The safest choice this Thanksgiving is to cozy up to — and cook for — the people you live with. These lower-yield recipes don’t sacrifice on satisfaction. For even more festive options, you can cook your way through Melissa Clark’s menu for two, or explore this larger collection of Recipes for a Small Thanksgiving.
Nik Sharma is an expert at playing with texture and flavor. In this dish, he invigorates simply roasted brussels sprouts with creamy labneh, quick-pickled shallots and date syrup — but you could swap in honey or maple syrup for a sweetness that balances it all out.
Whether you mash, candy, casserole or present them in pie form, sweet potatoes are an incredibly versatile Thanksgiving staple. Nicole Taylor bakes them gently to preserve their flavor, then mashes and mixes them with maple syrup, caramelized onions, ricotta and warm spices into a dip for grazing before the big meal.
Recipe: Sweet Potato and Onion Dip
Sam Sifton calls this recipe from Rich Torrisi and Mario Carbone “about the moistest, most luxuriously flavorful turkey available on the planet: rich and buttery, deep with rich turkey taste.” Unlike many recipes, this one can be reduced by half without any tweaks to cook time; a single turkey breast will amply satisfy a family of four — and leave some leftovers.
Recipe: Torrisi Turkey
Perhaps too labor-intensive for larger Thanksgiving gatherings — or occupying too much oven space — these twice-baked potatoes are crowd-pleasers that are an ideal fit for a small audience.
Blanched in boiling water until just crisp-tender, then sautéed with oil, ginger and garlic, these green beans effortlessly add brightness to any spread. They are wonderful as is, but if you crave more texture, you can top them with some homemade or store-bought fried garlic, shallots or onions, for a simpler spin on the traditional casserole.
When roasting an entire bird, one complaint dominates: The white meat often cooks faster than the dark meat. Roasting a turkey breast allows you to focus on achieving perfectly succulent meat; a three-pound breast should provide plenty for a family of four.
Recipe: Roast Turkey Breast
This refreshingly verdant creamed spinach dish from Pierre Franey allows spinach to shine by opting for a high ratio of greens to dairy. The blanched greens are blended, then stirred into a simple béchamel sauce, which complements their flavor without dominating.
Recipe: Creamed Spinach
Tackle this recipe as is, and you might find yourself with more than your share of creamy, baked Cheddar-and-cottage-cheese pasta. But you can easily halve it: Simply cook it in a smaller dish for the same amount of time, or spread it thinly across the same vessel, increasing the surface area to yield a higher rate of deliciously browned bits of toasted cheese on top.
Recipe: Creamy Macaroni and Cheese
Samin Nosrat’s gloriously golden roast chicken proves that there’s no need to feel tied to turkey for the holiday table. Marinate it in buttermilk overnight to guarantee juicy results.
If you like, you can easily halve this punchy relish from David Tanis, reducing the cook time by two or three minutes, but you might find good use for the full yield: It will keep refrigerated for up to two weeks and works well slathered on just about any sandwich.
- Always bake a pie on a rimmed baking sheet to contain any overflow. A baking sheet also makes removing the pie from the oven easier.
- You can freeze a whole, unbaked fruit pie. Then bake it while still frozen, adding about 15 minutes onto the baking time. Do not thaw it first or you could lose flakiness in the crust.
- For the best-looking crimped crust, or to avoid having your crust shrink in the oven, freeze the unbaked pie dough before filling and baking (or blind baking). The colder your dough when you get it into the oven, the better it holds its shape.
- You can store your baked pie at room temperature, covered, for up to one day. After that, the crust will become irretrievably soggy.
13. Baked Apples
To capture the flavors of apple pie without the fuss, set apples in the oven and baste them with honey and cider until creamy and yielding. Dorie Greenspan recommends serving them warm, with ice cream, whipped cream or even simply a drizzle of cool heavy cream on top.
Recipe: Baked Apples
Any mashed potato recipe is easy to scale down, but this recipe is just the right amount for four people. Ali Slagle makes potatoes extra special with just two ingredients: shallots and olive oil, frying the shallots in oil until crisp, then stirring the fragrant oil into the mashed potatoes along with some of their starchy cooking water for rich, golden results.
Recipe: Vegan Mashed Potatoes
15. Roasted Carrots
This low-effort approach to roasted vegetables from Martha Rose Shulman is easily scalable — reach for a larger or smaller baking sheet, depending on how much you’re making. And it uses a smart technique: covering the vegetables with aluminum foil to steam them gently, so they cook evenly. Then, removing the foil to allow them to caramelize and cook through until creamy. Fresh herbs, roasted with the carrots and used as a raw garnish, deepen the flavor.
Recipe: Roasted Carrots
Inspired by the flavors of Italian porchetta, this elegant roast from Ina Garten is infinitely better suited to a small crowd than a full bird. It still yields a generous amount, but you can continue the feast by tucking any leftovers into sandwiches in the days that follow.
17. Apple Crumble
Easily halved, this five-star recipe from Samantha Seneviratne takes just minutes to assemble but delivers all the satisfaction of a handmade apple pie. Should you be so lucky as to find yourself with any leftovers, give them new life by serving them with yogurt for breakfast.
Recipe: Apple Crumble
Thanksgiving will be different this year. Here are hundreds of our best Thanksgiving recipes from NYT Cooking to help.