Thanksgiving dinner

Step-by-Step Menu Ideas for Thanksgiving Dinner in Your Apartment

Thanksgiving is arguably the most delicious holiday. It’s a great time when everyone comes together and remembers to give thanks for the things that are truly important. Cooking for Thanksgiving dinner, however, can be a daunting task. From the turkey to the dessert, you want everything to be perfect.

It’s even more daunting when you live in a small apartment with limited kitchen space. But, fear not! Here’s everything you need to know in order to cook the perfect Thanksgiving meal in your apartment.

Prepping for Thanksgiving dinner in an apartment

If you’re wondering how you’re going to cook everything — turkey, potatoes, stuffing and dessert — in a smaller space, don’t worry. We have you covered. The key to making Thanksgiving in a small apartment kitchen is to prep, prep, prep. Here are some tips for making this Thanksgiving dinner easier from the start.

Chop in bulk

Before you cook anything, chop it first. If you chop all of your vegetables ahead of time, you’ll save time, counter space and your sanity. Once everything is chopped, store them in separate containers and stack them neatly in your fridge. You can also consider purchasing pre-chopped items. This is more expensive, but it can be more convenient, too.

Cook ahead of time

Another great tip is to cook whatever you can ahead of time and reheat it later. Certain foods, such as potatoes, soups and gravy all reheat well and can be made the day before. This way, you’ll have fewer items on your Thanksgiving day to-do list.

Ask friends to bring sides

There’s no shame in asking your friends to contribute to the dinner. Ask a couple of friends to bring some items like sides, desserts or drinks. This makes less work for you but ensures a plentiful meal for everyone.

Stick to a schedule

It sounds kind of funny, but a cooking schedule is essential to stay on track when preparing a Thanksgiving meal in an apartment. By making a schedule and sticking to it, you’ll avoid trying to jam the stuffing in the oven next to the turkey. This method will help you keep track of time, as well as conserve cooking space in the kitchen.

Cook what can be reheated or served cold first and then move on to more important foods like the turkey. Once everything is cooked, you can quickly reheat anything in the already-hot oven or microwave right before you serve it to your guests.

Clean as you go

If you have some time to kill while menu items are cooking, use it to clean up some of the dishes. Washing and putting away your dishes as you go will help you clear your kitchen of clutter and make it easier to prep the next item on your cooking list. Also, you won’t have a huge pile-up of dishes to do at the end of the night. Win-win!

Thanksgiving dinner table

Thanksgiving dinner menu essentials

While everyone celebrates holidays differently, there are some menu essentials for Thanksgiving like pumpkin pie, turkey, stuffing, gravy and, of course, mashed potatoes. The feast itself is spectacular but preparing it on your own can be overwhelming. We want to help you confidently plan an at-home Thanksgiving meal to remember so we’ve outlined step-by-step how to do it successfully.

Thanksgiving cocktails

Drinks are a great way to start off your Thanksgiving feast. You can make them as fun and festive as you’d like with just a couple of steps. For this, you’ll, of course, need glasses and the different ingredients for each cocktail. Delish has great Thanksgiving cocktail recipes, everything from pecan pie martinis to apple cider mimosas. Here’s what you’ll need to make an apple cider mimosa.

  • 1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1 cup of apple cider
  • 1 bottle of bubbly
  1. Mix the sugar and cinnamon on a plate
  2. Wet the top of the flute glasses and dip in the sugar mix
  3. Fill the flutes with ¼ apple cider and the rest with champagne

Thanksgiving appetizers

Appetizers are perfect to keep your guests happy, not hangry (hungry + angry), while you’re putting the finishing touches on the main course. If you have limited counter space in which to prep appetizers, consider choosing appetizers that are small, easy-to-prep and require little to no cooking time.

When you can, avoid making dishes that require the oven so you can keep that reserved for the main course dishes. Think of things you can cook on the stove such as green beans or soups. Also don’t feel guilty about serving some store-bought items like rolls or a pre-made veggie plate or cheese board. Appetizers don’t have to be fancy, they just need to be tasty.

One appetizer suggestion we have for you is a seasonal butternut squash soup. Check out the menu and cooking instructions below.

Butternut squash soup

The Food Network’s Butternut squash is a great option for a Thanksgiving dinner appetizer. Here’s what you’d need and the steps to make that soup.

  • 1 two- to three-pound butternut squash
  • 2 Tbsp. of butter
  • 1 onion
  • 6 cups of chicken stock
  • Nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Add the butter and onion to the pan and cook until the onion is translucent.
  2. Add the stock and the squash to the pan and cook until the squash is tender.
  3. Remove the squash and blend in a blender.
  4. Return the pureed squash to the pan and add the seasoning then serve.

If soup isn’t your thing, that’s OK! There are plenty of other appetizers you could serve. Food Network is a great place to find delicious recipes for Thanksgiving appetizers

Thanksgiving sides

When it comes to Thanksgiving dinner, let’s be honest, everyone loves the sides the most. They’re what ties the whole dinner together. Sides are a great part of the dinner that can be prepped ahead of time to save space and time.

As mentioned, if you’re serving veggies, take time earlier in the week to pre-chop them so on Thanksgiving day itself the veggies are prepped and ready to cook. Your microwave is going to be your best friend when it comes to preparing the side dishes.

