3 Thanksgiving Leftover Recipes

Oct 31, 2021

Thanksgiving is around the corner and while location and guests may change from year to year, your favorite foods remain the same: roast turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, gravy, and an abundant array of side dishes, relishes, and seasonal pies. Yet for many of us the best part of the feasting comes after—we live for the leftovers! We look forward to a midnight raid on the refrigerator for a clandestine helping of dressing, mashed potatoes, and gravy or savoring a slice of pumpkin pie with morning coffee. Of course, the sliced turkey on white bread slathered with mayonnaise is a required part of the leftover indulgences, too. But after a day or so, you’re ready for something else. Transform those turkey leftovers into new dishes your family and guests can enjoy with these recipes.

Turkey Salad Sandwich

Turkey Waldorf Sandwich with Cranberries

In 10 minutes, you can turn a turkey sandwich from boring to wow with this quick and easy twist on the classic Waldorf salad. Serve on a sturdy sandwich roll, a buttery croissant, a hearty whole grain bread or wrap in a tortilla. You can even serve these on leftover dinner rolls, slider style! Want to ditch the carbs? Cut ingredients chunkier and serve on a bed of lettuce for a salad version.


1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon sour cream
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup diced leftover turkey
1 rib of celery finely chopped
1 small apple such as Fuji or Honeycrisp, cored and finely chopped
¼ cup finely chopped walnuts
4 green or red leaf lettuce leaves
Salt and pepper
Leftover cranberry sauce
4 sandwich rolls, split in half

Whisk dressing ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside.

Gently mix the diced turkey, celery, apples, and walnuts in a medium bowl. Fold in the dressing and stir until well blended. Season with salt and pepper. Add additional mayonnaise if you prefer a creamier sandwich filling.

On one side of the sandwich roll, pull out just a bit of the interior to better hold the filling, then spread the cranberry sauce inside. Fill with turkey mixture, top with a lettuce leaf, and other half of roll.

Makes 4 sandwiches

Turkey Broth

Turkey Broth

Don’t forget the leftover turkey carcass—you really can make a rich and flavorful broth from this. In five minutes or less, this broth can be simmering while the clean-up crew is wiping down the china.

1 turkey carcass, some meat still attached
Neck bone, wing, or leg bones (optional)
2 ribs of celery coarsely chopped
1 large onion cut into wedges
1 large carrot peeled and coarsely chopped
1 bay leaf
2 peppercorns
Fresh herbs or 1 teaspoon dried thyme or parsley
2 to 3 quarts water

Place the turkey carcass and bones in a large stock pot. Break into manageable pieces if needed. If you saved the neck bone or other bones, add these as well. Add the vegetables and herbs. If you have leftover sprigs of thyme, parsley, or rosemary, add those. Add enough water to cover. Bring to a simmer and cook for 1 to 2 hours. Occasionally skim off any fat or foam that comes to the surface.

When stock is done, remove carcass and set aside to cool. Strain broth through a fine mesh strainer and discard solids. Pick turkey meat from carcass. The broth and turkey meat can be cooled, stored in airtight containers, and kept in refrigerator for three days. It also freezes nicely.

Helpful hint: When preparing the big feast, go ahead and chop a few of the extra veggies you need for your stock. Throw the veggies, any leftover herbs, and neck bones in a storage bag or bowl and refrigerate. Your broth ingredients are ready to toss in the pot!

Minestrone Soup

Turkey Minestrone

This easy-to-assemble comforting pot of soup is packed with nutritious ingredients and uses the meat and broth you simmered from your leftover turkey! Use whatever canned beans you have on hand; kidney, great northern, or garbanzo all work. Substitute kale, Swiss chard, or arugula for the spinach. Use any small size pasta such as orzo or small elbows. A slice of Parmesan and garlic toast make a nice accompaniment.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion diced
3 cloves garlic minced
1 rib of celery chopped
1 carrot, peeled, cut lengthwise, then thinly sliced into half-moons
5 cups turkey broth
1 cup shredded leftover turkey
1 cup medium chopped red potato—no need to peel!
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes with juice
1 15.5 oz can cannellini beans
1 cup green beans (fresh or frozen, thawed)
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 cup small pasta shells
1 cup tightly-packed fresh spinach, stems discarded
Parmesan cheese
Fresh basil (optional)

Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Stir in onions, garlic, celery, and carrots and cook until softened, about 10 minutes. Add turkey stock, turkey, tomatoes, potatoes, beans, Italian seasoning, and red pepper flakes. Bring to a simmer until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in pasta and cook for 7 or 8 more minutes until pasta is al dente. Stir in spinach and season with salt and pepper.

Ladle into individual bowls and top with freshly grated parmesan cheese and a sprinkle of fresh basil.

Serves 6

Hopefully these recipes inspire creative ideas to give new life to your leftovers. In the spirit of the Thanksgiving holiday, consider one more way to make use of those leftovers. Pack up a few slices of turkey, a serving of mashed potatoes and dressing, and spoonful of cranberries in a microwaveable container, or fill a jar with your homemade turkey minestrone soup and box up a piece of apple pie. Share with a neighbor, a friend, or someone that might not have had such a plentiful feast. They’ll be delighted with your thoughtfulness—everyone loves Thanksgiving leftovers!

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