November 26, 2021 - 11:30 am
One thing you can count on every Friday after Thanksgiving: There will be leftovers. For some people, that’s one of the best parts of turkey day.
But even the most avid turkey sandwich enthusiast gets a little tired of them after a few days.
Of course, “I’m sick of it” is no excuse to throw away perfectly good food.
So before you’re tempted to toss the remains of your turkey dinner in the trash, check out these delicious and creative Thanksgiving leftover recipes.
30 Ways to Repurpose Your Thanksgiving Leftovers
From classics like soup to surprises like nachos, you’re sure to find something to reignite your holiday appetite.
Although many of these dishes contain more than one traditional Thanksgiving ingredient, we’ve organized them by their main component so you can easily find a recipe that fits your unique Thanksgiving leftover situation.
That said, some of them look so good, you might want to make Thanksgiving dinner all over again…
The main event is also the one most likely to leave a lot behind — no matter how insistent mom is that each guest takes some home.
Here’s how to transform that pile of leftover turkey meat into a delicious new dish.
1. Turkey Salad
The day after Thanksgiving, a big, hearty meal might be the last thing on your mind.
Lighten up your menu by making leftover turkey into a salad — either the creamy, mayo-based kind you serve on bread, or the kind with actual lettuce — like a chicken salad, but with turkey instead!
2. Turkey Frittata
What’s eggy, delicious and perfectly appropriate for breakfast, lunch or dinner?
A frittata, of course!
Jackie at Domestic Fits offers a recipe that’ll use up your leftover turkey and rolls in a snap, and Yasmin Fahr suggests dipping her frittata in leftover cranberry sauce mixed with a little bit of dijon mustard.
But just like an omelette, the possibilities are endless. Just crack some eggs and put on your thinking cap. Bonus if you can use more of your holiday leftovers in this dish.
3. Leftover Thanksgiving Nachos
Here’s a new take on nachos.
Food Network offers this appetizing tray of leftover Thanksgiving nachos, including leftover turkey, roasted Brussels sprouts and butternut squash.
It even uses up the last of that can of French-fried onions you put on your green bean casserole.
4. Turkey Tetrazzini
What’s a better mate for your leftover turkey than mayonnaise?
Try a creamy, cheesy mushroom sauce — complete with spaghetti.
Tetrazzini, a classic American pasta dish, works well with all kinds of poultry and fish, and leftover turkey is no exception. Plus, The Pioneer Woman’s version calls for an entire block of cream cheese.
5. Turkey Milanese
This fancy-sounding dish by Bobby Flay actually looks pretty darn easy to put together.
And if you skip the pomegranate molasses, you probably already have most of these ingredients in your pantry.
6. Turkey Pizza
Sound unconventional? Sure — but the best part about making pizza at home is going beyond your local joint’s usual repertoire.
If you’re still unconvinced, check out ReadySetEat’s artichoke turkey pizza. Just grab a premade crust and add some leftover turkey, diced tomatoes, canned artichokes and olives, and two types of cheese (because, yes).
7. Turkey Enchiladas
Repurpose an American classic into a Mexican dish that predates the birth of our country.
There are lots of versions out there. Here’s one of the best Thanksgiving leftover recipes we’ve found.
- 2 cloves garlic
- 4 cups cooked, leftover turkey, shredded
- 8 tablespoons mild chili powder
- 2 fresh jalapenos
- 1 cup smoked barbecue sauce
- 1 can tomato sauce
- 1 teaspoon each cumin, oregano and sugar
- 3 cups of chicken broth (or your own homemade turkey stock; see item #13 on this list!)
- 1 cup half-and-half
- 2 tablespoons of cornstarch dissolved in 4 tablespoons half-and-half
- 1 cup shredded monterey jack or cheddar cheese
- 12 tortillas
- salt and pepper
- cooking oil (such as olive)
- frying oil (such as canola)
- sour cream
- green onions
Make your enchilada sauce by pureeing the mild chili powder, fresh jalapenos, barbecue sauce, one quartered onion, one clove of garlic, the can of tomato sauce, the cumin, oregano and sugar, a teaspoon of salt, an eighth of a teaspoon of pepper and two tablespoons of cooking oil.
Fry the mixture up in hot oil for about five minutes, stirring constantly.
Then add the broth, a cup of half-and-half, plus the two tablespoons of cornstarch dissolved in an additional 4 tablespoons of half and half. Simmer for two minutes.
