Huge Thanksgiving dinners with tons of family and loved ones are awesome, but not everyone has the option to travel or the family to get together with. If for one reason or another you find yourself alone or celebrating Thanksgiving with just one other person, you can still enjoy a classic Thanksgiving dinner on a smaller scale. I’ve crafted this smaller-sized meal that can be prepared in about two hours, so you can enjoy all those delicious thanksgiving recipes without a huge production. :)
What’s Included in This Thanksgiving Dinner for Two
This smaller Thanksgiving dinner menu includes the following scaled-down classic Thanksgiving recipes:
- Roasted Turkey Breast and Stuffing
- Candied Sweet Potatoes
- Roasted Brussels Sprouts
- Mashed Potatoes
- Green Bean “Casserole” (stove top version)
- Mushroom Herb Gravy
Each recipe makes about 2-4 servings, so you’ll still have a few leftovers, but not as much as if you had cooked regular-sized Thanksgiving dinner (we’re all about reducing food waste here at Budget Bytes).
Three recipes will be prepared in the oven (at the same time and same temperature) and three will be prepared on the stove top while the other recipes are doing their thing in the oven.
In addition to the recipes listed above, here are a couple optional extras you can add, either homemade or store-bought. You can make homemade cranberry sauce or mini pumpkin pies the day before. You might want to prepare a quick Thanksgiving grazing board to snack on earlier in the day, or maybe some cranberry cream cheese dip with crackers. And don’t forget to make a couple of Apple Cider Mimosas!
How Long Does it Take to Prepare?
I was able to make this meal in about two hours. The turkey and stuffing takes approximately 1.5 hours to roast, and I was able to prepare the rest of the sides while they were in the oven. I’m probably a bit faster than the average home cook and very well accustomed to multi-tasking in the kitchen, but I also paused to take all of my photographs in that time, so I think 2-3 hours is reasonable for most people. Beginners may want to allow for extra time.
NOTE: The most important part of being able to prepare this meal in a decent amount of time is to read through the plan thoroughly before beginning. You need to understand how to execute each recipe and in which order before you begin so you don’t get lost. Making a Thanksgiving dinner, any Thanksgiving dinner, takes coordination and multi-tasking skills.
What You Need
For this entire meal you’ll need the following equipment:
- 8×8″ casserole dish
- Large baking sheet (about 16″x13″)
- Medium saucepot (2.5 qt.)
- 3 qt. covered sauté pan or pot
- 10″ skillet
- Chef’s knife
- Cutting board
- Mixing bowls
- Measuring cups and spoons
- Parchment paper
In addition to the equipment listed above, you’ll need the following ingredients:
- 2.5 lbs. bone-in, skin-on turkey breast
- ½ lb. Brussels sprouts
- ¾ lb. sweet potato
- 1 lb. russet potato
- 8 oz. mushrooms
- 12 oz. frozen cut green beans
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 6oz. box stuffing mix
- 1 Tbsp brown sugar
- 3 ½ Tbsps all-purpose flour
- ½ cup French fried onions (packaged)
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- 1 ¼ cup milk
- 11 Tbsp butter
- 1 ¼ tsp rubbed sage
- 1 tsp dried rosemary
- 1 ⅛ tsp dried thyme
- ¼ tsp garlic powder
- ¼ tsp cinnamon
- ⅛ tsp ground cloves
- Salt, pepper, and olive oil
How to Make Thanksgiving for Two – Step by Step Instructions
Okay, let’s get into it! I have the process divided into steps below. Each recipe is its own step so you can skip recipes you don’t like or even scale up recipes that you may want more of. You’ll be cooking most of these simultaneously, but they are listed in order of execution. Keep in mind that the cooking times will overlap. Make sure to read through the instructions thoroughly before beginning. Understanding the process for each recipe and the sequence is critical to executing a Thanksgiving dinner!
NOTE: Before beginning, adjust the racks in your oven so the top rack is slightly above the middle position and the lower rack is just below the middle position (not on the lowest position). The bottom rack only needs enough vertical room for a sheet pan, while the top rack needs enough height for the casserole dish and turkey breast.
1. Turkey and Stuffing
This turkey turns out so incredibly juicy and so so much easier than roasting a whole bird. The stuffing absorbs the juices and fat from the turkey as it roasts, making it even more flavorful!
The turkey and stuffing take the longest to cook (about 1.5 hours), so you’ll want to begin this first. The rest of the sides can be prepared while the turkey and stuffing are in the oven.
