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alone Thanksgiving - what to eat


I find I will be spending Thanksgiving alone this year. What is a simple, festive meal I can prepare for myself? My family will be calling and I would like to tell them I had something good.

  1. Why not do a small scale version of the traditional?
    Roast up a turkey leg or 2, bake a sweet potato and make a small batch of fresh cranberry sauce.
    A few years back it was only 2 of us for T-Day so I made just a turkey breast, got a good pie from a local bakery, and did half-recipes of a few of our fave side dishes. Still had leftovers for a few days.

    8 Replies
    1. re: iluvcookies


      and for dessert, an individual pumpkin pie or custard (baked in a ramekin) topped with fresh whipped cream.

      1. re: iluvcookies

        If I were going to do a mini Thanksgiving, I'd do cornish game hen and everything miniature.


          1. re: The Dairy Queen

            Not a bad idea... a tiny T-day feast!

            1. re: The Dairy Queen

              Roasted mini-potatoes, salad made with micro-greens, steamed miniature summer squash...

              1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                Yes, exactly. Pumpkin tartlets for dessert.


                1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                  And maybe something with quail egg or, at least roe. Hmmmm...anchovy something.

                  Maybe tiny pasta something, couscous or orzo.


              2. Maybe a one-dish recipe so you don't have a lot of dishes to do? Pumpkin stuffed with everything good? http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...


                1. While not alone, hubby & I eat two vastly different things so I make 1 meal for myself & 1 meal for him. He likes the butternut squash ravioli. I do make myself a turkey as I love leftovers, but in years past I've make turkey tenderloins, a turkey "roll" and a turkey breast. I don't bother with stuffing or mashed potatoes. Just serve with your fave sides.

                  TBH I just eat a Tastykake pumpkin pie as I can't eat a whole pie myself and there's just something about the Tastykake pies.

                  1. How about a Cornish game hen instead of turkey?

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: escondido123

                      I second this. I did that for a friend and I 2 Thanksgivings ago. I also did a roasted chicken one year when I was alone, with my favorite normal side dishes (rosemary roasted potatoes, sauteed green beans w/ bacon), and had brownies for dessert.

                      1. re: juliejulez

                        One year when it was just my husband and me, we did lobsters....so much better than turkey.

                        1. re: escondido123

                          I was thinking of Fillet Mignon. A departure from the norm, but good, and easy, esp for me if hubby cooks it on the grill!! We'll do a turkey sometime before Christmas though, they are just so darned good!!

                          1. re: escondido123

                            Exactly. It doesn't *have* to be turkey. Make it something you wouldn't normally make - if you can, splurge on yourself. Surf and turf - lobster tail and a filet. Or a duck breast with a pan sauce and butternut squash risotto.

                            1. re: escondido123

                              One year DH & I got live Dungeness crabs in Oakland Chinatown & had ourselves an amazing crab feed orgy all weekend long. Turned out to be the best sweetest crabs all that season.

                        2. Wish you lived closer Miss Mary....I'd invite you to eat with us...Nothing fancy....just good eats. ~~ Just finished picking up, cracking and picking out almost two quarts of pecans....So there will be pecan pie I can garontee it!! :) The little brown-eyed girl makes an awesome pie!! ~~

                          Maybe ya can roast a small chicken....make some dressing,...Bake a sweet tator....green beans etc.
                          How about a pork tenderloin? Cooks in a jiffy!! Tender as a mother's love! Yum!!

                          1. We don't do roast turkey at our house. As we live far from family we are often alone for holidays. And when my husband is working and I am alone I will do duck breast and foie gras for a special treat, usually with duck fat fries or risotto. Far better than turkey any day!

                            Love the idea of a Cornish hen. You could do a couple of quail or pigeon, too, if you can find it.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: chefathome

                              You guys are awesome! Thanks for the suggestions.

                            2. Alone for Thanksgiving where I live on Cape Cod, I would have oysters on the half shell with a bit of vodka, dab of sour cream and caviar to top them off...a half bottle of bubbly. Then a baked stuffed lobster, lots of melted butter and some Chardonnay. But - I wouldn't make a baked stuffed lobster for myself...would probably buy some stuffed sole, some asparagus to cook with it and make a wild rice pilaf.

                              I'd wake up about 4-6 hours later and want a piece of pumpkin pie, and someone else to do the dishes lol.

                              Hope you find a way to indulge yourself solo!! Sometimes it's really not so bad. Especially if you don't like football...

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: nlgardener

                                Given some of the nightmare stories about Thanksgiving Day on this site, I would say their are legions who would just as soon be alone!

