20 Festive Ideas for a Small Thanksgiving Dinner

Host a Generous Feast Without a Heap of Leftovers

Crockpot Maple-Glazed Turkey Breast

The Spruce/Katarina Zunic

Are you hosting a small Thanksgiving dinner this year? When you're feeding a tinier squad for the holiday, it can be tricky to plan a menu that feels full and festive without being far too much work. We've curated this menu of classic Thanksgiving recipes that serve four to six people generously for just such an occasion. Browse our delicious ideas below for appetizers, side dishes, entrees, and desserts that will make your intimate Thanksgiving feel just as special.

  • 01 of 20

    Carrot Ginger Soup With Almonds

    Carrot Ginger Soup With Almonds

    The Spruce

    Sweet, earthy, slightly spicy carrot ginger soup is a nourishing light starter for your holiday meal. The addition of slivered almonds thickens and enriches the soup, which is suitable for vegetarian eaters if you use vegetable broth. Top with crunchy croutons, chopped fresh parsley, or a grind of black pepper for an elegant first course.

  • 02 of 20

    Crockpot Maple-Glazed Turkey Breast

    Crockpot Maple-Glazed Turkey Breast With Cornbread Stuffing

    Katarina Zunic/The Spruce Eats

    Cooking a turkey breast versus a whole bird is a fabulous way to make Thanksgiving dinner for a smaller group. Use your crockpot for this mostly hands-free recipe that spends all day cooking in the appliance to yield tender white meat. Better yet, the cornbread stuffing cooks right alongside the turkey for a one-and-done holiday entree.

  • 03 of 20

    Festive Party Cheese Ball With Pecans

    Festive Party Cheese Ball With Pecans

    Lauri Patterson/Getty Images

    Cheesy on the eyes, and delicious on crackers. That's how we describe this fun party cheese ball that shapes grated sharp cheddar and cream cheese into a festive ball, and rolls the whole thing in finely chopped pecans. Make it a day ahead and chill in the fridge until the holiday celebration begins. Retro party appetizers don't get any cheddar than this.

  • 04 of 20

    Raw Vegan Kale and Orange Salad

    Raw Vegan Kale and Orange Salad

    Rasmusbredahl/Getty Images

    Use seasonal clementines or tangerine oranges to dress up a super-healthy raw kale salad. It's a colorful addition to your Thanksgiving dinner table, whether you serve it before the meal, or as a side dish. Chewy currants and grated carrots add extra sweetness to the mixture, as does the agave nectar in the zesty lime juice vinaigrette dressing.

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  • 05 of 20

    Apple, Blue Cheese, and Fig Salad

    Sweet and Savory Apple, Blue Cheese and Fig Salad

    Leah Maroney

    Sweet, tangy, and crunchy, this fall fruit and blue cheese salad hits all the right flavor notes. Crisp, tart apples, funky, salty blue cheese, and soft, tender salad greens all mingle in a luscious dressing starring fig jam. Prep the dressing early in the day, if you like, for last-minute tossing.

  • 06 of 20

    Instant Pot Pumpkin Pie

    Instant Pot Pumpkin Pie

    The Spruce/Diana Rattray

    When you have several holiday dishes jockeying for oven space, save room with Instant Pot pumpkin pie. Simply mix up the nicely-spiced pumpkin filling, and pour it into an easy-to-assemble graham cracker or cookie crust. Pop the pie dish right into the Instant Pot to bake, and then remove the pie to chill for a few hours in the fridge.

  • 07 of 20

    Roasted Bacon Turkey Tenderloin

    Roasted Bacon Turkey Tenderloin

    The Spruce

    Turkey tenderloin is the long, tender strip of white meat hidden beneath the turkey breast. Wrapping this quick-cooking cut in savory bacon strips is a great way to keep the meat moist as it cooks, while infusing it with delicious smoky flavor. Sliced into bacon-wrapped medallions, it is an elegant way to serve turkey to a discerning crowd.

  • 08 of 20

    Sweet Potato Cream Cheese Pie

    Sweet Potato Cream Cheese Pie

    The Spruce/Diana Rattray

    For those who love sweet potato pie and also love cheesecake, enjoy the best of both worlds in this delightful dessert. It's a cheesecake-style confection made with fresh or canned puréed sweet potatoes, cream cheese, brown sugar, and cozy baking spices. Plan to make it four hours (or up to five days) ahead, and chill in the fridge until ready to serve.

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  • 09 of 20

    Pork Rib Roast

    Pork Rib Roast

    Diana Rattray

    Surrounded by roasted fingerling potatoes and flavored with a garlicky, herbed white wine sauce, this pork rib roast is special enough to be the centerpiece of your holiday meal. The pan sauce can be drizzled over the sliced, juicy meat and potatoes, plus any other sturdy vegetables you would like to roast alongside them, for a great way to feed everyone at the table without using too many dishes.

