5 Creative, Simple, and Frugal Recipes for Leftover Turkey

By Sarah Winfrey on 20 November 2009 (Updated 30 October 2012) 4 comments
Photo: jemsweb

It's that time of year again. No, not the holiday season. The time when everyone and their mother tells you what to do with all that leftover turkey you're going to have in a week. Not wanting to be left out of such honored company, here are some of the best ideas I've heard (and had!) for using up those extra bits of bird. Besides being tasty, they might not be anything you've had before, they whip up quickly, and they use ingredients that most people have on hand. (See also: 8 Fancy Ways to Use Leftover Food)

1. Turkey Bar-B-Q Sandwiches

These are a great spin on the overdone after-Thanksgiving turkey sandwiches. Simmer some turkey in your favorite bar-b-q sauce. Add some onion and garlic if you're feeling particularly adventuresome. Meanwhile, lightly toast some bread (those leftover dinner rolls will work, too). When everything smells fabulous and tastes the way you like it, put the turkey mixture on the rolls and consume the goodness.

2. Turkey Marinara

Some people put boring old meatballs in their spaghetti sauce, but not you. Nope, creative fiend that you are, you use turkey instead. If you're feeling really ambitious, you can chop your turkey really small or put it through a grinder, mix it with some onion, garlic, and other spices, and cook your meatballs in a pan or your oven until they've glommed together in that special way meatballs do.

If you're still sleeping off the first turkey dinner, just add some turkey and spices to your spaghetti sauce and simmer until the flavors mix. The taste is about the same, though meatballs are just more fun.

3. Turkey Broth

Before you say, "Bor-ring!" and walk away, hear me out. Broth is infinitely useful, obviously great for soups and gravies, but also useful as a marinade, in rice, or anytime you want to add a little extra meaty flavor. And the best thing about it? You can freeze it and save it forever! So you won't have to use all your turkey in a week. Instead, you'll consume it over months.

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To make turkey broth, simmer your turkey or turkey carcass (yup, making broth lets you use even the carcass!) in water with spices you like. I'd suggest garlic, parsley, basil, salt and pepper, but you can choose whatever works best for you. You can also add chopped veggies, like celery and onion. Simmer for several hours, then use a strainer to remove any bones. It's up to you whether or not you leave bits of meat in — some people like it this way and others don't. Set aside any that you'll use within the next week and freeze the rest for later.

4. Turkey Divan

I'm not sure what "Divan" means, but I've always guessed it must be related to "divine" because of how amazing this meal tastes. Seriously, food of the gods, folks. I made up a recipe for this once-upon-a-time, but that was before I found this one. And honestly, there's nothing in mine to recommend it above this one. Just swap out the chicken it mentions for your turkey leftovers and you may never want to eat anything else again.

5. Turkey Tortilla Soup

I love me some good tortilla soup (and I hate the bad ones!). There's not much better on a cold day than some spicy, substantial soup for lunch. If you're sick, there's not much that works better for clearing those poor sinuses, either.

Just add some turkey to your favorite tortilla soup recipe (doesn't every cook have one?), or use this one and substitute your turkey where it says "chicken." As a bonus, you can also use your fresh turkey broth here, too (see, I told you it'd be useful).

Instead of this just being me blathering on and on about what I like to eat, tell me what you do with your leftover turkey (or the rest of your leftover holiday spread, for that matter). After all, with Christmas just around the corner, it's not like we won't have ample time to try out all the recipes!

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Guest's picture

Leftover stuffing rolled up in thinly sliced turkey, covered in gravy, and baked to heat through.

Leftover turkey, green bean casserole, any other side vegetable, gravy, in a pot pie or (with less gravy) as a pocket pie/empanada/hot pocket.

Stuffing shaped into balls and deep fried as a replacement for hush puppies.

I've already got the taco soup on my menu for that weekend. :)

Sarah Winfrey's picture

Ooo . . . the hush puppies idea is fabulous! Thanks, Amanda!

Guest's picture
Tyg

The Saturday after Thanksgiving we always have a pizza party. Toppings vary, but I'm partial to turkey, onion, green pepper, and pineapple. We also usually do a turkey and tofu Pad Thai one night, and turkey usually ends up in stirfry with whatever veggies we happen to have around the house another night.

Another idea is to cube it up, put it in small freezer bags, and freeze it for later use. Twice a year we go camping and this is a quick way to add protein to the pasta and rice dishes that we pack for meals.

Guest's picture
Guest

Turkey Fajitas are amazing. A bag of frozen bell peppers, a thick sliced onion, a package of fajita seasoning, and some leftover shredded turkey and you have a hearty dinner on the table in less than 10 minutes.