Roasted Turkey Breast with Stuffing
- 1 6oz. box stuffing mix ($0.89)
- 1.5 cups water ($0.00)
- 4 Tbsp butter, room temperature ($0.40)
- 1 tsp dried sage ($0.10)
- 1 tsp dried rosemary ($0.10)
- 1 tsp dried thyme ($0.10)
- 3/4 tsp salt ($0.05)
- 2.5 lb. bone-in, skin on turkey breast ($12.21)
- Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Add the box of stuffing mix to a bowl, then pour in 1.5 cups warm water. Stir and let the stuffing sit to absorb the water as you prepare the turkey.
- Combine the room temperature butter, sage, rosemary, thyme, and salt in a small bowl.
- Pat the turkey breast dry, then spread the herb butter mixture all over the surface.
- Transfer the stuffing to the bottom of an 8×8-inch casserole dish and place the turkey breast on top. The turkey should cover nearly all of the stuffing. If there is a lot of stuffing exposed, use foil to cover the stuffing mix to prevent it from browning too much during the hour and a half in the oven.
- Transfer the turkey and stuffing to the oven (upper rack) and roast for about 1.5 hours, or until the internal temperature of the turkey breast reaches 165ºF.
- After roasting, let the turkey and stuffing rest for 10-15 minutes before slicing and serving. The stuffing under the turkey will have absorbed quite a bit of moisture from the turkey, while the stuffing on the edges will be quite crunchy. Simply stir the stuffing together and let it sit for about five minutes to rehydrate the drier pieces before serving.
Turkey and Stuffing Step by Step Photos
- Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Place the contents of one 6oz. box of stuffing mix in a bowl and add 1.5 cups of warm water. Stir to combine, then set it aside to soak as you prepare the turkey.
- Combine 4 Tbsp room temperature butter with 1 tsp dried sage, 1 tsp dried rosemary, 1 tsp dried thyme, and ¾ tsp salt. Pat a 2.5 lb. bone-in, skin-on turkey breast dry, then smear the herb butter over the surface (if the turkey breast is wet, the butter won’t stick, so dry it well).
- Place the hydrated stuffing mix in the bottom of an 8×8-inch casserole dish and place the turkey breast on top. The turkey should cover most of the stuffing. If there are any large portions of stuffing exposed, you may want to cover the exposed portions with foil to prevent them from browning too much as the dish is in the oven. Do not cover the turkey with foil.
- Roast the turkey and stuffing in the preheated 350ºF oven for about 1.5 hours, or until the internal temperature of the turkey reaches 165ºF. Let the turkey rest for about 10-15 minutes before slicing and serving.
- The stuffing under the turkey will have absorbed a lot of moisture from the turkey as it roasts while the stuffing on the outer edges will be quite crunchy. Simply stir the stuffing together and let it sit for about five minutes for the moisture levels to equalize.
Once the turkey and stuffing are in the oven, move on to recipe #2, Candied Sweet Potatoes and Roasted Brussels Sprouts.
2. Candied Sweet Potatoes and Roasted Brussels Sprouts
While the turkey and stuffing are roasting, begin the candied sweet potatoes and roasted Brussels sprouts. These will cook together on one sheet pan in the oven at the same time as the turkey and stuffing. The sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts take about 40 minutes to cook, so you can prepare them on the sheet pan and then wait to put them into the oven until the turkey has about 40 minutes to go.
These candied sweet potatoes were so delicious it was all I could do to keep from eating them ALL myself. :o
Candied Sweet Potatoes and Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Candied Sweet Potatoes
- 3/4 lb. sweet potato ($0.75)
- 1.5 Tbsp butter ($0.15)
- 1 Tbsp brown sugar ($0.04)
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon ($0.02)
- 1/8 tsp ground cloves ($0.02)
- 1/8 tsp salt ($0.02)
Roasted Brussels Sprouts
- 1/2 lb. Brussels sprouts ($2.00)
- 1 Tbsp olive oil ($0.16)
- 1/8 tsp each salt and pepper ($0.03)
- Peel and slice the sweet potatoes into ½-inch thick rounds. Place the sliced sweet potatoes in a bowl.
- Melt the butter and then stir in the brown sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and salt. Pour the sweet butter over the sliced sweet potatoes and stir to combine.
- Cut off any dry ends from the Brussels sprouts, then slice them in half. Drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper, then toss to coat.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper then lay the butter-coated sweet potatoes out over half of the baking sheet. Try to get as much of the butter mixture out of the bowl onto the sweet potatoes as possible. Spread the Brussels sprouts over the other half of the baking sheet.
- Transfer the baking sheet to the oven, placing it on the rack below the turkey. Roast the sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts in the oven for about 40 minutes, or until browned and tender, flipping once halfway through.
