If you're invited to a holiday potluck party or are looking for a more relaxed Thanksgiving, consider this type of gathering that allows everyone to contribute their favorite dishes, turning your holiday dinner into a collaborative masterpiece.
A potluck is not just about sharing the workload; it's about sharing the joy of good food and company.
So, let's dive into some simple yet scrumptious potluck recipes that will make your Thanksgiving feast unforgettable.
A few things to keep in mind and to let your guests know.
How many types of dishes or courses should you include?
It depends on the size of the gathering, the attendees' preferences, and the event's overall structure. Here are some general guidelines to help you decide.
- Consider the potluck size: for larger parties, include a variety of dishes to cater to different tastes. This could include main dishes, sides, salads, and desserts. For smaller gatherings, you might focus on a well-rounded main course and a couple of complementary sides.
- Keep it manageable: while variety is great, it's also important not to overwhelm yourself. Choose a manageable number of dishes that you can prepare and transport without stress if the event is not at your house.
- Include a main dish: a substantial one, whether it's turkey, ham, a vegetarian option, or another protein, is a must. This forms the meal's centerpiece and provides a filling option for all guests.
- Balance side dishes, salads, appetizers and bread basket: although they're all different courses, they can be used interchangeably. A pumpkin muffin might be a bread or side dish option, for example. So think of them as one large section or course.
- Is kitchen space limited for reheating? Is there enough space in the fridge for dishes that require chilling? Ask about the available kitchen facilities and equipment. Knowing whether there's limited oven, stove or fridge space can influence your choice of dish, helping you opt for something that won't cause logistical challenges.
- Is there a preference for finger food or will utensils be used? Knowing whether guests will be standing and mingling or sitting at a table can influence your choice of dish. This is also a consideration if hosting the party and considering the utensils, glasses and plates needed to cater to everyone in more than one course.
How many servings should each dish yield?
Consider the final number of people expected, but explain to contributors that not all dishes have to serve all, as there will be other options. If everyone brought a dish large enough to serve everyone, there would be far too much food. Otherwise, you'll be left with an enormous amount of leftovers that won't fit in the fridge and freeze. Trust me on this one.
How to calculate servings of each dish?
- Know the guest count: determine the approximate number of guests attending the potluck. This is the starting point for determining serving sizes.
- Consider dish type: different dishes have varying serving sizes. Main dishes and protein-centric options generally require larger servings than sides or desserts. Aim for about ½ to ¾ pounds of food per person for main courses. Side dishes and desserts typically range from ¼ to ⅓ pound per person.
- Factor in dish variety: you can adjust portion sizes slightly, as people will likely sample multiple items. You might want to provide slightly larger servings if it's a smaller gathering with fewer dish options.
- Consider side dish ratios: aim to provide a variety to accommodate different tastes. If there are three or more side dishes, you can plan for smaller portions. You might want to increase the portion size if there are fewer sides. And you might want to include different dishes around the same ingredients, like a sweet potato casserole and candied sweet potatoes. People will probably have one or the other, not both, so you can combine the number of guests, counting both as one.
- Adjust for appetizers and desserts: if your potluck includes them, these can often be smaller portions since they are part of a larger array of options. For desserts, consider that guests might want to sample more than one.
- Drinks: when feeding a large party consider using a glass drink dispenser or punch bowls to serve them, especially fruity drinks like punch and sangria that can be made ahead.
Check for dietary considerations
If you're aware of specific dietary considerations (e.g., vegetarian, gluten-free), make sure to account for these preferences when planning your dish. There should be one of each course: side dish, appetizer, dessert and appetizers if including them.
Factor in kids
If children will be attending the potluck, consider their smaller appetites. You may need to adjust portions accordingly. And have some very basic dishes for picky eaters, including a simple dessert that is guaranteed to appeal to them.
Communicate with other contributors
If possible, talk with others bringing dishes to ensure a diverse spread and avoid duplication. This can also help in planning quantities more accurately. And to come up with a plan for leftovers: will they stay at the host's house or will participants take doggy bags home?
Use a serving size chart
Online serving size charts can provide general guidelines for various dishes. They consider the type of dish and the number of guests. They're especially good for large gatherings where it's hard to calculate if you've never hosted a potluck or the host is not calculating servings and just lets contributors take whatever they want.
Our favorite Thanksgiving potluck recipes
There is a wide array of recipes for this type of gathering.
Easy Cornbread Muffins (best recipe)
Traditional muffins with a hint of sweetness from the honey. They are easy to mix and are ready in 30 minutes. Eat them warm with a dollop of butter or freeze them for later. This recipe can be easily doubled or tripled.
Apple Walnut Salad
A simple Fall salad with walnuts that is ready in 20 minutes. With a handful of ingredients and a quick dressing, it combines the juicy crunch of apples with baby greens, salty feta cheese and a tangy apple cider dressing. It's a great option for a light lunch, holiday dinners and potlucks.
Parker House Rolls (no-knead recipe)
The easiest Parker House Rolls that require no kneading at all, only resting time. They're soft, buttery and freeze very well.