Then, saute the remaining half onion and clove of garlic, diced finely, in hot oil. Add the shredded turkey, brown slightly, and stir in sauce (reserving some) and salt and pepper to taste. Heat, and keep warm.
Fry the 12 tortillas quickly in hot oil. Drain and keep them warm in a casserole dish. Dip the tortillas in heated sauce, put a strip of filling across each, and roll tightly. Arrange side-by-side in pan, sprinkle with cheese and heat in a 350-degree oven for 10 minutes.
Spoon heated sauce over enchiladas and serve with sour cream and chopped green onions. Muy bien!
8. Turkey Chili
What better way to weather the cold winter months than with a hearty chili?
And since you’ve likely got more leftover turkey than you know what to do with, this lightened-up version from Ambitious Kitchen is a perfect fit.
And if you’re feeling fiery, check out Food Network’s leftover turkey chili recipe, which brings the heat with fire-roasted tomatoes.
9. Turkey “Shepherd’s” Pie
So, let’s assess the Thanksgiving leftover situation. You’ve likely got the following leftover turkey, gravy, stuffing or dressing and mashed potatoes. Obviously, you need to put all those things together in one dish with the mashed potatoes on top.
Although it’s called “shepherd’s pie” because it traditionally comes with lamb, this dish is as simple and cost-effective as it is tasty. You don’t have to use any ingredients other than the Thanksgiving leftovers themselves.
Although it’s called “shepherd’s pie” because it traditionally comes with lamb, this dish — poulterer’s pie? — is as simple and cost-effective as it is tasty. You don’t have to use any ingredients other than the Thanksgiving leftovers themselves.
And if you want a full-sized pie, check out Martha Stewart’s recipe, which sweetens the deal with leftover cranberry sauce and glazed carrots.
Seriously, how lame does that sandwich sound now?
10. Turkey Pot Pie
Got a leftover pie crust or two, or even a frozen puff pastry?
Want something a bit more handheld?
Check out this recipe for “pocket” pies, stuffed with cranberry sauce, sweet and mashed potatoes, stuffing and, of course, leftover turkey. Make them ahead of time and pop ‘em in the toaster oven.
11. Turkey Quesadillas
Quesadillas are a perfect vehicle in which to stuff a Thanksgiving leftover.
This one calls for brie and cranberry chutney. Yum.
12. Thanksgiving Leftover Casserole
Casseroles are cheap, filling and delicious, not to mention a great way to get those turkey leftovers into hungry stomachs.
There are tons of ways to make your Thanksgiving leftovers into a casserole. This recipe calls for canned soups and frozen peas, which you probably already have at your disposal.
13. So Many Delicious Winter Soups
First things first: If you’re not making fresh turkey stock with that picked-clean carcass, you’re doing it wrong.
Throw some root veggies, spices and what’s left of the bird in a pot, cover with water and simmer as long as you can stand it — it’s going to smell incredible. (This recipe says two to three hours, but you can go as long as six, adding extra water as needed).
Then, make that stock into delicious soups. This is a common tradition, so there are endless Thanksgiving leftover recipes for soup to try. We suggest Alton Brown’s super-simple “bird to the last drop” or this delicious version from The Pioneer Woman.
And check out Pinch of Yum’s Easy Turkey Pho, which calls for savory fish sauce and sweet spices like cinnamon and cloves.
14. OK, Fine, Turkey Sandwiches
Some things are traditional for a reason. Consider elevating your turkey sandwich game with these creative leftover recipes:
- This Thanksgiving leftovers club sandwich stacks everything that was on your plate between three layers of dinner rolls.
- Martha Stewart suggests three sandwich variants to use up your bird: the turkey and onion (which looks way better than it sounds), the turkey cobb, and the turkey, cheddar and green apple.
- Food Network chef Tyler Florence’s turkey sandwich calls for apple butter and brie. That fresh-carved turkey breast will substitute for deli slices just fine.
In the category of foods that make you go, “I made too much of this and I’m not sorry,” mashed potatoes are second only to the turkey itself.
And although they’re just as yummy reheated and piled up with leftover gravy, here are some more creative options.
15. Potato Pancakes
Potato pancakes might already be the perfect Penny Hoarder food.
They’re delicious, filling, versatile and, of course, inexpensive — especially when you have a ton of leftover mashed potatoes to use up.
Dress this basic recipe up with your favorite toppings… like, say, all that leftover cranberry sauce.