                              2. I see you are from St. Louis, do the casinos have a Thanksgiving buffet? When I was single back home in Reno, I used to love the casino buffets.

                                1. Why not just make and eat what you like the most?

                                  The reason I enjoy Thanksgiving is not so much of what I am eating, but who I am eating it with.

                                  So, if you have to be alone on Thanksgiving, then at least make something that you enjoy eating the most.

                                  The most festive meals I've had are those I've spent in the company of those that I've enjoyed. A close runner-up would be those meals where I am eating what I enjoy the most -- usu. comfort foods of some kind.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                    I have no family, so while I usually make a turkey sometime in November or December, it is seldom ON Thanksgiving. I liked a frozen phyllo-wrapped round of brie that Trader Joe's no longer sells. It was about 4" in diameter. For several years my Tday special meal was this brie along with a sliced Granny Smith apple. Never bought it any other time of year. I like the idea of having a once-a-year dish for a solo holiday meal.

                                    1. re: greygarious

                                      I just saw Claire Robinson make a phyllo-wrapped brie on FN; that looked great. She had something else in it, but I missed the beginning - check out the FN site; it should be posted. (I think that's her name, the show is 5 ingredient fix)

                                  2. I would prepare a really amazing turkey sandwich - roasted turkey, crispy beef fry, fresh lettuce and tomato on a toasted bun. To keep it festive, I'd toss some kabocha squash cubes with olive oil and salt and roast it as a sweet potato-like side dish. Dessert would definitely be some warm cinnamon buns with sticky pecan topping. More important than the food, though - I'd make sure to have some great dvd's lined up for the day - night.

                                      1. re: sal_acid

                                        omg... where is the "like" button for this?

                                        1. re: sal_acid

                                          Love this idea! Though I don't smoke or drink bourbon, it is original.

                                          1. re: sal_acid

                                            I love this idea. I quit smoking(again) about 4 months ago, but would gladly indulge in a bourbon or 2.

                                          2. I am with greygarious,chefathome and some others here.

                                            Be indulgent,enjoy a TREAT for you with no apologies.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: lcool

                                              Yep . . . have a rollicking party of one sans appeasing others!

                                            2. I love Thanksgiving foods. But times I have been alone for the holiday I skipped them, bought turkey on sale later and then made that style dinner.

                                              For Thanksgiving I combined two of my favorite things - a decadent brunch with Bloody Mary's and nibbled on a large variety of charcuterie, cheese and accoutrements with a nice red wine in the evening. Key to this was staying in pajamas all day and having good movies and good books at the ready. A couple of kitties snuggling on the sofa doesn't hurt either!

                                              Indulge in what you love and have a wonderful day!

                                              4 Replies
                                              1. re: meatn3

                                                If you love turkey then I'd do a turkey breast roulade with chestnut and herb stuffing. It is really easy and looks so festive when cut. Some homemade cranberry sauce and for dessert two tarts from the best bakery in town.

                                                1. re: DaisyM

                                                  That does sound good!

                                                  If I'm by myself for Thanksgiving I'd really just as soon wait & buy the turkey later on sale! I've worked retail and restaurants for so long that I am quite used to celebrating a holiday on a different date. We used to have a huge industry Thanksgiving after the date. We were rested up from the madness and the meal tasted just as good for less money!

                                                  After 14 hour days prior to Thanksgiving I was quite happy to have my leisurely PJ day and do my much loved turkey the next week.

                                                  1. re: meatn3

                                                    your PJ day sounds right up my alley. I would love to do that this year, we've even threatened one another to get "sick". I won't be able to do that in the end though, the guilt would get me. That, and I'm bringing the gravy :)
                                                    My first stone cold sober family holiday in I don't know how long...hope there's some good people watching!

                                                  2. re: DaisyM

                                                    Turkey roulade sounds like such a good idea. I think I'll try it sometime. Thank you, Daisy.

                                                2. Hello!
                                                  Make something that YOU love---the other posters are right. Something marvelous and just for you!
                                                  What is your favorite meal? Do that.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: pinehurst

                                                    I agree. I've boycotted Thanksgiving dinner for several years now (something one can get away with being single with no family in the immediate area). It's just not my favorite splurge food, and usually by the time the third Thursday in November rolls around I've had a traditional Thanksgiving dinner at least twice already (including a little annual potluck get-together the Saturday before that has now snowballed into an 80 person extravaganza). So my Thanksgiving dinner is whatever I want it to be - a steak on the grill, spaghetti and meatballs, and at least once, leftover pizza and newly made chocolate cake.

