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Creative Uses for Thanksgiving Leftovers

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There are so many great conversations on the Hotline -- it's hard to choose a favorite. But we'll be doing it, once a week, to spread the wealth of our community's knowledge -- and to keep the conversation going.

Today: You had your fill of turkey sandwiches yesterday -- now what?

Creative Uses for Thanksgiving Leftovers, from Food52

Two days after Thanksgiving, and your fridge is still stuffed with stuffing. And turkey. And mashed potatoes. You already made perfectly loaded turkey sandwiches yesterday, so now you need new ideas to put those leftovers to good use. This question has come up time and time again on the Hotline -- turkey pho and turkey jambalaya are always hits -- and our community has a host of other good ideas that will make you thankful for your leftovers.

The Pros Propose

  • Mollie Katzen says: "Leftovers need a good sauce or broth. Plan on having some mushroom gravy, homemade aioli, vinaigrette, or turkey (or vegetable) stock on hand, and your leftovers will become something you eagerly look forward to."
  • If you haven't already tossed your turkey carcass, Michael Ruhlman likes to use it to make stock. Bonus: His turkey stock method has you make it in the oven -- no hovering over the stove required.
  • Nancy Harmon Jenkins suggests making a pasta sauce with leftover vegetables (one at a time, not all together): "Sauté some Italian sausage meat (hot or sweet, your choice), diced pancetta, or bacon in olive oil with a clove of chopped garlic and a chopped onion. When the onion is soft, stir in leftover puréed squash and if you want to make it more saucy, add a ladleful of pasta cooking water or ditto of cream. Bring to a simmer and serve over hot rigatoni with a scattering of grated cheese and toasted breadcrumbs. You could do the same thing with Brussels sprouts or broccoli, chopped rather than puréed."
  • Amanda Hesser recommends making a frittata with leftover vegetables (mixing in different types is okay here, and even encouraged!).

More: Leftover vegetables are also great in soup -- no recipe required.

Baked Onion-Walnut Frittata


  • Lorigoldsby makes turkey tortilla soup with fire-roasted tomatoes and dill, and turkey pastilla with phyllo dough, currants, and almonds.
  • Whip up turkey empanadas with scraps of leftover pastry crust and diced turkey, as vrunka does.
  • SeaJambon uses leftover turkey as a pulled pork substitute. Shred it like you would the pork, slather with your favorite BBQ sauce, and put it on buns.
  • If you want to save some turkey straight-up, AntoniaJames recommends freezing it along with some stock or gravy to help the meat hold up better through the freezing process.


  • Niknud’s family uses up leftovers in a breakfast dish: “Mix leftover mashed potatoes with leftover stuffing and some cubed turkey. Fry in obscene amounts of butter ’til it gets all crispy and delicious. Then make a hole in the center and fry yourself an egg in there. Top with hot sauce! If you really want to go all in, throw some shredded cheese on top and just wallow in post-Thanksgiving indulgence. A Bloody Mary helps it go down.” Twist our arms.

Brussels Sprouts and Chorizo Beer Hash

Mashed Potatoes

  • Helen’s All Night Diner makes a rustic potato and leek soup from the rest of the mashed potatoes and whipping cream.
  • Boulangere makes soup too. Her favorite starts with rich vegetable-y turkey soup made with stock from the turkey carcass, and then she gently drops a scoop of re-warmed mashed potatoes in the center of each bowl.
  • Multiple members like to make potato cakes or croquettes. Try Merrill Stubbs' recipe for Mashed Potato Cakes and add in whatever leftover vegetable you have on hand.
  • Melissav likes to make MrsWheelbarrow's Leftover Mashed Potato Flatbread
  • Lastnightsdinner loves to make tuna polpette with leftover mashed potatoes. She adds two cans of good quality canned tuna, drained, to about 1 1/2 cups of mashed potatoes, then a beaten egg, some lemon zest, and a bit of flour if the mixture is too wet. Roll the mixture into balls, fry in olive oil until crisp and golden brown, and serve them with a simple tomato sauce, a sprinkling of chopped fresh parsley, and additional grated lemon zest.

Overnight Miso Porridge


  • Linzarella thinks her Overnight Miso Porridge is even better with leftover kabocha squash purée added in.
  • Pierino advises utilizing your leftover vegetables in a simple turkey pot pie, assembled using frozen puff pastry crusts.

More: Have additional roasted vegetables to use up? We've got more ideas for you.

Cranberry Sauce

  • Gingerroot uses leftover cranberry relish in a raw kale salad with fresh orange juice, ricotta salata, and toasted sliced almonds.
  • Suzanne Dossous-Verdier tops Belgian waffles with leftover cranberry sauce and a little whipped cream.

Tell us: What are your favorite ways to enjoy your Thanksgiving leftovers?

Photos by James Ransom

Tags: hotline, leftovers, thanksgiving, holiday

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Comments (12)


9 months ago The Cooking of Joy

This year I made pull-apart Thanksgiving leftover stuffed bread using Two Red Bowl's Hokkaido milk bread recipe and leftover mashed potatoes, candied sweet potatoes, and stuffing: http://the-cooking-of-joy...


9 months ago Fairmount_market

After all the relatively bland foods of Thanksgiving, I always crave something spicy. Today I made a big pot of turkey mole with the leftover meat and a big pot of turkey stock with the bones for tortilla soup.


9 months ago HopeinDC

I took the sweet potato casserole, scraped off the marshmallows and added powdered ginger, red thai chili paste, salt, broth from my turkey carcass broth and the carrots from it as well. Cooked it together for about 20 minutes added salt and pureed. Voila! Curried sweet potato and ginger soup. It would have served this to company it was so good! Then I took the rest of the turkey carcass broth added canneloni beans, canned roasted tomatoes, lacinto kale and turkey sausage. It was awesome! I won't have to buy groceries for a week!


9 months ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Over toast, of course. https://food52.com/recipes... ;o)


9 months ago garlic&lemon

Green chile turkey enchiladas!! We always make enough turkey so we can make those enchiladas on Saturday after Thanksgiving.


9 months ago Jeanean

I make a cooked cranberry orange relish that is wonderful. I've used a bit of the leftover in a sparkling wine glass topped off with the sparkling wine. It's delicious that way.


9 months ago HopeinDC

I also stirred champagne vinegar and made vinaigrette. I have tons and tons of cranberries.


9 months ago HopeinDC

I am going to take pizza dough and try making some cranberry and brie appetizers for a little cocktail thing I am throwing on Thursday. Will let people know how it goes!


9 months ago Sammi

I just finished off the cranberry sauce by mixing it in to my morning oatmeal. Add some pecans & more cinnamon. Yum!


9 months ago HopeinDC

Stir leftover cranberry sauce into apple crisp. It's incredible


almost 2 years ago magzeen

Turkey soup all the way! But also turkey gumbo, curried turkey turnovers, leftover cranberry sauce bar cookies, pumpkin soup and pumpkin creme brulee


almost 2 years ago CelliSean

I normally make cranberry chutney rather than a standard sauce, and make tons extra to add to everything I eat as long as it lasts.

Tops on my list: grilled chutney & cheddar sandwiches with a nice mustard.