4 Essentials For Small Thanksgiving Dinners

2020 has been a crazy and strange year. And the Holidays will be no exception to that! With Thanksgiving around the corner a lot of us are planning for much smaller Thanksgiving dinners. Having a small Thanksgiving gathering doesn’t mean it can’t be just as fun though! So we are going to chat about 14 essentials for small Thanksgiving dinners!

Thanksgiving day in 2020 is going to look different this year but we can all make the best of it and get through it together!

You may need to get a little creative but that’s okay it can be fun! These small thanksgiving dinner ideas are a chance to express some creativity and try some new things this year.

4 essentials for small thanksgiving dinners!

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Essential 1) a smaller but tasty menu

Let’s break this down into apps, entree, side dishes, and desserts!

I won’t be linking recipes because everyone has so many preferences and dietary restrictions and needs so what I recommend is searching on Pinterest (aka my favorite place on the internet) for the name of the item + any dietary needs you are accounting for!

Small Thanksgiving dinners are a great opportunity to put fun twists on more traditional dishes. So let’s check out some of those ideas.


Your appetizers can be fun and unique when you are cooking for a lot less people than usual! A couple great options for this are:

  • Pumpkin soup- this is so fall and fun but not always a great option if you have a lot of people. If you don’t want to make it from scratch, Trader Joe’s has a bunch of yummy Pumpkin soups!
  • Spice up your bread- no need for pre-made dinner rolls! If you have less than 8 guests you can do a fun dinner roll or the day before you can bake a cool fall themed bread for starting your meal.


Depending on how actually “small” your Thanksgiving is this year you may not want to commit to an actual full Turkey and that is totally okay. If you don’t have enough guests to justify cooking a whole turkey this year a couple of entree options you could try are:

  • Stuffed Turkey Tenderloins- this is a great option if your Thanksgiving is 4-8 people but you still want a bit of a more classic Turkey entree.
  • Turkey casserole- this is something I recommend finding a recipe you like if you aren’t sure exactly how many people will be there but it’s probably less than 10. Then if you have extra’s it’s easy to store and re-heat them later.
  • Turkey wraps- wanting to have a casual and easy entree? Especially if your Thanksgiving is 4 or less people? Then try a yummy turkey wrap. Throw in some cream cheese and cranberries to really make them delicious.

Side Dishes

The best part of side dishes with small thanksgiving dinners is that you can do a bunch of small side dishes rather than 3-4 big ones. That way if there is extras you aren’t stuck with 30 pounds of mashed potatoes!

  • Twist on vegetable side dishes- no boring steamed corn this year! Try something fun like garlic Aioli Brussel sprouts or maple glazed green beans!
  • Change up your potatoes- instead of normal mashed potatoes try a make your own baked potato bar or a different twist on your potato side dish.


I will fully admit that dessert is my favorite part of Thanksgiving and I love that this year we can do way more fun desserts. These are some of my favorite dessert ideas for a small thanksgiving:

  • Pumpkin pie with a twist- you don’t have to do a plain pumpkin pie this year! You can do a fun one like a cheesecake pumpkin pie or apple butter pumpkin pie.
  • Bars/ brownies- any type of bars or brownies you can make are a great option because you can easily wrap them up and send them with your guests when you leave! Just search “Thanksgiving dessert bars” or “Thanksgiving dessert brownies” on Pinterest for so many yummy options.
  • Single serve dishes- you can do something super cute like single serve sundaes or parfaits especially if you have less than 8 guests.

Essential 2) a beautiful table layout

The next essential is your table layout!

A huge bonus of having a smaller thanksgiving dinner is that you can commit to a cool and unique table layout because it doesn’t have to be practical. And you may end up with less children at your Thanksgiving who will pull on things or knock things down!

A couple really cool table layout items for Thanksgiving 2020 I am loving are:

Pastel Pumpkins- get them here!

Stylish table runner (nothing plastic this year!)- get it here!

Cute plates that aren’t single use- get them here!

Re-usable napkins (they save money in the long run and look great!)- get them here!

Essential 3) games and/or activities

With less people to chat with and less activity going on in general you may be looking to fill up your Thanksgiving day time a littler different this year.

So having a couple of games and activities pre-planned is always a good idea. Let’s break these down into Thanksgiving activities for kids and Thanksgiving activities for adults.

Thanksgiving activities for kids:

  • Crafts– they can do the classic paper plate Turkeys, or make their own felt leaves garland, or create a Thankful tree with cut out leaves listing everything they are Thankful for!
  • Games– printable games like these are an awesome option for kids at Thanksgiving: Turkey Mad Lib, Truth or Turkey Trivia, and Thanksgiving word searches. Or you can put together a fun scavenger hunt!

Thanksgiving activities for adults:

  • Drinking games- If you don’t feel like coming up with or falling a more complicated drinking game you can buy a cheap one like this “Happiness drink if” game! Or you can play a normal drinking game with Thanksgiving themed playing cards.
  • Get outside- if it’s warm enough then taking the party outside is always a win! Grab a giant Jenga, cornhole, or just a football for throwing around. You can play those while sipping one of the cocktails below!
How to host a smaller Thanksgiving!

Essential 4) super fun cocktails

No need to just have a couple of bottles of wine when you can commit to fun cocktails since there will be less people at your Thanksgiving! Small Thanksgiving dinners are a great opportunity to show off your bar tending skills.

A few Thanksgiving cocktails I love (and bet you will too) for Thanksgiving are:

  • Cranberry Martini- vodka, orange liquer, fresh cranberries, cranberry juice, and dry vermouth.
  • Apple Crisp- apple juice, maple syrup, vanilla vodka, and if you can get your hands on some alcoholic whipped cream for the top it’s a great touch.
  • 21+ PSL- pumpkin spice coffee creamer, ice coffee, cinnamon whiskey OR tequila and cinnamon powder. (I hate whiskey!).
  • Apple sour- whiskey, lemon juice, apple juice, triple sec, and a lemon peel and apple slice.
  • Thanksgiving Margarita- margarita mix, apple cider, cinnamon powder, and tequila. (this one if my favorite!)

Remember, having small Thanksgiving dinners doesn’t have to mean sacrificing the fun, food, or memories!

The ultimate guide to hosting Thanksgiving in 2020!


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