Thanksgiving doesn't have the distractions of other holidays, like Christmas. It is more about food, family, and fun. Thanksgiving is also a time to create lasting memories for you and that special someone. If you are cooking Thanksgiving dinner for the first time, a dinner for two is great practice for larger gatherings in the future. Instead of thinking of creating a mega meal for just the two of you, I have included tips for downsizing the traditional feast. For more intimate options for your menu, consider a more Non-Traditional Thanksgiving Dinner For Two.
Sometimes circumstances find you sharing a holiday alone with a loved one or perhaps a close friend. Large gatherings of family and friends are fun, but a small dinner with someone you care about can be relaxing and just as enjoyable in its own way. Last year, when the Covid pandemic had us isolated from friends and family, lots of folks found the perfect way to share the holiday was over the internet.
Here's a chance to get away from the traditions of Thanksgiving if you're so inclined. Not everyone is a turkey fan and if the two of you would prefer something else treat yourself on a special day. Talk it over and decide what you have a taste for be it traditional fare or not. Depending on your choices it's possible to make two separate main dishes if they're fairly simple. For instance, cooking a turkey tenderloin and grilling a steak is possible without a great deal of stress.
TRADITIONAL DINNER FOR TWO
The thought of planning a Thanksgiving dinner for two people may seem incredibly daunting. After all, Thanksgiving is all about feasting (or at least that's what it's become in the minds of mainstream America,) and cooking a meal for two is naturally going to be somewhat limiting. Planning ahead, and knowing what you're going to serve and how much you will need will make the process infinitely easier.
Deciding on the menu
Unless someone likes dark meat, or you know you can use a turkey carcass for soup, there is no point in purchasing an entire turkey just to serve two people. You can purchase a boneless turkey breast or one with the bone in it. Pheasant is also an option and will be very much in keeping with a more traditional Thanksgiving. Consider going the route of ham, a turkey breast, or even dancing Cornish game hens.
Main dish for two
If you opt for a more traditional Thanksgiving meal for two, there are ways to do that, using your favorite Thanksgiving recipes or my favorite recipes! In lieu of a whole roast turkey, just cook a turkey breast. Serve it on a pretty tray garnished with sprigs of rosemary and fresh cranberries. You will have enough for dinner and you can use the leftover turkey for sandwiches the next day.
Forego the green bean casserole with canned soup and mushy green beans. Opt for brussels sprouts, tossed with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Serve with pomegranate molasses or balsamic glaze drizzled on top.
Homemade cranberry sauce is easy recipe to scale down for two. The tangy flavor makes it a welcome addition on your leftover turkey sandwich.
Instead of serving sweet potatoes, try Ina Garten's Caramelized Butternut Squash. If you mix a pinch of nutmeg and a little cinnamon with the brown sugar, it screams Thanksgiving.
Mashed potatoes for two are easy. If you cook a turkey breast you will not have a lot of drippings for gravy. A perfectly acceptable easy way is making gravy from a turkey gravy packet. Your dinner partner will never know the difference. You will have enough gravy leftover for open-faced hot turkey sandwiches the next day.
Stuffing or dressing is, no doubt, the most controversial element of the traditional Thanksgiving meal. Some people keep it simple, while others like it made with cornbread, sausage, oysters, wild rice, giblets, nuts, or fruits. Some like stuffing which goes inside the bird while others like dressing which is baked and served in a casserole dish. You are sure to find a new favorite stuffing recipe in my collection of Modern and Old Fashioned Dressing Recipes.
NON-TRADITIONAL DINNER FOR TWO
But if you want something not so traditional here are some examples of a complete non-traditional Thanksgiving menu for two people that it's easy and fun to make. This is the perfect opportunity to try new recipes for main courses, side dishes, and desserts. Have fun with the holiday. Don't stress. If you mess something up it's no big deal and you only have one witness! Let's get started creating a dinner plan that evokes the spirit and meaning of the holiday, with a creative twist.
Serve sushi roll or a bean dip. Hummus with baked pita chips satisfies everyone's craving for crunch and taste. Purchase pre-made products or if you have the time and know your stuff around a kitchen you can always make it yourselves.
