Many of us will be cooking for a smaller crowd this year. If you are used to catering for large groups at Christmas, this poses a challenge. What exactly should you cook for a small Christmas dinner? Worry not, I have all the answers…
Not a normal Christmas…
What are your Christmas dinner plans this year? 2021 has been yet another crazy year, with no many thing still not back to ‘normal’. And – while hopefully better than last year – Christmas 2021 is set to be similarly abnormal, with many of us catering for much smaller crowds than we are used to.
When hosting a small Christmas, some might say not to bother with a ‘proper’ Christmas dinner, but not me! I love everything about Christmas – and especially the food! I am also keen to make this Christmas as normal as possible for the kids – and for me, that means a proper Christmas dinner!
But this poses its own set of challenges… what on earth should you cook on Christmas day when there’s only a small handful of you? Maybe even just one or two of you?
Worry not, I have you covered in this guide to what to cook for a small Christmas Dinner!
Let’s start with the biggest challenge first… the Turkey!
If you are only cooking for a small number of people, is it still possible to have turkey?
There are two options here… and both are wonderful…
Option 1: Go big and enjoy the leftovers.
If Christmas dinner just wouldn’t be right for you without a big turkey centrepiece, then have a big turkey centrepiece… enjoy that wonderful moment when you bring the turkey to the table to oohs and aahs of admiration (albeit from a much smaller audience than normal).
Need a foolproof recipe for perfect whole roast turkey? Then you might like to try my Stress-Free Whole Roast Turkey recipe.
Then, after Christmas dinner is over, carve up the turkey, divide it into meal-sized portions and refrigerate or freeze your leftovers. According to government food safety guidelines, cooked turkey will keep for 3-4 days in the fridge and up to 6 months in the freezer. (Just make sure you get your turkey leftovers into the fridge or freezer within 90 minutes of cooking.)
Not sure what to make with turkey leftovers? Don’t worry, I have your back with my 10 Easy Ideas for your Turkey Leftovers.
Option 2: Try a smaller turkey joint
Alternatively, if you’d like the taste of turkey, but don’t need or want it to be a whole one, try one of these alternatives:
Especially good for fans of white meat, quicker and easier to cook than a whole turkey and available in much smaller sizes, a turkey crown is a great alternative to a whole turkey if you are cooking for a smaller number this Christmas.
My Easy Roast Turkey Crown recipe is always one of the most popular recipes each Christmas on Easy Peasy Foodie and for good reason – you get all the delicious taste of a whole roast turkey, but less of the stress.
Turkey Breast Joint
A great option for a smaller Christmas dinner, a turkey breast joint is easy to cook and easy to carve. You can buy stuffed rolled turkey breast joints from the supermarkets, but why not make your own?
My Rolled Stuffed Turkey Breast is super easy to make, looks good on the Christmas dinner table and is waaay cheaper AND tastier than shop-bought.
Turkey Breast Fillets
You could go even smaller and cook turkey breast fillets. These are a great option if you are having to watch the pennies this Christmas as they are really not very expensive. To make them a bit special, why not try my recipe for Prosciutto Wrapped Turkey Mini Fillets with Sage and Sausage Stuffing – it’s incredibly easy but looks (and tastes) rather fancy!
Or here’s a nice alternative that will save you money, time and stress – why not cook your entire turkey dinner in one tray? My Easy Peasy Christmas Turkey Traybake features all your turkey dinner favourites… all cooked together in one tray.
Super easy and very low on washing up! The recipe serves 4, but is easy to scale up or down. And if you don’t eat all of it, you can use the leftovers to make this delicious Easy Leftover Turkey and Vegetable Pie
Alternatives to Turkey
Of course, there’s no rule to say you HAVE to cook Turkey at Christmas… and this year might be a great year to try something different…
Growing up, there was often only 4 of us at Christmas – just my Mum, my Dad, my brother and me, as we lived quite far from our relatives. So instead of turkey, we would have roast duck on Christmas day… and still just the smell of roast Duck instantly transports me back to childhood Christmases. It’s a delicious meat, surprisingly cheap (especially compared to turkey!) and very easy to cook. You can still have that moment of theatre too, by cooking a whole duck… or why not do what I sometimes do and roast duck legs instead – super quick, super easy and no carving!
Roast lamb can also make an impressive festive centrepiece. You could do a traditional roast leg of lamb or go for these gorgeous slow roasted lamb shanks in red wine gravy.
But my personal favourite for a celebration is two racks of lamb put together as a ‘guard of honour’ – like in my recipe for Spiced Rack of Lamb with Honey Roasted Root Vegetables. Not only does it look good, but the flavour is AMAZING! (It is a little on the pricey side, I’ll admit – but if you are cooking for fewer people, perhaps you can afford to trade up a little this year).
A perennial favourite every Christmas, with many choosing beef over turkey even on a ‘normal’ year. Beef is a great option if you are only feeding a small crowd. You could go for a traditional beef joint or, if you are watching the pennies this year, why not go for a pot roast, which can be done with a much cheaper cut – but still yields a very delicious result!
If there is just one or two of you another alternative is a steak – while not so traditional, it will still be delicious and feel celebratory!
