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Our Complete Thanksgiving Dinner Portion Planner

Whether you’re cooking for your own family or inviting guests to join you, the grocery list can be a daunting tasks when preparing your Thanksgiving menu.

Not only are you trying to pour over your favorite Thanksgiving recipes to make sure you don’t forget an ingredient, but you’re not always exactly sure how much you should get. It can be more confusing than it should be, honestly.

Nobody wants to be the host that didn’t provide enough food, but having too many leftovers (yes, that’s a real thing) is also not a great position.

To simplify things, here’s a handy guide with our Thanksgiving dinner portion planner detailing how much you should buy, bake and cook to feed your guests!

Olive Oil Mashed Potatoes Image

Remember that the following is simply a guide – you can and should feel free to add or subtract based on your family, tastes and how many leftovers you like.

If you’re the kind who is going to for sure be making leftover Thanksgiving enchiladas or turkey sliders with cranberry sauce the next day, you’ll need to plan accordingly and make a little extra!

Note: My personal experience is to count two children ages 10 and under as one adult, and “tweens” and teens as adults. You know your crowd best, and when in doubt, you can always round up and get some to-go dishes to send people home with extras! I promise they won’t complain about that.

Thanksgiving Dinner Portion Planner Photo

How Many Appetizers Should You Have at Thanksgiving?

Appetizers, or snack trays, are a favorite of my children…and me. While it’s debatable whether or not you need appetizers at all, I think you can’t go wrong offering one or a few.

If you’ll have guests mingling for a longer period of time before serving dinner, or you’re eating later in the day, staples like cheese and crackers or fruit and veggie platters are simple to prepare and will also bag up well to store again.

For more formal appetizers, like shrimp cocktail, goat cheese crostini, or baked brie, a good rule of thumb is to plan for “three bites” per guest.

That can get a little complicated when you’re dealing with multiple guests so refer back to these general numbers for an approximate idea of what to serve.

Cherry Goat Cheese Crostini with Thyme and Almonds

Appetizers for Four Guests

For four adult guests, 12 small hors d’oeuvres should do the trick. If you’re serving any prepared dips or spreads, 1 – 1½ pounds is ideal.

Appetizers for Eight Guests

For eight guests, simply double this to 24 hors d’oeuvres and bump the dip up to 2 pounds if you’ll be serving one with your appetizer course.

Appetizers for Twelve Guests 

If you’re serving twelve guests, plan to serve 36 hors d’oeuvres and 2 – 2½ pounds of any prepared dip.

Appetizers for Sixteen Guests

Finally, if you are hosting for sixteen guests, plan on 48 hors d’oeuvres and 3 pounds of any dips or spreads.

Soup as an appetizer should serve to prepare guest’s palates but not fill their stomachs – you’ll want to serve a cup or less of soup per adult guest in advance of the main dish.

Holiday Wine Guide Photo

How Much Wine to Serve for Thanksgiving

When serving wine before the meal, plan on guests wanting more with or after dinner. You’ll want to use your own discretion based on your guest list.

If you only plan to serve wine with the meal itself or along with dessert, you can generally plan on buying 1 to 2 bottles of wine for every 4 guests.

Remember that the goal is to safely enjoy the holiday, so you’ll want to look to offer a reasonable amount of alcohol as a responsible host.

Aim to shelve the wine in time for guests to leave safely, and provide other drinks as balance. If your guests are staying over, all bets are off!

If you’re struggling to figure out which wine to serve, check out our picks for the best holiday wines to get you started.

Roasted Turkey Picture

How Much Turkey per Person?

If you’re planning on cooking a turkey, like most people traditionally do on Thanksgiving, it’s important to know how much turkey per person is appropriate.

Preparing for 1½ pounds of turkey per guest should hit that sweet spot amount of having just the right amount of food, with manageable leftovers, if any.

For those of you looking to have ample turkey left at the end, plan on up to 2 lbs per guest. You can then make all the turkey soup and turkey chili you want!

On the flip side of this equation, if you’re serving a large number of children or people who fill up quickly, a pound of turkey per person should suffice.

How Much Gravy Do You Need?

For simple planning purposes, making ½ cup of gravy per guest is the general rule of thumb, but it’s wise to plan on one extra cup for every six guests.

You certainly don’t want to run out, and moreover, you’ll want it for leftovers! Also, some guests are more liberal with gravy on potatoes, stuffing, rolls etc.

