10 Ways to Reuse Your Thanksgiving Leftovers (That You Haven't Heard Of Yet)

This is no ordinary turkey sandwich. See more Thanksgiving turkey pictures.

According to an American Farm Bureau survey, in 2008, the average Thanksgiving meal for a party of 10 cost $44.61 [source: American Farm Bureau]. To get the most out of your Thanksgiving budget, don't toss the leftovers, reuse them. Instead of simply reheating your leftovers for a second Thanksgiving dinner, getting creative can turn your leftovers into new family favorites. In this article, we'll look at specific dishes from your Thanksgiving meal and show you how to pair them with other ingredients to make new and innovative dishes.

First, let's take a look at the bird.



Turkey Salad

The iconic centerpiece of the Thanksgiving meal, the turkey, is a versatile leftover. "It (turkey) has one of those blank canvases that enable it to be anything from Southwestern to the Italian to the Asian," said Sherrie Rosenblatt, spokesperson for the National Turkey Federation.

After indulging in the fattening gravy and extra whipping cream on your pumpkin pie, you might want to go with something a little healthier. Salads are a great way to get a few more vegetables into your diet. The Tropical Turkey Salad will give you protein and help you use up the rest of that leftover turkey.



Turkey Soup

Turkey noodles soup can do a body good.
Turkey noodles soup can do a body good.

Soup pairs well with a salad. Even though chicken is usually the traditional poultry for soups, turkey can be substituted in many of those recipes. Try using some of your leftover Thanksgiving turkey in your next soup, or give Creamy Turkey Soup a try. It's an easy slow cooker soup recipe perfect for a winter lunch or dinner. For a soup in about 20 minutes, Tomato and Turkey Soup with Pesto is packed with vegetables and uses your leftover turkey as well.

Next, let's look at a distinctive turkey sandwich to pair with your soup.



Turkey Sandwich

For a nontraditional turkey sandwich with your leftovers, try this Rueben Crostini recipe recommended by Sara Williams-Clark, chef-instructor at Le Cordon Bleu, St. Louis, and member of the American Culinary Federation [source: Williams-Clark].



  • French baguette, cut into 1/8- to 1/4-inch slices
  • Melted butter
  • Thousand Island dressing
  • Leftover cooked turkey slices, cut thin
  • Sauerkraut, drained of liquid
  • Swiss cheese, cut in thin slices
  • Salt and pepper, to taste


  • Lay bread slices on cookie sheet.
  • Lightly brush with melted butter.
  • Add pepper and salt to taste.
  • Bake in a 350-degree Fahrenheit (176-degree Celsius) oven for 4 to 6 minutes, until slightly crispy.
  • Remove from oven.
  • Assemble by spreading a thin layer of Thousand Island dressing on each bread slice.
  • Place a few slices of turkey breast on top.
  • Spread with a thin layer of sauerkraut.
  • Top with one slice of cheese, cut in half.
  • Place under the broiler in your oven until the cheese has melted.

Cranberry Sauce -- Dips

Turn your sauce into a dip and the possibilities are endless.
Turn your sauce into a dip and the possibilities are endless.

Whether store-bought or homemade, cranberry sauce usually makes an appearance at Thanksgiving Day meals. When the party is over, that leftover cranberry sauce can be given new life in the form of a dip. Try blending cranberry sauce with butter for a tangy spread perfect for breads or bran muffins [source: Gates]. Another cranberry sauce dip is perfect with crackers or on a bagel. Simply blend chopped walnuts, cream cheese and cranberry sauce together [source: Gates]. You can also add other spices such as nutmeg or cinnamon for a different taste. For a sweet dip, mix the cranberry sauce with a whipped topping and cream cheese [source: Kraft Foods]. This dip is perfect to go with a fruit plate.


Cranberry Sauce -- Sauces

Cranberry sauce is also a great topper for many meat dishes. Use your extra cranberry sauce as a glaze for your next chicken or pork dish. Just mix the cranberry sauce with a little vinegar and glaze the chicken or pork [source: Gates]. Another twist on this idea is to use the cranberry sauce and vinegar mixture in place of the ketchup you might use to top meatloaf. Along with a similar red color, the sauce will help to keep the meat moist and enhance the overall flavor of the dish [source: Gates].


Dressing/Stuffing -- Side

Roll up your leftover stuffing into yummy bread sticks.
Roll up your leftover stuffing into yummy bread sticks.

To reuse your leftover stuffing, Joseph Leonardi C.E.C., executive chef at Somerset Club in Boston and member of the American Culinary Federation, recommends this recipe for Fried Bread Sticks [source: Leonardi].