                                                  2. Yes, agree with the others, eat what YOU like! (IMHO, there would be no finer T Day meal than a big bowl of stuffing, a bit of cranberry sauce and a whole pumpkin pie. After which I would feel terribly guilty and probably a bit sick, but happy.

                                                    1. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and I've always looked forward to the family favorites that my grandmother spends 2 weeks preparing to perfection. Unfortunately, I have to work during the day, my family will be out of town and I will be alone for the first time. While I do cook and would rate my cooking skills as much above average, the motivation to create the whole spread for myself does not exist. In the past week as I read more and more about Thanksgiving day plans on various blogs, I feel like I'm getting more and more sad. I thought perhaps I could just cook another favorite meal but the thought of missing out the most addicting rolls, sage sausage stuffing, mashed potatoes made ever so perfectly by my 85 year old grandmother has me in a tizzy. I thought I could order a dinner perhaps from Whole Foods which would be most convenient for me based on location but I wasn't sure if the stuffing and potatoes would hold a candle. Anyone ever do takeout? Are any traditional places order on Thanksgiving? Or anyone just ignore it completely? I need to get out of my funk...:(

                                                      12 Replies
                                                      1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                        I'm sorry you're starting to feel sad about Thanksgiving. You could do a scaled down dinner and just cook a turkey breast and a couple of your favorite sides. Or, you could order a prepared meal and do your own stuffing and potatoes since those are the things you are most sentimental about. Freeze or ask the grocer to donate the stuffing or potatoes from the "turkey dinner in a box" to a food shelf or something.

                                                        I've ordered a turkey dinner several times over the years and it's definitely not the same as having meal prepared from your favorite recipes, but it makes it possible for you to have a turkey dinner when you might otherwise not be able to pull it together because of your schedule.

                                                        The nice thing about Whole Foods Thanksgiving options is they seem to let you order your turkey dinner a la carte, whereas most "turkey dinners in a box" I've ordered over the years require you to order a complete package with no ability to pick and choose your sides. Sometimes they'll let you order turkey instead of ham.


                                                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                          Absolutely, it's really all of the carby things I'm after! If anyone has had a good experience with Whole Foods sage stuffing I might go that route. In fact, I am known for frequenting the hot food bar all winter when they serve Thanksgiving food every Monday. I love that stuffing and I imagine it's probably very similar/same as what they serve with the prepare meals. Thank you for your advice, I realized after posting that I got a little rant whiny.

                                                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                              I can do without stuffing. :-P My family didn't grow up having it, so I never got into it.

                                                        2. re: fldhkybnva

                                                          Often a grocery like Whole Foods starts sampling their Thanksgiving -to-go items several weeks ahead of the date. Call your store and speak to the deli - they probably could tell you when which items are being sampled. This weekend will most likely have a wide variety to try.

                                                          Many of the Thanksgiving dishes I've tried at upper end groceries have been quite good. It has been more of an issue of the recipe not being like so & so used to make....

                                                          1. re: meatn3

                                                            Funny! I was just going to suggest you call Whole Foods and see if they have samples for you to try. I'll bet they do. I know Whole Foods is a chain and can get a bad rap for being expensive, but I usually like their deli items.


                                                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                              Last weekend my husband made two dinners out of WF's Thanksgiving hot buffet. They offer it with the help-yourself prepared food this time of year.
                                                              It actually wasn't half bad. If you're lucky enough to score dark meat, it's still moist and the sides aren't awful.
                                                              The stuffing is a little "prepared" tasting, but that didn't stop me from eating his leftovers.

                                                              1. re: rabaja

                                                                For months after Thanksgiving, I enjoy that hot buffet. For some reason, I found the stuffing addicting. Did they serve it on Thanksgiving I assume? where I live, it was always on Mondays, but never checked on actual Thanksgiving day.

                                                          2. re: fldhkybnva

                                                            I think I might have solved my "dilemma." Christmas is only a few short weeks away and my family usually does a similar meal then with stuffing, potatoes, etc. Also, I'm sure my grandmother would not mind adding a few things to the menu to fit my cravings since I missed out on Thanksgiving. Perhaps, I will try to hold off on my carbalicious cravings and save them for Christmas and just have a lovely veg day perhaps with some Chinese takeout and pie.

                                                            1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                              I love the combo of Chinese take out and pie. :) I mean, as a concept. I can't say that I've tried it myself.


