Black Duck’s Top 14 Thanksgiving Leftover Ideas

Black Duck’s Top 14 Thanksgiving Leftover Ideas

Ah, the holidays. Family. Friends. And food! In the United States, Thanksgiving marks the beginning of a wonderful six week vacation from our diets. But with that comes a question that has challenged us since the Pilgrims first pondered what to do with all that leftover corn (the answer turned out to be succotash): What do you do with all the leftovers from your Thanksgiving feast? 

We’ve been thinking about that here at Black Duck and have assembled some of our favorite ideas. We hope you like them as much as we do!

Let’s Start with the Basics

Mayflower Sandwich

Let’s face it. Most of us don’t have the ambition to create culinary masterpieces from our Thanksgiving leftovers, especially if we’re still recovering from the 12 hours of cooking that went into the first meal. For sheer instant gratification value, it’s hard to beat a basic leftover turkey sandwich. Some decent bread, turkey, stuffing, gravy (HINT: if you make your own gravy it will probably come out of the refrigerator ready to slice), a slice of cheddar cheese and maybe some mayo, honey mustard, and cranberry sauce to finish it off.  Done and done.

However, if you are just a little more ambitious, or can’t deal with cold stuffing, why not make a grilled turkey, dressing and cranberry panini? The Food Network’s Michael Chiarello shows how to make one big enough to feed all those friends and family still hanging around your house. 

Recipe: Turkey, Dressing, & Cranberry Panini

Pilgrims’ Pie

This is one the easiest recipes, and one you can begin preparing even as you are cleaning up from your Thanksgiving feast. Think of it as Shepherd’s Pie but with turkey and stuffing. Start by greasing a large baking dish with canola oil or butter. Spread a layer of stuffing into the pan (HINT: If the stuffing is too dry, try mixing a little chicken stock into it first). Next, you can either add some leftover vegetables like beans or brussels sprouts or some dried cranberries. Save your canned cranberry sauce for the side. (It will be too watery.) Now add your leftover turkey and top with the mashed potatoes. Cover with foil and store in the refrigerator overnight.

When you are ready to dive in for round two, reheat (covered) for about 15-20 minutes at 300 degrees. Increase the oven temperature to 400. Uncover the dish, sprinkle with some shredded cheddar cheese on top of the potatoes, and return to oven for another 5-10 minutes until the cheese melts and potatoes start to brown a bit. Serve with warmed leftover gravy and cranberry sauce.

Turkey à la King

Turkey or Chicken à la King is basically diced turkey or chicken in a cream (béchamel) sauce, often with sherry, mushrooms, and vegetables served over rice, noodles, or potatoes. The recipe dates to the late 1800s and there’s a good chance you’ve had it at grandma’s house. You’ve already got most of the ingredients. Your main work is to create the sauce. Add your turkey, leftover vegetables and/or dried cranberries, and serve over your leftover mashed potatoes and stuffing. Need more guidance? This recipe will get you started:

Recipe: Turkey à la King

A Solution for Leftover Ingredients

Ever notice how a lot of recipes call for one celery stalk, yet you usually can only buy them by the bunch. Yes, Grandma serves them as a side, smothered in cream cheese or peanut butter, but no matter what you cover them with, they're never particularly appetizing. But if your larder is still full of Thanksgiving fixings, why not throw them into a delicious turkey soup? Here’s a recipe that’s Oma (German for grandmother) approved! 

Leeks, courtesy of Wikimedia CommonsOma’s Turkey Soup

All the turkey bones you can find, including carcass
6 potatoes, diced
6 carrots, diced
4 stalks celery, diced
4-6 cups water
1-2 large onions, diced (or leeks)
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp dried basil
1 bay leaf
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (or more, to taste)
1 pinch dried thyme
1-2 tbsp rice wine vinegar (or more, to taste)

Place the turkey bones and carcass into a large soup pot or stock pot and pour in the water; bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook the bones until the remaining meat falls off (about one hour). Remove the turkey bones, then pick off and chop any remaining turkey meat.

Strain the broth through a fine mesh strainer into a clean soup pot. Add the chopped turkey to the strained broth; bring the broth to a boil, reduce heat, and stir in the potatoes, carrots, celery, onion, rice wine vinegar, salt, parsley, basil, bay leaf, black pepper, and thyme. Simmer until the vegetables are tender, about one more hour. Remove bay leaf before serving. 

Serve with leftover Thanksgiving rolls and fresh green salad.

Substitute rice or egg noodles if you’re not a potato fan, but put them in a bit later so they don’t over cook. 

Much Ado About Stuffing

First time Thanksgiving cooks tend to obsess about the turkey itself. In reality, whether you roast it, deep fry it, or cook it on the BBQ, the turkey is really the easiest part of meal. Thanksgiving pros know that it’s really all about the sides, especially the stuffing. And regardless whether you’re an onion, sage, and giblet traditionalist or an avant garde stuffing artist, there’s one rule: NEVER RUN OUT OF STUFFING. If you follow this rule properly you’ll probably end-up with leftover stuffing after all the turkey and potatoes are long gone. 

Never fear, here are three awesome ways to use up that stuffing.  They’re so good you may decide to make another batch of stuffing just so you can have them again! 

  1. Recipe: Fried Stuffing Bites
  2. Recipe: Leftover Stuffing Waffles
  3. Recipe: Stuffing Baked Eggs

Post-Holiday Brunch

The Thanksgiving feast defies the laws of digestive physics. It’s one of the few times where people can easily consume two or three full plates of food, and an additional three desserts, yet still be hungry again in just a couple of hours. So there’s a good chance you and your overnight holiday guests are going to wake up hungry. Assuming overnight raiders haven’t plundered your refrigerator, you are ready to fuel everybody up for a day of Black Friday shopping. Combine these two recipes with the Stuffing Baked Eggs above and some mimosas and you’ve got yourself a proper Thanksgiving brunch!

  1. Recipe: Turkey Hashed Browns
  2. Recipe: Cranberry Sauce Muffins

Mix it up with a little Thanksgiving Pizza!Mixing Things Up a Bit

If you’ve read this far you are a serious foodie… and you have serious will power. I’ve been eating constantly as I write this blog! If none of the previous ideas inspire you, then maybe you’re the kind of person who likes to think, and cook, outside the box. Our team found these recipes particularly interesting.

Anything, and I mean anything, can be made into a pizza, and Thanksgiving leftovers are no exception. There are few recipes for this on the internet but this one is pretty easy and looks really good.

Recipe: Gobbler Pizza

Prefer to head south of the border? Here’s a quick way to make empanadas out of your leftovers.  They’re great as snacks during all those football games you’ll be watching.

Recipe: Thanksgiving Empanadas

Finally, we bring Thanksgiving to Asia. If you don't have to Google sriracha and kabocha then these two recipes might be for you. Best served in Chinese restaurant style take-out boxes with chopsticks. 

Recipe: Turkey Fried Rice with Sriracha and Kabocha

Recipe: Thanksgiving Egg Rolls with Sweet and Sour Cranberry Sauce 

So, there you have it – Black Duck’s top 14 Thanksgiving leftover ideas. Let us know how you like them or tell us about your favorites by dropping us a line at!

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