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Candied Sweet Potatoes and Roasted Brussels Sprouts Step by Step Photos
- Peel and slice one ¾ lb. sweet potato into ½-inch thick rounds. Melt 1.5 Tbsp butter, then stir in 1 Tbsp brown sugar, ¼ tsp cinnamon, ⅛ tsp ground cloves, and ⅛ tsp salt. Pour the butter mixture over the sweet potatoes and stir until they’re coated.
- Cut off the dry stem end of ½ lb. Brussels sprouts, then slice them in half. Add 1 Tbsp olive oil and ⅛ tsp each of salt and pepper, then toss to coat. Place the Brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes on a parchment-lined sweet pan. Make sure to get as much of that butter mixture from the bowl onto the sweet potatoes.
- The vegetables only take about 40 minutes to roast, so you may want to leave them prepped on the sheet pan until the last 40 minutes or so of the turkey’s baking time so they’re not done too early. Transfer the baking sheet to the oven (lower rack) and roast the vegetables for about 40 minutes, or until browned and tender, flipping them once halfway through.
Once the sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts are on the sheet pan and prepared to go into the oven, you can move on to preparing the next recipe, mashed potatoes. When the sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts are in the oven you can prepare the last two recipes, green bean “casserole” and mushroom herb gravy.
3. Mashed Potatoes
You can prepare the mashed potatoes while you’re waiting to put the sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts in the oven. They’re pretty quick to prepare, then they can sit on the stovetop with a lid on to stay warm while you finish the rest of the side dishes.
This recipe is also pretty flexible, so if there are other ingredients that you like to add to your mashed potatoes, like sour cream, cheese, or herbs, feel free to stir them in at the end!
Small-Batch Mashed Potatoes
- 1 lb. russet potato ($0.99)
- 3/4 tsp salt, divided ($0.02)
- 1/4 cup milk ($0.11)
- 2 Tbsp butter ($0.20)
- 1/4 tsp garlic powder ($0.02)
- 1/8 tsp pepper ($0.01)
- Peel the potato then dice into ½-inch cubes. Rinse the diced potatoes with cool water in a colander to remove excess starch.
- Place the cubed potatoes in a medium pot and cover with one inch of water. Add ½ tsp salt. Place a lid on top and bring the water up to a boil over high heat. Boil the potatoes for 8-10 minutes, or until very tender.
- Drain the potatoes in a colander and then give them another brief rinse.
- Add the butter, milk, garlic powder, and pepper to the pot used to boil the potatoes. Heat over low until the milk is hot and the butter is melted. Return the drained potatoes to the pot and mash. Taste the mashed potatoes and add salt, if needed (I added ¼ tsp).
- Place a lid on the pot then move it to a back burner (not turned on) to stay warm while you prepare the rest of the sides.
Small Batch Mashed Potatoes Step by Step Photos
- Peel and dice a one pound russet potato into ½-inch pieces. Rinse the pieces briefly in a colander to remove excess starch. Place the cubed potato in a medium pot and cover with water. Add 1/2 tsp salt to the water. Place a lid on top and bring the water up to a boil over high heat. Boil the potatoes for 8-10 minutes, or until very tender. Drain the potatoes in a colander and give them another brief rinse.
- Add 2 Tbsp butter, ¼ cup milk, and ¼ tsp garlic powder, and ⅛ tsp pepper to the pot used to boil the potatoes. Heat the milk and butter mixture over low until the milk is hot and butter is mostly melted. Add the drained potatoes back to the pot.
- Mash the potatoes until mostly smooth. Taste and add salt if needed (I added ¼ tsp). Place a lid on the pot and move the pot full of potatoes to an unused burner (heat turned off) to stay warm until the rest of the meal is finished.
4. Green Bean “Casserole”
Once your potatoes are mashed and are resting on the back of the stove, begin the green bean “casserole”. This is essentially a quick stovetop version of the classic baked casserole. Tender green beans coated in a creamy mushroom sauce and topped with French fried onions. You can bake this in the oven after assembly if you prefer, but I was aiming for speed and simplicity with this recipe, so I skipped the baking step.
Stove Top Green Bean “Casserole”
- 12 oz. frozen cut green beans ($1.00)
- 2 Tbsp butter ($0.20)
- 4 oz. mushrooms ($0.75)
- 1 clove garlic ($0.08)
- 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour ($0.02)
- 1 cup milk ($0.44)
- 1 cup vegetable broth ($0.13)
- 1/4 tsp salt ($0.02)
- 1/4 tsp pepper ($0.03)
- 1/2 cup Fried Onions* ($0.32)
- Add the frozen green beans to a pot and cover with water. Place a lid on the pot, then bring the water up to a boil over high heat. Boil the green beans for about 5 minutes, or until tender, then drain in a colander.
