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best thanksgiving leftover recipes

Three Must-Make Recipes For Your Thanksgiving Leftovers

By Mir Kamin

Happy oh-good-lord-I-ate-too-much post-Thanksgiving season! I hope everyone had a wonderful day and can still move. There was a minute there when I thought I was going to have to sleep at the table, but I did manage to get up. Barely.

Me, I’m a purist when it comes to Thanksgiving leftovers: I most emphatically do not get sick of making plates that look exactly like what we ate on the holiday (albeit smaller-portioned) for a week afterward. I love Thanksgiving foods! But 1) my family gets sick of it faster than I do, and 2) I cannot bear to throw away the turkey bones. So that means there’s some post-Thanksgiving work to be done, and other yummy dishes to be made.

Michael Ruhlman’s Fool-Proof Oven Turkey Stock

Thanksgiving Leftover Turkey Stock Recipe

I’m the person who blinks at you rapidly if you tell me that you don’t “know how” to make soup. Making soup is easy. But if you’ve never done it, I can see where it would be daunting, especially if you’re facing down a sizable turkey carcass. And if you check out conventional stock-making methods, many of them call for skimming the surface of a roiling pot, which is a hot, messy task even if you know what you’re doing. But Michael Ruhlman’s oven method couldn’t be easier. Allow me to summarize:
1) Break up the carcass some with your hands, put it into a big pot.
2) Put pot in oven at 200 degrees for 8-16 hours.
3) Enjoy while your house starts to smell amazing.

Okay, yes, there are a few other steps, but only a few. Ever since I tried these directions a few years ago, I’ve never gone back to making turkey stock soup on the stove top. It’s not only easy, the resultant stock is rich and flavorful. Most of it gets frozen (no need to buy stock at the store for months!), but then the second thing I make is…

Kalyn’s Kitchen’s Leftover Turkey And Sweet Potato Soup

Kalyn's Kitchen's Leftover Turkey And Sweet Potato Soup
Granted, I’m a huge fan of soups in general (does anything else warm you up the same way on a cold day?), but this is one of my favorites. Kalyn’s recipe is perfection for Thanksgiving leftovers; you’ll use your freshly-made stock, some of the turkey meat, and if you did a simple sweet potato preparation you can use those leftovers as well. (If you’re a casserole or marshmallow type, well, go root around in the pantry and see if a couple of sweet potatoes rolled away and escaped while you were cooking the big meal.) The addition of black beans and lime both rounds out the flavors and makes it different enough that no one will feel like they’re eating turkey for the millionth time in a row. This one freezes well, too—there’s no noodles or delicate veggies to get soggy—so if you want to make a double batch and freeze some, go ahead.

Finally, the last thing I want to do the morning after my three-day-cook-a-thon is make something fussy for breakfast, but I get my second wind by Sunday and find myself determined to enjoy some leftovers with a runny egg atop for brunch. Yum! I’ve tried a variety of “Thanksgiving Hash” recipes and my hands-down favorite is…

Alton Brown’s Turkey Re-Hash

Don’t be frightened by the review who claimed this was too dry; I suspect either their corn pudding was dry or that they didn’t do the soft egg on top (which, in my opinion, is the ultimate key to a good hash, anyway; without the egg, what’s the point?). Brown’s recipe does call for his corn pudding—which is very good—but if you make any sort of sweet-leaning cornbread dressing with your turkey I think that would work just fine. I do a caramelized onion and apples cornbread stuffing and it’s delicious in this recipe in place of the pudding.

This hash reminds me of huevos rancheros, for some reason. I don’t know if it’s the jalapenos or the beans (or both), but I wouldn’t judge you if you put some salsa on it. And I could be wrong, but I don’t think Alton Brown would, either. He seems like he would be flexible that way.

What’s on tap for the Thanksgiving leftovers at your house? Got any favorite recipes I should try? One of these years I’m going to try explaining to my husband that four people do not need a 20-pound turkey….

About the Author

Mir Kamin

Mir Kamin began writing about her life online over a decade ago, back when she was a divorced mom trying to raise two regular little kids and figure out what she wanted to be when she grew up. Now ...

