This is how to make & plan holiday dinner suggestions menus for 2 to 20 people. It’s very easy to follow and has a lot of links to recipes as well. Also, this is a part of our Food Guides category.
Holiday Dinner Suggestions: Plan & Select Guide
Review these Holiday Dinner Suggestions and plan around it by using our checklist guide. So, here is the basic holiday dinner suggested checklist to ensure you’ve remembered to cover the complete special dinner meal.
- The type of holiday can determine sometimes what food menu to plan out. However, these days, sometimes just serving pizzas or steaks is okay for a typical holiday. Some holidays can cover a broad range of items.
- The start of the Holiday Dinner Plan: You might have some thoughts at the beginning like having a buffet, a cookout, casual or formal, and so on. Keep those ideas in mind, be ready to change them, and now proceed to build your meal menu.
- Choose your main course: Decide if you want turkey (see “What Size Turkey“, ham, seafood, or another kind of main course.
- Select the side dishes. Be sure they go well with your main course.
- Decide if you’re going to have any Appetizers.
- Choose final remaining sides like Salads, Breads, & Desserts.
- Determine the family and guests size: Be prepared to fit your meal planning for gatherings of 5 to 20, as well as just for 2 to 5 of you. Also, be ready for surprising guest additions on the day before, e.g., someone’s friend request.
- Decide if you’re wanting Lighter, Extensive, or Simpler menu ideas.
- See which items on your meal plan that you can make in advance. Some you can make 1 or 2 days ahead.
- Plan to Store Leftovers and possibly give some away in food containers you’ve set aside.
Holiday Dinner Suggestions for Main Courses
Here are both traditional and non-traditional MAIN COURSES for holiday dinner suggestions.
Holiday Dinner Suggestions for Sides
Here are some good SIDES for holiday dinner suggestions. See below or, see some really great vegan recipes at “60+ Vegan Holiday Recipes“.
Holiday Dinner Suggestions for Salads
Here are some good SALADS for holiday dinner suggestions.
Holiday Dinner Suggestions for Breads
Here are some good BREAD items for holiday dinner suggestions.
Holiday Dinner Suggestions for Desserts
Here are some good DESSERTS for holiday dinner suggestions.
Holiday Dinner Suggestions for Appetizers
Here are some good APPETIZERS and snacks for holiday dinner suggestions.
Plan Holiday Dinner Suggestions for Sizes 2-20
Here are some ideas for some meals for 3 different sized groups, anywhere from 2 to 20 guests.
Plan Holiday Dinner Suggestions for 2-5 People
You can have a wonderful festive menu for a small amount of people. The notion here is to reduce the various number of food items yet remain in the holiday spirit. One way is to go over some food choices with whoever’s involved. Then, you just have to ensure you set the servings quantity correctly so you don’t run out.
Here’s an overall guide of how to plan out this small-sized dinner menu.
- Main Course: 1 selection
- Sides: 2-3 choices
- Salads: 1
- Breads: 0-1
- Desserts: 1-2
- Appetizers: 0-1
Plan Holiday Dinner Suggestions for 5-12 People
Moreover, if you have 5 to 12 people for dinner, you can make an incredible meal of holiday dinner recipes with lots of variety. So, look at each recipe servings amount and decide how to adjust it. But, if it calls for serving 6, and you have 10 people, decide if you have enough of a variety of other items to take its place. However, some might be very popularly loved so you might have to increase the servings amounts for those food items. Fortunately, if the recipe is on our site, we have a popular built-in <Resizer> available on all of them.
Here’s an overall guide of how to plan out this medium-sized dinner menu.
- Main Course: 1 or 2 selections
- Sides: 3-5 choices
- Salads: 1-2
- Breads: 1
- Desserts: 2-3
- Appetizers: 1-2
Plan Holiday Dinner Suggestions for 12-20 People
When having 12 people or more, that calls for a lot of food variety and a lot of planning. The great thing is this is the time many will choose to have two main courses, e.g., ham and turkey. Or, you can choose any other featured main course items, of course. Also, you could just simply double up on the size of any main course item.
For the most part, for sides, breads, desserts, and salads, you have a ton of flexibility. Also, to make it easier, you can make larger quantities of the easier to prepare foods, like the green been casserole.
This is where your plan can also cover some things to purchase pre-made items in large quantities like rolls from the bakery. Even the mashed potatoes are routinely available pre-made. However, if time it tight, you’ve got all those traditional pies available from the bakery as well. For that reason, those are huge time savers plus it frees up your oven.
Here are some menu ideas for 12 to 20 guests overall.
- Main Course: 2-3 selections
- Sides: 5-6 choices
- Salads: 2-3
- Breads: 1-2
- Desserts: 2-4
- Appetizers: 1-3
How To Save Time With Holiday Dinners
Here are a few ways on how to save time with holiday dinners. It might involve planning and tasking differently. Here is a list of time-saving methods you can use.
- Make some recipes in advance.
- Organize your counter on how you make recipes more efficiently
- Plan some serving areas to be laid out smart like a buffet
Time Saver Tip 1: Save Time by Making Some Recipes Ahead
There are a lot of holiday dishes you can make in advance. Also, there are some food items, you can make them partially ahead of time. So, here are some ideas of holiday dishes you can make fully or partially ahead of time.
