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Recipes and Tips for Using Thanksgiving Leftovers

Catherine Giordano enjoys creating and sharing recipes for home cooks who want delicious results with minimal fuss.

Sweet potato and bacon on some crusty whole-grain bread is a treat.

Sweet potato and bacon on some crusty whole-grain bread is a treat.

Sweet Potato Sandwiches

I always bake some extra sweet potatoes along with the Thanksgiving turkey. I love making sandwiches with them.

If you don't have any leftover sweet potatoes, you can cook some in the microwave oven in a jiffy. Here are the instructions for two potatoes, which should be enough for about four sandwiches.

How to Cook Sweet Potatoes in the Microwave

  1. Stab two medium-sized sweet potatoes with a fork about six times. (This allows the steam to escape during the heating. Try to use potatoes that are about the same size and thickness.
  2. It should take about 8 minutes for two potatoes. After 8 minutes, test the sweet potato with a fork. If the fork goes in easily, the potato is done. If not, add an extra minute in the microwave and then test again. If needed, repeat for another minute.

Sweet Potato and Bacon Sandwich

My whole family loves this sandwich. The sweet creamy sweet potato goes great with the crisp slightly salty bacon.

This recipe serves one.


  • 1/3 cup of mashed cooked sweet potatoes
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup
  • 1 slice bacon (preferably thick cut)
  • 1/4 cup mixed field greens
  • 2 slices crusty whole grain bread


  1. Cut the bacon slice in half and fry the bacon, turning to cook both sides, until it is crispy.
  2. Mix in the maple syrup into the mashed sweet potato.
  3. Mound the sweet potato on a slice of crusty whole-grain bread.
  4. Place the bacon over the sweet potato.
  5. Add the mixed field greens.
  6. Top the sandwich with the second slice of bread.

(If you wish, you can substitute a slice of crisply fried ham for the bacon.)

Sweet Potato and Carrot Pita

I like to serve this sandwich in a pita pocket because it keeps the carrot shreds from falling out. Of course, you can use any kind of bread you wish. This recipe serves two. Expand the recipe to make as many sandwiches as you want.

You can get a half pita pocket to open, by putting it into the toaster for 15 seconds. If you are not using the pita immediately, stick a spoon into it, sideways, to hold the pocket open.

Make two servings (1/2 pita pocket equals 1 serving).


  • 1 pita, cut in half (on the short side) to make two pockets.
  • 1 cup mashed sweet potato
  • 1/2 cup grated raw carrot
  • 1/2 cup salad greens


  1. Stuff each pita pocket with 1/2 cup mashed potato.
  2. Add about 1/4 cup grated carrot into each half
  3. Add 1/4 cup salad greens to each half.

Sweet Potato and Raisins Sandwich

This sandwich is a sweet treat that children will love. Adults too. This recipe serves one.


  • 1/2 cup mashed cooked sweet potato
  • 1 tablespoon raisins
  • 1 tablespoon chopped pecans
  • 2 slices of toasted English muffin or other bread


  1. Mix raisin and nuts into the sweet potato.
  2. Mound the sweet potato onto the bottom half of an English muffin.
  3. Top with the English muffin top.

Turkey Sandwiches

I love turkey sandwiches. I always make sure to have enough leftover turkey for sandwiches.

One of my favorite parts of Thanksgiving is having a turkey sandwich the next day. It makes for a quick meal. I just add a beverage and some leftover pie.

Turkey and Cranberry Sauce Sandwich

This couldn't be simpler, especially if the turkey meat was sliced on the Big Day. This leaves me with nothing to do but assemble the sandwich. I like to use iceberg lettuce for crunch. This serves one.


  • 2 slices Potato Bread (or bread or roll of your choice)
  • 2 slices white meat turkey
  • 2 tablespoons cranberry sauce
  • 1 large leaf of iceberg lettuce


  1. Place the turkey slices on a slice of bread.
  2. Spread the cranberry sauce over the turkey.
  3. Add the lettuce.
  4. Top with a second slice of bread.

Turkey-Salad Sandwich

How about a turkey-salad sandwich? I always find that some of the meat can't be sliced off the turkey bones into nice neat slices. I remove this part of the turkey in chunks. Both the white and the dark meat pieces can be used for a turkey salad sandwich.

If you don't want to use the turkey chunks right away, freeze them in small baggies--each containing enough for one serving. Put the baggies into a freezer Zip-Lock bag. When you are ready to make the sandwich, remove the amount you need, and defrost the chunks. (I defrost in the microwave, so I don't have to plan in advance.)

Here's a recipe for two sandwiches.


