How Much Turkey Breast Per Person?

TheGrillingDad says: As a general rule of thumb, plan to purchase ½ lb of raw boneless turkey breast per person to ensure everyone gets enough to eat! If you are cooking a whole, bone-in turkey breast, plan to purchase 1 to 1½ pounds per person.

Here’s a handy chart you can use:

Number of PeopleBone-In (whole)
Raw Turkey Breast
Boneless (breast only) Raw Turkey Breast
44-6 lbs.2 lbs.
 88-12 lbs.4 lbs.
 1010-15 lbs.5 lbs.
 1616-24 lbs.8 lbs.

That might seem like a lot of turkey, but some weight is lost to evaporation during cooking. Whole turkeys also include bones and other inedible bits. You want to ensure that you make enough for all your guests! This is important!

Thanksgiving is right around the corner, but that doesn’t mean that this is the only time of year during which you can make turkey! Turkey is one of our favorite meats to cook and smoke. It is very tasty and can be eaten as is, served on sandwiches, or even made into a salad.

Tips for Estimating Turkey Breast Per Person

  • When in doubt, estimate high! It is always better to have extra than not enough!
  • Estimate a full pound of raw turkey breast for voracious eaters.
  • While bone-in turkey breast can be tasty, it can be harder to estimate, so if you are nervous, planning for boneless turkey might help you estimate better.
  • If you are afraid you won’t have enough (and it is too late to buy more), adding a heavy side like mashed potatoes and gravy or smoked mac and cheese to the table can help your turkey go further!

Bone-In or Boneless Turkey Breast?

When buying turkey breast, you have a couple of options. Bone-in turkey breast is often revered by grillers and smokers because the bones can add extra flavor to the meat as it cooks. Plus you get to break the wishbone! Unfortunately, however, all the other bones add weight that can’t be eaten—which is why you need to plan for 1 to 1½ pounds of bone-in turkey breast per person.

Boneless turkey breast can also be delicious, and it is much easier to carve and eat (especially when there are a lot of kids!). Unlike bone-in turkey breast, the entire boneless breast can be eaten, so you can stick with your rule of 0.5 lbs. per person—unless you want tons of turkey leftovers!

At the end of the day, buying bone-in or boneless turkey breast is totally up to you. Just remember to think of your portion calculations as you shop!

What You Need to Know About Serving Turkey Breast

While most people serve a whole turkey for Thanksgiving, if you are serving turkey another time of year, you may be planning just to serve the turkey breast.

Turkey breast is the chest portion of the bird, and it is composed solely of white meat. It is naturally lean, making it a healthy option for soups, sandwiches, and more. But because it is leaner and can often be purchased boneless, you don’t have to plan to make as much per person as you would with a whole turkey. 

Additionally, it is unlikely that you plan to serve just turkey breast, as you will likely have some sort of side on the table. The more sides you have, the less turkey you need to allot per person. Plus, rich sides like mac and cheese will fill your guests up much more than a green salad, also affecting how much turkey you need to plan to make.

No matter what you serve, we still recommend purchasing 0.5 pounds of raw turkey breast for each person you plan to serve unless you have a lot of kids or people with large appetites coming to dinner. Once you decide what you will be serving your turkey with, it’s time to look at the guests you are expecting.

Consider Your Guests

Besides counting how many people you plan to serve, consider how much they eat. A full-grown adult, for example, will eat much more than a six-year-old child. But, if you’ve got a teenage boy, he may eat more than a full-grown adult.

Not to mention the fact that appetites vary. You may know someone who can eat an entire pizza while your grandmother simply picks at what is on her plate. Regardless of appetites, we recommend estimating on the high side so that you can have some delicious leftovers rather than risk being short on turkey breast!

So, the bottom line is, if you’ve got people with large appetites, then plan to estimate 0.75 lbs. of raw turkey breast for each person. If everyone has a small or average appetite, the 0.5 lbs. of raw turkey breast per person will do! For those with lots of kids, estimate 0.25 lbs. of raw turkey for each kid, but stick to 0.5 lbs. for the adults.

What is the Best Way to Cook a Turkey Breast?

Now that you’ve purchased turkey breast for your next big event, it’s time to consider how you will cook it. Our favorite methods for cooking turkey include smoking and deep frying, though grilling is also an option! (Check out our smoked turkey recipe!)

With grilling, you just want to be careful to cut your turkey breast thin enough so that you don’t overcook it as you try to cook it to a safe temperature. But with the right grilled turkey recipe, you should have no problem whipping up some tasty turkey on your grill!

Do note that we recommend brining your turkey before cooking it. Check out our article How to Brine Turkey for more information!

How is Thanksgiving Turkey Different from Turkey Breast?

When you are trying to estimate how much turkey to cook for Thanksgiving Dinner, you have probably heard to estimate one pound per person, which is much more than the ½ pound of boneless turkey breast we recommend here.

The reason the recommendation per person is so much higher for Thanksgiving is because a Thanksgiving turkey has bones (which can’t be eaten) and because when preparing for the holiday meal, you can’t know for sure whether all your guests will eat white or dark meat.

Since turkey breast is all white meat, you don’t have to worry about too many people choosing one type of meat and can, therefore, plan more succinctly for how much people will eat! If you want lots of leftover turkey breast, though, don’t be afraid to use the 1 pound per person estimation for turkey breast, too!

What To Do With the Leftovers?

Unless everyone in your family is a perfect and predictable eater, it’s likely you have some turkey leftover. Below are our favorite uses for leftover turkey breast:

  • Turkey sandwiches
  • Turkey soup (turkey noodle or turkey chili!)
  • Cobb salad with turkey
  • Turkey tacos
  • Turkey nachos or quesadillas

Not sure if your leftover turkey is still good? Find out how long turkey lasts in the fridge to make sure yours is still safe to eat!

Photo of author

Hope Davis

Born in Denver, Colorado as the oldest of 5 children, I learned at a young age that the grill was one of the best ways to prepare food for a crowd. And during the winter storm months, when the snow was likely to knock out the power to our house, the propane grill was a lifesaver! You wouldn’t believe the number of things you can cook on a grill when necessary. With parents who couldn’t tell salt from pepper unless you told them, I spent my late teen years making my own seasoning mixes and marinades to dress the meat before barbecues. It wasn’t long before I developed a secret marinade that people still beg me to make for them today! When I was 21 years old I bought my first smoker. Picked up some cedar chips for making a cedar plank salmon...and well, the rest they say is history! I’ve been grilling and smoking all kinds of creations ever since and I’m always excited to share my passion with others through my favorite medium--writing!

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