Food & Drink

Thanksgiving: How much food do you need to serve?

By Kara Elder

Washington Post

Artisticco Getty Images/Stockphoto

Perhaps you’ve browsed the recipes and know just what to make for The Big Day, or maybe you’re waiting until the last minute and improvising. Whatever your method, you need to know how much food to make.

Obviously, it depends on the number of people attending your feast and on their eating habits (a few vegetarians mingling with the carnivores, a few abstaining from gluten or a table full of gluttons, for example).

It also depends on how you feel about leftovers. On one hand, they can be overwhelming, especially after playing a Tetris game in your refrigerator all week. On the other hand, leftovers can provide a jumping-off point for countless meals to come. Keeping that in mind, the portions below are the amounts you'll need to feed every guest one serving, with the exception of turkey, which we find quite useful to have left over. If you want the guarantee of leftovers, scale up.

We determined our ratios largely by experience and the ever-useful Chef’s Book of Formulas, Yields & Sizes, by Arno Schmidt.

While the amounts might seem awkward (who makes only1/2 cup of gravy?), they are meant to help you determine how much - or how little - food you really need. You'll probably need to scale your recipes accordingly.

When deciding how many extra side dishes you need, consider how much variety and how many leftovers you want. For salad greens, we assume you’re adding other ingredients to the salad and not just dropping two ounces of leaves on a plate. For potatoes, we give you the number of pounds needed to make approximately 1/2-cup servings of mashed potatoes.

SMALL GATHERING (2 TO 4 PEOPLE) Turkey: One 6-pound turkey breast, 4 to 8 turkey legs or one 8-pound turkey Stuffing: 1 to 2 cups Gravy: 1/2 to 1 cup Soup: 2 to 4 cups Salad greens: 4 to 8 ounces Potatoes: 1 pound Cranberry sauce: 1/2 to 1 cup Rolls: 4 to 8 Side dishes: 2 or 3 Pies: 1 or 2 Wine or cider: 2 or 3 bottles

MEDIUM CROWD (5 TO 10 PEOPLE) Turkey: One 8-to-15-pound turkey Stuffing: 2 1/2 to 5 cups Gravy: 1 1/4 to 2 1/2 cups Soup: 5 to 10 cups Salad greens: 10 to 20 ounces Potatoes: 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 pounds Cranberry sauce: 1 1/4 to 2 1/2 cups Rolls: 10 to 20 Side dishes: 4 or 5 Pies: 2 or 3 Wine or cider: 3 to 6 bottles

LARGE PARTY (11 TO 16 PEOPLE) Turkey: One 17-to-22-pound turkey or two 12-to-14-pound turkeys Stuffing: 5 1/2 to 8 cups Gravy: 2 3/4 to 4 cups Soup: 11 to 16 cups Salad greens: 22 to 32 ounces Potatoes: 2 3/4 to 4 pounds Cranberry sauce: 2 3/4 to 4 cups Rolls: 22 to 32 Side dishes: 5 to 8 Pies: 3 or 4 Wine or cider: 7 to 10 bottles