5 Small Thanksgiving Dinner Ideas

small Thanksgiving table scape

The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

Cooking Thanksgiving dinner for you and your partner or a small group of friends can be just as special as a feast for 20. Small Thanksgiving dinners can be warm and wonderful, and these tips will help you combine tradition and simplicity.

  • 01 of 05

    Set a Pretty Table

    pretty table setting

    The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

    A small guest list is no reason to set a bland place setting. Pull out the candlesticks and pick up a bouquet of fresh flowers. For an extra special touch, create your own Thanksgiving place cards to help make your guests feel welcome. A festive table setting or eye-catching centerpiece will make any meal feel special. 

  • 02 of 05

    Choose Turkey Breast

    serving turkey breast rather than a whole turkey

    The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

    One of the best parts of a small Thanksgiving is you don't have to buy a huge turkey that takes an entire day to cook. Consider buying a small turkey breast that you can prepare in the crockpot, or even turkey cutlets.

    Thanksgiving leftovers can be frozen and enjoyed at a later date, so if you feel strongly that you'd like a traditional whole turkey, you can still make one even with a small group. You can even save time and clean-up by purchasing a fully prepared turkey that goes right in your oven.

  • 03 of 05

    Limit the Side Dishes

    choosing fewer side dishes

    The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

    Keep your list of side dishes manageable and try to prepare one or two ahead of time, if possible. There's nothing wrong with choosing a few simple family favorites. Potatoes, stuffing, and a side of green beans make the perfect trio to complement your turkey.

    If there's a particular side that you enjoy but don't want to make, outsource part of your menu. Many grocery stores will offer classic Thanksgiving dishes in the prepared food section, or you can ask your guests to bring their favorite side to lessen your kitchen work.

  • 04 of 05

    Simplify Desserts

    bread pudding for dessert

    The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

    For many families, dessert sets Thanksgiving apart from other holidays. With pumpkins, apples, and cranberries to celebrate the harvest, there are numerous options to satisfy your sweet tooth. Choose a dessert your group will enjoy, and select a recipe that will be easy to make.

    To save time (and sanity), opt for ready-made pie crust. Or you can even skip the crust altogether and make a crisp or custard instead of a pie. Even easier, choose a frozen pie or pick up something from your local bakery.​

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  • 05 of 05

    Make New Traditions

    watching a festive broadcast via a live stream

    The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

    Include some new traditions to celebrate. Sign up for a local Turkey Trot in the morning or take a scenic walk after eating dinner; it's a great way to break up the day and get some exercise. Choose a favorite holiday movie to watch every year, or spend the evening getting ready for the winter holidays by making homemade advent calendars or DIY holiday ornaments.