                                                              1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                I think that's good that you will be able to still get all your favs in a few weeks at Christmas. However, if you are really craving the carbs, why not experiment with a sage stuffing of your own? I love stuffing, and thoroughly enjoy the recipe my family always makes--but sometimes I look at recipes or pictures of how other people make it and my mouth waters when thinking how I might enjoy some extra additions. Maybe try experimenting with your own favorite things in a stuffing. Maybe some different breads that you enjoy, or sausage, or shallots. Before you know it, you have bread, meat, and stuffing. Have some wine or your favorite beer throughout the day.

                                                                If it fails miserably, oh well! You kept yourself busy, you tried something new, and you still get the good stuff in a few weeks! Plus, you can always order that Chinese takeout and you still have a pie to eat.

                                                              2. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                Ok I think I've narrowed it down - order a full meal from Whole Foods or gather a bunch of my favorite craving foods and indulge throughout the day (random assortment I must admit - includes Chinese takeout, fried chicken leg, cornbread, blueberry muffin). Other than the stuffing, typical Thanksgiving food is not necessarily food I would generally choose if I had the choice, albeit good when it's in front of me every Thanksgiving.

                                                              3. I agree with those who have suggested something(s) you love and that feel celebratory. If you want to stay in the traditional vein -- a turkey breast or tenderloin, I'd buy some gravy from Whole Foods, make a small batch of sausage apple stuffing, mash a sweet potato with maple syrup and sautee some green beans with bacon. I like the pumpkin tartlet idea for dessert or you can get a very nice mini pie at Whole Foods etc.

                                                                Off the normal T-day track, for me, I'd be thinking lobster risotto drizzled with truffle oil and a spectacular wine, a nice salad with crunch and fruit -- maybe persimmon or fig or something fall-like, nut of your choice and a nice vinaigrette. for perhaps a decadent ribeye with a twice baked potato and the salad. For dessert (if i had room), an apple crostata (which could be made with prepared pie crust and an apple or 2, with some crystallized ginger, dried cranberries or tart cherries or five spice (depending on your whim).

                                                                I absolutely adore solo dining -- out or at home. I would look for things that are absolutely pleasurable or decadent to me, not having to navigate around anyone else's tastes -- in food, wine or sweets.

                                                                Alternatively, sometimes for solo dining in, I like to get my favorite takeout and a great bottle of champagne and a movie.


                                                                1. For your drink you might have one of those delightful mini champagne bottles!!!! I like the miniaturist ideas or maybe if there is one meal you just adore totally have that.

                                                                  1. sometimes - cuz i am the main cook - i later that same week make a poached turkey breast - and enjoy it MYSELF over a couple of meals - all sliced on the best white bread with the best mayo and my fav cranberry - no fuss, no muss, no pile of dishes that takes a day and a half to clean up

                                                                    in other words - if i was you - i would fast-forward to LEFTOVERS - and watch something good and go for a walk and eat off a paper plate ; )

                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                    1. re: Georgia Strait

                                                                      Or straight to turkey sandwiches. Poached turkey breast, cooled and sliced, mayo and good white bread, some lettuce, salt and pepper. For subsequent ones, a bit of Indian lime pickles to spice things up. Gourmet potato chips on the side, and some pickles, and of course, left-over stuffing doused in gravy.

                                                                      1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                                                                        Or straight to turkey sandwiches. Poached turkey breast, cooled and sliced, mayo and good white bread, some lettuce, salt and pepper. For subsequent ones, a bit of Indian lime pickles to spice things up. Gourmet potato chips on the side, and some pickles, and of course, left-over stuffing doused in gravy.......................................................................................................................................................
                                                                        .tastsegoodwhatisit ..............I have never tasted poached turkey breast.I LOVE poached chicken breast so now I am curious and do believe I will try to poach a turkey breast just for sandwiches sometime after Thanksgiving. The grocery store near my house has a buy one turkey get one free deal and even though the extra turkey was going to the food bank I believe I will actually use it to experiment with.

                                                                    2. Cook Whatever.You.Want. And enjoy. I've had holidays alone that involved salad, Stouffer's mac-n-chz, and ice cream. Plus 6 horror movies.

                                                                      I've done a couple of T-days alone too and enjoyed them. I still get up early, I still make the huge turkey, take photos wearing the massive turkey on my arm, then watch the parade while prepping. I phone, text and photo people all day. Plus I get to eat the crunchy stuffing from the (giant) turkey's ass and all of the skin I want. I eat what I want, when I want, and I prep for the fridge and freezer. And I watch all the horror movies I've rented (seeing a theme here?).

