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7 Imaginative Recipes That Use Up Thanksgiving Leftovers

Linda explores food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes one ingredient at a time.

Let's find creative ways to repurpose the leftovers from your turkey dinner.

Let's find creative ways to repurpose the leftovers from your turkey dinner.

Thanksgiving Leftovers

Does that phrase make you shiver with delight, or shudder with dread?

Mr. Carb Diva was disappointed that the largest turkey I could find to roast was only 15 pounds. However, with only five people at the dinner table (and two of them are vegetarian), exactly how much turkey could we consume at one sitting?

Yes, there are leftovers.

Turkey and gravy and mash, oh my!

Turkey and gravy and mash, oh my!

So, have you grown weary of turkey sandwiches with gravy? Do you have nightmares about leftover mashed potatoes? Have you sworn that if you eat one more turkey enchilada or pot of turkey chili you will start to gobble?

We can do this!

1. Turkey and Cheese Panini With Cranberry Relish

On Thanksgiving Day, our younger daughter brought the appetizers—an amazing assortment of olives, crackers, and gourmet cheeses. My favorite was goat cheese with herbs, and it inspired me to create this sandwich the next day.


For each sandwich:

  • 2 slices good-quality crusty artisanal bread
  • 1 tablespoon mayonnaise (homemade is best; see recipe below)
  • 2 tablespoons cranberry relish
  • 2 tablespoons goat cheese
  • Leftover sliced turkey
  • 1 ounce Brie cheese


  1. Spread the mayonnaise on one slice of bread.
  2. Place the cranberry relish on that same slice and use a knife to spread it evenly to the edges of the bread.
  3. Top with the turkey and then place thin slices of the Brie atop the turkey.
  4. Spread the goat cheese on the other slice of bread and place it on the turkey and Brie.
  5. Prepare in your panini press following the manufacturer's instructions, or you can grill in a shallow pan as you would a grilled cheese sandwich. Enjoy.

Homemade Lemon Mayonnaise


  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest


  1. Place the egg yolks, salt, and lemon juice in the bowl of a blender.
  2. Process until the egg yolk and juice are well combined and the yolks begin to turn a lighter shade of yellow.
  3. Remove the fill cap (central portion of the lid).
  4. Place the olive oil in a glass measuring cup with a lip suitable for pouring.
  5. With the blender running, begin adding the oil to the yolk/lemon juice mixture. Start with just one drop at a time and increase to a steady but very slow stream as the oil is absorbed to create an emulsion.
  6. Stir in lemon zest.

What Is an Emulsion?

In cooking, an emulsion is a mixture of two liquids that would ordinarily not mix together, like oil and vinegar. The droplets of one of the liquids become evenly dispersed within the other liquid. The resulting liquid is thicker than the two original liquids were. In the case of mayonnaise or aioli, oil droplets are suspended within the egg yolks.

2. Creamy Turkey Soup

How do you prepare a thick, creamy soup without cream? Stir in some leftover mashed potatoes, that's how:


  • 1 cup uncooked pasta of your choice (I used orecchiette, but any noodle or small-size pasta will do)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced (about 1 cup)
  • 2 stalks of celery, thinly sliced
  • 2 medium carrots, thinly sliced
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth (or homemade turkey stock)
  • 2 cups leftover mashed potatoes
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme)
  • 2 cups cooked turkey, chopped
  • 1 cup frozen peas, thawed (or 1 cup leftover cooked peas)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
  2. Heat a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the olive oil and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan.
  3. Add the onion, carrots, and celery. Cook and stir over medium heat until onion is softened and vegetables begin to color slightly (about 4-5 minutes).
  4. Add the broth to the pan in which you have cooked the vegetables. Bring to a simmer and continue to cook until carrots are tender about 4-5 minutes.
  5. Add the broth and mashed potatoes. Stir until the potatoes are dissolved and the broth is smooth.
  6. Add the turkey and peas and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until heated through, about 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

But, wait, there's more!

My daughter suggested that next time we substitute prepackaged potato gnocchi for the pasta. With that and a bit of spinach, you might just have an "Olive Garden gnocchi soup" clone on your hands.

3. Mashed Potato Chip Dip

We begin with bacon. That's all most of us need to hear, right? Then add jalapeno, onion, and that fluffy leftover mash. Bake in an oven-safe dish and you have the most amazing, creamy dip made with mashed potatoes.

4. Thanksgiving-Style Meatloaf

Years ago I learned a secret from an Italian grandmother. A simple mixture of ground meat, eggs, and dry breadcrumbs will ensure that your meatloaf or meatballs will be as heavy as a hockey puck.

Replace the dry bread crumbs with a mixture of bread soaked in liquid (a panade), gently mix this into your ground meat, and you will have delicate, fork-tender meatballs or meatloaf. There is a panade in the following recipe. You know it as "leftover bread stuffing."


  • 1 pound lean ground turkey (I prefer the 85/15 ratio)
  • 1 cup leftover bread stuffing, firmly packed
  • 1 stalk of celery, finely minced
  • 1 small onion, finely minced
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup cranberry sauce
  • 2 teaspoons fresh sage, finely minced


  1. Preheat oven to 375° F.
  2. Place a sheet of parchment paper on a rimmed baking sheet.
  3. Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl
  4. Form into an oval and place on the prepared baking sheet.
  5. Bake in preheated oven for about 45 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F.

5. Leftover Stuffing Waffles

Let's be honest—everyone's favorite part of the stuffing is the crispy edges, right? With these leftover stuffing waffles, all of the stuffing gets crispy. Keep it savory with a perfect egg on top, or drizzle with maple syrup.

6. Brie and Cranberry in Puff Pastry


  • 1 (8-ounce) round Brie
  • 1 cup cranberry-orange relish or leftover cranberry sauce
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
  • 1/2 package (1 sheet) puff pastry
  • 1 egg, beaten


  1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  2. Slice the round of brie in half horizontally. Mix together the cranberry relish and nuts and spoon over the bottom half of the Brie. Place the top portion of the Brie on top of the fruit/nuts mixture.
  3. Center the filled round of brie in the center of the pastry. Bring the sides of the pastry up to cover the top and sides of the cheese, trimming as needed.
  4. Brush the beaten egg over the pastry to seal the seams. Place seam-side down on a lightly greased baking sheet. If you wish you may decorate the brie with pastry trimmings, using egg wash as an adhesive.
  5. Bake in preheated oven for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown.

7. Cranberry Sauce Salsa


  • 1/2 cup leftover cranberry sauce
  • 1/4 cup minced onion
  • 1 tablespoon chopped jalapeño
  • 1 tablespoon cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice


In a mixing bowl, combine all ingredients and mix well.

© 2014 Linda Lum