If you don’t have leftovers after cooking your Thanksgiving dinner, you did it wrong. Come on, give thanks for the excess. The best way to express your gratitude is to do more than simply microwave the leftovers for the next several meals. You can take those dishes and transform them into something entirely new. Consider it upcycling your food. Or magic. Either way, Thanksgiving leftover recipes are the best part of the holiday. Here’s proof.
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Alarmingly, a recent Instacart survey, in addition to identifying the worst Thanksgiving side dishes, also found that many Millennials did not want Thanksgiving leftovers. If you feel the same, we think you’re just a little uninspired. Allow us to help.
To make it easier to find what you want (or at least what you need), we’ve broken it down into specific categories of leftover below.
When You Have a Little Bit of Everything Left Over
And you don’t mind mashing it all up together…
The classic method: Pile all your favorite bits and pieces onto bread—bonus if it’s a leftover dinner roll. You don’t really need instructions for this, but still, get our Thanksgiving Leftovers Sandwich recipe if your food coma is making it hard for you to think straight (and yet you’re strangely compelled to eat again anyway).
Who doesn’t love nachos? Transform your turkey leftovers into a Mexican-inspired mixture of zesty lime turkey topped with cranberry salsa. This dish is easy to customize, and kids absolutely love it. Get our Thanksgiving Nachos recipe.
A store-bought crust, smeared with straight-from-the-fridge gravy, spread with leftover turkey, cranberry sauce, and sausage stuffing. Sprinkle with shredded cheddar cheese, then pop in a hot oven for 15 minutes. What emerges is the most unusual, and also surprisingly tasty, leftovers creation. Get our Thanksgiving Leftovers Pizza recipe.
Related Reading: How to Hack Pizza Dough Into New Dishes
Leftover Turkey Recipe Ideas
There always seems to be a lot of turkey left, so there are a lot of leftover turkey recipes, all of them delicious.
Leftover turkey and mashed potatoes become the best-ever fried breakfast patties, crisp on the outside, soft in the middle. The turkey is shredded, and diced carrot, onion, and celery give the patties a little extra crunch and flavor. Serve these topped with a fried egg and hot sauce. Get our Turkey Hash Patties recipe.
This recipe is written to use duck confit, but it works beautifully with shredded dark meat left over from Thanksgiving dinner too. These take a little work, but they taste way better than the Chinese takeout you were planning to order on Black Friday. Get our Leftover Turkey Spring Rolls recipe and adapt it as described.
A simple frittata recipe that uses up leftover turkey and sweet potatoes, plus it includes mozzarella cheese for extra richness, but you can use gruyere if you prefer (maybe you have some left over from this savory bread pudding?). Get our Leftover Turkey and Sweet Potato Frittata recipe.
These real-deal enchiladas are spicy and flavorful. Though they are more commonly made with pork or chicken, we swapped in turkey and doused it all in a Red Chile Sauce that’s great to snack on with chips. Get our Crispy Turkey Enchiladas recipe.
The Thai noodle dish pad see ew is usually made with anything from beef to pork to chicken. We filled ours with turkey and won thumbs-up from our pad see ew–obsessed former Multimedia Producer Meredith Arthur. Get our Turkey Pad See Ew recipe.
Leftover turkey also takes well to Italian-style noodles. It gets gussied up with bacon, mushrooms, and a creamy sauce in this dish. Get our Turkey Tetrazzini recipe.
Pot pie is a common way to use up turkey, but subpar versions are often chalky, gummy, and bland. Ours starts things off right with Creamed Turkey that’s good enough to eat on its own; then you pack it with vegetables, and top it with store-bought crust to avoid dough-making headaches. Get our Turkey Pot Pie recipe.
Another throwback recipe that we improved upon, this salad has tartness from yogurt, sweetness from raisins, and crunch from shards of toasted coconut. It takes a minimum of effort and will renew your interest in big bird leftovers. get our Curried Turkey Salad recipe.
Posole is one of those slow-cooked dishes that result in a beautiful meld of flavors. Figuring that you won’t want to be slaving away with your leftovers after having just orchestrated the big meal, we came up with a shortcut version we coined a la Guerita, a.k.a. white-girl style. Get our Turkey Posole a la Guerita recipe.
Mulligatawny is an old Anglo-Indian dish, from the days of British rule. It’s a soup with coconut milk and spices that charmed British cooks back home in Europe. Ours is a rich, heady soup, laced with spices and coconut milk, yes, but based on the leftover holiday carcass. Get our Turkey Mulligatawny Soup recipe.
Last but not least, let’s not underestimate the ease and deliciousness of having homemade stock. If the big day left you in a food coma, then you’re probably not enticed to do much beyond clicking the remote. This stock recipe requires minimal effort and makes eight quarts, perfect for freezing and using later. Get our Basic Turkey Stock recipe.
