This Is Exactly How Much Turkey to Make Per Person

No need to guess how much turkey per person you need to cook. This handy rule will make your Thanksgiving planning so much easier.

No matter how often you host Thanksgiving, one big question remains the same: Exactly how much turkey do I need to make? Turkey size is important since it will determine how big of a helping each guest gets—not to mention how much will be left for Thanksgiving leftovers.

Once you know the exact number of attendees, use this formula: Number of guests x 1.25. You’ll want to plan on about 1.25 pounds of turkey per person attending. That means that if you are expecting 12 guests, plan for a 15-pound bird.

To make things simple, we’ve created a guide to help you pick the perfect-sized turkey for your Thanksgiving dinner menu.

How to Figure Out How Much Turkey Per Person

Number of Guests
Turkey Weight
4 5lbs
6 8lbs
8 10lbs
10 13lbs
12 15lbs
15 20lbs
20 25lbs
25 32lbs

Download Chart

If you have a large number of kids coming, simply round down when calculating your turkey. The kids usually go for the rolls and Thanksgiving side dishes anyway.

Editor’s Tip: If you have a large family, try dividing your turkey number by two and buying smaller birds. This will allow them to cook faster and more evenly.

Next, Choose a Great Turkey Recipe

It’s time to think about turkey prep. While there are many ways to season a turkey, here are two simple recipes to get started:

Once you’ve chosen the perfect turkey recipe, make sure you know how to prepare it! This handy guide tells you exactly how long to cook a turkey.

How to Serve the Turkey

Once out of the oven, let the turkey rest for 20 to 30 minutes before carving (here are some tips on how to carve a turkey). Arrange the meat on a platter so your guests can choose which piece they like. A good rule of thumb: For every pound of turkey, you’ll get about 7 ounces of cooked meat. Some guests will eat less than that, some will eat more. Don’t forget leftovers!

More Thanksgiving Dinner Tips

How much stuffing do I need for Thanksgiving?

Plan to serve about 3/4 cup of stuffing per guest. That amounts to roughly 4 cups of prepared stuffing for 5 guests and 7 1/2 cups for 10 guests. However, if you have grand plans for using leftovers in Stuffin’ Muffins or Stuffing Crust Turkey Potpie, feel free to make a little bit more. For more info, check out our guide to Thanksgiving portions.

When it comes to stuffing recipes, you can go savory or sweet—or both. Whichever you choose, we recommend cooking stuffing outside of the turkey. But don’t let that empty cavity go to waste! For added flavor, consider putting vegetables, fruits or herbs inside the turkey.

How many side dishes should I have for Thanksgiving?

Well, that depends! You’ll need to consider your guest list and oven space, plus any family traditions. (One Taste of Home contributor always has her Grammy’s famous walnut, sausage and apple stuffing on the menu). We suggest making 2 to 4 of your family’s favorite sides, then encouraging guests to bring any other must-haves. Rolls and cranberry sauce are easy to outsource, as is a vegan green bean casserole.

How long does it take to thaw a turkey?

It depends on the method, but thawing a turkey typically takes anywhere from several hours to a few days. Once you’ve bought the perfect turkey, decide whether you’ll thaw the bird in the fridge or in cold water. The refrigerator method requires 24 hours of thaw time for every 4 pounds of bird, but you can wait a day or two after thawing to cook it. The cold water method requires less time but a little more math. Thawing takes as little as 30 minutes per pound, but you’ll need to change the water frequently and cook the turkey immediately after thawing.

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Carrie Madormo, RN
Now a freelance health and food writer, Carrie worked as a nurse for over a decade. When she isn't hunched over her laptop with a baby in hand, you will find her cooking her grandmother’s recipes, lacing up her running shoes or sipping coffee in the bathroom to hide from her three young children.
Katie Bandurski
As Senior Shopping Editor, Katie connects Taste of Home readers with the best gifts, deals and home products on the market. An avid foodie and a holiday enthusiast, Katie is an expert at cultivating meaningful moments. When she’s out of the office, you’ll find her exploring Wisconsin, trying out new vegetarian recipes and watching Christmas movies.