Food Network Chef Giada De Laurentiis gets eggs and parmesan involved in her “eggs in purgatory” dish.
Or, you could experiment with throwing additional ingredients right into the mix before cooking.
Kelly, who blogs at Just a Taste, suggests cheddar cheese and scallions.
16. Mashed Potato Soup
Yes, more delicious soup.
You’d be hard-pressed to argue against this loaded mashed potato soup from Mommy Hates Cooking.
Instead of chicken broth, sub in that delicious turkey stock you made.
17. Mashed Potato Muffins
Who knew that if you add an egg to leftover mashed potatoes, they’ll bake into fluffy, delicious muffins?
Want a quick and easy way to use up your leftover Thanksgiving turkey, leftover potatoes and leftover cranberry sauce all in one go?
Check out Martha Stewart’s recipe for turkey croquettes.
Already used up your turkey? John Torode’s “bubble and squeak” croquettes call for bacon, turnips and cabbage for a total repackaging of a Thanksgiving fave.
19. Gluten-Free Cake
Bet you didn’t know mashed potatoes could have a place on the dessert table.
This lemon drizzle cake ditches flour in favor of ground almonds and mashed potatoes to stay fluffy and flavorful, even though it’s gluten-free.
It’s kind of a rarity to have any of this left, at least in most houses.
That said, if you do have leftover stuffing, you’re in for a treat.
20. Fried Stuffing Bites
This recipe is trouble.
Fried leftover stuffing served with a cranberry pesto really is next-level Thanksgiving leftover creativity.
21. Stuffing-Stuffed Mushrooms
This Food Network recipe is super simple and super tasty. Do yourself a favor and spring for fresh parmesan — the stuff in the green tub has no place on this dish.
It’s sweet but tangy and a perfect compliment to that overzealous mound of savory Thanksgiving recipes.
But shockingly, many people eat only a tiny bit of cranberry sauce, or consider it merely obligatory. Buck that trend and give these leftover recipes a try.
22. Cranberry Upside-Down Cake
Cranberry Upside-Down cake? Yes, please!
This version from Baked In looks as good as it sounds. Just substitute your sauce for the fresh cranberries it calls for — or use the leftovers that didn’t make it to your table in the first place.
23. Cranberry Tartlets
Calling for little more than dough, an egg and some sugar, these cranberry tartlets are as elegant as they are delicious, and make a great alternative to heavier desserts like pumpkin pie.
24. Cranberry Pancakes
Thanksgiving leftovers for breakfast doesn’t have to mean hash — not that we don’t love hash!
Spoon your cranberry sauce into pancake batter for a sweet breakfast that might become your new favorite Friday-after-Thanksgiving tradition.
25. Cranberry Muffins
Transform that cranberry sauce into next week’s breakfast for the whole family by whipping up a batch of muffins.
Green Bean Casserole
Honestly, you won’t find a whole lot of ways to repurpose this one — probably because it’s so darn good reheated and eaten as-is.
But aside from spooning it onto salads (or directly into your mouth) try this easy way to use up your green bean casserole.
26. Green Bean Quiche
This quiche has nine ingredients, one of which is your leftover green bean casserole.
Whether you sweeten your dinner with candied yams or opt for a savory dish, this spud probably has a place at your Thanksgiving table.
Here’s what to do with the leftovers.
27. Breakfast Hash
DIY your hash using leftover sweet potatoes, turkey and poached eggs.
Or, if you’re looking for a more structured recipe, try this one from EatingWell – a lightened-up hash which brings in an apple to balance the mix.
28. Sweet Potato Biscuits
Want a slightly sweetened roll, once all the Thanksgiving crescents have been eaten up?
Try out these sweet potato biscuits courtesy of Spinach Tiger.
29. Sweet Potato Pie
Transforming your yams into a sweet potato pie is pretty much as simple as adding crust — and some evaporated milk or eggs to get the pie’s texture right.
30. Sweet Potato Cake
Here’s one more way to make this Thanksgiving leftover even sweeter: Transform it into cake.
This recipe is reminiscent of good, homemade gingerbread. Be sure to adjust the amount of sugar you add to the mix depending on how much sweetness is already in your yams.
Robert Bruce is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. Jamie Cattanach is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder.
This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, a personal finance website that empowers millions of readers nationwide to make smart decisions with their money through actionable and inspirational advice, and resources about how to make, save and manage money.