10 Tasty Ideas for Leftover Turkey


It's The Day of the Turkey (at least here in the US) and we all know there will be leftovers. Since I can only eat so many TLTs (Turkey, Lettuce, and Tomato sandwiches), I've come up with some easy recipes and ideas so all that tasty bird doesn't go bad. If you want, leave me a comment with some other ideas for Thanksgiving leftovers.

1. Turkey Cranberry Rollup

You can do this as a sandwich, too, but I prefer it in a tortilla. Spread some cranberry sauce, put some turkey on top of it, and roll. It has all the flavor of Thanksgiving with almost none of the work.

2. Turkey Chili

I love to throw together a chili. Anymore, I don't even use a recipe, just some broth (chicken or beef, depending on what flavor I'm going for), some beans (usually kidney, but sometimes black, pinto, or even garbanzo), sometimes corn, some diced tomatoes in sauce, and tomato sauce if I want it thicker. I definitely add some onions and sometimes garlic, then salsa and chili powder, and then I put in whatever kind of meat I'm using that day. It's as easy to put turkey in as anything else, and the bird doesn't do much to change the taste.

3. Turkey and Noodles

Cook up some egg noodles. For a sauce, heat up some creamy soup (cream of mushroom, cream of celery, etc..) and add some turkey and browned onions. Put the turkey topping over the noodles and serve. Most of the time, no one besides you will realize that the meat is even turkey!

4. Turkey Fajitas

Warm up the turkey and serve it instead of chicken or beef with grilled, sliced peppers and grilled onions. Add them all to a tortilla with toppings of your choice and eat.

5. Turkey Lentil Stew

Soak your lentils until they are soft. Cook them in water with some garlic, thyme, salt, and a bay leaf until the lentils have made something of a mushy mess. Add the turkey and make sure it's all heated through.

6. Turkey Stir Fry

It took me a little while to be willing to try this one as turkey is not a meat that comes to mind when I think of stir fry. Out of desperation for something new, I finally made an attempt, and it's actually good. Soak the already-cooked turkey in the stir-fry marinade or topping of your choice. Stir fry your vegetables (I usually use a frozen mixture). Add the turkey near the end, so it has a chance to heat up but not dry out. Eat over rice or Japanese noodles.

7. Turkey Stew

Mix chicken broth with chunks of carrot, onion, potato, celery and whatever vegetables mean "stew" to you. Add some parsley, thyme, a bay leaf or two, salt and pepper to taste, and maybe some oregano for something a little different. Bring the broth with the veggies to a boil and let it boil for about 10 minutes. Add the turkey and continue to boil it until the vegetables are soft. Serve with salad and/or sourdough bread for the Panera effect.

8. Turkey Burritos

Put in turkey with the refried beans, cheese, salsa, guacamole, and whatever else makes a burrito for you. Roll up the tortilla. Heat, eat, and enjoy!

9. Turkey Pad Thai

Ok, I have a confession here--I usually buy my pad thai from Trader Joes. I'll heat it up, add any extra meat or veggies that I want, use their sauce, and serve it...even to guests! When I have turkey around, that's the meat I add and it's pretty tasty. If you're worried about the turkey taste mixing poorly with the Thai spices, press some mashed up fresh garlic into the turkey several hours before you cook and let it sit in a bag or another closed container until you're ready to use it. The garlic should overpower the turkey taste so your pad thai will be yummy, like usual.

10. Freeze it

Amazingly enough, cooked turkey survives freezing fairly well. It comes out pretty dry, so I try to use it in soups or cassaroles when I use it later, but it's still tasty and good. The best part is that I can eat it at some future point when I'm not totally sick of turkey.

The End Result?

Nothing goes to waste, and I don't feel like I'm eating the same thing over and over just to get rid of the meat. Both the frug-a-holic and the variety-lover in me are satisfied. I hope it works for you!

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Myscha Theriault's picture

They are all good ideas Sarah, but I LOVE that one. Timely post.

Guest's picture

Good recipes. Let me add a couple of my favorites:

Turkey, avocado and bacon sandwiches are luxurious treats.

Turkey tortilla soup--Turkey, 1 package chicken broth, 1/2 to 1 can Ro-Tel tomatoes (tomatoes with green chiles), whole kernel corn, pinch oregano, salt; if you like hominy, add a can--it adds a lot. Serve over tortilla chips with cilantro on top if you like it.

