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Thanksgiving Dinner for Two

Consider this the ultimate guide on how to make a small batch Thanksgiving dinner for two people – almost everything is made on one sheet pan, ready in less than 2 hours and you’ll still have some delicious leftovers! I’m even including a timeline infographic for when to make what, and suggestions on what you can prepare ahead of time.

White platter full of turkey, stuffing, green beans and sweet potatoes

Preparing a Thanksgiving dinner doesn’t have to be an all day affair, especially if it’s just the two of you! I’m hoping that I can make all your Thanksgiving dinner dreams come true. Or at least give you a way to spend less time stressing out and more time enjoying it.

And 2020 in particular is going to be filled with people who might be unable to spend Thanksgiving with their family to keep everyone safe (myself included). That doesn’t mean we have to sacrifice the ultimate day of comfort food, or the promise of those Thanksgiving leftovers.

What you’ll find in this post:

  • Step by step instructions (with photos, of course!) for making your Thanksgiving dinner for two and the exact order of operations and timing for everything
  • Shortcuts to make the prep easier and help you stress less
  • Suggestions for cocktail pairings
  • A list of items that can be made ahead of time
  • An infographic of the timeline for those who are more visual
  • Suggestions for what else you could serve, if you’d like to get creative and go “off menu”

And because it’s such a long and comprehensive post, I’ve added a Table of Contents! Now let’s get to it.



What should I make for a small Thanksgiving dinner?

The way I look at it, you don’t need a dozen sides if you’re only making dinner for two people. This isn’t a potluck where everyone brings something to complement the host’s turkey, and you pick and choose what you like from the smorgasbord. It’s just you two, so you should make only what you want to eat!

Here’s what we’re making in one high-sided sheet pan:

  • Juicy turkey breast (not a whole bird)
  • Roasted sweet potatoes
  • Green beans with garlic and almonds
  • Easy stuffing (starts on stovetop, finishes on sheet pan)

And here’s what we’re adding to our plates:

  • Cranberry sauce
  • Gravy
  • Dinner rolls
  • Your choice of festive cocktails
Overhead shot of a plate full of Thanksgiving dinner on a linen cloth

What kind of equipment and tools do I need?

Nothing crazy! There’s no need for an immersion blender, Instant Pot, or anything else that you’d have to plug in. You’ll want:

  • A large, high-sided sheet panI use this one that measures 18″ x 13″ x 2″ and it’s the perfect size for us.
  • Aluminum foil – if your baking sheet is nonstick you don’t have to use foil, but it sure makes cleanup a breeze!
  • Thermometer – I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: we love our ThermoWorks ChefAlarm (aff link)!
  • Medium saucepan
  • Small mixing bowl
  • Cutting board
  • Chef’s knife

3 Tips for Making a Small Batch Thanksgiving

  1. Don’t bother getting a whole turkey. Just grab a boneless, skin-on turkey breast. It will cook in FAR less time, doesn’t need basting, and you’ll still end up with leftovers!
    • For this post, I used a 2 pound unseasoned turkey breast, but you can use 1 or 3 pound breasts, and if you want to skip the seasoning mix in the recipe card you can use a pre-seasoned one, too!
  2. Only choose a few sides. Like I mentioned before, you don’t need a million different options when it’s just you two. This cuts down on the amount of time you’re standing in front of the stove, and is just plain more practical and realistic.
    • For this post, I’m including stuffing, sweet potatoes, and green beans as our three sides.
  3. Shortcuts are completely okay. Some Thanksgiving staples are hard to make in small batches from scratch without using up a ton of time and energy (I’m looking at you, stuffing), so there’s no shame in taking some shortcuts.
    • We’re using shortcuts for the sweet potatoes, stuffing, and gravy (and the option to use a shortcut for the cranberry sauce and dinner rolls, too). The goal here is for this meal to be as low-stress as possible!
Thick slices of seasoned turkey breast nestled on top of platter of stuffing, green beans and sweet potatoes

Step by Step Instructions for Making Thanksgiving Dinner for Two

Step #1: Oven prep

Preheat your oven at 400°F (205°C) with the rack in the middle, and prep your baking sheet. You’re going to line a large and high-sided baking sheet with aluminum foil. You’ll use a few sheets of foil to make sure the bottom and sides are covered completely, folding the ends of the foil over the edges of the pan.

I use this pan that measures 18″ x 13″ x 2″, which is just deep enough to keep everything in its place.

