. We prefer the prettier look of serving cheese in wedges instead of cubes. Guests can slice their own bites to eat with crackers, and they will be less likely to overdo it before the meal begins. If serving cheese as a final course, you can serve less, since at that point cheese is more about flavor than appetite.

4 guests: 8 ounces; 8 guests: 1 pound; 12 guests: 1 1/2 pounds; 16 guests: 2 pounds

See More Photos: How to Set Up a Cheese Plate


The right amount of wine to serve varies from guest to guest. One bottle of wine is 6 moderate or 4 very big glasses, and that should be enough to serve two to three guests. If you're serving wine before the meal, as well, assume your guests will probably drink a little bit more. And, you know your friends: Serve enough to satisfy them while still being responsible.

4 guests: 1 to 2 bottles; 8 guests: 2 to 3 bottles; 12 guests: 4 to 5 bottles; 16 guests: 6 to 7 bottles

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With turkey and all the fixins yet to come, there's no need to ladle more than 1 cup of soup into each guest's bowl as an appetizer.

4 guests: 4 cups; 8 guests: 8 cups; 12 guests: 12 cups; 16 guests: 1 gallon

See More Photos: Thanksgiving Soup Recipes


When purchasing a turkey for the big day, think 1 1/2 pounds per guest. Once the turkey has been carved, this will ensure that there will be plenty of meat at the table — and with leftovers to spare. If you know the majority of your guests may prefer white meat, skip buying the whole bird in favor of purchasing separate breasts and legs, and roast them separately. If you're buying boneless meat, assume about 8 ounces per guest.

4 guests: 6 pounds; 8 guests: 12 pounds; 12 guests: 18 pounds; 16 guests: 24 pounds

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A little bit of gravy goes a long way, but it's just too sad to run out, and you want leftover gravy if you have leftover turkey. Allot at least 1/3 cup gravy per guest, and have about one extra cup for every six people.

4 guests: 2 cups; 8 guests: 4 cups; 12 guests: 6 cups; 16 guests: 7 1/2 cups

How to Make: Make the Perfect Gravy

Cranberry Sauce

A Thanksgiving staple, cranberry sauce is a condiment that doubles as a side dish all on its own. Prepare 1/3 to 1/2 cup cranberry sauce per guest.

4 guests: 2 cups; 8 guests: 4 cups; 12 guests: 6 cups; 16 guests: 8 cups

See More Photos: 42 Cranberry Sauce Recipes That Are Truly Special


Typically the big crowd-pleaser at the table, stuffing is one side dish you don't want to run out of, so assume each guest will eat about 3/4 cup (cooked). If you know you're feeding a crowd that especially loves stuffing and might want seconds — or thirds — bake an extra batch out of the turkey to have on hand just in case. You can always use any leftovers for sandwiches the next day.

4 guests: 3 cups; 8 guests: 6 cups; 12 guests: 9 cups; 16 guests: 12 cups

See More Photos: 84 Thanksgiving Stuffing Recipes That Are Full of Flavor

Mashed Potatoes

While potato sizes vary greatly, make grocery shopping easier by assuming 1 large Yukon gold potato per guest. This should come out to about 3/4 cup of mashed potatoes per person.

4 guests: 3 cups; 8 guests: 6 cups; 12 guests: 9 cups; 16 guests: 12 cups

Food Network Magazine's Recipe for: Perfect Mashed Potatoes


In order to keep your guests from filling up on bread before dinner even begins, serve rolls as a side dish with the main meal instead. For a heartier variation, substitute cornbread or popovers for regular dinner rolls.

4 guests: 6 rolls; 8 guests: 12 rolls; 12 guests: 18 rolls; 16 guests: 24 rolls

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Vegetable Sides

With everything else going on at the table, assume each guest will eat about 4 ounces of vegetables total. Keep in mind that salad will be a different story; each guest will likely eat only about 1 ounce of greens.

4 guests: 1 pound; 8 guests: 2 pounds; 12 guests: 3 pounds; 16 guests: 4 pounds

See More Photos: 52 Thanksgiving Vegetable Sides That Will Steal the Show


Always bound to be a big hit at the end of the meal, one 9-inch pie typically feeds 6 to 8. However, if a few of your guests are known for their sweet tooth, it can never hurt to buy an extra pie — chances are, it won't go to waste.

4 guests: 1 pie; 8 guests: 1 to 2 pies; 12 guests: 2 to 3 pies; 16 guests: 3 to 4 pies

See More Photos: 57 Thanksgiving Pies and Tarts That Are Sure to Please

Coffee and Tea

Assume 1 cup of either per guest to be safe. Some of your guests might not have saved room for even one more drop, but having enough coffee and tea just in case keeps you on the safe side.