Mir Kamin began writing about her life online over a decade ago, back when she was a divorced mom trying to raise two regular little kids and figure out what she wanted to be when she grew up. Now her life looks very different than it did back then: Those little kids turned into anything-but-regular teenagers, she is remarried, and somehow she’s become one of those people who talks to her dogs in a high-pitched baby voice. Along the way she’s continued chronicling the everyday at Woulda Coulda Shoulda, plus she’s bringing you daily bargain therapy at Want Not. The good news is that Mir grew up and became a writer and she still really likes hanging out with her kids; the bad news is that her hair is a lot grayer than it used to be.

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  • Brigitte

    November 29, 2013 at 2:42 pm

    I often layer the leftovers into a gigantic 2-crusted (homemade, of course) pie. Really the same as Thanksgiving dinner, but in convenient pie form!

    • Mir Kamin

      November 29, 2013 at 3:21 pm

      OMG, that is brilliant! I may try that. 🙂

  • Katie

    November 29, 2013 at 3:45 pm

    Gumbo! Only need bell pepper and sausage. Uses up leftover celery too. And it uses turkey stock, turkey, ham and other extras if you aren’t a purist. My husband loves it on leftover mashed potatoes but I prefer the traditional rice.

  • Cindy

    November 29, 2013 at 11:36 pm

    I like turkey and rice soup. It is a classic Grandma comfort food. You pretty much make broth with extra meat thrown in and add some cooked rice. It works better if you keep the rice separate until just before you eat. That way the rice doesn’t get super soggy or turn into a solid mass.

  • Lara

    November 30, 2013 at 1:18 am

    Our fav leftover “recipe” that we use for either a big turkey or spiral sliced ham meal is to make an oven hash. Fill a large casserole dish with roughly distributed lumps of meat, potato casserole leftovers, veggie leftovers, stuffing if you have it. Drizzle with stock if it looks too dry, maybe grate a little cheese on top. Then warm in oven. Delish. Also the old standby, hot turkey sandwiches. And sometimes we make a turkey and stuffing pizza 🙂 Thanks for the ideas!

  • parodie

    November 30, 2013 at 6:54 am

    We’ve gotten into the habit of making open-faced sandwiches, and they are delicious with leftovers: good bread, some turkey, maybe a little gravy or cranberry sauce, mayo if that’s your thing, topped with cheese and put under the broiler for a few minutes to get nice and warm and melted. Yum yum yum.

    My grandmother’s recipe is a turkey casserole: 2c. turkey, chopped celery, 1/2c cashews, with mushroom soup + some water to bind it all together. Top with chow mein noodles for tasty crunch. I made it the other day with homemade mushroom soup, because I’m an overachiever and I had stock which wouldn’t fit in my freezer, but Campbell’s does the trick too.

  • April

    November 30, 2013 at 10:31 am

    We always make turkey quesadillas — turkey, black olives, mozerella and spinach leaves on a folded tortilla (smooshed in the Foreman). Also, last year I discovered mashed potato pancakes and they are brilliant. Simply add flour, and agg and milk to leftover mashed potatoes until they look like thick pacake batter. Scoop and fry in a pan with butter like a regular pancake. Serve with sour cream and applesauce. Yesterday I put cut up ham chunks right into the pancakes and it was amazing!

  • js

    December 2, 2013 at 12:04 pm

    This is not my recipe at all but we tried it the day after Turkey Day because we had a mass of people to feed and it was great! Pioneer Woman’s Turkey Tetrazini was so amazing and had so much great stuff in it! Bacon, mushrooms and turkey? YES!

  • ladybug

    December 2, 2013 at 5:59 pm

    We make turkey & spinach soup with small pasta (bon appetit 2005, from epicurious) – nice & bright with lemon, accompanied by sweet potato biscuits (Paula Deen), also turkey pot pie (whole foods), and my favorite: turkey & sweet potato croquettes with leftover cranberry sauce in place of salsa (Gourmet 1990, off epicurious).  That usually takes us through to Sunday, when everyone goes back to work/school.  Although I personally am still eating stuffing, because for some reason (chestnuts?) the kids won’t touch it.