Thanksgiving for Two: All the Best Parts Without All the Work

A Thanksgiving menu for two just has to hit all the high notes—the turkey, the stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, gravy, and pumpkin pie. And there will definitely be leftovers.

Vicky Wasik

Listen, it happens. Maybe you're still recovering from the flu. Maybe you can't afford the plane ticket, or you just can't deal with the hellscape of our country's public transit. Maybe last year you insulted your aunt's pie; maybe last year your aunt insulted your pie. Or maybe you just felt like staying home and keeping it super simple this year.

We've put together a menu for those who may be doing Thanksgiving for one or two, to offer inspiration for those of you who have, either by accident or design, found themselves without a place to go on Turkey Day. Our goal with this menu was to hit all the familiar notes—in order of importance: pie, mashed spuds, stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce, Brussels sprouts, and turkey. But, of course, there will still be an overabundance of food, so it will also provide you with the very best part of the holiday, to boot: Leftovers.

One final note: All of these recipes were chosen with an eye to ease of preparation, because even though you want a nice spread, you don't want the dinner to be a burden. That is, except for the pie. The pie is a bit work-intensive, yes; it has several steps that might seem to require you to go above and beyond the call of duty. But it is a fantastic pie, and it is well worth the effort, and the best part about cooking it for two people is that you get half of it all to yourself.

  • Herb-Roasted Turkey Breast and Stuffing

    A Small Feast
    Smaller than a traditional roast turkey and stuffing, but just as tasty. J. Kenji López-Alt

    The whole process for both the turkey breast and stuffing takes two hours, from fridge to plate, so it's perfect for a low-key Thanksgiving for just you and a companion. We roast the whole turkey breast directly on top of the stuffing, which is enriched by the rendered turkey fat. When the stuffing is cooked through, simply take it out and let the breast continue cooking until it hits 150°F. Then, while the turkey rests, you can pop the stuffing back in the oven to crisp up the top.

  • Ultra Fluffy Mashed Potatoes

    Vicky Wasik

    In our opinion, mashed potatoes are the highlight of pretty much any meal that includes mashed potatoes—provided they're made correctly. For the fluffiest mashed potatoes, you'll want to cube the potatoes and rinse them before and after cooking to remove as much excess starch as possible. Once rinsed, you pass them through a ricer and enrich them with some butter and milk, seasoning to taste with salt and pepper.

  • Salt-Wilted Brussels Sprout Salad With Hazelnuts and Goat Cheese

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    Vicky Wasik

    Brussels sprouts are a must on any well-provisioned Thanksgiving table, but to keep things simple (and light), we thought this shaved Brussels sprouts salad would be a nice complement to the meal. You get the sprouts, but you don't have to use the oven, and the toasted hazelnuts and goat cheese add richness and complexity to the tenderized leaves. Tangerine juice and zest, along with a bit of Dijon mustard in the dressing, bring everything together with some punchy acidity.

  • Basic Turkey Gravy

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    Vicky Wasik

    You can't roast a Thanksgiving bird without some gravy, and this gravy recipe is the simplest of all. You'll need to secure some turkey stock (though chicken stock is perfectly acceptable), since all the drippings from your roasted breast are going into the stuffing. If making gravy from scratch tends to overwhelm you, check out our troubleshooting guide before resorting to the store-bought stuff.

    Continue to 5 of 6 below.
  • Cranberry Sauce

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    Photograph and video: J. Kenji López-Alt

    Simple is the watchword here, and with cranberry sauce, simple really is best. This straightforward sauce combines tart cranberries (fresh or frozen) with sugar, water, some bright orange juice and zest, and a hint of cinnamon. You can make it right now and just stash it in the fridge (it will keep for months).

  • Butternut Pumpkin Pie

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    Photograph: Vicky Wasik. Video: Natalie Holt.

    You might take a look at this recipe and balk; after all, it calls for making both the sweetened condensed milk and the roasted butternut squash purée from scratch, rather than the canned pumpkin and canned condensed milk most recipes rely on. But both those elements can be made in advance, and the final product is worth it.

    That said, if all that work makes our butternut pumpkin pie a non-starter for you, our quick and simple extra-smooth pumpkin pie is pretty damn delicious in its own right. This one takes a fraction of the time thanks to some canned pumpkin. Our favorite part is the brick of cream cheese added in for some extra tang and a creamy consistency.