How Much Turkey Do You Really Need? Use This Handy Guide for Holiday Planning

Entertaining, From The Butcher
How Much Turkey Per Person

‘Tis the season for turkey! And whether you’re hosting a small gathering or a large feast, you want to make sure you have enough bird to go around. But how much turkey should you buy? It’s a common question, and one that can be tricky to answer. To help take the guesswork out of holiday planning, we’ve put together a simple guide to determine exactly how much turkey you need, based on the number of guests you’re expecting. Just follow these easy steps, and your feast will be guaranteed to please!

Ready to order for the holidays?

Knowing how many guests will help guide you to how much turkey you need for the holidays

How Many People Are You Expecting?

This is the first and most important question to consider when planning your holiday feast. After all, the number of guests will dictate how much food you’ll need to prepare—and that includes bird! So take a head count of who will be attending your gathering.

If you have children at your gathering, we typically count them as a half of an adult serving (so 2 children equal one adult). Children with big appetites (or meat lover fans!), pre-teens and teenagers would likely eat a whole adult serving (or more!).

Now that you have a head count, use the following guide to determine how much turkey to buy.

How Much Turkey Per Person?

As a rough guide, you can factor in that about 1 – 1.5 pounds per person for a turkey under 18 pounds and 3/4 pound per person for a turkey over 20 lbs. The reason for this difference is that larger turkeys have a higher meat to bone ratio than smaller birds.

If you are serving boneless turkey such as a boneless breast or turkey roll, use 1/2 lb per person as a guide. You will need less pounds per person with boneless meats because there is less waste (bones). Although boneless meats are convenient, remember that a lot of turkey flavour comes from the bones in a whole bird. So if you want that traditional “turkey taste”, don’t go boneless! Boneless meats also tend to cost more and you don’t get the bones to make delicious soup!

Of course this guide will also depend on what else is on the menu. If you’re serving a lot of other dishes, you may not need as much turkey. You’ll also need to consider leftovers (our favourite!).

Turkey leftovers to make soup

How Much Leftovers Do I Need?

Some people love leftovers to feed their family for days after a busy holiday. And the options are really endless with poultry. If you do want leftovers, plan on a few pounds extra! Here’s some turkey leftover ideas and how much you will need:

  • turkey soup will need 2-4 cups of leftover turkey
  • making 5 turkey sandwiches will use 1 pound of cooked turkey
  • turkey pot pie will need 4 cups of leftover turkey

What Size of Turkey Do I Need?

The following is a guide to how much turkey you will need, based on the number of guests you are expecting:

  • 4-8 people: 10-15 lb turkey
  • 10-16 people: 15-18 lb turkey
  • 18-22 people: 19-24 lb turkey
  • 24+ people : 24+ turkey

*note that this is a guide, you know your family best for how much they eat!

Can’t Find a Bird Big Enough?

If you can’t find a turkey that’s big enough to feed your entire group, don’t worry! You can always make two smaller birds instead of one large one. Just follow the general guide of 3/4 – 1 lb per person to calculate the size of 2 turkeys. Alternatively, you could add a breast to supplement your whole turkey.

Calculate how much ham you need to go with your turkey

How Much Ham to Serve with Turkey?

If you’re serving ham alongside your turkey, consider if your ham is boneless or bone-in to follow the proper guidelines. You’ll need a total of about 1 pound per person of all bone-in meats or 1/2 pound per person for boneless meats.

Here is a quick guide to how many pounds of ham and turkey you will need depending on if the meat is bone-in or boneless (assuming a 50/50 split of turkey and ham being served):

  • whole turkey + bone-in ham = 1/2 lb bone-in turkey/person + 1/2 lb bone-in ham/person
  • whole turkey + boneless ham = 1/2 lb bone-in turkey/person + 1/4 lb boneless ham/person
  • boneless turkey + bone-in ham = 1/4 lb boneless turkey/person + 1/2 lb bone-in ham/person
  • boneless turkey + boneless ham = 1/4 lb boneless turkey/person + 1/4 lb boneless ham/person


Now that you know how much turkey you need, check out how long to cook a turkey for it to be tender and juicy!


Planning the perfect holiday feast doesn’t have to be difficult! Just follow our simple guide to determine how much turkey you need based on the number of guests you’re expecting. Be sure to round out your meal with plenty of delicious sides and fixings—your guests will thank you for it.

Order your holiday turkey online here.

Happy holidays!

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