Bourbon Ginger Cranberry Sauce Picture

How Much Cranberry Sauce Do You Need per Person?

Here is my tip when it comes to serving cranberry sauce! While the general recommendation is ½ cup per guest, if you’re having kids over, make more.

Cranberry sauce is one of those rare, beautiful moments as a child where you get to have something sweet with dinner, which is a holiday in and of itself.

Trust me, kids notice that the rules have bent and go back for more…and more…and more. (Luckily our Instant Pot cranberry sauce is super easy to make!)

I would consider each child age 5 and older as an “adult” when planning for cranberry sauce. More is more in this case.

How Much Stuffing to Make

A true Thanksgiving staple, stuffing is one of the foods people plan to eat plenty of, especially as we don’t often enjoy it throughout the average year.

Expect adult guests to eat about ¾ cup of stuffing on the big day. While some will eat less, some will definitely eat more!

Olive Oil Mashed Potatoes Picture

How Many Pounds of Potatoes Do You Need?

Ok, let’s talk mashed potatoes – arguably the star of the entrie Thanksgiving feast if one were to ask me…or my kids for that matter!

One of my favorite starches at any time, mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving just cannot be underestimated. They are nearly everyone’s favorite side dish.

So, just how many potatoes are needed for mashed potatoes? This is a question that may actually be as old as time itself.

You can easily prepare for potatoes by planning on one large potato per guest, which equals around ¾ cup mashed potatoes.

When we turn the math inside out and backwards, plan on ½ pound of potatoes per person and that give you right around ¾ to 1 cup per person.

Pounds of Potatoes for Four Guests

When serving four people for Thanksgiving or any other holiday dinner, use two pounds of potatoes for your mashed potatoes.

Pounds of Potatoes for Eight Guests

To make mashed potatoes for eight guests on Thanksgiving, prepare four pounds of potatoes.

Pounds of Potatoes for Twelve Guests

Six pounds of potatoes is the right amount for making mashed potatoes for twelve guests.

Pounds of Potatoes for Sixteen Guests

Finally, all math being equal, you’ll want to make eight pounds of guests for sixteen guests and scale up from there!

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Dinner Rolls Picture

How Many Rolls to Serve on Thanksgiving

My family loves bread so I am careful not to serve rolls like our pumpkin dinner rolls ahead of time – otherwise a lot of food would probably go untouched.

It’s best to plan for an extra roll for a few of your guests, so aim for 6 rolls per 4 guests, which should cover everyone’s carb intake nicely.

You know your crowd best! I think myself and each of my kids would skip a side to have another roll! Others might be opposite.

Rolls freeze well if you end up with too many, or make awesome Thanksgiving sliders the next day so I tend to err on the side in favor of bread and serve more.

Cauliflower Rice Stuffing Pic

How Many Vegetables Do You Need for Thanksgiving?

We all have the best of intentions when preparing vegetable sides, but it seems like they’re the last to go when it comes to what’s left over after the meal.

With that in mind plan on about a pound total of vegetables per every four guests, and one ounce of a fresh, green salad per guest. 

This means if you prepare roasted Brussels sprouts and roasted butternut squash, for example, plan for half a pound of each per adult guest.

Gluten Free Pumpkin Pie Pic

How Many Pie to Serve on Thanksgiving

Ah, yes – pie! Even people who don’t eat dessert generally, or pie specficially, on a regular basis love getting their fill of pie on Thanksgiving.

One thing you can guarantee is that guests will be scrambling to get pie on their plates, even if they have to wait an hour or two in order to “make room!”

One pie per every four to six guests is a good rule of thumb, as there will probably be someone who would like to sample more than one flavor.

Serving Coffee and Tea

Serving coffee and tea on Thanksgiving is a must, so I like to plan for a cup per adult guest, though I know that my dad alone is good for a whole pot.

Properly stored coffee will stay fresh for a long time, so buying extra to have on hand, or send a guest home with in a to-go cup, won’t hurt you in the least.

Gluten Free Pumpkin Pie Picture

Hopefully by referencing this helpful guide and our Thanksgiving portion planner, you can prepare the right amount of food for any number of guests!

Along with our Thanksgiving countdown this should give you a leg up on pulling off a Thanksgiving feast that’s as low stress as possible. Enjoy!