How to Decrease Your Waste and Increase Your Leftovers This Thanksgiving

November 25, 2015

There may be nothing better after Thanksgiving than the Friday sandwich that follows, piled high with turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and mayonnaise. But it isn’t the only good leftover that comes out of Thanksgiving—think potato skins packed with cheese and gravy, rich turkey giblet soup, pumpkin gut chutney.

By saving your Thanksgiving scraps, you won’t only spare your compost bin the extra weight, but you’ll increase your leftovers tenfold and stretch your Thanksgiving into the week.


You know that vacuum-packed thing you sometimes pull out of the turkey? It contains the giblets, which can include the neck, liver, heart, and gizzards (part of the digestive tract) of the turkey, also known as a leftover goldmine.

Photo by James Ransom

Neck, heart, and gizzards

Just about any part of the giblets can be boiled into a turkey stock as you would for chicken stock (just don’t use the liver because it gets bitter when boiled!). Use this stock as a base for soups, or add it to the turkey pan drippings with flour and cream to increase your gravy output—because when’s the last time you’ve had trouble making it through the gravy? This recipe is for chicken giblet gravy, but it can also be used for your turkey giblets! While you can put the turkey heart into the broth, you may also enjoy eating it yourself! Simply brown it in a pan until fully cooked and ready to eat.


Since the liver won’t do well in the broth, use it to make a turkey liver mousse—follow this recipe for chicken liver mousse.

Trimmed fat and excess skin

Once you’ve given your turkey some lipo, you may find yourself with a plate full of skin and trimmed fat. Save it and make some schmaltz, which functions as a rich, dairy-free oil that you can spread on your toast and sauté your vegetables in.

Photo by Bobbi Lin

Cranberry Sauce

Many cranberry sauces call for the rind of an orange, leaving you with sad—and under-dressed—citrus. We’re not suggesting you would throw away a perfectly good orange, but rather than eat it as a snack, you could make it into a wintry citrus salad or even a post-feast bourbon cocktail.

Mashed Potatoes

Many mashed potato recipes call for peeled and diced potatoes—but keep those 'tater skins! Use them to make crunchy potato skin chips (to go with your leftovers sandwich, of course!) and baked potato skins—topped with gravy! Think of it as Thanksgiving poutine.

Not-So-Scrappy Thanksgiving Leftovers

Miscellaneous herb stems and ends

Once you’ve slid the leaves off the thyme and rosemary, you’ll be left with a bare—but still pungent and flavorful—stem. True, it won’t do quite the trick the leaves do, but you can put the stems into dishes like shaksuka and boeuf bourguignon, then discard them before serving, for some extra flavor.

Vegetable Side Dishes

You can generate an entire stock’s worth of leftovers from one Thanksgiving: Every time you chop an onion or peel a carrot, put the nubs and skins into a large gallon bag. If you don’t think you’ll have time to simmer it into stock within the weekend, seal the bag and stick it into the freezer to have on hand for a chilly winter day.

Photo by Alpha Smoot

Pumpkin Pie

If you aren’t using the canned purée, you’ll likely find yourself with a mess of seeds and stringy pulp, sometimes called the guts or brains (just us?). You know what to do with the seeds—roast them!—but you should also save the pulp. It can be used to season vegetable (or turkey!) broths, boiled into a Spanish pumpkin purée known as Cabello de Angel, or even sautéed and blended into a chutney.

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And if you find yourself with the canned version, here are six ways to use it.

What are some of your favorite "Thanksgiving scraps"? How do you plan on re-purposing them? Tell us in the comments below!

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