If your pan is nonstick, you don’t have to cover it with foil – but I’ll tell ya, it makes cleaning up later a million times easier. You’ll just fold it up and toss it – no soaking or scrubbing required.

Step #2: Prepare the sweet potatoes

Potatoes are notorious for taking a long time to cook, so we’re doing to take a shortcut to make sure they cook in the same amount of time as the rest of our ingredients: by slicing them in half widthwise.

Rinse and scrub them well, then pat dry. Use a fork to poke them all over – the holes are going to allow the steam to escape and keep them from exploding. Mind you, I’ve never personally experienced a potato explosion, but since I’ve heard enough horror stories, let’s play it safe – shall we?

Next you’ll slice them in half widthwise, and coat each half in a thin layer of olive oil and kosher salt. And if you want to poke even more holes into the cut sides, be my guest.

Place the potato halves, cut side up, on one side of your prepared pan. They’ll only be lonely for a little bit, don’t worry.

Sliced sweet potatoes on a cutting board

Step #3: Prepare the stuffing

We’re taking a shortcut with the stuffing as well. I absolutely adore my cornbread and bacon stuffing recipe, but I acknowledge it’s a fair amount of work. And since we’re trying to stress less this Thanksgiving, we’re going to use a base of store-bought stuffing mix instead.

I like to use a cubed stuffing since they’re bigger chunks than some other kinds of boxed stuffing mixes, which makes it feel a bit more homemade. Just follow the instructions on the package, and add the other ingredients I call out in the recipe card for additional flavor and substance. Delicious, delicious substance.

Between what is called for on the package and what I like to add, you’ll need:

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup onion, diced (about 1 small onion)
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 cup cornbread, cubed
  • 1 tablespoon sage leaves, chopped
  • ½ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

You’ll start the prep in a medium saucepan on the stovetop, and then mix everything together and transfer it to your baking sheet where your sweet potatoes are already making themselves at home. Place the stuffing on the opposite side of the sheet, and make a well in the center for the turkey.

Don’t have/want to make cornbread? Buy some jumbo cornbread muffins and chop one of them into cubes! Then you have leftover cornbread muffins, and that’s just never a bad thing. You can also just omit the cornbread altogether if you’re not a fan – no other adjustments needed.

Step #4: Prepare the turkey breast

Here we go – the star of the show! And the prep is seriously so easy that you’re never going to want to prep a full turkey ever again. Unless you’re Bob Belcher, in which case you look forward to it for 364 days every year. To each their own.

Remove your turkey breast from its packaging. If it’s tied with string, cut those away and don’t worry about the lines left in the meat – they’ll go away while it cooks.

If it has one of those little plastic meat thermometers in it, go ahead and leave it in – just don’t use that as your true indicator of whether or not the turkey is to the appropriate temperature of at least 165°F. They’re just not accurate, and we don’t want to mess around with food safety.

Dry and season the turkey. Pat the turkey dry with a paper towel. Season it all over with salt and pepper. Now combine melted butter, minced garlic, sage and thyme in a small bowl, and then coat the turkey with it. That’s it. You’re done.

Told you it was going to be easy! Now carefully transfer the turkey to the well in the center of the stuffing on the baking sheet.

Step #5: Roast

Now that you have the potatoes, stuffing and turkey ready to go on the prepared baking sheet, we’re going to let them roast for 40 minutes at 400°F (204°C).

While they’re cooking, we’re going to prep the green beans.

Four photos showing the process of filling a foil lined baking sheet with sweet potatoes, stuffing and turkey

Step #6: Prepare the green beans

Another nice and easy step. Toss the green beans in a small mixing bowl with olive oil, sliced garlic, salt and pepper.

The end.

A clear bowl of green beans with a pair of tongs

Step #7: Add the green beans

After everything has roasted for 40 minutes, add the green beans to the center of the sheet (between the potatoes and the stuffing) and put it back in the oven to roast for another 15-20 minutes.

You want the sweet potatoes and green beans to be tender, and the stuffing to be lightly golden.

Step #8: Check the turkey

The most critical part of all of this is that the turkey is cooked to 165°F (you can remove it from the oven once it reaches 160°F as it will come up to 165°F while it rests).

To keep tabs on how things are going, I like to use our Thermoworks ChefAlarm (aff link) and place the probe in the thickest part of the breast before putting it in the oven.

If your turkey is not yet to temperature when the rest of the sides are ready, don’t panic! Transfer the turkey breast to a separate baking sheet and place it back in the oven until it’s cooked to the proper temperature.

While the turkey finishes cooking, cover the other baking sheet that has all your delicious sides with aluminum foil and set in a warm place while you wait for the turkey to be done.