  • 3/4 cup Gruyère cheese
  • 3 cups leftover stuffing
  • 3 cups flour
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • 3 cups Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 2 cups frying oil
  • 2 cups turkey gravy


  • Mix the cheese with the stuffing. Separate into 2 ounce servings and shape into sticks.
  • Place sticks in the freezer.
  • Place the flour (seasoned with salt and pepper), eggs and breadcrumbs into three separate bowls.
  • Dip each stick into the flour bowl, then the eggs, then the breadcrumbs. Re-dip the sticks into the eggs and breadcrumbs. Freeze the sticks.
  • Heat the frying oil in a pot to approximately 350 degrees.
  • Remove the sticks from the freezer. Fry them in the oil until golden brown. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Top with turkey gravy or cranberry sauce.

Potatoes as the Meal

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Americans eat about 130 pounds (59 kilograms) of potatoes each year [source: U.S. Department of Agriculture]. It's no surprise that many people enjoy potatoes on Thanksgiving Day as well as throughout the year. Mashed potatoes are usually used as a side, but when reusing leftovers, you can camouflage those mashed potatoes by incorporating them into a main entrée. Check out this recipe for Shepherd's Pie. Just substitute your leftovers for the instant mashed potatoes in the recipe.


Potatoes as the Appetizer

Twice baked potatoes are twice as good.
Twice baked potatoes are twice as good.

Leftover baked potatoes can also act as appetizers. Twice-baked potatoes are a great option for lots of leftover potatoes. Meredith Myers, manager for public relations at the U.S. Potato Board, recommends this recipe for spicy skins [source: Myers].



  • Baked potatoes
  • Milk
  • Plain yogurt
  • Salt and pepper
  • Onion, chopped
  • Green pepper, chopped
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Green chilies
  • Leftover turkey
  • Mexican-cheese blend


  • Slice off about one-fourth of the top of a baked potato.
  • Scoop out the inside of the potatoes and mash them with equal parts milk and plain yogurt.
  • Add salt and pepper, to taste.
  • Sautee chopped onions and green peppers in a pan until tender.
  • Add a few red pepper flakes for spice.
  • Combine the mashed potato mixture and the sautéed ingredients.
  • Add in a few bites of leftover turkey and a can of green chilies.
  • Stuff the potato skins with the mixture.
  • Top with a Mexican-cheese blend.
  • Bake filled skins at 400 degrees Fahrenheit (204 degrees Celsius) for 20 minutes.

Potatoes for Breakfast

Serve your leftover mashed potatoes for breakfast after Thanksgiving Day with Williams-Clark's Breakfast Potato Cakes recipe [source: Williams-Clark].



  • 4 cups leftover mashed potatoes
  • 1/4 cup green onion, sliced
  • 1/2 cup bacon, cooked and chopped
  • 1/4 cup red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Vegetable oil, to coat pan


  • Mix together the first five ingredients in a mixing bowl.
  • Season with salt and pepper.
  • Form cakes, resembling crab cakes, from the mixture.
  • Dip cakes into a bowl filled with the cornmeal. Coat both sides of each cake.
  • Brown potato cakes in a vegetable oil-greased pan on medium heat.
  • Place cakes on cookie sheet pan.
  • Bake cakes in a 350-degree Fahrenheit (176-degree Celsius) oven for 10-12 minutes or until heated through.

Pumpkin Pie -- Dessert

Jazz up your leftover pumpkin pie with a special sauce drizzled on top.
Jazz up your leftover pumpkin pie with a special sauce drizzled on top.

While most people probably won't have leftover pumpkin pie for long, to add a flavor kick to this dessert, Megan Ketover C.P.C, pastry chef/adjunct professor at Bakery Hill at Midwest Culinary Institute in Cincinnati and a member of the American Culinary Federation, recommends a Bourbon Whiskey Caramel Sauce with Toasted Pecans [source: Ketover].



  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 ounces bourbon whiskey
  • Pinch of cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup pecans, toasted and cooled


  • Combine sugar and water in saucepan over medium heat, until sugar dissolves.
  • Brush down sides of saucepan with pastry brush dipped in water to push down any undissolved sugar crystals.
  • Cook sauce until it turns a golden-amber color.
  • Stir in heavy cream. (The sauce will bubble up in the pan.)
  • After cream absorbs into sauce, remove from heat.
  • Stir in vanilla, salt, bourbon whiskey and cinnamon.
  • Drizzle warm sauce over the pie. Top with toasted pecans.


Why Turkey Fryers Explode

Why Turkey Fryers Explode

If you're planning on deep-frying your turkey for Thanksgiving, HowStuffWorks Now recommends reading this first.

Related HowStuffWorks Articles


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