  • 10 of 20

    Deep-Fried Turkey Breast

    Deep Fried Turkey Breasts

    The Spruce Eats

    If you've always wanted to try making deep-fried turkey for Thanksgiving, this is an excellent starter recipe. You don't need much time or any special equipment beyond a Dutch oven and an instant-read thermometer to deep-fry a boneless, skin-on turkey breast to perfection. It makes enough to feed four to six people and is sure to wow your family and friends.

  • 11 of 20

    Soft Pumpkin Cloverleaf Rolls

    Soft Pumpkin Cloverleaf Rolls

    The Spruce Eats/Julia Hartbeck

    Packed with tons of fall pumpkin flavor, soft, buttery cloverleaf dinner rolls are an irresistible addition to your holiday meal. They are much tastier than store-bought rolls, with an oh-so satisfying chewy and moist texture. Bake up a dozen in a muffin tin for holiday dinner and enjoy leftovers for breakfast the next day.

  • 12 of 20

    Quick Maple Mashed Sweet Potatoes

    Quick Maple Mashed Sweet Potatoes

    William Mahar/E+/Getty Images

    Starchy sweet potatoes mash up just as well as russets and don't need to be covered in marshmallows to taste amazing. A little maple syrup, orange juice, and butter jazzes up easily boiled and and mashed sweet potatoes for a holiday mash everyone at the table will want to devour. 

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  • 13 of 20

    Instant Pot Cranberry Sauce

    Instant Pot Cranberry Sauce

    Diana Rattray

    The Instant Pot makes it a snap to prepare and cook the essential Thanksgiving cranberry sauce in about 15 minutes. Sweet, tart, and ruby-red, it is a favorite accompaniment to holiday turkey, and a tasty addition to next-day sandwiches and casseroles with leftovers.

  • 14 of 20

    Vegan Barley, Wild Rice, and Cranberry Pilaf

    Vegan Barley, Wild Rice, and Cranberry Pilaf

    The Spruce/Diana Chistruga

    Whether you're looking for a healthy holiday side dish or a vegetarian Thanksgiving dinner entree, we offer you this scrumptious whole-grain barley and wild rice pilaf. Flavored with orange juice, and fresh parsley, and decorated with cranberries, it is a colorful addition to your meal. Stuff it into roasted acorn squash for a meatless main, or serve alongside roast poultry or pork.

  • 15 of 20

    Dairy-Free Bread Stuffing

    Dairy-Free Bread Stuffing

    The Spruce/Katarina Zunic

    You don't need to cook your holiday stuffing inside a turkey to get all the poultry flavor you crave. This recipe makes clever use of turkey (or chicken) broth, and is a great way to use up a loaf of bread going on the counter. It is also dairy-free, and includes loads of savory flavor from garlic, onion, and fresh and dried herbs.

  • 16 of 20

    Easy Skillet Green Beans and Bacon

    Easy Skillet Green Beans and Bacon

    The Spruce

    Crisp-tender green beans are a favorite holiday side dish that pair equally well with turkey and roasted meat. Coated in bacon drippings and butter, and decorated with crispy bacon bits, these beans are a tasty addition to your menu. Make them in about 30 minutes on the stovetop with fresh or frozen beans.

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  • 17 of 20

    Creamy Mashed Cauliflower and Leeks

    Creamy Mashed Cauliflower and Leeks

    Diana Rattray

    Creamy mashed cauliflower is a tasty, low-carb alternative to traditional mashed potatoes. Soft sauteéed leeks add extra flavor to the creamy mash, which finishes in a food processor for a silky-smooth texture. Heavy cream makes this a rich side, but you could sub in half-and-half for a lighter texture.

  • 18 of 20

    Scalloped Corn Casserole

    Scalloped Corn Casserole

    The Spruce Eats

    Use fresh, frozen, or canned corn to make this creamy scalloped corn casserole. The soft, buttery corn pudding is held together by an easy white sauce, and chopped bell pepper adds festive bits of color. Topped with a crispy, browned breadcrumb crust, it's a comforting, Southern-style side dish for your Thanksgiving menu.

  • 19 of 20

    Gravy Without Drippings

    Gravy Without Drippings

    The Spruce/Ali Redmond

    If you're a gravy lover, meet your new favorite easy gravy. It's made with basic pantry ingredients, and tastes just like you want it to. Skipping the turkey drippings means you can make this holiday gravy ahead, instead of rushing to cook it when you've got other dishes on the go.

  • 20 of 20

    No-Bake Chocolate Mousse Pie

    No-Bake Chocolate Mousse Pie

    The Spruce Eats

    You don't even need to turn on the oven for this no-bake chocolate mousse pie. It's super quick easy to assemble for your holiday dessert when you use a store-bought pastry crust (or make your own). You'll swoon for the fluffy chocolate cream cheese filling that needs just a few hours to set up inside the fridge.