A simple guide to how much turkey you’ll need per person for Thanksgiving this year

Photo credit: Mike Garten

So you know a typical roast chicken is the perfect size for your family of 4, but how many people feed a 12-pound turkey? Thanksgiving dinner raises many logistical questions, such as how much turkey per person, how many servings in a can of cranberry sauce and how to brine turkey?. Don’t be afraid! We’ve put together a Turkey Day cheat sheet that will help you determine how many pounds of turkey per person you can cook for your feast, plus our best estimates for Thanksgiving side dishes and desserts.

Quick rule of thumb to start with: If you’re buying a whole turkey, count on 1 pound (uncooked) per person. For a boneless turkey breast, you get ½ pound per person. Feeding an army? Instead of buying the largest bird you can find (which can be tricky to cook evenly while retaining moisture), buy two smaller turkeys or a whole turkey and a breast. These generous estimates will probably leave you feeling wonderful Thanksgiving leftovers to enjoy when all that hard work is over.

How much food do I need for Thanksgiving?

8 people

  • Whole turkey (8 lbs.)

  • Dry mix filling (8 oz.)

  • Potatoes (3 lbs., or 6 large)

  • Sweet potatoes (3 lbs., or 3 large)

  • Canned Cranberry Sauce (2 16 oz cans)

  • Cake (1-2.9″-9.5″)

  • Butternut squash (3.5 lbs., or 2 small)

  • Brussels sprouts (2 10-oz containers)

  • Green beans (2 lbs.)

  • Frozen Creamy Spinach (3 10-oz packets)

16 people

  • Whole turkey (16 lbs.)

  • Dry mix filling (16 lbs.)

  • Potatoes (6 lbs., or 12 large)

  • Sweet potatoes (6 lbs., or 6 large)

  • Canned Cranberry Sauce (3 16 oz cans)

  • Cake (2-3, 9″-9.5″)

  • Butternut squash (6.75 lbs., or 3 medium)

  • Brussels sprouts (4 10-oz containers)

  • Green beans (4 lbs.)

  • Frozen creamed spinach (6 packs of 10 oz)

24 people

  • 2 12-14 lb. whole turkeys or a whole turkey and a breast equal to about 24 lbs. total

  • Dry mix filling (24 lbs.)

  • Potatoes (9 lbs., or 18 large)

  • Sweet potatoes (9 lbs., or 9 large)

  • Canned Cranberry Sauce (4 16 oz cans)

  • Cake (3-4,9″-9.5″)

  • Butternut squash (10 lbs., or 4 large)

  • Brussels sprouts (6 10 oz. containers)

  • Green beans (6 lbs.)

  • Frozen Creamy Spinach (8 10-oz packets)

You’re halfway there. Now that you know How much must buy, browse the galleries below to find out which dishes will amaze your family this year. Happy cooking!

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