Creative Uses for Thanksgiving Leftovers

November 28, 2015

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 Hotlineturkey 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.

Turkey Pot Pie

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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 a soup—no recipe required.

Day After Thanksgiving Salad


  • 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.

Turkey and Potato Soup

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.

Chicken Pot Pie


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?

First photo by Ashley Rodrigeuz, second and fourth photos by Alpha Smoot, and third photo by Alexandra Stafford

Join the Conversation

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • AntoniaJames
  • Madelaine Linebarger
    Madelaine Linebarger
  • HopeinDC
  • ritagorra
  • Joy Huang | The Cooking of Joy
    Joy Huang | The Cooking of Joy
I like esoteric facts about vegetables and think ambling through a farmers market is a great way to start the day. My first cookbook, available now, is called Cooking with Scraps.


AntoniaJames November 30, 2015
One more: This lovely wild rice + brown rice dish https://food52.com/recipes/1875-toni-s-nutted-wild-rice made the best simple stir fry: get neutral oil hot in skillet, add rice and stir to let extra moisture evaporate and to heat through; whisk an egg with a splash of soy sauce, scramble into the hot pan with the rice. Eat for lunch. So good. That rice recipe is a hidden gem, if ever there were one. I added a finely diced carrot that I'd roasted, to make it pretty. I'll be making the dish again, to have leftovers to use this way! ;o)
AntoniaJames November 30, 2015
We had quite a few of these nuts https://food52.com/recipes/39030-laurie-colwin-s-rosemary-walnuts (Laurie Colwin’s Rosemary Walnuts) left over. (These stuffed mushrooms utterly stole the show before dinner: https://food52.com/recipes/3110-creamy-sausage-stuffed-mushrooms ) I put a handful of the leftover walnuts in our salad last night, broke a few to mix with 9-grain hot cereal this morning, along with a small handful of roasted sunflower seeds and topped with a pear, for quite a tasty breakfast; the rest I’ll freeze. I considered putting them in a loaf of sourdough I plan to bake later today, but have decided instead to use them in a savory walnut, toasted wheat germ and olive oil press-in crust for a savory galette in a few weeks.

These beets I diced and put into a salad on Saturday: https://food52.com/recipes/38901-luminous-spiced-golden-beet-pickles

We had two cups of these Brussels sprouts left over: https://food52.com/recipes/32216-roasted-brussels-sprouts-with-pancetta-and-garlic-croutons I put the whole container into a turkey pot pie made with leftover bits of turkey, some finely diced carrots, a huge pile of sliced mushrooms sourced for the occasion and some leftover gravy (I made a lot!), topped with store-bought puff pastry. Everyone raved. A vegetarian version of the Brusslies could be made simply by adding chunks of sweet potato, the same mushrooms and carrots, and drenching in a vegetarian gravy before covering with the puff pastry.

I offered several suggestions for ways to re-purpose this fennel gratin https://food52.com/recipes/15067-florentine-fennel-gratin , e.g., in a frittata, on crostini, etc., but my son begged me to leave it just as it was; he ate all of the leftovers, unassisted, to his and my delight. He declared it one of his top five foods ever; for a man of diverse and wide-ranging taste in food, that’s quite a compliment.

Finally, not original but worth a mention: bay leaf has for centuries been one of vanilla's best friends. This bay-scented cranberry sauce https://food52.com/recipes/24974-breakthrough-cranberry-sauce-bay-leaves-optional-but-recommended makes the best ice cream sundae. ;o)
Madelaine L. November 29, 2015
I used up some of our leftover roasted potatoes, butternut squash, poblano peppers and red onion by preparing a "make your own" burrito or taco bar. Warm up some shredded turkey for the meat eaters. (I am not one) Heating up a can of spicy pinto beans. Putting out warmed flour and corn tortillas and a big dish of grated sharp cheddar! A couple of bottles of hot sauce like Tapatio and Cholula and a green tomatillo taco sauce. And Ole! One easy, peasy nummy meal.
HopeinDC November 29, 2015
LAst year I took my leftover homemade cranberry sauce, and it into pate brisee pie crust with brie and baked it. It made AWESOME appetizer served it to company with drinks to rave reviews.
ritagorra November 29, 2015
I get my turkey on the larger side from a local turkey farm. Most of it, after dinner, goes into pot pies. I make a white sauce with nutmeg, peas, carrots, rutabaga or potatoes and freeze. I use the smaller 5" pie tins. If I am done with the pie crusts, I use puff pastry and make hand pies. A thin shmear of mayo to keep the crust from getting soggy, then a layer of turkey, stuffing, a thin layer of gravy, then a spoonful of cranberry sauce! Nice gifts too.
Joy H. December 1, 2014
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.blogspot.com/2014/12/pull-apart-thanksgiving-leftover.html
Fairmount_market December 1, 2014
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.
HopeinDC November 30, 2014
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!
AntoniaJames November 30, 2014
Over toast, of course. https://food52.com/recipes/1965-leftover-turkey-sort-of-stroganoff ;o)
garlic&lemon November 29, 2014
Green chile turkey enchiladas!! We always make enough turkey so we can make those enchiladas on Saturday after Thanksgiving.
Jeanean November 29, 2014
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.
HopeinDC November 29, 2014
I also stirred champagne vinegar and made vinaigrette. I have tons and tons of cranberries.
HopeinDC November 29, 2014
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!
Sammi November 29, 2014
I just finished off the cranberry sauce by mixing it in to my morning oatmeal. Add some pecans & more cinnamon. Yum!
HopeinDC November 26, 2014
Stir leftover cranberry sauce into apple crisp. It's incredible
magzeen December 3, 2013
Turkey soup all the way! But also turkey gumbo, curried turkey turnovers, leftover cranberry sauce bar cookies, pumpkin soup and pumpkin creme brulee
CelliSean December 1, 2013
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.