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It’s November, and that means it is time to start thinking about Thanksgiving. Do you know how many guests you are serving this year? How much food should you make? Keep reading to get my tips on how much food to make for your Thanksgiving feast!
Planning the Thanksgiving Feast
In our family, Thanksgiving is a day to be together as a family, eat delicious foods, and just spend time together. Typically, we have anywhere from 10-18 people. I’ve already acquired the star of the show … a 24-pound turkey … which is currently in the freezer until about the 19th of the month.
Since the turkey is already taken care of, I can turn my attention to the rest of our Thanksgiving menu and figure out just how much food I need to prepare to keep tummies full and have some leftovers to enjoy later.
We usually serve a single appetizer, such as a spinach dip or crudité while I’m in the kitchen finishing up the Thanksgiving meal prep. When you are serving a dip, you want to plan on 3oz per person. If you’re putting together a cheese plate for your guests to nosh on you want to serve 2oz per person. And then, don’t forget the items you are serving with your dip or cheese. Crackers, dried fruits, veggies, and nuts can round out your appetizer course and not take much time to pull together. On Thanksgiving, the appetizers aren’t the star of the show, so I tend to stay away from a large variety where on Christmas and New Year’s there would be more of a spread.
If you are serving a green salad as its own course, plan on 2 cups per person. If you will be serving the salad as a side alongside the meal, you only need to prepare 1 cup per person. Dress up your salad with apples, dried cranberries, and nuts to make it a bit more festive for the holiday.
The rule of thumb is to plan on 8oz of protein per guest. Since a whole turkey also has the weight of the bones, you actually want to purchase your turkey based on 1 lb per person to make sure there is enough meat for all of your guests. If you have big eaters, or you want leftovers, plan as much as 2lbs of turkey per person. If you know the majority of your guests prefer white meat, skip making the whole roasted turkey and opt for 1-2 turkey breasts instead.
This year, I’m planning on 10 guests and a 24 lb turkey so that I have leftovers for at least 2-3 meals over Thanksgiving weekend.
If you are serving vegetarian or vegan guests in addition to omnivores, take the plunge and prepare a vegan roast and offer two entrees so you can accommodate everyone. I know they will tell you they’ll just bring something or eat sides, but it’s nice to have a proper meal for all of your guests to enjoy. Plan on about 6-8 ounces of a vegan roast per person. If vegan roasts aren’t on your menu usually, check out this taste test for the best meatless “turkey” roast to serve your guests.
Stuffing and Potatoes are important features on our Thanksgiving table. To make sure you have enough of each, plan on 3/4 cup (about 1/2 lb) of each per person. If you have a few “no veggie” people in your family, like I do, who only eat the potatoes, by all means, make more! Leftover potatoes and stuffing reheat well and it’s better to have a little too much than not enough.
Sweet potatoes, string beans, corn, roasted veggies, Brussels Sprouts, and the list goes on and on. Most Thanksgiving tables have 2-3 different vegetables served. When planning out how much to make, figure 1/2 cup (1/4 lb) of each per person.
Plan on 1/4 cup of cranberry sauce per person … unless you have children like mine attending. My son would eat an entire can of cranberry sauce in a single sitting if I’d let him!
You can’t have turkey and potatoes without gravy! Whether you have guests who use just a little or make the whole potato volcano with gravy lava covering everything on their plate, you want to plan on 1/3 cup per person. If you’re serving a crowd, plan on an additional cup of gravy for every 6 guests to give yourself a cushion so you don’t run out. Gravy reheats well and can be used as a base for pot pie or soups made from the leftovers, so this is a case where more is better. Gravy also freezes beautifully to be used later in the year when you want to dress up a meal.
Bread & Rolls
Whether you serve cornbread, muffins, biscuits, or French bread alongside your Thanksgiving feast, plan on 1-2 pieces per person. Don’t forget the butter! Plan on about a tablespoon of butter per person just for the bread (more for the sides).
Even if we have a small Thanksgiving of 7 people (the number of people in our household) we usually have at least 3 desserts. My husband doesn’t care for fruit desserts, so there’s always a chocolate tart or a chocolate cream pie that he calls dibs on. Then, I have the traditional pumpkin pie and then some other fruit dessert. Plan on 1-2 slices per person. It’s the holidays after all!
I have been brought up to believe that if there is just enough food for everyone, you didn’t prepare enough. One of my biggest fears when entertaining and hosting a meal is running out of food. Stick with the amounts above and you’ll have enough for everyone, but if you are like me and the idea of running out of something frightens you, use the above amounts as your minimum amounts for preparing. We all know that Thanksgiving round 2 and round 3 are just as tasty, but a bit more enjoyable because you don’t have to spend the whole day cooking. Having some leftovers can be a good thing!