Leftover Stuffing Recipe Ideas
Eggs baked in cheesy stuffing are the dream team of breakfasts. These individual muffin-sized delights are a knockout way to repurpose leftover stuffing. They’re perfect for brunch the morning after Thanksgiving, especially if you have a crowd staying over. Get our Baked Eggs in Stuffing Cups recipe. (No stuffing left? Try this Baked Eggs in Creamed Spinach recipe instead.)
Entertaining doesn’t end when the clock strikes midnight on Thanksgiving. These give stuffing a second life and make for quick hors d’oeuvres when unexpected company comes knocking. Get our Stuffing-Stuffed Mushrooms recipe.
Another one that doesn’t really require a recipe; just press some stuffing in a waffle iron for 7-10 minutes until golden and crisp on top, and pile it up with whatever you like, whether that’s more leftovers or eggs and bacon.
Leftover Mashed Potato Recipe Ideas
We didn’t think there was such a thing as too many mashed potatoes, but if you’ve gone overboard for Thanksgiving dinner, check out these ideas for the surplus spuds.
These pan-fried mashed potato cakes are crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, and have a little cheese to make them even better. They work fabulously with a poached egg, or a dollop of sour cream. Get our Mashed Potato Cakes recipe.
Leftover Sweet Potato Recipe Ideas
Sweet potato casserole may be harder to repurpose, but it’s not impossible.
Mashed sweet potatoes make this quick bread moist—you can simply scrape the marshmallows (or pecan streusel) off the top of your casserole before you use the rest for the batter, or substitute leftover pumpkin puree from your pie instead. Get our Pecan and Sweet Potato Bread recipe. (And try the same trick in reverse with our Spiced Pumpkin Pecan Pancake recipe, swapping in mashed sweet potato for the pumpkin puree.)
This fantastic fritter recipe from the “Myers + Chang at Home” cookbook is super adaptable and even easier to make when you already have mashed sweet potato on hand. You can swap in bacon if you don’t have Chinese sausage, or just use scallion. Just don’t skip the Sriracha aioli for dipping. Get the Sweet Potato and Chinese Sausage Fritters with Sriracha Aioli recipe.
If you have leftover cubed sweet potatoes—or butternut squash, or roasted Brussels sprouts—you can use them for a hash. There really aren’t any rules here: If you can throw it in a skillet and crack an egg on it, you’re ready to eat. Get our Sweet Potato Hash recipe. (But see this Brussels Sprouts Hash recipe too to see what we mean about how flexible this one is.)
Leftover Cranberry Sauce Recipe Ideas
All self-respecting cranberry sauces are sweet, tart, and fruity, and that works as a fabulous foundation for cocktails, whether you make a simple cranberry sauce sangria as per the video above, mix up a Peninsular War Cocktail with Cognac, or a Cranberry Culprit Cocktail with bourbon and amaretto.
If you’re up for more baking after tackling a plethora of pies, try this recipe for cranberry shortbread bars, which will freeze well and make a great post-Thanksgiving snack. Just use your leftover cranberry sauce as a shortcut. Get our Cranberry Shortbread Bars with Almond Streusel recipe.
Or adapt this easy froyo recipe, which is even easier when you already have cranberry sauce on hand—just skip straight to step two and swirl your cranberry sauce into the yogurt instead of the blackberries. If your sauce is a bit too tart, add a touch more sugar first, and maybe a splash of vanilla. Get our Easy Frozen Yogurt recipe.
Leftover Gravy Recipe Ideas
Leftover gravy isn’t just for ladling over hot turkey sandwiches. It can also be a flavorful base for stews and pot pie fillings or a great sauce for meatballs to swim in, but our very favorite use for it pays homage to our Canadian neighbors.
Traditional poutine calls for beef gravy, but if you’ve got leftover turkey gravy, it’s equally great poured over crisp fries and melty cheese curds. Add shredded turkey to it if you have leftover meat.
New Orleans Boozy Broth Cocktail
Yes, we went there. Yes, this is a warm, savory beer cocktail with gravy in it. Because why should cranberry sauce get to have all the boozy fun?
Leftover Pie Recipe Ideas
Leftover…pie? Is that a real thing? Do you need recommendations on how to turn it into something else when it’s already perfect? While this may be one of the least useful leftover ideas, perhaps even more mind-boggling than a gravy cocktail, we love it because it may also be the most indulgent. And that’s what matters this holiday season, no?
While no one complains about leftover pumpkin pie, let’s mess with it anyway and chuck entire pie slices into the blender (instead of just pumpkin purée, as this recipe calls for). Go nuts and try it with pecan pie too. Get our Pumpkin Spice Milkshakes recipe.
Related Reading: How to Make Drinks from Thanksgiving Leftovers