How to Plan a Thanksgiving Dinner

Thanksgiving is a time of gratitude, family, and good food. For many people, hosting and planning a Thanksgiving dinner can be a daunting task. However, with some careful planning and organization, it is possible to host a successful and memorable Thanksgiving dinner without feeling overwhelmed.

Whether you are a seasoned host or hosting for the first time, this article will provide you with tips and tricks to make your Thanksgiving dinner a success. From menu planning to table setting, we will guide you through the entire process step-by-step so you can enjoy the holiday with your loved ones stress-free.

Close up of father serving Thanksgiving turkey to his extended family at dining table.
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Step 1: Determine the number of guests

Before you begin planning your menu, it’s important to determine the number of guests you will be hosting. This will help you decide how much food to prepare and how large of a turkey to buy. Make sure to include any dietary restrictions or allergies your guests may have.

Step 2: Choose your main course

The centerpiece of any Thanksgiving meal is the turkey. When deciding how big of a turkey to buy, a good rule of thumb is to plan for 1 pound of turkey per person. This will ensure that everyone has enough to eat, and you’ll have leftovers for sandwiches and other dishes. If you’re not a fan of turkey, you can also consider serving ham, roast beef, or even a vegetarian main course.

Step 3: Select your sides

Thanksgiving is all about the sides, and there are endless options to choose from. Some classic choices include mashed potatoes, stuffing, green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, and cranberry sauce. Don’t forget to include some vegetables as well, such as roasted Brussels sprouts, carrots, or broccoli. Consider any family recipes or traditional dishes that you’d like to include.

Cheerful male friends having fun while communicating in dining room on Thanksgiving.
Photo Credit: drazenphoto via Envato Elements

Step 4: Plan your desserts

No Thanksgiving meal is complete without dessert. Classic choices include pumpkin pie, apple pie, pecan pie, and sweet potato pie. If you’re looking for something a little different, you can also consider making a fruit tart, cheesecake, or bread pudding.

Step 5: Make a shopping list

Once you’ve decided on your menu, it’s time to create a shopping list. Make sure to include all of the ingredients you’ll need, as well as any serving dishes and utensils. Don’t forget to stock up on staples such as butter, flour, and sugar.

When it comes to deciding how big of a turkey to buy, you should plan to have at least 1 pound per person. However, if you want plenty of leftovers, you may want to consider buying a larger bird. Keep in mind that larger turkeys may take longer to cook, so make sure to factor that into your planning.

Thanksgiving Day, Autumn feast. Happy family sitting at the table and celebrating holiday. Grandparents, mother, father and children.
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Now that you have an idea of how much turkey you need, it’s time to start planning the rest of your menu. Here is a step-by-step process to help you plan your Thanksgiving feast:

  1. Appetizers: Start your meal off with a few appetizers to keep your guests satisfied while you finish up the main course. Some easy and crowd-pleasing appetizers include a cheese board, deviled eggs, or a spinach and artichoke dip.
  2. Side dishes: The side dishes are often the star of the Thanksgiving meal. Some classic side dishes include mashed potatoes, stuffing, green bean casserole, and sweet potato casserole. Don’t forget to include some vegetable dishes to balance out the heavier dishes.
  3. Gravy: Gravy is an essential part of any Thanksgiving meal. You can make gravy from scratch using the turkey drippings or opt for a store-bought version.
  4. Desserts: No Thanksgiving meal is complete without a few desserts. Pumpkin pie is a classic Thanksgiving dessert, but you can also include other options like apple pie or pecan pie. If you have guests with dietary restrictions, consider making a gluten-free or vegan dessert.
  5. Beverages: Don’t forget to include some beverages to go with your meal. Offer a variety of options like wine, beer, cider, cocktails, or non-alcoholic drinks like sparkling water or apple cider.

In addition to these steps, here are a few tips to help make your Thanksgiving meal a success:

  • Start preparing your meal a few days in advance. This will help you avoid last-minute stress and ensure that everything is cooked to perfection.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Assign tasks to your guests to help with the cooking or cleaning.
  • Set the table the night before to save time on Thanksgiving day.
  • Consider using disposable plates and utensils
Group of young friends gathered around the table for Thanksgiving, hosts making a toast, raising glasses of wine and entertaining their guests.
Photo Credit: vladans via Envato Elements

Don’t Forget!

One thing people often forget about when planning their Thanksgiving menu is appetizers. While they’re not essential, they can help keep hungry guests at bay while you finish preparing the main course. Some easy and delicious appetizers to consider include deviled eggs, cheese and crackers, and a vegetable platter with dip.

Happy family celebrating Thanksgiving dinner at home.
Photo Credit: pondsaksit via Envato Elements

Here are a couple of recipes to get you started:

Green Bean Casserole


  • 2 cans (10.5 oz each) cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 8 cups cooked cut green beans
  • 1 can (6 oz) French’s Crispy Fried Onions


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. In a 9×13-inch baking dish, combine the soup, milk, soy sauce, and black pepper.
  3. Stir in the green beans and half of the crispy fried onions.
  4. Bake for 25 minutes or until hot and bubbling.
  5. Stir and top with the remaining crispy fried onions.
  6. Bake for an additional 5 minutes or until the onions are golden brown.

Pumpkin Pie


  • 1 can (15 oz) pumpkin puree
  • 1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 unbaked 9-inch pie crust


  1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, sweetened condensed milk, eggs, spices, and salt until smooth.
  3. Pour the mixture into the pie crust.
  4. Bake for 15 minutes.
  5. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F and continue baking for 35-40 minutes or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.
  6. Cool on a wire rack for 2 hours before serving.

With these tips and recipes, you’ll be well on your way to planning the perfect Thanksgiving menu. Don’t forget to enjoy the time with your loved ones and give thanks for all that you have.