- While the green beans are boiling, slice the mushrooms and mince the garlic.
- Add the mushrooms, garlic, and butter to the pot used to boil the green beans. Sauté over medium heat. Once the mushrooms have released all their water and all of it has evaporated off the bottom of the pot, add the flour and continue to stir and cook for about one minute more.
- Whisk in the milk, vegetable broth, salt, and pepper. Make sure to whisk until all of the flour has dissolved off the bottom of the pot. Allow the milk mixture to return to a boil, stirring occasionally. Once it reaches a boil, it will thicken into a sauce.
- Return the drained green beans to the pot with the sauce and stir to combine. Turn the heat down to its lowest setting and allow the green beans to remain heating over low, stirring occasionally, as you make the final recipe (mushroom herb gravy). The sauce will continue to thicken as it heats over low.
- When you're ready to serve the green beans, transfer them to a bowl and top with the fried onions.
Stove Top Green Bean Casserole Step by Step Photos
- Add 12oz. frozen green beans to a pot and cover with water. Place a lid on the pot, turn the heat on to high, and bring the water up to a boil. Boil the green beans until tender (about 5 minutes). Drain the green beans in a colander.
- While the beans are boiling, slice 4oz. mushrooms and mince one clove of garlic. Add the mushrooms, garlic, and 2 Tbsp butter to the pot that was used to boil the beans (after draining them). Sauté over medium heat until the mushrooms have released all of their water and it has completely evaporated off the bottom of the pot.
- Once there is no more water pooling on the bottom of the pot, add 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour and continue to stir and cook over medium heat for about a minute more.
- Whisk in one cup milk, one cup vegetable broth, ¼ tsp salt, and ¼ tsp pepper. Make sure to keep whisking until all of the flour has dissolved off the bottom of the pot.
- Allow the liquid to return to a boil, stirring occasionally, at which point it will thicken to a sauce.
- Stir the drained green beans back into the sauce. Turn the heat down to low and let the green beans heat over low, stirring occasionally, as you make the final recipe (mushroom herb gravy). When ready to serve, top with ½ cup fried onions.
5. Mushroom Herb Gravy
This mushroom herb gravy only takes a few minutes to make, so it’s best to make it last just before you serve your Thanksgiving dinner. Gravies tend to gel up even more as they cool, so if you find your gravy becoming too thick after it begins to cool, simply stir in a tablespoon or two of warm water to loosen it back up.
Mushroom Herb Gravy
- 4 oz. mushrooms ($0.75)
- 1 clove garlic ($0.08)
- 1.5 Tbsp butter ($0.15)
- 1.5 Tbsp all-purpose flour ($0.02)
- 1 cup vegetable broth ($0.13)
- 1/4 tsp rubbed sage ($0.03)
- 1/8 tsp dried thyme (or one sprig fresh) ($0.03)
- 1/8 tsp pepper ($0.02)
- Slice the mushrooms and mince the garlic. Add the mushrooms, garlic, and butter to a small skillet and sauté over medium heat until the mushrooms have released all of their water and the water has completely evaporated off the bottom of the skillet.
- When there is no more water pooling on the bottom of the skillet, add the flour and continue to stir and cook for about one minute more.
- Add the vegetable broth and whisk well until all of the flour has dissolved off the bottom of the skillet. Also add the sage, thyme, and pepper. Allow the broth to come up to a simmer, stirring occasionally, at which point it will thicken to a gravy.
- Taste the gravy and add salt if needed. Serve immediately.
Mushroom Herb Gravy Step by Step Photos
- The gravy starts out the same as the green bean casserole. Slice 4oz. mushrooms and mince one clove of garlic. Sauté the mushrooms and garlic in 1.5 Tbsp butter over medium heat until the mushrooms have released all their moisture and it has evaporated off the bottom of the skillet. Once no more water is left on the bottom of the skillet, add 1.5 Tbsp flour and continue to stir and cook for about a minute more.
- Whisk in 1 cup vegetable broth. Make sure to keep whisking until all of the flour has dissolved off the bottom of the skillet. Also add ¼ tsp rubbed sage, ⅛ tsp dried thyme, and ⅛ tsp pepper.
- Allow the broth to come up to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Once it begins to simmer it will thicken into a gravy. Taste and add salt if needed. Serve immediately.
And there you have it! By the time you’re finished making the gravy, the rest of the dishes should be done and waiting to be served. This meal should provide two people with generous helpings, plus a little leftover for the next day. ;) If you make this meal make sure to take a photo and tag us on social media! I want to see your masterpiece!