Nutritious vegetables keep diets on track. Chop seasonal favorites such as carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, and celery. Serve a variety of cheeses. Create unique dip combinations by adding blue cheese, bacon, curry, basil, onion, or chopped shrimp to sour cream or cream cheese.
Serve crostini with tangy goat cheese, dried cherries and finely chopped rosemary with a drizzle of hot honey or maple syrup.
Allow the turkey and pig to live another year. Serve fish or tofu instead. Bake lasagna or a Shepherd's Pie. Serve Chinese or Indian cuisine. Bring a Mediterranean flair to the meal by serving lamb chops served on a bed of wild rice, toasted walnuts and golden raisins. Short ribs and vegetable stew, served in a fresh hollowed out pumpkin is a Thanksgiving show stopper!
Roast cauliflower and other seasonal vegetables such as broccoli, green beans, carrots, okra, and squash on a baking sheet. Serve with warm dipping sauces or Italian dressing.
If you don't want to make a huge pie, consider making small individual pies. If you have too much pumpkin custard left over, make additional pies to freeze. Nothing says you have to make a pie, though. You could opt to have a pumpkin mousse instead. If possible, cut recipes in half. That will keep you from having to deal with so much in the way of leftovers. Also, you can use a store-bought pie crust or frozen puff pastry to create a decadent dessert and no one will know you didn't make the dough from scratch.
Sweet oatmeal offers a sweet taste without overwhelming full stomachs. Stir chopped apples, raisins, pears, and walnuts into the oatmeal before serving. With an ice cream scoop, this is a portion of deliciousness. Garnish with cold vanilla ice cream or warm caramel sauce.
Bake a candy cake rather than traditional pies. Into a white cake mix, stir 2 cups of finely chopped Halloween candies. Mix thoroughly and pour into a greased Bundt pan. Bake at 350 F for 50 to 60 minutes.
Serve your favorite wines or create a non-alcoholic substitute. Combine a bottle of your favorite chilled grape juice with a liter of ginger ale. Mix and serve over ice.
Hot, spiced cider flavors your home with delicate aromas while warming cold bodies after the football game. Warm the cider in mugs, and stir in cinnamon sticks or a jigger of rum.
A sparkling white wine like Prosecco always pairs well with appetizers.
Timing is key
If you are making a meal for yourself and one other person, there's probably a good chance that cooking space is at a real premium. You will need to get creative about how to finagle things. You might want to cook some things in advance, microwave potatoes instead of baking them, microwave a vegetable and cook your dressing on top of the stove. That will free your oven for other things.
Make it special
It isn't hard to make a romantic and special Thanksgiving dinner for two people. Use some attractive table linen. If you have a good set of dishes, use those. You don't have to have a "special" Thanksgiving tablecloth. Fall-colored table linen is perfect, or you can use whatever you have. Use cloth napkins to create a more elegant look. Wine glasses will look prettier than regular glasses, and you can add candlelight to add even more ambiance to your table.
You can make things as casual or as elegant as you'd like. If romance is involved purchase some candles in the warm colors of the season and pick up a small centerpiece. You can make your own with some dried or fresh flowers and/or any other items associated with fall. It's up to you to set the atmosphere and give the day the special meaning it deserves. I like to start early gathering bits and pieces early for my Fall decorations. I walk everyday and as soon as September comes I start finding small treasures life colorful leaves, twigs with dried berries, pine cones, and tiny empty bird eggshells to bring home. I am what is referred to as a gatherer.
A Thanksgiving dinner for two can be fun, romantic, and even enjoyable to prepare. If you turn it into something that the two of you can do together, the actual preparation of the meal can be a great bonding experience. When you sit down for the meal, you can enjoy the rewards of your hard efforts. Be sure you do the clean-up as you go so you don't wind up having to do it all after the meal.
When you wish to forgo the traditional Thanksgiving dinner foods, serve alternative dishes. Maintain the tradition of family time together, and give your loved one a chance to enjoy the day with gratitude.
From our table for two to yours: