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5 Delicious Recipes Made From Thanksgiving Leftovers

Updated on June 7, 2017
Sara Krentz profile image

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

Thanksgiving Leftovers Shepherd's Pie Served with Pumpernickel Rolls
Thanksgiving Leftovers Shepherd's Pie Served with Pumpernickel Rolls | Source

What do I do with all of this 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 three of my own recipes and two video tutorials to accommodate for different levels of cooking skills.


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Shepherd's Pie, Reinvented
Shepherd's Pie, Reinvented | Source

1. Leftover Turkey Shepherd's Pie - 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.

Suggested Ingredients

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

Cooking Instructions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread the sweet potatoes evenly in the bottom of a greased casserole dish.

Mashed Sweet Potatoes
Mashed Sweet Potatoes | Source

2. Shred (or chop) about a pound or so of turkey, and place it into a large mixing bowl.

Shredded Turkey
Shredded Turkey | Source

3. Mix gravy, peas (or green beans), and spices into the turkey.

Turkey Mixture
Turkey Mixture | Source

4. Layer turkey mixture evenly on top of sweet potatoes.

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5. Layer mashed potatoes evenly on top of turkey mixture.

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6. Bake, uncovered, in preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes.

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7. 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.

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

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.

Source
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3. 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.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups Turkey (or chicken), I prefer to shred it, but you can chop or dice it.
  • 1 package (about 10.5 oz.) 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, (Sherry may be substituted).
  • 4 cups Chicken stock or broth
  • 1 cup Half and half
  • 8 ounces Angel hair pasta, Any small pasta shapes (elbows, corkscrews, bowties) will work in this or you can use egg noodles.
  • 1 teaspoon Celery salt
  • Salt & Pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon Olive oil, or butter
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, fresh, grated
  • 1/2 cup Breadcrumbs, I like to use Panko.
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Instructions

  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 350 degrees, 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. I have made it myself, but I can't seem to find the recipe or the photos I took. I'll have to re-post those when I make this skillet meal again; for now, see the easy tutorial below to make your own.

How to Make a Turkey Hash - Topped with a Fried Egg

Skillets are perfect for cooking hash

Lodge Cast Iron Skillet, 12-inch
Lodge Cast Iron Skillet, 12-inch

I have a Lodge skillet just like this one, and I absolutely love it. Cast iron requires a little extra care, but it's so worth it. I find that any kind of breakfast skillet meal comes out better when prepared in an actual cast iron skillet. It heats evenly, and that really makes a difference. I've tried making a skillet meal in a stainless steel frying pan, and it was a disaster. No matter how much oil I added, the potatoes kept sticking to the bottom, and then it was difficult to cook the rest of the ingredients in a pan with stuck-on hash browns on the bottom.

 

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. Maybe one of these years I'll get around to posting the ingredients, or at least a picture. He may not want to part with his secret recipe. In the meantime, here's an easy to follow tutorial for making home-made turkey and rice soup with plenty of veggies.

How to Make Home-Made Turkey Soup

Turkey Pot Pies

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 you the trouble of making it from scratch.

© 2012 Sara Krentz

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