Save These "Scraps" as You Prepare Your Thanksgiving Feast

November 20, 2016

In the frenzy to prepare your Thanksgiving feast, there are a number of so-called scraps that might get, well, scrapped, as you churn out dish after dish. Potato peels, celery leaves, and winter squash innards could be swept into the compost bin without thinking—but don't do it!

Take a moment now to plan ahead and figure out what to save: You'll be rewarded with bonus appetizers, a sauce to slather on next-day turkey sandwiches, and so much more.

Turkey Bits

The main event! You probably knew to save the giblets for gravy, and the carcass for stock, but did you know you can use the head and feet, too?

swiss chard Stalks

Is your dinner menu going to include creamed greens? If so, and if Swiss chard will be in the mix, don't toss the stalks. They can be turned into hummus or pesto, either of which can be added to the appetizer spread as a dip or saved for the days ahead to help turn Thanksgiving leftovers into new meals.

Stale Bread

For Thanksgiving, stale bread is less of a scrap as it is a necessary ingredient for the holiday. So yes, this is basically a thinly-veiled ploy to get this stuffing recipe on your radar if you haven't made it yet.

apple & potato Peels

Making an apple pie or two? Don't toss the peels, you can use them to flavor tea or bourbon—it's okay to base that choice on how many crazy relatives are coming for the holidays.

Shop the Story

All of the potato peels left over from prepping potatoes for mashers can be turned into chips. Try Tara Duggan's recommended method: “Toss potato peels with salt, pepper, paprika, cayenne, and a pinch of brown sugar and coat with leftover melted bacon fat. Spread out on a parchment-lined pan and roast at 400° F until bacon-fragrant, 15 to 18 minutes.”

Celery Leaves

If you're using celery in your stuffing, keep all of those little leaves from the tender, inner stalks! Then make this sauce and slather it on turkey sandwiches after Thanksgiving.

Root Vegetable Greens

If you're roasting any root vegetables for your meal, don't forget to save the greens. They can be turned into a quick bonus side dish—either to put on the table or to nibble on in the kitchen while you cook.

Winter Squash Innards

All of these recipes say "pumpkin," but go ahead and use the webbing and seeds from any type of winter squash. When you're roasting seeds, just keep timing in mind, as teeny butternut squash seeds will roast faster than pumpkin seeds will.

What "scrap" do you find yourself overwhelmed by during Thanksgiving prep? Tell us in the comments and we'll brainstorm ways you can use it!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • AntoniaJames
  • sarah
  • BerryBaby
  • Rachelwrites
  • Stephanie
I like esoteric facts about vegetables. Author of the IACP Award-nominated cookbook, Cooking with Scraps.


AntoniaJames November 21, 2016
I realize this is not answering the question but may I respectfully suggest . . .
Potato peels, plus garlic and a few aromatics and herbs, make the most wonderful, comforting broth (nutritious, too!). It was the first scrap "ah ha!" idea I learned, a good long time ago, when I was in college and had discovered "The Vegetarian Epicure." Those little nibs from the all the garlic you chop can go into it, too!
Another use for potato peels: put them in water, simmer for about 30 minutes, adding more if necessary. Save the water for making bread; puree the peels to use in focaccia or rustic breads, to replace 1:1 some of the water in your recipe.
Butternut squash peels, especially after roasting, make the most luscious, flavorful vegetable stock - a trick from Deborah Madison. My favorite, all-purpose combo (fresh from my freezer stock of scraps): onions, squash, parsley stems, bay leaf. I drink this stuff instead of tea late in the afternoon on cold, grey days. Add salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste. Also excellent in any red lentil soup, curried or not.
These ideas of course are just the tip of the iceberg . . . . . ;o)
I offer this in the spirit of helpfulness and hope it will be accepted as a constructive contribution.
Stephanie November 22, 2016
100% agree with the freezer scrap stock idea. I toss in onion peels, carrot tops, etc. as I go and when the bag is full, into the crockpot with water for an overnight simmer. It's a great tip, AJ!
sarah November 21, 2016
Apple peels can go into a cake. Many apple cakes call for peeled apples, and leaving the skin on would be disruptive, but if you blend it, you can mix it in to stretch the liquid. E.g: When a cake calls for 200ml buttermilk you can use your pureed peels, say 100ml plus 100ml buttermilk. Works beautifully for me and amps up the flavour! (I wouldn't recommend it for very delicate cakes, though)
BerryBaby November 20, 2016
I use the leaves from the celery in the stuffing. My dad always did when he made stuffing so I just thought that everyone did.
Rachelwrites November 20, 2016
These are great ideas! I save a lot of scraps but never know quite what to do with them. I hate seeing food go to waste.