  • 1 cup of turkey, cut into 1/2 inch cubes (approximately)
  • 1 fat scallion cut into slices, using both the white and the green parts. (Or use about 1 TBS chopped onion)
  • 1/4 cup chopped celery, about half a stalk
  • 2 tablespoons chopped bell pepper
  • 1 tablespoon sweetened dried cranberries (like Craisins)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped walnuts.
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Kaiser roll, sliced in half along the long side (or bread of your choice)
  • 1 slice Iceberg lettuce


  1. Mix the turkey, scallion, celery, pepper, Craisins, and walnuts with the mayonnaise.
  2. Pile it onto the bottom half of the roll
  3. Add the lettuce
  4. Top with the top part of the roll.
It is easy to make delicious home-made turkey soup.

It is easy to make delicious home-made turkey soup.

Save the Turkey Carcass to Make Broth for Soup

After the legs and wings have been removed and all the white meat has been sliced off, pick the remaining chucks of turkey from the carcass. If you don't want to make the turkey soup right away, freeze the carcass and the turkey chucks separately. Freeze any leftover turkey skin with the carcass.

Make the broth the day before you want to make the soup. This will yield about 6 cups of broth.


  • 1 Turkey carcass with leftover skin and turkey neck
  • 1 stalk celery cut into 5- 6 chunks (include leaves)
  • 1 carrot, cut into 4-5 chunks
  • 1 medium yellow onion (including skin), cut into 8 pieces
  • 10 cups water (2 and 1/2 quarts)


  1. When you are ready to make the turkey soup, put the turkey carcass into a large pot, and add the water.. (Add more water if needed so that the entire carcass is covered. You can break the carcass into smaller pieces if you need to.)
  2. Add the celery and celery leaves, the carrot, and the onion to the pot. (The onion skin gives the broth a nice color.)
  3. Bring the water to a boil and then reduce the heat and let the soup simmer uncovered for about an hour. (The pot is uncovered so some of the water can boil away making the broth flavor more concentrated.)
  4. Drain the broth into another pot and throw away the carcass and cooked vegetables. (All the flavor has been cooked out.)
  5. Put the pot of broth into the refrigerator overnight.
  6. Before using or freezing the broth, use a spoon to skim off the fat that has congealed on the top of the broth. Discard the fat.

Make Turkey Soup Using the Turkey Broth

Use the broth from the above recipe to make turkey soup. You can substitute chicken chunks for the turkey if you want.

This will make 4 servings.


  • 8 cups (2 quarts) broth
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 1 cup carrot rounds (Cut the larger rounds into halves)
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 cup frozen green beans
  • 4 cups cooked bow-tie noodles
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. If you have less than 8 cups of broth, add some store-bought chicken broth or water. Put the broth into a pot and heat it to boil. Lower the heat to a simmer.
  2. Add the diced celery and carrots to the broth. Simmer about 10 minutes or until the celery and carrot are almost soft.
  3. Add the frozen peas and frozen cut green beans along with the turkey chunks. Let the soup simmer about five more minutes until everything is heated through. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Add the cooked bow-tie noodles to the soup.
  5. Ladle it into soup bowls and serve.

Make Some TV Dinners

Save the trays that come with the frozen dinners you buy in the supermarket. You will want the ones that have three sections. Or you can buy the foam trays with three sections. Now prepare the dinners just as you would prepare a plate for the table.

  1. In the largest section put some leftover stuffing on the left side.
  2. Now put slices of turkey on the right side so that the turkey overlaps about half of the stuffing.
  3. Pour some gravy over the stuffing and turkey.
  4. Mash a serving of sweet potato with 1 teaspoon maple syrup and mix in 1 tablespoon chopped pecans.
  5. Put the sweet potato mixture into one of the smaller compartments.
  6. Dot the sweet potato with a little bit of butter.
  7. Put some leftover cooked vegetables in the third compartment.
  8. Freeze some cranberry sauce separately. (I use the little cups that I get when I buy hummus or pesto that is sold in a package of single-serving cups).
  9. Now insert the whole tray into a quart-size freezer zip-lock bag. Lay it flat in the freezer.

When you want a quick dinner, transfer the frozen dinner from the tray to a regular dinner plate. (Keep the cranberry sauce separate.) Place the food right side up. Place a microwave cover over the dinner or use some plastic wrap to loosely cover it. (The steam needs to be able to escape as the food heats.) Microwave on high about 4 to 5 minutes until the dinner is nice and hot. Serve with the defrosted cranberry sauce.

Crust-Less Pot Pie (The creamy middle of the pot pie is served over noodles!)

Crust-Less Pot Pie (The creamy middle of the pot pie is served over noodles!)

Make a Crust-Less Turkey Pot Pie

Everybody loves turkey pot pies, but the crust can be a bother to make. If you buy a frozen pot pie, they have to bake in the oven for an hour. Here is a recipe for a crust-less pot pie—just the delicious middle. And it cooks in the microwave in a jiffy.