Alternatively, if the turkey isn’t going to be much longer, you can instead use pieces of aluminum foil to cover everything except the turkey to prevent them from browning too much while the turkey finishes.

A white ThermoWorks ChefAlarm on a steel over door

Step #9: Slice the turkey

Once the turkey is cooked to 165°F, transfer to a cutting board (that has a well around the edges to catch the juices) to let it rest for at least 15 minutes. I like to loosely cover it with foil while it sits so it doesn’t cool down too much.

Now you can slice it however you see fit – I like to do thick slices, but you can do whatever you heart desires.

A golden brown turkey breast being carved into thick slices

Final Step: Ready, set, serve!

If you want a formal presentation, transfer everything to a large platter and each of you can serve yourselves at the table. Even though it’s just the two of us, I still like to be all fancy, so this is my option of choice.

But if you just want the quickest route to eating (and don’t have pets that could potentially jump on the counter to help themselves to your meal), portion what you’d like between two plates and dig in! Cover the rest with foil if you plan on going back for seconds, otherwise go ahead and pack it all up in an airtight container and stick it in the fridge.

And regardless of how you decide to serve your meal, make sure to top the green beans with some slivered or sliced almonds for a little extra somethin’ somethin’.

The Other No Muss, No Fuss Sides

Remember approximately six years ago at the top of this post when I mentioned these sides, too?

  • Cranberry sauce
  • Gravy
  • Dinner rolls
  • Your choice of festive cocktails

Let’s make things as easy as possible. Grab a can of whole berry cranberry sauce, a box of the highest quality turkey gravy you can find, and a package of dinner rolls from your local bakery.

But… what about homemade?! I love my cranberry sauce recipe, and I love my rosemary sea salt dinner rolls. But you know what? You’re doing plenty of work already, so don’t stress out over more prep. If you’re feeling ambitious, go ahead and make your own – you’ll totally get a gold star from me.

And about those cocktails…

Drink Pairings for Thanksgiving Dinner

What Can I Make Ahead of Time?

If you want to save yourself even more time on Thanksgiving day, you can make these sides and desserts ahead of time.

Dinner Rolls or Bread

My personal favorites are Rosemary Sea Salt Dinner Rolls or Copycat Red Lobster Cheddar Bay Biscuits. If you wanted to be super Fall-y, you could even make a loaf of Cranberry Pumpkin Banana Bread instead (and then you’ll have plenty of leftovers for breakfast).

Desserts

Personally, I’m perfectly content with a big ol’ helping of cranberry sauce and calling it a day. I’m not much of a pie person, so it’s not a necessary staple for me on Thanksgiving. But if you’re with the other 99% of the normal population where other desserts are a must-have, make one of these.

Gravy being poured onto thick slices of turkey breast surrounded by Thanksgiving foods

Want to Make the Gravy Taste More Homemade?

Add some of the juices from your cooked turkey, a pinch each of minced thyme, garlic powder and pepper, give it a stir and voila! It will be a noticeable improvement and deserving of your love.

Because, again – let’s not stress ourselves out!

A plate full of Thanksgiving dinner foods on a linen cloth

Thanksgiving Dinner Timeline Infographic

Using a baseline of 6PM at the time you’re eating, this infographic lays out exactly what needs to go in the oven and when over the 2 hour span from prep to chowing down.

If you’re not eating at 6PM, just adjust the times accordingly!



Infographic about the timing for making a Thanksgiving dinner for two people

After you’ve made this recipe, please leave a comment below with a rating – and if you came from Pinterest, add a photo to the Pin of what you make to the pin to share your experience!

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White platter full of turkey, stuffing, green beans and sweet potatoes

Thanksgiving Dinner for Two Recipe


  • Author: Leslie Kiszka
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hour 15 minutes (minimum)
  • Total Time: 2 hours
  • Yield: 2 servings (plus leftovers) 1x

Description

This post will outline how to make a small batch Thanksgiving dinner for two people – almost everything is made on one sheet pan, ready in less than 2 hours and you’ll still have some delicious leftovers! I’m even including a timeline infographic for when to make what and how much can be prepared ahead of time.


