The Thanksgiving dishes have been washed and put away, and the refrigerator is stuffed with mountains of leftover turkey, just waiting to be turned into sandwiches.
For many people, Thanksgiving leftovers are as highly anticipated as the big holiday meal itself. After all, making sandwiches with leftover turkey and dollops of cranberry sauce is practically a Black Friday ritual. But once you’ve done that, you need creative ways for using up the leftover mashed potatoes, stuffing and more.
We come up with all sorts of inventive ways to use Thanksgiving leftovers, from easy-to-make soups and salads, to more complex dishes like enchiladas and shepherd’s pie that transform holiday ingredients into something completely new. Here are some of our favorites.
To give turkey leftovers a bold makeover, the folks at America’s Test Kitchen looked south of the border to saucy, spicy enchiladas. For the filling, they sauté sliced onion with garlic, cumin, and chili powder, then stir in shredded cooked turkey, corn, green chiles, Monterey Jack cheese, and enchilada sauce. Canned enchilada sauce provides great flavor and kept this dish easy enough for a weeknight.
Recipe: Turkey and Green Chile Enchiladas.
Tex-Mex Turkey Guiso
Joe Esparza, the former owner of the now-closed Esparza’s Tex-Mex, shared this dynamite recipe back in 2002, and it’s stood the test of time. The stew benefits from low-and-slow cooking, and uses 8 cups of leftover turkey.
Recipe: Turkey Guiso a la Tex-Mex.
James Beard’s Turkey-and-Stuffing Hash
This recipe from Oregon food legend James Beard incorporates leftover stuffing. It’s a perfect post-Thanksgiving brunch dish that can help fuel Black Friday bargain shopping.
Moroccan Turkey Salad
This recipe combines leftover turkey in a salad with couscous, fresh oranges, and warm spices, you create an exotic one-dish meal.
Recipe: Moroccan Turkey Salad.
Thanksgiving leftovers get an Asian-inspired twist in this nod to the traditional Chinese dish of Peking Duck. Instead of duck, crisp turkey skin and turkey meat are combined with other flavorful ingredients, then wrapped up like a mini-burrito.
Recipe: Peking Turkey.
Turkey Curry with Brussels Sprouts
Indian cooking expert Meera Sodha transforms holiday turkey into this delicious curry. She adds Brussels sprouts to give the dish a touch of green. You can use leftover sprouts if you have them.
Turkey Shepherd’s Pie
For the filling, you simply combine sliced turkey with a quickly made brown sauce scented with orange and enriched with sautéed pearl onions and dried cranberries. Creamy mashed potatoes are spread over the turkey before the dish is popped in the oven.
Skillet Turkey Pot Pie
This comforting pot pie from Ivy Manning is a creative way to use some leftover turkey.
Recipe: Skillet Turkey Pot Pie.
Food TV personality Melissa d’Arabian knows that nothing goes better with football than a bowl of hearty chili. She created this recipe using ground turkey, but it’s a perfect way to use all those small pieces of turkey meat that come from wings and drumsticks. Just skip the recipe’s first step.
Recipe: Game Day Turkey Chili.
If your Thanksgiving feast featured a vegan Tofurky roast, here’s a way to turn it into a Southern-inspired gumbo, complete with okra, rice and spicy meatless sausages.
Recipe: Tofurky Gumbo.
Turkey Cranberry Pasta
Kitchen Scoop columnist Alicia Ross came up with this terrific post-Thanksgiving pasta salad. It features dried cranberries and half a pound of leftover turkey (though you can load it up with even more — we won’t tell!).
Recipe: Turkey Cranberry Pasta.
This slightly saucy and gluten-free Latin American stew from contributor Laura B. Russell can be served over rice or (for a real treat) right on top of fried potatoes. Picadillo makes a tasty taco or burrito filling as well.
Recipe: Turkey Picadillo.
Turkey, Kale and Brown Rice Soup
One of the reasons we love Food Network’s Giada De Laurentiis is a recipe like this, which incorporates healthy ingredients like kale and brown rice along with leftover turkey. This is a particularly good soup if you’re fighting a cold, or just want that warm, comforting feeling of homemade soup.
Recipe: Turkey, Kale and Brown Rice Soup.
Turkey and Napa Cabbage Salad
Thanksgiving leftovers get a pan-Asian twist with this salad, which features tortilla chips for crunch, and a dressing spiked with sriracha for heat.
Massamun Turkey Curry
Portland food writer Ivy Manning came up with this spicy way to use up leftover turkey by turning it into an Indian curry. And since the holidays are hectic, the recipe uses time-saving premade curry paste.
Recipe: Massamun Turkey Curry.
Sure, making Turkey Tetrazzini is an old-school approach to using up Thanksgiving leftovers. But it’s so delicious with its egg noodles, rich sauce and melty cheese topping. And it uses 3 cups of leftover turkey, which will make a serious dent in your leftovers.
Recipe: Baked Turkey Tetrazzini.
Turkey BLTA Wraps
The concept is a BLT, with additions of leftover Thanksgiving turkey and avocado slices. Roll ‘em up, wrap them in plastic, and they’re a great on-the-go option to take with you while shopping on Black Friday.