If you or someone you are cooking for is vegetarian, then I have you covered too! This delicious Cranberry, Feta and Quinoa Stuffed Butternut Squash is perfect if you are catering for small numbers. The recipe is written for 4, but very easy to halve if there’s just 2 of you… and if you are dining solo this Christmas, then I include full instructions on how to reheat the spare portion the next day (and it’s just as good, if not better the next day!)
Christmas Dinner Vegetables
The good thing about cooking Christmas vegetables for a small number is that they are generally very easy to scale up or down. Here are a few of my favourite recipes…
Easy Peasy Roast Potatoes
For many people roast potatoes are a must on the Christmas dinner table. My recipe for Easy Peasy Roast Potatoes is written for 4 but it’s very easy to scale up or down, depending on how many you are cooking for.
Another Christmas favourite. Why not try my Roast Parsnips with Honey and Thyme…
…or add in some carrots too and try my Easy Peasy Roast Parsnips and Carrots with Honey Mustard Glaze.
Is it really Christmas dinner without brussels sprouts? Of course, to keep things simple you could just boil or steam your Brussels, but if you fancy trying something a bit different this year, you might like to check out my guide on How to Make Sprouts Interesting.
And if you end up with too many brussels sprouts, don’t throw them away! Make one of these delicious brussels sprouts leftovers recipes
Easy Christmas Vegetable Traybake
If you are cooking for just a handful and want to make your life really easy peasy, why not try my recipe for Easy Christmas Vegetable Traybake – featuring parsnips, carrots and Brussels sprouts all cooked in one tray! So much easier than juggling pots and pans at the last minute… and less washing up too!
Braised Red Cabbage
Another huge Christmas favourite. Now, I’ll admit, cooking a small quantity braised red cabbage is a little more tricky. But you could certainly get away with halving the quantities in my recipe for Easy Peasy Braised Red Cabbage… If that’s still too much, the good news is it tastes great the next day! In fact, what I often do is cook my braised red cabbage on Christmas eve (to go with my Roast Duck with Lentils and Mashed Potato) then all I have to do on Christmas day is reheat it for a few minutes – easy peasy!
Christmas Dinner Sauces
If you buy your Christmas sauces this year, you’ll almost certainly end up with too much… so why not make your own instead? That way you can make exactly the quantity you need. Here are my top 3 essential Christmas dinner sauces…
1. Turkey Gravy
If you are having turkey, then turkey gravy is essential! Here’s my easy peasy guide to making Perfect Turkey Gravy. The recipe makes enough for 6, but it’s very easy to adapt to make just the right amount for your situation.
And if you have any leftover turkey gravy, you can use it in this delicious Turkey Pie!
2. Cranberry Sauce
Christmas dinner wouldn’t be quite right without cranberry sauce… but if there’s only 1 or 2 of you and you buy a pot from the supermarket… that’s a lot of leftovers! So why not make your own Homemade Cranberry Sauce with fresh or frozen cranberries? You can make just as much as you need… and it tastes so much better than shop bought!
You can then use the rest of the pack in one of these fab cranberry recipes… (or chuck ‘em in a smoothie when you are on a health kick in the new year!).
3. Bread Sauce
Another essential on my Christmas table is bread sauce… my Easy Homemade Bread Sauce recipe is quick and easy to make and tastes so much better than the packet version! This recipe makes enough for 4, but it’s easy to scale up or down to suit.
Stuffing is an essential on my Christmas dinner table. But if you are a not feeding a crowd, that poses a slight problem…
…enter my neat solution – stuffing balls!
I actually make stuffing balls for my Christmas dinner every year, no matter how many I am catering for because I think they taste even better than a tray of stuffing or stuffing in a turkey – because more surface area equals more crispy crunchy bits! They are also very easy to make ahead and any leftovers are perfect for boxing day grazing… (You’ve got to love having a fridge full of ‘picky bits’ on Boxing day!)
Here are my favourite stuffing balls recipes:
OK, so I have a confession to make… Whereas I cook almost everything for Christmas lunch from scratch, I always buy my Christmas pudding! But actually, that makes a lot of sense this year – it’s a lot of effort to go to to make a Christmas pud for 1 or 2… and most supermarkets do some great miniature Christmas puddings – perfect for smaller gatherings.
Alternatives to Christmas Pudding
But if Christmas pud is not really your thing, there are lots of great alternatives to Christmas pudding… here are a few of my favourites:
- Easy Peasy Mini Mince Pies
- Easy Christmas Cake Traybake
- Easy Peasy Christmas Cake Muffins
- White Chocolate and Cranberry Brownies
- Easy Peasy Gingerbread Traybake
- Chocolate Tart with Cranberries, Orange and Pistachios
All of these can be made ahead of time and eaten over a few days, so no problem if they make a bit too much!
Christmas Dinner Leftovers
Christmas dinner normally results in lots of leftovers… but if you are cooking for a smaller number this year, you might find yourself with a lot more leftovers than usual!
Don’t even think of throwing them out, as I have you covered with a whole bunch of fab Christmas leftovers recipes.
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