Ingredients

Scale

For the sweet potatoes

  • 2 small to medium sweet potatoes
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • Butter, brown sugar, honey, cinnamon, or mini marshmallows for topping (optional)

For the stuffing

  • ¼ cup unsalted butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup onion, diced (about 1 small onion)
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 8 ounces chicken broth
  • 6 ounces of cubed stuffing mix (half of a 12 ounce package)
  • 1 cub cornbread, cubed (optional, but encouraged)
  • 1 Tablespoon sage leaves, chopped
  • ½ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • salt and pepper, to taste

For the turkey

  • 1 (2-pound) boneless, skin-on turkey breast
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon minced sage
  • 1 teaspoon minced thyme leaves
  • salt and pepper

For the green beans

  • 6 ounces green beans
  • 1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • sliced or slivered almonds, for topping

Instructions

Preparation

  • Preheat oven to 400°F (204°C).
  • Line a large high-sided sheet pan with aluminum foil, making sure to cover the bottom and sides, folding the ends of the foil over the edges of the pan.

For the sweet potatoes

  1. Rinse and scrub the outside of your sweet potatoes and pat dry. 
  2. Slice each sweet potato in half width-wise. 
  3. Rub them all over with just enough olive oil to coat, and sprinkle with kosher salt.
  4. Place your four potato halves, cut side up, on one end of your foil-lined baking sheet.

For the stuffing

  1. In a medium saucepan, heat butter over medium high heat until melted.
  2. Add garlic, onion, and celery and stir frequently until tender.
  3. Add chicken broth, give it a stir, and bring to a boil.
  4. Remove from heat and add stuffing mix, cornbread (if including), sage, and parsley, and stir to coat and combine. Add salt and pepper as you see fit.
  5. Transfer to baking sheet on the opposite side of the baking sheet from the potatoes, leaving a well in the center for the turkey. Leave a gap between the potatoes and cornbread for the green beans.

For the turkey

  1. Pat turkey breast dry and season all over with salt and pepper.
  2. In a small bowl, stir to combine butter, garlic, sage, and thyme.
  3. Using a pastry brush or your hands, rub the turkey all over with the butter mixture.
  4. Place the seasoned turkey breast in the center of the stuffing, directly onto the foil (not on top of the stuffing).

Time to roast: Part I

  1. Place the prepared baking sheet containing the sweet potatoes, stuffing and turkey in the oven on the middle rack and let it roast at 400°F for 40 minutes.

Prep the green beans

  1. In a small bowl, toss green beans with a drizzle of oil, sliced garlic, salt and pepper.

Time to roast: Part II

  1. After everything else has roasted for about 40 minutes, carefully remove the pan from the oven and add the green beans to the center of the pan.
  2. Put back in the oven to roast for another 15-20 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes and green beans are tender, and the stuffing is golden brown.
  3. The most critical part of all of this, of course, is that the turkey is cooked to 165°F (you can remove it from the oven at 160°F it will come up to 165°F while it rests). If your turkey is not yet to temperature when the rest of the sides are ready, transfer the turkey breast to a separate baking sheet and place it back in the oven until it’s cooked to the proper temperature.
    • Cover the other baking sheet with prepared items with aluminum foil and set in a warm place while you wait for the turkey to be done.
    • Alternatively, if the turkey isn’t going to be much longer, you can instead use pieces of aluminum foil to cover everything except the turkey to prevent them from browning too much while the turkey finishes.
  4. Once the turkey is cooked to 165°F, transfer to a cutting board that has a well around the edges to catch the juices to let it rest for at least 15 minutes. Slice as desired.

Serve!

  1. If you want a formal presentation, transfer everything to a large platter and each of you can serve yourselves at the table.
  2. If you want the quickest route to eating, portion what you’d like between two plates and dig in!

Notes

Read the whole post carefully, as there is too much helpful information than what can fit into this box! 

  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Roast
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: thanksgiving dinner for two, small batch thanksgiving dinner

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JEG

Tuesday 19th of January 2021

Thank you for the dinner for 2. Most of the time it is just my husband and me. I am saving this. I found you through your tiramisu for 2. Last Thanksgiving for the first time it was just the 2 of us. I made the Trader Joe's stuffed turkey roll because I heard it was so good. I snagged one right after Halloween. I made mashed potatoes, squash, cranberry sauce and an apple galette for 2. I packed it up as 2 individual dinners, put them in a thermal container, and we drove down to Plymouth Harbor (30 min. from home) to have our Thanksgiving dinner, watching the tourists taking in the sites in the rain (it was pouring). I think I enjoyed it more and we ate less. I will keep and utilize your recommendations. Again, thank you. Keep bringing on the "for 2s".

Leslie Kiszka

Thursday 21st of January 2021

Your comment made my day, I'm so glad you enjoyed this and that it helped fit your lifestyle!

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