How to Have a Big Thanksgiving for a Small Crowd (With All the Trimmings!)
It’s going to be a different kind of Thanksgiving this year, but you can still enjoy a delicious, traditional celebration with your nearest and dearest. Sponsored by Shady Brook Farms and Honeysuckle White.
This year, you’re likely not hosting the whole fam for the holidays. Thanksgiving may be a smaller affair — more like a turkey-and-stuffing-themed dinner party with immediate family, or perhaps your quaranteam. Not to worry, this year can be merry and bright — and delicious! — at a slightly smaller scale.
If you're a holiday lover like us, you still want a Thanksgiving-y Thanksgiving. There will be turkey. Turkeys from sister brands Shady Brook Farms and Honeysuckle White are raised by independent family farms and free of growth-promoting antibiotics. Honeysuckle White turkey is available throughout the Midwest United States and Shady Brook Farms turkey is available in the Northeast and along the East Coast.
Traditions are comforting, and that's why a lot of folks are sticking with the classic Turkey Day spread this year. In addition to the turkey, there will be stuffing. There will be pie. If your aunt’s candied sweet potatoes are the highlight of your meal, get the recipe (and remember to take a photo for her before you eat it all!). But remember that it doesn't have to look exactly the way it always does. With a smaller crowd, you can play around a little more in the kitchen. This year, maybe you make a few new traditions. Read on for delicious Thanksgiving recipes with a twist.
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Appetizers you can scale up or down
For a smaller crowd, you don’t need to overthink it — just a tempting spread of something festive that's a little fancier than the standard cheese plate.
This is an easy no-bake app — just three ingredients — with major flavor. It scales nicely to whatever size your group is: You can picture how many each person in the family might eat (none for your picky toddler, but extra for your salty-sweet-loving partner) and make just that many. Extras are easy to whip up if there's a sudden run on the appetizer platter.
When in doubt, bacon. This appetizer recipe, which The Pioneer Woman calls “vintagy and prosaic,” will make your kitchen smell amazing. They cook for two hours, so be sure to tackle them well before the bird. Read the reviews on this one and you'll be sold.
Not your traditional turkey recipes
Yes, you can have all the turkey without doing the whole bird. (Or if you're a do-or-die, whole-bird type of person, we hear you. We've got one for you, and keep reading for plans to use up those wonderful leftovers.)
Turkey tenderloin — and especially stuffed tenderloin — has all the ta-da without all the to-do. This recipe, from Skinnytaste, has some of the best flavors fall has to offer. Just watch your cook time, as tenderloin is quite lean.
This one includes a bold orange-juice brine to ensure that the meat is moist and flavorful.
You could grill the tenderloin, too. It's a great way to make a really flavorful entree.
As any dark meat fan will attest, why even bother with the rest of the bird? These rich, braised drumsticks take less than two hours and can be prepared well ahead of time.
For many people, it’s all about the turkey breast — not just at the Thanksgiving meal itself but in the leftover sandwiches to follow. In which case, Yummly has you covered. This Instant Pot recipe calls for bone-in, skin-on turkey breasts to keep things moist and flavorful. Bonus: It leaves your oven and stovetop free for making all the sides.
For a more traditional approach, you can also roast the bone-in turkey breast. “It’s the perfect way to get that turkey fix, without having a massive amount of leftovers, plus it cooks faster and it’s way simpler to carve,” says Erin of Platings and Pairings. Done.
If you simply must go big and do a whole turkey, because the table won’t feel right without it, that’s understandable. This Yummly original recipe will keep you on track for a bird around 11 to 14 pounds. There will be leftovers, but that's just one more reason to do it, right?
This whole-bird recipe from Shady Brook Farms includes a classic brine with seasonings like bay leaves and garlic. The brine is followed by an elegant sweet-savory mélange of aromatics for the cavity of the turkey: Fennel, apple, and a whole orange are the secret to having a house filled with irresistible Thanksgiving aromas.
Just because you aren’t doing a whole bird doesn’t mean you have to go without stuffing. On the contrary, it's a chance to really hone your stuffing game.
The best part of going small for a big holiday meal is all the adorable individualized servings — like these vegetarian stuffing muffins from Yummly.
It’s stovetop, without being store-bought — from our friends at The Kitchn.
Recipes for your Thanksgiving leftovers
(Assuming you have any!)
The best part of Thanksgiving? Turkey sandwiches for days. This no-recipe recipe from Talia Bunting adds a bit of brie to the mix.
For a lighter take, try this riff on the traditional cobb salad, from Family Food on the Table.
And for a decidedly more indulgent option, poutine with deep-fried leftover stuffing, turkey, gravy, cranberry sauce, and cheese curds — from Food & Wine. Maybe this is your version of self-care.
If you're feeling nostalgic for the 70s, this one's got your name on it — a comforting turkey pasta casserole that spares no calories.
And for dessert, we have...
Traditional Thanksgiving pie flavors in unexpected ways.
Dare you to eat just one. If you make the full batch but have a small crew coming to the table, you can carefully wrap and freeze the extras for later in the holiday season.
I mean, how cute are these? And dead simple to boot.
Or, for an unexpected frozen treat that still tastes seasonally appropriate, consider this combination of cookies, ice cream, and pie, all rolled into one. A big advantage here is that it can be made and frozen well ahead of time — a real help if you're shorthanded in the kitchen this year.