Guest's picture

You left out the turkey soup. That is my favorite part of the whole turkey. I always go to my mother-in-law's for T-day but buy a turkey anyway, partly because it's 49 cents a pound and partly for the soup. Put the carcass in a pot of water to cover, add whatever you want (onions, carrots) plus plenty of salt and pepper, boil the crap out of it for 4-6 hours (skim off the foam) and strain. Throw out everything that you boiled in there and add some more turkey (not boiled) and some noodles (or rice). Cook til the noodles are done and you have my favorite meal of all time. Or just use the broth in all the recipes you mentioned above.

Guest's picture

We use the leftover mashed potatoes, add chopped turkey, stuffing and a raw egg and form patties, which we then pan fry and top with gravy. We call them Thanksgiving pancakes -- you have all the flavors of Thanksgiving in each bite! I like to think these would be perfect for astronauts.

Guest's picture

i take the dark meat turkey and shredd and put in pot with bbq sauce or sloppy joe sauce and serve on buns with cheese...pretty darn awesome! even my pickest daugter dives into it!

we use the white meat thats left for either turkey salad sandwhiches with mayo or just hot turkey and swiss sandwiches(baked or broiled of course)

** i thought of a turkey shepards pie but not sure how that would taste!

Guest's picture

Thanks for this post—there are some great ideas here!

I wanted to chip in with my own idea for anyone who’s interested (I just had this for lunch, and it’s delicious):

Shred some turkey and set it aside (I used breast meat, but you can use whatever you want). Then heat up some pre-made marinara sauce and throw in some ground pepper, Italian seasoning, and garlic powder (or just use homemade marinara sauce). When that’s hot, mix in some shredded mozzarella and the shredded turkey you set aside earlier. Serve over noodles or in a hamburger bun.

Sarah Winfrey's picture

Wow...next Thanksgiving will be quite an adventure, thanks to you guys!  And I love the idea of astronaut pancakes...very cool!

Guest's picture

There is a great recipe from Paula Deen...Gobbler Cobbler.

Basically it's how I make my chicken pot pie but here goes...

1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can cream of mushroom soup
As much turkey as you can stand
Frozen mixed veggies (I like the beans/carrots mixture)
I also add a can of corn
and a package of puff pastry (I do this to be a bit fancier) OR as Paula Deen does, a package of pie crust.

Throw it all in an 8x8 or 9x9 brownie pan
Cover with pie crust and make holes, you can get as fancy as you want...Paula does lattice work as you would on a pie


Cover with puff pastry (no holes)

You can egg wash the top, I definitely do with the puff pastry and then I put it in the oven at 350 until the pie crust is golden or the puff pastry is puffed and golden.

Guest's picture

Use leftover stuff to make the crust, if you have any, or buy a package of stuffing mix. Add chopped turkey, cheese, eggs and milk. My family likes this all year round!

Guest's picture

A Korean spin on turkey leftovers. Turkey Kimchi Fried Rice

Guest's picture

My friend's mother came up with this. It's awesome!

Leftover Thanksgiving Day Casserole

Oil and oblong glass baking dish. Spread a layer of mashed potatoes on the bottom, add a layer of turkey (great use for the turkey bits and scraps), add a layer of bread stuffing. Last, pour the left over gravy all over the top. Bake a 350 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour. Yum!

Guest's picture
Wabi Sabi

Thanks for the tips; they'll come in handy. Turkey Pad Thai is a stretch for my taste; but, I like your thinking outside the box. Can't wait to try the T-C roll-up. Perhaps put turkey pot pie on your list using a (store-bought?) puff pastry topping as the only crust?

Guest's picture

I have even made turkey sloppy joes. YUM! Use your regular sloppy joe recipe but sub turkey instead of ground beef. My family loves it!

Guest's picture

You have got to add some dressing to that cranberry roll up!

Here's my favorite:

Turkey and Dressing Casserole

1 box Stove Top stuffing
1 to 1 1/2 lbs. shredded turkey meat
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 lb mixed frozen vegetables, thawed and drained (optional)

Make stuffing according to directions. Combine remaining ingredients to the prepared stuffing and pour into greased 13 x 9 dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

If that's not enough for you, here is my other leftover turkey:

BBQ Turkey Sandwiches

3 cups shredded turkey
1/4 cup diced onion
1 tablespoon butter or margarine
1 bottle of your favorite BBQ sauce
6 Kaiser rolls
1 pint of creamy cole slaw

Saute onion in butter until tender. In a pot combine BBQ sauce, shredded turkey, and sauteed onion. Bring just to a boil. Serve on rolls and top with cole slaw. Great with leftover mashed potatoes.