Green Bean Casserole (without mushroom soup)
With its crunchy green beans, creamy white sauce, gooey cheese, and crispy onions, this classic dish checks all the boxes for a crowd-pleasing addition to your holiday table. Plus, it's quick to make and can be prepared ahead, making it a stress-free option for busy cooks.
Caramelized Onion Dip (easy recipe from scratch)
A great dip with a creamy texture and rich flavor, it's an easy appetizer made with caramelized onions, sour cream, and a few other simple ingredients. No more store-bought stuff, as it comes together in 30 minutes! Eat it with potato chips, it's the best way.
The Best Pumpkin Walnut Bread
We love this super moist pumpkin nut bread. With a nice dose of healthy pumpkin puree (we make our own but canned works just as well) and oil, it comes together quickly, keeps well for days and can be frozen. Spice it up according to your taste and eat it plain or glazed, with or without the walnuts or pecans on top. It's outstanding either way!
Sweet Potato Casserole (pecan topping)
This is an old-fashioned sweet Thanksgiving side dish with a creamy sweet potato filling and a crunchy pecan layer on top. It's quick and easy to assemble and can be made in advance.
Roasted Turkey Thighs (with gravy)
Turkey thighs are a great alternative to a whole roasted turkey if you don't need to feed a big crowd. They're flavorful and juicy, with a delicious, slightly crispy skin. Serve them with turkey gravy made from their own juices for a fantastic holiday meal.
Honey Sriracha Brussels Sprouts
It's a flavorful, quick and easy way of transforming plain sprouts into a tasty dish. They make a great addition to your Thanksgiving dinner table. Crunchy but tender, they have a flavor-packed glaze of honey and Sriracha that'll make you want to eat your veggies.
Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins
Moist and easy to make, these pumpkin muffins are spiced and soft, with a tangy bite from the cranberries. They keep well and can be frozen.
Cheesecake with Chocolate Crust
The easiest, creamiest and best baked cheesecake I ever tried! And I've tried many. You can customize the crust and the topping, make it round and tall or rectangular and short for cheesecake bars. It's always a crowd pleaser, everybody's favorite. And it freezes beautifully so you can make it ahead.
Easy Apple Crumb Bars
Sometimes an old-fashioned apple dessert with a twist is all we need. This recipe has a simple shortbread base topped by apple slices, and a buttery sweet crumb topping that contrasts well and makes it a crowd-pleaser! It can be frozen after it's baked or most of the components made ahead to make your life easier.
Double Chocolate Cookies
Fudgy, easy-to-make cookies with a double dose of chocolate that makes them irresistible. They come together quickly and can be baked immediately, or the cookie dough can be refrigerated or frozen for several days or weeks.
Chocolate Pecan Pie
A twist on the classic dessert, this pecan pie recipe has chocolate, a splash of bourbon and maple syrup for extra flavor and richness. Whether you use our homemade pie crust or a store-bought pie shell, you'll love how simple it is to put together and how quickly it disappears from your holiday dessert table!
Brown Sugar Cheesecake
Creamy, smooth, with a sour cream topping and the unmistakable caramel flavor that only brown sugar can achieve. It keeps well and can be frozen. If you're looking for a new idea for a holiday dessert, this brown sugar cheesecake is a sure hit.
Pumpkin Mousse Pie
This no-bake pumpkin pie is creamier and less dense than the traditional baked version. It has a lovely, airy texture and is super easy to prepare with a buttery graham cracker crust that doesn't need an oven. That's the magic of this no-bake pumpkin pie recipe. It's fantastic as a Thanksgiving dessert and other holiday season celebrations.
Peanut Butter Blossom Cookies
Soft and chewy peanut butter cookies with a chocolate center, these cookies are easy to make and loved by everyone. They're perfect for Christmas, bake sales, potlucks, and picnics. Also known as Hershey's peanut butter blossoms.
Caramel Apple Dump Cake
This easy dessert recipe has wonderful warm flavors: caramel, cinnamon and apples. Also called apple cobbler with cake mix, it's like a sweet casserole dish with a layer of apple pie filling and the easiest 2-ingredient topping. A delicious fall dessert everyone will rave about, guaranteed.
Lemon Curd Cookies
These classic cookies are easy to make and bursting with fresh lemon flavor, the perfect combination of sweet and tangy. A soft and buttery dough with a melt-in-your-mouth quality and zesty filling that will leave you craving more. They're perfect for potlucks, barbecues, picnics, bake sales, or brightening up a dull day.
White Chocolate Vanilla Fudge
A homemade white chocolate treat with an extra dose of vanilla flavor. It's easy to make and creamy. A no-fuss vanilla fudge with a velvety texture to indulge your sweet tooth. Gift it for the holidays, take it to potlucks and bake sales or make it for snacking during back-to-school season. It's always a favorite and keeps well for a few weeks.
Easy Pumpkin Trifle
Meet your new favorite, super easy to make pumpkin dessert! This trifle screams fall with layers of pumpkin cookies, cheesecake, and whipped cream. It comes together in no time and the different components can be made ahead. I love to make it with a few homemade ingredients, but you can use store-bought ones and have a last-minute pudding that will delight everyone.
Enjoy this time celebrating family and friends. May your year be filled with all kinds of joy and love. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for being a loyal reader ❤️