If you don’t have a lot of cooking space and want to reserve the oven, make sides that either don’t need to be cooked or that reheat well. Sides such as fruit or salad are a great option. They can be made the day before and stored in the fridge until it’s time to eat.

If you’re going for a classic Thanksgiving feast, then you’ll, of course, need mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy and cranberries. If you don’t have the time or space for each of these items, consider buying premade cranberry sauce. As for the others, here are some recipes and tips for making them.

Mashed Potatoes

Mashed potatoes are easy enough to make and don’t take a lot of time. Here’s what you’ll need.

  • 3 pounds of potatoes
  • ½ cup of whole milk
  • 1 stick of butter
  • ½ cup of sour cream
  1. Peel and cut your potatoes into chunks.
  2. Put the potatoes and a pinch of salt in a pot of cold water.
  3. Bring the water to a boil and let the potatoes cook until they’re soft.
  4. Once the potatoes are done cooking, mash them with your preferred mashing tool.
  5. Melt the butter and milk into a pan and combine.
  6. Combine the butter and milk with the mashed potatoes and stir together.
  7. Season and serve.


Gravy is one of the easier side dishes to make for Thanksgiving dinner. A couple of recipes can even be made partially in the microwave. You can make Crazy for Crust’s recipe in five minutes and is as delicious as any other. Here’s what you’ll need to get started with their recipe.

  • 2 cups of chicken or turkey stock
  • 2 chicken or beef bouillon cubes
  • 4 Tbsp. of butter
  • ¼ cup of flour
  • 1 tsp. of onion powder
  • ¼ tsp. of dried thyme
  • ½ tsp. of dried sage
  • 1 tsp. of dried rosemary
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Combine the stock and bouillon cubes in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave in one-minute increments until the cube has dissolved.
  2. In a saucepan, add all the other ingredients and cook for one minute.
  3. Slowly add the stock to the flour mix and whisk until smooth.
  4. Bring to a boil.
  5. Reduce to a simmer and whisk until smooth and thick.


Making stuffing from a box can save you a lot of time. Boxed stuffing doesn’t have to be bland. Here are some ways to doctor it up and make it seem homemade.

  • Add dried fruits
  • Toss in toasted nuts
  • Pepper it with sausage
  • Add mushrooms
  • Drizzle it with browned butter

By adding some of these things, it’ll go from bland to bomb.

Some other sides to consider are sweet potato casserole, Brussel sprouts or beets.

Thanksgiving main course

The star of every Thanksgiving dinner is, naturally, the turkey. Cooking an entire turkey is a large task for anyone but even more so in a small space. A whole 25-pound turkey takes up a lot of valuable cooking space, as well as takes a lot of time to cook thoroughly.

When planning for your Thanksgiving dinner, start the turkey ahead of time. A couple of ways you can simplify the process of cooking the turkey is to consider buying a pre-cooked turkey, cooking only the breast or legs or learning how to flatten your turkey before cooking it. Remember it’s always best to keep the turkey stored on the bottom of the oven or fridge so that it doesn’t drip and contaminate the other food.


According to Food Network, this is the easiest Thanksgiving turkey to make. Here’s what you’ll need.

  • 1 turkey weighing anywhere from 10-15 lbs.
  • 1 large roasting pot
  • Tinfoil
  • Aromatics such as onion, lemon, apples
  • Butter
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Remove the innards from the turkey.
  3. Dry the turkey and season thoroughly with salt and pepper.
  4. Fill the turkey with chosen aromatics.
  5. Brush the melted butter on the top of the turkey.
  6. Tent the turkey in tin foil and bake for 2 hours (add 15 minutes for every pound on larger turkeys).
  7. When the two hours are up, add more butter and raise the temperature to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
  8. Cook for another hour until the turkey reaches 165 degrees internally.
  9. Let it sit while you cook the other dishes.

Thanksgiving dessert bar

Thanksgiving desserts

Dessert is where you can really save yourself time and energy when making Thanksgiving dinner. If you’re cooking in a small apartment kitchen and need to reserve the oven space for the turkey, consider buying your desserts or serving ones that can be stored at room temp or in the fridge. Search your local area for bakeries and ask them to make the desserts for you ahead of time. By doing this you’ll have one less thing to cook on your list.

If you don’t have a local bakery that’s making Thanksgiving desserts, buy a store-bought one and doctor it up with some homemade whipped cream. Want the pumpkin pie taste but not the hassle? Make pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. Cookies are a great option because they can be made the morning or day before and stored.

Another great option is ice cream. Everyone loves ice cream and it requires zero cooking. All you have to do is buy some toppings and store them in the freezer until dessert time. If you want to make the dessert yourself consider these mini pumpkin pies. Here are the ingredients you’ll need to make this delicious option.

Mini pumpkin pie

  • 1 nine-inch pie crust
  • ½ cup pumpkin puree
  • ¼ cup condensed milk
  • ¼ cup of brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. pumpkin spice blend
  • ¼ tsp. of salt
  • 1 egg
  • Whipped cream

Other desserts to consider making yourself or buying at the store are pecan pie, pumpkin pie, apple pie or cobbler.

Yum, yum, yum

Thanksgiving should be joyful and stress-free. While it takes some organization to properly prep and cook the big meal, with proper planning, you can cook a delicious homemade meal in even the smallest apartments. Follow our step-by-step guide and advice and you’ll have a memorable meal without all the holiday hassle.


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