Thanksgiving leftover ideas

Post updated 11/21/2019

No matter how ambitious your friends and family are to devour Thanksgiving dinner, you’re likely going to have leftovers.

This is the perfect opportunity to take a relatively expensive meal and turn it into many subsequent meals by using leftovers.

While simply reheating your turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and other food items is certainly an option, now is the perfect time to experiment with something new.

The Best Thanksgiving Leftover Recipes

Here are a few money-saving Thanksgiving leftover ideas that I think you will enjoy.

Leftover Cranberries

Cranberry/cream cheese dip – Mix leftover cranberry sauce with a package of softened cream cheese. Mix in a tablespoon or two of sugar. Serve with crackers, pretzels, or graham crackers, put a dollop on top of French toast or pancakes, or spread on a bagel or toast.

Cranberry grilled cheese – Make a grilled cheese sandwich using Brie cheese and a dollop of leftover cranberry sauce.

Cranberry salsa – I have two great recipes for cranberry salsa. This one, using fresh cranberries. And another, using prepared cranberry sauce. For the latter, mix 1 cup of prepared cranberry sauce with juice from 1/2 lime, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 to 2 teaspoons hot sauce, and one stalk chopped green onion.

Leftover Turkey

Turkey croquettes – A mixture of leftover turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes, mixed together and fried into croquettes.
Thanksgiving croquettes recipe using leftover Thanksgiving food, from Cheap Recipe Blog
Turkey and cranberry panini – Mix leftover cranberry sauce with cream cheese and spread on bread. Layer on chopped leftover turkey and a slice of white cheese (like swiss, provolone or white cheddar). Grill on a panini press or George Foreman grill, or prepare like a traditional grilled cheese sandwich in a frying pan using buttered bread.
Turkey melts – Just like tuna melts, except with turkey. Mix chopped turkey with mayonaise, chopped onion, and chopped celery. Spread on bread and bake for 8 to 10 minutes at 400F.
Turkey chili – Combine turkey with the traditional flavors of chili: tomatoes, beans, garlic, cumin, and chili powder.
Thanksgiving leftover recipes turkey chili
Turkey noodle soup – Make traditional chicken noodle soup, but substitute leftover turkey for chicken.
Turkey BLTs – Make a traditional bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich and add sliced leftover turkey.
Turkey empanadas – Make a savory turkey filling and use ready-made empanada dough for a quick meal or appetizer.
Turkey empanadas
Turkey cobb salad – Layer chopped hard-boiled egg, leftover turkey, tomatoes, lettuce, avocado, bacon, and bleu cheese on a large serving platter. Serve with your choice of dressing (such as a vineagrette or green goddess).
Turkey quesadillas – Fill two tortilla shells with leftover turkey, cheese, tomatoes, or desired fillings.
Thanksgiving pot pies – Layer stuffing, chopped turkey, gravy, and potatoes into individual muffin tins or in a baking dish. Bake at 350F for 15 minutes, or until heated through.
English muffin breakfast sandwiches – Top a toasted English muffin with a fried egg, chopped turkey and leftover gravy. Heat and serve.
Turkey nachos – Leftover turkey makes a great nacho topper. Similar to chicken, it can be flavored in so many ways.
Leftover turkey and cranberry salsa nachos: Perhaps the best use of leftover Thanksgiving foods. So yummy!

Leftover Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potato hummus: Place a 15.5-ounce can of chickpeas (drained), 1 cup leftover sweet potatoes, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, and a pinch of salt in a food processor and blend until smooth.
Sweet potato pancakes – A twist on pumpkin pancakes. Mix 1/2 cup of leftover sweet potato puree into pancake batter.

Leftover Mashed Potatoes

Set up a mashed potato bar: Place toppings (such as bacon, sausage, cheese, and roasted vegetables) into individual dishes. Have each person put desired toppings on reheated leftover mashed potatoes. Learn how to set up a mashed potato bar.

Got leftover mashed potatoes? Then set up a mashed potato bar! Endless topping possibilities!

Loaded mashed potatoes – Add sour cream, chopped green onion, bacon bits, shredded cheddar cheese, and garlic powder to leftover mashed potatoes.
Mashed potato pizza – Top a pre-baked pizza crust with alfredo sauce, sauteed onions, a thin layer of leftover mashed potatoes, and shredded cheese. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes at 400F.
Mashed potato cakes – Add chopped scallions or onions, garlic, shredded cheddar cheese, salt and pepper, and a bit of flour to leftover mashed potatoes. Form into patties and fry in a bit of oil until crisp and browned. Top with sour cream or applesauce.

Leftover Pie Crust

Leftover pie crust cookies: Don’t throw leftover pie crust out! Your leftover dough can make some delicious homemade flaky cookies. Eat them on their own, or serve with ice cream. Learn how to make leftover pie crust cookies.
Leftover pie crust cookies recipe

How To Reheat Thanksgiving Leftovers

Thanksgiving leftovers can be reheated in the oven, microwave or on the stovetop. Here are directions for all methods:

Reheating leftovers in the oven:

  • Turkey: Place turkey in an oven-safe baking dish. Add a splash of liquid (chicken broth, gravy, butter or water) and bake at 275F until meat registers 130F. This may take up to 35 minutes.
  • Mashed potatoes: Place potatoes in an oven-safe baking dish. Add a dollop of butter on top of the potatoes. Reheat at 275F while the turkey reheats.
  • Stuffing: Place stuffing in an oven-safe baking dish. Reheat at 275F while the turkey reheats.

*For maximum ease, place turkey, mashed potatoes, and stuffing in the same oven-safe baking dish. You can pour gravy over all of these before reheating.

Reheating leftovers in the microwave:

  • Gravy: Place desired amount of gravy in a microwave-safe bowl. Cover with a paper towel or plastic wrap. Heat for one minute, check temperature, and stir, if necessary.
  • Turkey: Place turkey slices on a microwave-safe plate. Cover with plastic wrap. Reheating time will vary depending on how much turkey you have. For a smaller amount (2 servings) start with 1 minute.
  • Stuffing and mashed potatoes: Place stuffing and/or mashed potatoes in a microwave-safe bowl or plate. Cover with plastic wrap. Heat for 1 minute for a small serving, and longer for larger servings.

*For maximum ease, reheat turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and gravy

Reheating leftovers on the stovetop:

  • Gravy: Place desired amount of gravy in a saucepan. Turn heat on to medium-high and stir gravy as it heats up. Solid gravy? No problem! It will liquefy as it heats up.
  • Turkey + gravy: Place turkey in a frying pan and cover with gravy. Turn heat on to medium and cook until turkey is warmed through.
  • Stuffing and mashed potatoes: Place a pat of butter in a frying pan and turn on heat to medium. Add stuffing and/or mashed potatoes in frying pan and heat, stirring occasionally, until warm.

What Are Your Ideas?

I’d love to hear your Thanksgiving leftover recipe ideas. Please share them in the comments section, below.