You can substitute chicken chunks for the turkey, if you wish.

This recipe makes four servings.


  • One 15-ounce jar Alfredo Sauce
  • 2 cups turkey chunks, (or chicken chunks)
  • 2/3 cup baby carrots, cut in half on the diagonal,
  • 2/3 cup frozen peas
  • 2/3 cup frozen green beans
  • 6 cups cooked egg noodles


  1. Place the Alfredo sauce, turkey chunks (defrosted), carrots, frozen peas, and frozen green beans into a microwave-safe bowl. Cover the bowl loosely so the steam can escape. Heat on high for about 3 minutes. Stir and heat for one more minute.
  2. Place 1 1/2 cups of noodles on each plate. Pour 1 cup of the heated Alfredo sauce mixture over the noodles. Serve.

Recipes for Lettover Cranberry Sauce

I hope you make your own cranberry sauce starting with raw cranberries. You can make it 1 or 2 days before the big fat and keep it in the refrigerator. I like cranberry sauce so much, I always buy an extra bag so I can make some more whenever I'm in the mood for these delicious cranberry sauce breakfasts, desserts, and sandwiches.

You can keep leftover cranberry sauce in the refrigerator for about a week or you can freeze it. Also, raw cranberries keep very well in the refrigerator for 2 or 3 weeks or you can freeze them.

If you must use canned cranberry sauce, use the whole-berry kind, not the jellied kind.

Cranberry yogurt parfait is ready in a jiffy and is great for a breakfast treat, as a snack. or even as a dessert.

Cranberry yogurt parfait is ready in a jiffy and is great for a breakfast treat, as a snack. or even as a dessert.

Cranberry Yogurt Parfait

This is wonderful for breakfast or for dessert. When I make it for breakfast, I use plain yogurt. When I make it for dessert, I use vanilla or flavored yogurt. The chocolate chips are a nice addition for the dessert parfait.

This recipe is for 1 serving.


  • One 5-ounce container of Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup cranberry sauce
  • 1 tablespoon granola for topping
  • 1 tablespoon mini chocolate chips (optional)


  1. Reserve a dollop of yogurt for the top of the parfait.
  2. Place half the remaining yogurt in the bottom of a parfait glass. Top with half of the cranberry sauce. Repeat.
  3. Add the reserved dollop of yogurt too the top of the parfait.
  4. Sprinkle the granola (and chocolate chips, if using) around the dollop of yogurt.
  5. If you have a long-handled iced-tea spoon, serve the parfait with this spoon.

Cranberry Sauce Breakfast Sandwich

I love the flavor of goat cheese (or cream cheese) paired with cranberry sauce. This recipe makes one serving.

I suggest a cinnamon-raisin bagel. Sesame seed, whole wheat, or pumpernickel are also good bagel choices. Putting the cheese onto a warm bagel will make it melt slightly, making it extra delicious.


  • 2 tablespoons goat cheese (or plain cream cheese)
  • 1/4 cup cranberry sauce
  • 1 bagel (sliced and lightly toasted)


  1. Spread the cheese on the bottom half of the bagel
  2. Spread the cranberry sauce over the cheese.
  3. Cover with the top half of the bagel. Cut the bagel sandwich in half before serving.

Other Uses for Leftover Cranberry Sauce

  • You can stir 1/4 cup cranberry sauce into a 5-ounce cup of plain or vanilla Greek yogurt.
  • Mix 1/4 cup of cranberry sauce into one serving of hot oatmeal.
  • Use it as a topping for bread pudding or ice cream. (By the way, bread pudding is a great way to use leftover dinner rolls.)
  • Serve the leftover cranberry sauce with other meats like chicken, pork, or ham.

Make Stuffing Muffins With Leftover Stuffing

After I have stuffed the turkey on Thanksgiving Day, I usually have some stuffing left over. I grease some muffin trays and pack the stuffing into the muffin cups. I bake these in the toaster oven while the turkey is cooking. Bake them at 350˚F until the tops are brown—about 30 minutes.

My son used to grab one of these fresh from the oven for a snack while he waited for dinner to be ready. Whatever I could save from his clutches was stored in the refrigerator for snacks or as a side dish served with leftover gravy.

No Leftovers, No Problem.

These recipes are so enticing, I sometimes go to the store and buy stuff just to create leftovers. I get a turkey breast and cook it, just to have more turkey. And, of course, chicken can always be substituted for the turkey.

Fresh cranberries can be frozen until I am ready to use them for cranberry sauce.

Stuffing can be baked in a pan, if I want some to use in the above recipes. You might even use a packaged stuffing mix (like Stove-Top Stuffing) to make stuffing for these recipes.

Sweet potatoes can be baked in the microwave. (See the instructions at the top of this article.)

© 2017 Catherine Giordano