                                                                      9 Replies
                                                                      1. re: DuchessNukem

                                                                        Yea, I just don't want to go through all of the hardwork for food that doesn't really hit the spot like my good ol' grandmother. But yes, I love your approach. Initially, I was excited to do what I want on a lovely 2 days off and perhaps gorge myself with yummy delights, but then the excitement and enthusiasm started to wane. I had plans for a lovely breakfast of french toast and fresh fruit and then start the eating party with whatever I wanted (initial plan was an assortment of all of my favorites including Chinese takeout, apple pie, cornbread with of course multiple rounds of leftovers, but then I started to get a craving and longing for the good ol' Thanksgiving favorite perhaps as I read threads about others preparing their big family meal.

                                                                        1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                          Baby, breakfast starts with champagne, sauteed onions (rest go to stuffing), crunchy bread cubes (rest go to stuffing), pumpkin pie custard filling (rest goes to pie) dot dot dot... probably some cheese thrown in there to cut the holiday-ness of the ingredients. :)

                                                                          I forgot to mention the all-day Christmas music, including the Christmas Chickens bokk-ing their happy songs.

                                                                            1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                              After reading the advice about fixing what you like, I'm thinking of opting for lobster and champagne.

                                                                                1. re: marymac

                                                                                  If you do that, lots of people, such as me, will hint for invitations to dinner. Sounds delicious. For dessert?


                                                                                  1. re: marymac

                                                                                    Lobster would be at the TOP of my very short,self indulgent list.

                                                                                      1. re: marymac

                                                                                        And what's better than having lobster than being able to dig into it by yourself and not care how you look to anyone else at the table?? Get two!! I might have to go lobster, or crab, myself, since I will be alone too. I usually just fix whatever I want, if I'm by myself; but usually have to get stuffing in sometime during the week.

                                                                              1. Tiny food sounds perfect to me marymac:) I hope you treat yourself and do a small spread to indulge in.

                                                                                4 Replies
                                                                                1. re: Lillipop

                                                                                  Thanks, everyone! Haven't thought about dessert. Something light after the rich lobster. Any ideas?

                                                                                    1. re: marymac

                                                                                      Pumpkin mousse with chocolate shavings and freshly whipped cream?

                                                                                      1. re: marymac

                                                                                        A small tart made with a single apple.

                                                                                    2. Raspberry Eton Mess or a fool of some kind.

                                                                                      ETA: Oops - this was in response to the dessert question.

                                                                                      1. It's ThanksGIVING.

                                                                                        I'd suggest that if you want a "traditional" dinner, go to any one of the dinners offered for free, or a nominal contribution, throughout the USA. Such are often offered by the Salvation Army, any number of Social Welfare organizations, churches, restaurants and the like. Some provide table service by volunteers, others are buffet style. Gourmet, probably not. Tasteful, probably. Find a place to sit, may be next to a welfare Mom with a number of kids, a vet, or any one of a number of folks down on their luck, or just a nice group of ladies and men out for a good traditional meal.

                                                                                        Give a bit of yourself, open up to the stories of their life, GIVE them encouragement, and hope.

                                                                                        You, too, you have had hard times that you have overcome. You can relate to the folks you likely will meet. Tell them your story, and how you persevered.

                                                                                        Have the champagne on ice for when you return home, enjoy the oysters, etc. But you will be rewarded in the thought that you may have GIVEN someone hope to carry on in this difficult environment.


                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: AZGrandpa

                                                                                            Lovely and heartfelt. Thank you!

                                                                                          2. i usually volunteer at a food kitchen and, after cooking and serving, eat a meal with those ive served.

                                                                                            1. Turkey pot pie (home made or store bought) a nice hunk of cornbread, some fresh or frozen green beans sauteed in butter, a bottle of your favorite beverage and your favorite pie ala mode.

                                                                                              You could even work in some mashed potato if you do a turkey shepherd's pie.

                                                                                              Make single serving pies in ramekins in advance, freeze them and your work on Thanksgiving itself is minimal. More time to talk on the phone with the people who want to hear what you are eating.

                                                                                              1. Mustn't forget Calvin Trillin's tale of the REAL Thanksgiving entree, spaghetti carbonara. http://www.rlrubens.com/Thanksgiving....

                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                1. re: greygarious

                                                                                                  A wonderful story. Pasta is something I'm much more grateful for than the American Thanksgiving Meal.

                                                                                                  Thanks, GG.

                                                                                                2. My original plans were to be alone and finally make cassoulet. If I were you I'd make something you always wanted to try to make. You can take advantage of all of the sales right now. OTOH, some of the moderate to higher end delis and markets have some very interesting choices for Thanksgiving meals and side dishes to go. You could put something together you have never tried before.

                                                                                                  1. Since this thread is repeated at: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/748185 -- we're locking this one to consolidate the discussion there.