If you’re celebrating Thanksgiving with just a few people, like we will, it’s hard to decide what to cook. I’m often torn between making everything I want, and making only the essentials. It makes planning pretty difficult because I just don’t want to miss out on anything.
Over the years, I’ve figured out an easy way to make sure I don’t have to sacrifice the holiday spirit without going overboard. There are just some basics you don’t want to miss out on, like stuffing and turkey, and there are a few things you’ll have to let go, like having a selection of pies to choose from.
For those of you who are in the same predicament as me, I’ve planned out a small, but still full menu for your Thanksgiving this year. Make one item from each section of the menu, or tailor it to suit your needs.
For only 4 people, a single appetizer recipe should be plenty. This pumpkin hummus is a great option, but this cranberry salsa is also really great. You can serve it with tortilla chips or spread it over cream cheese (dairy free, of course).
For a main dish, you have plenty of options. I think the most traditional choice would be a brined turkey breast or this apple cider brined grilled turkey breast since you’re still getting turkey without having to make a whole bird, but you could also roast a spatchcock chicken or even serve stuffed pork chops.
Thanksgiving is all about the sides, and I know everyone has their own favorites. This is usually the one place that I won’t cut down recipes, but for our small Thanksgiving dinners, I usually just pick two or three traditional sides. For me, that’s homemade stuffing and fresh green bean casserole and cranberry sauce.
If you’re not feeling the green beans this year, I love this kale and brussels sprouts salad. It’s a great way to get your greens in, plus the leftovers hold up really nicely.
These are all full sized recipes and could be cut in half without much fuss. Just use a smaller dish for baking and cut the baking time by about one-third.
Desserts are hard one to cut back on at Thanksgiving. We normally make a full spread including my mom’s apple crisp and a dairy free pumpkin pie (and so many more), but with less people to serve, these easy apple tarts and mini pecan pies would be easy to cut in half.
You could also just choose your favorite pie and leave it at that. We love using this crisco pie crust recipe for all of our pies because it’s super flaky and really easy to make!
How to make it special
Dress up the table.
Bonus points for garnishing your serving dishes with fresh herbs like sage and rosemary for a more festive look.
Even though it’s hard to feel grateful this year, it’s important to celebrate and be thankful for the things that we do have. I love the idea of using a kraft paper table runner to write out your thanks.
Play some games.
Our family isn’t super into games, but I think playing some games together can really help liven up your Thanksgiving, especially when you can’t be with extended family. Try some Thanksgiving charades or Thanksgiving ring toss to entertain the kids.
Published: November 21, 2014. Updated: November 17, 2021.
This post contains affiliate links. I may earn commission from qualifying purchases at no additional cost to you. I will never recommend a product I don’t use or trust.