17 Ways to Use Thanksgiving Leftovers


I love Thanksgiving. It's my favorite holiday. So, of course, I always cook way too much food. Fortunately, if there's one thing I love more than Thanksgiving dinner, it's all the leftovers. Here's a list of some of my favorite Thanksgiving leftover hacks.

1. Like a Turkey and Stuffing Sandwich, But Not

Turkey tacos are super delicious and super easy to make. Just put everything into a tortilla and zap it hot in the microwave.

2. Cook Enchiladas With the Turkey

Jason Vincent, the executive chef of Chicago's Nightwood restaurant, makes turkey enchiladas while he prepares his Thanksgiving dinner, cooking the enchilada sauce right in the bottom of the turkey roasting pan! Genius.

3. Jook

Another cook-it-while-you-eat Thanksgiving leftovers dinner is jook, also known as congee. Jook is a super easy and frugal Chinese comfort food. To make turkey jook, put the turkey carcass into a large Crock-Pot or soup pot. Then add one cup of rice to 10 cups of water. Cook until the rice breaks down to a porridge-like consistency. I like to add a thumb-sized chunk of ginger and some garlic cloves while it's cooking for additional flavor. Season the finished jook with soy sauce, pepper, hot chili oil, or green onions. My husband likes to add leftover French fried onions (from the green bean casserole).

4. Cranberry Meatballs

The classic cocktail meatball recipe calls for grape jelly, but this one uses cranberry. A great way to use up any leftover cranberry sauce.

5. Green Gravy and Biscuits

Puree leftover green bean casserole in a food processor. Reheat (adding additional gravy or turkey broth as needed). Pour green gravy over warm biscuits and top with more French fried onions.

6. Pasta alla Genovese

Most Americans recognize this dish as pasta with pesto, but the original Ligurian pasta alla genovese recipe includes green beans and potatoes.

7. Creamy Turkey in Puff Pastry

Turn biscuits and gravy into a dainty dinner appetizer with puff pastry and the addition of a can of drained artichokes.

8. Salad Niçoise

Green beans? Check. Cooked potatoes? Check. If you've got these two leftovers you can whip up salad niçoise, one of Julia Childs' favorite recipes, with the addition of a few kitchen staples like canned tuna and hard-boiled eggs.

9. Turkey Waldorf Salad

One of my favorite Thanksgiving dishes is Waldorf salad. It's a dish that I make year-round because it pairs well with a variety of cuisines. So, it's pretty much a no-brainer to add leftover turkey to make, well, turkey Waldorf salad. Use it in sandwiches or toss with mixed greens to stretch the recipe into a lunch entrée.

10. Curry in a Hurry

Add leftover turkey, carrots, green beans, or potatoes to your favorite curry sauce recipe or make a curried turkey salad.

11. Vegetable Samosas

Samosas are the Punjabi version of hand pies. This Indian chef gives step-by-step instructions on how to make fried, twice fried, and baked versions of this classic snack. Samosas are my very favorite way to use up leftover mashed potatoes and peas.

12. Shepherd's Pie With Two-Potato Topping

This shepherd's pie recipe from New York's Red Cat restaurant calls for turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, and sweet potatoes. Make one giant pie for Sunday night (after Thanksgiving) dinner for the family, or prepare individual pies in ramekins.

13. Mashed Potato Pancakes

With just a five-minute prep time, these potato pancakes make a quickie meal from leftover mashed potatoes.

14. Sweet Potato Latkes

Full disclosure: very few recipes churn my stomach more than the sweet potato and marshmallow-topped casserole that grace so many Thanksgiving tables. Blargh. However, this recipe for sweet potato latkes with candied pecans is making me rethink my entire stance on sweetened sweet potatoes. Is it a side dish or a dessert? You decide.

15. Cheesy Mashed Potato Muffins

Feeling fancy? Then forget about frying potato pancakes and bake up some savory leftover mashed potato muffins instead.

16. Cranberry Crisp

Use up leftover apples and/or cranberry sauce by turning them into a super simple fruit cobbler.

17. Peanut Butter and Cranberry Sauce Sandwiches

Cranberry sauce is basically firm jam. Use it as a jam substitute in any of these recipes for preserves.

What's your favorite Thanksgiving leftover recipe?

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Guest's picture

How come I didn't see an option to donate the food to the homeless? There are always plenty of leftovers and it's never a bad idea to share food with people who actually don't get to enjoy thanksgiving like the rest of us do.

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