Our typical Thanksgivings of massive roast turkey glistening next to Aunt Junie’s green bean casserole and mom’s famous sweet potatoes will be much changed this year. But even in this strange time, we have a lot to be thankful for. If you're having Thanksgiving in smaller company than usual, dialing down the massive buffet can seem like a Herculean challenge. Never fear: the ideas below will help a smaller, socially distanced Thanksgiving go off without a hitch.

socially distanced thanksgiving
Herb-Roasted, Apple Cider Vinegar-Brined Heritage Turkey

The Main Dish

Turkey farmers already fear they’ve bred too many big birds, this year, and if you’re cooking for just three or four people, the usual 25-pound behemoths are certainly far too much. But that's no cause for alarm. There are tons of ways you can hack the typical holiday centerpiece.

Why not opt for a smaller heirloom turkey, which will have the benefit of being more flavorful and more sustainable? (For best results, brine it overnight in a flavorful cider vinegar brine.) You could also swap out the turkey entirely: capon, Guinea hen, or farm-raised chicken is perfect for a smaller crowd (and in our humble opinion, even more delicious).

You could even go smaller: Cornish game hens or quails make the perfect individual portion. This roast quail with cornbread stuffing and port sauce is a lovely way to feature traditional flavors in a much smaller package, and if you're cooking for a smaller crowd, you could easily plate in the kitchen for a restaurant-worthy presentation.

And of course, for the plant-based among us, there are tons of options to try. Our very own vegetarian sheperd's pie, or a new comfort food classic, cauli-and-cheese. Or opt instead for cauliflower "tree steaks" with vegan mash, which look gorgeous on the plate – almost too good to eat!

mashed sweet potatoes

The Sides

Part of the fun of Thanksgiving is in concocting mountains of sides, but unless you want to be eating leftovers 'til Christmas, it would be a good idea to dial these back too. 

Consider choosing just two or three really essential side dishes and serving them in individual, pre-portioned ramekins. Not only will this hack keep you from making too much and thus reduce the possibility of waste, it's also beautiful for serving. Sweet potato mac and cheese, gluten-free sweet potato casserole, and mashed sweet potatoes with turmeric and garlic are all easy to scale down for just two or four people. Add some green veggies like these ghee-roasted Brussels sprouts and homemade corn muffins (leftovers freeze beautifully!), and you’re off to a great start.

paleo pumpkin pie

The Desserts

Pecan, pumpkin, apple… how to choose? Luckily, with a bit of creativity, you won't have to. Consider opting for pumpkin hand pies and mini pecan tarts in place of the larger classics. Or combine the best of both worlds with a pumpkin pie topped with pecan praline. 

You could also choose to have a larger quantity of slightly healthier desserts, like spiced apple and cranberry crumble, no-bake pumpkin balls, crockpot baked apples, or paleo pumpkin pie. That way, you can still have the assortment and choice you’re used to without bursting at the seams by the time dinner is over.

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