Recipe: Turkey BLTA Wraps.
Country Cat’s Post-Thanksgiving ‘Buckle’
This casserole is all about relaxing after the holiday, says Adam Sappington, chef-owner of Portland’s The Country Cat. No need to stress about exact quantities; just improvise with what’s in the fridge. To make the day after Thanksgiving even easier, fill the casserole dish when you’re cleaning up from your holiday dinner, cover and refrigerate, then bake the next day.
Cheesy Pasta Shells With Butternut Squash
Got leftover butternut squash? Instead of turning it into a predictable soup, use it to make this hearty post-Thanksgiving casserole. It’s filling and is great for warming up in cold weather.
Turkey Pot Pie With Stuffing Crust
Former Oregonian test kitchen director Linda Faus came up with this smart way to use up leftover turkey and gravy by turning them into a comforting pot pie, using leftover stuffing as a crust. It sounds crazy – crazy delicious!
Recipe: Turkey Pot Pie With Stuffing Crust.
Crispy Mashed Potato Cakes
Reheated mashed potatoes can be boring, but these mashed potato cakes are simple to put together and versatile as well. Try them with your favorite cheese, crumbled bacon or even cooked chopped greens (such as spinach).
Recipe: Crispy Mashed Potato Cakes.
Vegan Shepherd’s Pie
This hearty vegan dish from chef Brian L. Patton is a great way to use us leftover mashed potatoes. Just eliminate the first two steps of the recipe, since you’ve already got your mashed potatoes made. When making, bring your mashed potatoes up to room temperature, since fresh-from-the-fridge potatoes are too clumpy to spread.
Recipe: Vegan Shepherd’s Pie.
Turkey Soup With Stuffing Dumplings
This soup uses up a wide range of Thanksgiving leftovers, from the meat and bones from the turkey, to the various leftover vegetables and herbs. The genius touch: transforming leftover stuffing into delicate dumplings.
Recipe: Turkey Soup With Stuffing Dumplings.
Southwestern Turkey Soup
Soup is a natural way to use up leftover turkey, as well as a frugal way to get more meals out of the turkey carcass. This recipe from former test kitchen director Linda Faus has spicy flavors, and is made with her can’t-fail turkey broth.
Roasted Sweet Potato and Black Bean Enchiladas
This vegan recipe from Oregon cookbook author Sarah Matheny is a great way to use up leftover roasted sweet potatoes. All you need to do is eliminate the first step, since your sweet potatoes are already roasted.
Turkey and Stuffing Strata
This homey combo of leftover turkey and stuffing is held together with a mixture of gravy and eggs that turns custard-like when baked.
Recipe: Turkey and Stuffing Strata.
Thanksgiving Leftovers Meatballs Marinara
Ivy Manning came up with these Italian meatballs as a way to use up Thanksgiving stuffing. It makes a giant batch, so you’ll have some meatballs for now, and some that you can freeze to enjoy during the busy Christmas season.
This posole has traditional hominy but also a liberal amount of hearty fall vegetables. If you have extra roasted squash and braised chard from your Thanksgiving feast, so much the better; just add it when you stir in the turkey.
Turkey, White Bean and Escarole Soup
Contributor Laura B. Russell came up with this post-Thanksgiving soup that can be made with either homemade turkey stock, or with canned chicken broth. If you use the latter, the soup comes together in less than 30 minutes.
Recipe: Turkey, White Bean and Escarole Soup.
Mango Salad With Turkey
The beauty of this easy recipe is that it only takes less than 30 minutes to assemble and is an unusual way to use up leftover Thanksgiving turkey. The lime vinaigrette can be made in advance and refrigerated. Just shake the dressing before drizzling over the salad.
Recipe: Mango Salad With Turkey.
Thanksgiving leftovers take an elegant turn when they are rolled in these delicious buckwheat crepes. Chop up leftover turkey or even Tofurky and toss with leftover roasted sweet potatoes or stuffing.
Recipe: Buckwheat Crepes.
Smoky Turkey and Sweet Potato Stew
Here’s another hearty dish from former Oregonian test kitchen director Linda Faus. It uses two cups of leftover turkey. If you’ve got leftover cooked sweet potatoes, you can use them as long as you get rid of any sweet topping.
Recipe: Smoky Turkey and Sweet Potato Stew.
Smoked Turkey Hash
Leftover turkey and red potatoes get turned into a great holiday weekend brunch in this recipe from Safeway executive chef Jeff Anderson. The Chipotle Mayonnaise also is great added to leftover turkey sandwiches.
Curry Turkey Salad
This spicy turkey salad is great in a sandwich or wrap, on crackers, over white rice or a green salad or on its own. Jennifer Martin likes this recipe because you can personalize it — use dried cranberries, whole cranberries or raisins; walnuts, pecans or pine nuts. “It’s a curry turkey salad with the kitchen sink,” she says.
Recipe: Epicure Curry Turkey Salad.
Turkey Enchilada Casserole
This casserole is as soft and warm as a Snuggie. The roasted poblanos add a mild, smoky flavor, but if you want a bit of zing, add some chipotle chile powder along with the regular chili powder, or serve it with your favorite hot sauce.
— Grant Butler