You can easily plan out your holiday dinner and schedule to prep some items in advance by making some ahead. So, how do you know which items you can do this? To give you a guide, here is a helpful list you can use for when to make items or take action. Then, decide which items you want to fully make or just prep them for finalizing on the day of the holiday. For example, you can prepare the dressing/stuffing, the green bean casserole, and the mac n cheese a day made the before. Then, put them tightly covered in the fridge. Afterward, bake them along with other items the next day.
Make 3 Days Before Holiday
- Set large frozen turkey or ham in the fridge to thaw slowly (14-20 lbs.)
Make 2 Days Before Holiday
- Set medium frozen turkey, ham, or roast in fridge to thaw slowly (10-14 lbs.)
- Cranberry sauce or cranberry mold
- Sweet potato casserole
- Creamy pineapple lime Jello salad
- Pecan Pie
- Pumpkin Pie
- Liver Pate
Plan 1 Day Before Holiday
- Set any smaller frozen entrée in the fridge to thaw slowly overnight
- Deviled eggs (store in fridge)
- Dressing/Stuffing (everything but baking; store in fridge)
- Mashed Potatoes (reheat next day)
- Green Bean Casserole (everything but baking; store in fridge)
- Macaroni & Cheese (everything but baking; store in fridge)
- Potato Salad
- Cauliflower Broccoli Salad (How To Cut Up A Cauliflower)
- Cucumber Tomato Salad
- Yeast Rolls (made, par-baked; bake rest of way next day)
Time Saver Tip 2: Organize Your Counter For How You Make Recipes
Often, you’ll be making several recipes at once. So, see if you can organize all the ingredients together for each one. This is how factories increase productivity. Just focus on getting all the ingredients grouped together on the counter for each recipe. Keep in mind, of course, that some recipes might use the same ingredient like a spice. Regardless, things go a whole lot smoother when everything’s out and they’re collected near each other for each dish you’re making.
Below, I show an example pic of where I’ve printed out each recipe and have grouped their ingredients together. While I’ve done 5 side dishes like this at once, I recommend you try it for just 2 or 3 max your first time.
Make holiday dinner easier. Layout ingredients grouped for each side dish.
Time Saver Tip 3: Overlap Your Recipe Baking Times In The Oven
You can save time and electricity by overlapping baking some of your recipes at the same time and temp. This is a bit harder to do for many in the beginning. But, after a few large meals, you’ll improve.
For example, if you’re baked potatoes at 375 degrees and also baked macaroni & cheese at 375, you can bake them together. The only thing to manage is the different times to take each one out of the oven.
Baked Potatoes and Baked Macaroni & Cheese can bake at the same temp. Save time and bake together.
There also might be some recipes that are not identical in temperature but close. In those cases, I’ve done it two different ways. Firstly, I’ll keep the oven at the lowest temp item and will just extend the time for the item needing a higher temp. In another way, I’ll adjust the temp to be halfway in between the two desired temps. However, the one thing I never do is to try to bake 2 things at once that are more than 50 degrees apart in temperature.
An advanced time saver baking tip is to bake the higher temp items first. That’s because it’s much faster for an oven to reduce its temperature between recipes rather than to raise it and wait for a higher preheat temp.
Holiday Dinner Suggestions Buffet Ideas
Holiday dinner suggestions for serving are to have full or partial buffets. Also, that is a huge benefit. It can be a time saver too. If it’s laid out well, everyone can be served in a much quicker, more efficient time. So, make your menu to include some or all of the servings to be buffet style. For the most part, you’ve spent all your time planning, making recipes, and buying these holiday foods. Also, there might not even be room on the dinner table for all the sides and main course anyway. So, save some time, reduce stress, and keep your table space.
Set the Area for a Buffet
Decorate your dinner table in a fun and festive manner. So, go ahead and think about having nearly everyone serve themselves. Then, layout the silverware, glasses, and plates at each table setting. Finally, have the main course displayed and served from there, if you want.
Guide Everyone to the Buffet Areas
After everything’s ready, in order to proceed, give thanks, and let everyone know to carry their plates over to where the food is. Then, tell them about the buffet items being in the kitchen, on a buffet table, or wherever else they are and to help themselves. This is also where you tell Uncle Henry to leave some sweet potatoes for the others.
Important tip: If you have multiple areas for the buffet selections, be sure you divide up the feature items so that people will not forget to visit the other table. In this case, I made that mistake (twice) of having the popular items in one area and most people “forgot” to visit the other side dishes area.
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Conclusion of Holiday Dinner Suggestions
Now you’ve seen lots of holiday dinner suggestions. A lot of these suggestions are meals but also ways to plan, organize, and save time. You’ve seen how different types of side dishes suggestions to have for 3 different group sizes such as 2 to 5, 6 to 12, and 12 to 20. Also, you’ve seen how to have some or all of your dishes to be buffet style to relieve your stress. And, you’ve also seen some time saver tips for which dishes can be prepared in advance and other tips suggestions. So, suggest your ideas that you’ve done and share this post as well. Leave a comment now.