How exactly to scale down Thanksgiving this year if you’re cooking for 1 or 2

How are you celebrating Thanksgiving this year? (Pexels.)

The pandemic certainly taught us how to get creative when it comes to celebrating holidays.

And regardless of that, cooking up a giant turkey packed with stuffing might not be as realistic for some, especially if you live alone or with a roommate or two.

You could always scrap a traditional Thanksgiving meal and make whatever your heart desires, but if you still find yourself craving turkey, potatoes, stuffing and the rest of the Thanksgiving goodness, here are some ways that you can scale down your menu so you don’t end up with a fridge full of leftovers.


Thanksgiving isn’t complete without turkey, but cooking one for just a few people is going to mean you’ll have leftovers for days, if not weeks.

While some may want leftovers, it’s also a lot of work to do a whole turkey, so why not just make two turkey breasts? Or if you want dark meat, try cooking just a turkey leg.

Turkey is such a versatile meat to prepare, too, so don’t be afraid to try different methods. You can marinate it, soak it in a brine, bake it, deep fry it and even smoke it. Don’t be scared -- take some risks. Thanksgiving is different this year, so go with a different way to prep your bird.


Your typical stuffing is often baked inside the cavity of the turkey, hence why it’s called “stuffing,” but a lot of people just bake it in a dish on its own. This is something you could easily do for a small group of people, so that you don’t have to go all out by making enough stuffing to fit inside a 25-pound turkey.

Stuffing is one of those side dishes that can work with a number of different flavor combinations. You can always go traditional with the trusty Stovetop brand, but you could also opt to do homemade, and use a fancy bread, and jazz it up with maybe some apples or breakfast sausage. Just like making your turkey, have some fun with it.

Mashed potatoes

This is another Thanksgiving must-have, and it’s honestly pretty easy to downsize mashed potatoes -- just don’t boil as many potatoes as you normally would. Instead of boiling a five-pound bag, just do six or seven medium- to small-sized potatoes, and you’ve got plenty for two people.

If you still want potatoes but you don’t want to deal with making a pot of them, why not do a spin on the food?

If you don’t want to waste anything, try a baked potato bar. You can bake a giant potato and load it up with butter, sour cream, cheese, scallions and even bacon bits. And if you want a healthier version, have a baked sweet potato instead. Perhaps you could make homemade honey cinnamon butter for your sweet potato, too.

Green bean casserole

Just like stuffing and mashed potatoes, green bean casserole is one of those classic Thanksgiving dishes that seems sacrilegious not to have on the table -- but preparing a big casserole for just a few people doesn’t really seem realistic this Thanksgiving.

Instead, why not do a deconstructed green bean casserole? Sauté some green beans in a pan (or haricots verts, if you’re feeling fancy), along with onions and garlic, with a little bit of butter. Then toss them with some toasted panko breadcrumbs. That way, you’re still getting the green been and onion flavor with the crunchy top of the casserole, thanks to the breadcrumbs.

Pumpkin pie

You can’t forget dessert. We have a couple of options for you.

A lot of this decision comes down to whether you want leftovers or not. If you do, then make your own normal-sized pie (or buy one) and eat all the pumpkin pie you want all Thanksgiving weekend.

You could also make a mini pumpkin pie. Some grocery stores might sell them, and there are tons of recipes online for making a tiny version of the classic dessert. There is a pretty easy recipe you can follow right here.

If you don’t feel like baking but you still want something sweet with pumpkin in it, try finding some pumpkin spice-flavored ice cream or even pumpkin spice cinnamon rolls. There are so many different pumpkin-spiced treats out there, so we’re sure you’ll find something.

No matter what you do, don’t stress about it. This past year or two have been a roller coaster of a ride, so enjoy the holidays with your little bubble of family, watch some movies or binge a new TV show.

About the Author:

Jack is a Digital Content Editor with a degree in creative writing and French from Western Michigan University. He specializes in writing about movies, food and the latest TV shows.