Leftover Turkey Red Curry

October 25, 2021
1 Ratings
Photo by Julia Gartland. Prop Stylist: Sophia Pappas. Food Stylist: Yossy Arefi.
  • Prep time 20 minutes
  • Cook time 30 minutes
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

Is it just me or do you always crave something spicy and brothy after a big holiday meal? Something bold and punchy to smack you out of your stupor? For the past few years, after every Thanksgiving, I’ve made one of two things: either a bathtub-sized bowl of fiery instant ramen or, if I’ve sequestered enough leftover turkey, this fragrant Thai-style curry. Even too-dry turkey will emerge refreshed from this coconutty sauna, so use all the bits you can strip off the bird. Remove any skin before adding to the curry, as it tends to become unbearably flabby. Using canned curry paste keeps this recipe moving swiftly. Maesri (find it Umamicart, SouthEast, or Amazon) is my preferred brand of Thai curry paste. I stockpile a tower of the petite cans, which have come to the rescue for many a midweek meal. The knot of fresh, zippy lemongrass in the broth resurrects the curry paste just enough that it almost feels freshly ground. Butternut squash (which some stores will conveniently sell pre-cut into large chunks) is my favorite add-in here, as it absorbs flavor so readily, but other vegetables (like potatoes, cauliflower, or carrots) will work just as well. If you’re not a turkey fan (hi, let’s be friends!), leftover chicken or ham are both excellent subs. And while I call for red curry paste in this recipe, green or massaman are also great—the flavor profile will change, but the cooking technique remains the same. If you happen to have a stash of makrut lime leaves in your freezer, add two to three to the pot for an even more aromatic dish. —Shilpa Uskokovic

Test Kitchen Notes

This post contains products independently chosen (and loved) by our editors and writers. As an Amazon Associate and Skimlinks affiliate, Food52 earns an affiliate commission on qualifying purchases of the products we link to. —The Editors

What You'll Need
  • 1 stalk fresh lemongrass
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 large shallots (about 6 ounces), thinly sliced
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 (1-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
  • 5 tablespoons red curry paste
  • 1 (13½-ounce) can full-fat coconut milk
  • 8 ounces butternut squash, peeled, cut into 1½-inch pieces (about 2 cups)
  • 1 1/2 cups water (or low-sodium chicken or turkey stock)
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • 1 pound leftover turkey meat, cut or torn into 1-inch pieces (about 3 cups)
  • 1 tablespoon dark or light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons fish sauce
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped cilantro leaves
  • Steamed white or brown rice and lime wedges, for serving
  1. Using the back of a heavy knife or mallet, bruise the lemongrass along its length. Tie it into a knot.
  2. Heat the oil in a large, heavy pot (such as a Dutch oven) over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and pale golden, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, and curry paste. Cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant and the paste is slightly darker, about 3 minutes. Scoop the thick cream from the top of the coconut milk (about ⅓ cup) and add to the curry paste. Cook, stirring frequently, until beads of fat rise to the top, about 3 minutes (if the spice paste threatens to burn along the way, lower the heat to medium).
  3. Add the butternut squash, remaining coconut milk, water, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and the lemongrass knot. Bring to a simmer and cook, covered, over medium-high heat until the squash is almost tender (a skewer, toothpick, or fork inserted into a piece should be met with slight resistance), 6 to 8 minutes. Add the turkey and continue simmering, uncovered, until the squash is fully cooked and the turkey is warm, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the heat.
  4. Fish out and discard the lemongrass knot; stir in the brown sugar, fish sauce, and lime juice. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed. Garnish with the cilantro and serve immediately with steamed rice and plenty of lime wedges to squeeze on top.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • AntoniaJames
  • Tarah Taylor
    Tarah Taylor
  • Carrie
  • Kathy Tomashitis
    Kathy Tomashitis
Shilpa Uskokovic is recipe developer, food writer and budding food stylist and photographer. She was previously a line and pastry cook in some of NYC's top rated restaurants like Marea, The NoMad Hotel, Maialino and Perry Street. A graduate of The Culinary Institute of America, Shilpa loves books, Bundt cakes, cute Basset Hounds and peak millennial memes. She was born and raised in Chennai, India.

4 Reviews

Carrie November 27, 2022
This is one of the best transformer turkey recipes x I’ve ever tried after Thanksgiving!
Kathy T. November 30, 2021
Very tasty! Made tonight with a few modifications based on what was leftover in the fridge. Added some red, yellow and orange peppers. A bag of sugar snap peas. Doubled the butternut squash. With all the veggies, added extra coconut milk and chicken broth. Adjusted the seasonings a bit. Plan to freeze the leftovers. Would make again.
AntoniaJames November 27, 2021
I'm inspired! Thank you for posting this. I'm going to try it this weekend. ;o)
Tarah T. November 29, 2021
I am glad to see you posting Antonia, I was worried about you since I hadn’t seen you say anything recently!