Thanksgiving is great, but I’d argue that Friendsgiving is really where it’s at. Thanksgiving celebrations can sometimes feel stuffy and beholden to old traditions, whereas Friendsgiving is, at its core, just an excuse to host an epic, themed dinner party with your friends.
Holly Sheppard, owner and chef of Fig and Pig Catering, is sort of an expert at Friendsgiving, hosting one every year for a group of 10 to 15 people. Here are some of her best tips for pulling off the occasion (along with some tidbits of my own Friendsgiving wisdom).
1. Make sure you have enough plates, silverware, and cups.
I learned this one from personal experience, when I hosted Friendsgiving for the first time in 2021. Including myself, there were seven people at the meal—but I only owned six forks. So of course, I ate my dinner with a spoon. A simple way to avoid this situation? Count your dinnerware in advance and stock up on any items you need.
2. Assign everyone a dish to bring.
At the start of November, Holly circulates an Excel spreadsheet among her guests to determine who’s bringing what. That way, they make sure all the major categories are covered, there aren’t repeats, and that there will be enough options for vegan guests, too.
3. Let your friends help you. “I really delegate,” Holly said. “There [are] a lot of people who take on things like a Thanksgiving all by themselves, and there’s no point. Everyone has a strength, everybody wants to do something.”
One of Holly’s friends swears her gravy is best. “We almost have, like, a gravy cook-off which is always highly competitive.” Another friend styles the charcuterie board. Holly procures the prosciutto, salamis, figs, apples, and other accouterments, then hands them to her friend to assemble. “She goes to town and makes it look so pretty.”
4. Give people something to eat (and drink) upon arrival. Holly puts out her friend’s charcuterie board for guests to snack on when they arrive: “It looks beautiful and feels good, but it’s not that hard. There’s no cooking involved.” She also batches cocktails—like a French 75 or a fig and apple old-fashioned—and sets up a self-serve bar station in her living room with ice, glassware, wine, and bubbly, so nobody is stuck playing bartender throughout the night.
5. Don’t get too hung up on the classics.
If you’re a true traditionalist, feel free to ignore this advice—but for me, one Thanksgiving dinner is usually enough. If I’m hosting a Friendsgiving in the days before the actual holiday, I’m inclined to stray from some of the most classic dishes in favor of ones I’m truly excited to make and eat, whether that’s as simple as replacing turkey with roast chicken or ditching pies altogether and serving cake instead (controversial, I know!).
6. Get creative with your space. If you’re living in an apartment or working with a small kitchen, you might have to prep for your meal in unconventional ways. “When I was in Brooklyn, I would literally put my turkey out on my fire escape in a cooler and brine it,” Holly said. “And if I still can’t fit the turkey in like the fridge for brining, then I usually put it outside in a cooler, and I brine it in a bag.”
7. Skip formal place settings. “I usually do a buffet because it’s too hard to do family style…with all of these people in my house,” Holly said. Serving the meal buffet-style can create a more casual, warm atmosphere—plus, it’s a lot less work for the host.
8. Plan for leftovers. Your guests helped you cook (and hopefully clean)—which means they should also get to help you tackle the leftovers. Holly recommends getting some takeout containers, or even some Ziploc bags, so that you can send everyone home with something to eat the next day.
These recipes are just traditional enough to remind you that you’re celebrating Thanksgiving, but each dish has a twist that makes it feel wholly original and fresh.
Whether you’re a Friendsgiving guest or host, we’ve got tools that can help. Think: heat-retaining, ceramic baking dishes, covered pie pans, and colorful, festive silverware.
More entertaining inspiration from Food52
Have you hosted Friendsgiving before? Tell us about it below!