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5 Delicious Recipes Made From Thanksgiving Leftovers

Sara likes getting the most out of leftovers by using them to create entirely different meals.

Turkey Tetrazzini

Turkey Tetrazzini

What Do I Do With All of This Leftover Turkey?

Thanksgiving is over, and you still have enough food for a small army. The problem is that everyone in your house has eaten at least three helpings of turkey (with the accompanying sides), and nobody wants another plateful. So how do you get rid of the remains of the turkey day feast?

Get creative, and mix things up a bit; it's fun to add a few personal touches to a recipe. In this article, you'll find five of my favorite dishes to make from leftover turkey and trimmings. I've included a variety of recipes and ideas to satisfy any craving:

5 Great Recipes for Leftovers

  1. Turkey Tetrazzini
  2. Butternut Squash Soup
  3. Shepherd's Pie
  4. Turkey Hash
  5. Turkey Soup

I've also included a bonus recipe for pot pie.

The tetrazzini was a hit at my house.

The tetrazzini was a hit at my house.

1. Turkey Tetrazzini

This dish is basically a tuna casserole using poultry instead of canned tuna fish. One of my aunts made this one year, and it was delicious. I asked if I could post her recipe, but she doesn't actually use one; she just sort of winged it. So I finally decided to create my own version, and after taking only two bites, my husband told me, "This one's a keeper."

Below is my recipe, but be forewarned that this is not ideal for a busy weeknight meal (unless you prep everything the night before). It is not at all difficult to make, but all of the chopping, dicing, shredding and measuring out ingredients is a bit time consuming. It makes a nice Sunday dinner, and I liked that I had time to clean up the kitchen and make a salad, while the casserole baked in the oven for half an hour.

I absolutely detest using condensed soups, but I can see how they appeal to those who are pressed for time or don't like to be in the kitchen for an extended period. If you are in a hurry, you could easily add the turkey and frozen vegetables to condensed cream of mushroom or cream of chicken soup. It would still need to be heated up and mixed together, but prep time would be cut by more than half.


  • 2 cups turkey (or chicken), I prefer to shred it, but you can chop or dice it
  • 1 (10.5-ounce) package frozen, steamable peas
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 large onion, diced
  • 8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup white wine (or Sherry)
  • 4 cups chicken stock or broth
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 8 ounces angel hair pasta (or substitute egg noodles or any small pasta shapes, like elbows, corkscrews, bowties)
  • 1 teaspoon celery salt
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil or butter
  • 1/2 cup fresh Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs (I like to use Panko)


  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Spread the sweet potatoes evenly in the bottom of a greased casserole dish.
  2. Shred (or chop) about a pound or so of turkey, and place it into a large mixing bowl. Add gravy, peas (or green beans), and spices into the turkey.
  3. Layer turkey mixture evenly on top of sweet potatoes.
  4. Layer mashed potatoes evenly on top of turkey mixture.
  5. Cover with aluminum foil, and bake for about 30 or until all ingredients are heated through.
  6. Serve immediately. If you have any rolls and/or cranberry sauce left, they complement the meal nicely.

2. Butternut Squash Soup

Another thing you might have leftover from Thanksgiving is roasted butternut squash. If you don't plan on serving it as a side dish for another meal, it can easily be made into a savory soup.


  • 4 cups roasted squash (peeled and loosely chopped)
  • 6 ounces cream cheese
  • 33 ounces homemade vegetable stock
  • Black pepper, to taste
  • Marjoram, to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper


  1. In a saucepan, bring the squash, stock and spices to a rolling boil. Reduce heat to medium-high, and cook until squash is very soft (15 - 20 minutes).
  2. Puree squash mixture and cream cheese in a blender or food processor (you may have to do it in batches, if your blender isn't large enough).
  3. Transfer mixture back into saucepan, and warm it on low for about five minutes. Serve immediately.
Thanksgiving leftovers: shepherd's pie served with pumpernickel rolls.

Thanksgiving leftovers: shepherd's pie served with pumpernickel rolls.

3. Leftover Turkey Shepherd's Pie: The Ultimate Comfort Food

If you have an abundance of leftovers from a big turkey dinner, here's a simple way to use them up. It occurred to me that the easiest way to recycle the leftovers would be to bake them into some sort of casserole. With plenty of two different types of mashed potatoes leftover, Shepherd's Pie seemed like an obvious choice, so I decided to experiment with the Thanksgiving version of it.

We had no green vegetables leftover; otherwise I would have used them with the turkey mixture. Instead, I added some frozen peas. If you do use frozen peas, note that the steamable brands are much tastier than the less expensive ones. They have a plump texture and a fresh taste, unlike the cheap ones that look shriveled and taste freeze dried.


Note: No measurements are provided, because I didn't actually measure anything out. I just eyeballed it based on what I had on hand.

  • Mashed sweet potatoes
  • Mashed white potatoes
  • Cooked turkey
  • Leftover green beans (or frozen peas)
  • Turkey gravy (we had about a cup or so, but you can always use some stock or broth to moisten the turkey and add some flavor)
  • Black pepper
  • Celery salt
  • Onion powder


  1. Melt the oil or butter in a large pot over medium-high heat.
  2. Saute the onions, carrots and mushrooms until the onions are translucent.
  3. Add the wine and simmer for 2 minutes or until it evaporates.
  4. Coat the vegetables with some of the flour and stir. Add some of the broth and stir. Keep doing this until all of the flour is gone, as if you were making gravy. Then, gradually add the rest of the broth, stirring constantly.
  5. Bring the mixture to a boil, add salt, pepper and celery salt. Reduce heat, and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. While the mixture is simmering, preheat the oven to 350ºF, and grease a 2 quart casserole dish.
  6. Remove the pot from the heat, stir in half and half. Then, stir in poultry, peas, and uncooked pasta. (If using angel hair, it's okay to break the pasta up as you are stirring it in).
  7. Transfer the mixture to the baking dish, then top with Parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs.
  8. Bake for 30 minutes. Let stand for 5 to 10 minutes prior to serving.

4. Turkey Hash

This is great for brunch or breakfast the next day. It's as easy as combining leftovers in a skillet, and you can add eggs or not. I can't find the photos I took when I made this, so instead of posting a recipe for it, above is an easy-to-follow YouTube tutorial.

Skillets Are Perfect for Cooking Hash

Pot of Turkey Soup

Pot of Turkey Soup

5. Turkey Soup: Freeze Some for Later!

My husband makes the most scrumptious turkey soup I've ever tasted. He starts by boiling down the turkey carcass overnight, and the next day he makes so much soup that we always freeze half of it so that we can enjoy it again later.

He didn't want to part with his secret recipe, but there's a picture of it above. Essentially, it's stock, turkey, veggies, egg noodles, and about a cup of half and half (added at the end). The time-consuming part is the homemade turkey stock.

Bonus Recipe: Turkey Pot Pie

If none of the above recipes appeal to you, one final suggestion for making sure your leftovers disappear (without going to waste) is to use them in home-made turkey pot pies.

One year, we gave some of my husband's turkey soup to the neighbors, and they made pot pies out of that. That's really all you need, then just make the crusts, fill them with the soup, and bake in the oven. If you're not into putting a lot of effort into making your own crust, you can use Pillsbury biscuits to save yourself the trouble of making it from scratch.

© 2012 Sara Krentz