Home Cooking: Thanksgiving Leftovers

photo credit: The Washington Post

I’ve always thought that one of the best things about Thanksgiving was the leftovers, and in the past I always made sure we roasted a turkey big enough to give us several days of meals following the holiday. Even if we ate at someone else’s home, or went out to a restaurant, I would still either roast a small turkey or buy some roasted turkey breast, and make the sides so we could enjoy “leftovers” for a few days following Thanksgiving.

My favorite leftover dish has always been a nice, big hot turkey sandwich, very easy to prepare using leftovers, and 100% comfort food. Ron Paul’s restaurant in Portland always had a hot turkey sandwich on the menu, and it was what I always ordered whenever we dined there, no matter the occasion. Hot turkey sandwiches were always our dinner the day after Thanksgiving, usually followed in order by turkey divan casserole (my version was adapted from a much fancier recipe), turkey Waldorf salad, a turkey pot pie, and we always ended our turkey binge with turkey noodle (or rice) soup, made with a rich broth and filled with lots of meat and tasty vegetables. Our daughters especially love the turkey divan casserole, and it’s still requested any time we get together, no matter what time of year. The Waldorf salad is also good no matter the season, and a complete meal when served with a good crusty bread, like fresh sourdough or French bread. The pot pie is based on a recipe I saw in a magazine one year and although I keep my version pretty basic, there are loads of ways to adapt it.

Below are the recipes for our four favorite ways to use up Thanksgiving leftovers. None of them is complicated or fancy, but all are very, very good:

photo credit: Pinterest

Hot Turkey Sandwiches (for four)

  • 4 big, thick slices of good sourdough or French bread
  • 4 thick slices of turkey breast, enough to cover each slice of bread
  • Leftover stuffing
  • Leftover mashed potatoes
  • Leftover turkey gravy
  • Leftover cranberry sauce

Lightly toast bread slices and place one slice on each plate. Top with warm leftover stuffing and turkey slices. Reheat mashed potatoes and place a large scoop on each plate, then top everything generously with hot turkey gravy. Serve with leftover cranberry sauce.

photo credit: bettycrocker.com

Laura’s Turkey Divan Casserole

  • 1 16-oz bag frozen broccoli florets
  • 2 cups turkey, either cut into 1-inch cubes or shredded
  • 2 10.5-oz cans cream of chicken soup
  • milk
  • 1-2 TBSP curry powder
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 16-oz bag eggs noodles
  • 2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese, divided

Preheat oven to 350°. Cook broccoli florets according to package directions; drain well. Cook egg noodles according to package directions; drain and set aside. In a large bowl mix together the cream of chicken soup, a small amount of milk (enough to create a thick but creamy sauce), at least 1 TBSP of curry powder (more if you want), and salt & pepper to taste. Add cubed or shredded turkey and 1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese to the sauce and mix well. Add the cooked broccoli florets and noodles to the turkey mixture and combine well. Pour into a 9″ x 13″ baking dish and top with remaining 1 cup of cheddar cheese. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the casserole is bubbling and the cheese is melted and browned on top. 

photo credit: simplyrecipes.com

Easy Leftover Turkey Pot Pie

  • Crust for 2-crust pie (premade crusts are OK)
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded or diced turkey
  • 3/4 cup frozen peas
  • 3/4 cup carrots cut into 1″ pieces
  • 3/4 cup potato, cut into 1″ pieces
  • 1/2 cup diced onion (optional)
  • 1/2 cup mushrooms (optional)
  • 2 cups leftover turkey gravy
  • salt & pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400°. Prepare crusts for a double-crust pie. Line the bottom of a 9″ pie plate with one crust. Steam together the peas, carrots, and potatoes until tender but not soft or mushy (or use already cooked leftover vegetables instead). Combine the vegetables and turkey in the pie plate up to the top edge, then pour turkey gravy over everything (you may not need all the gravy). Cover the pie with the top crust, crimp the edges to seal, and make five small cuts in the top to vent. Bake at 400° for 30-35 minutes, or until the crust is golden and the pie is bubbling. Let cool for at least 10 minutes before serving. Serve with cranberry sauce, if desired.

photo credit: simplyrecipes.com

Turkey Waldorf Salad

  • 1 large apple, washed, cored, and cut into 2″ pieces
  • 2 ribs of celery, cut into 2″ pieces
  • 3/4 cup red or green grapes
  • 1 cup turkey, cut into 2″ cubes
  • 1/2 cup walnut halves or large pieces
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries (optional)
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup non-fat plain yogurt
  • 1 TBSP curry powder

In a large mixing bowl, combine apples, celery, turkey, and walnuts (and dried cranberries, if desired). In a separate bowl mix together mayonnaise, yogurt, and curry powder until well blended. Pour over salad and combine all. Serve chilled with some good crusty bread.

Other great leftover turkey recipes are Kentucky Hot Brown sandwiches (turkey and bacon on toasted bread with a big tomato slice on top, then covered with either a Mornay sauce or cheesy rarebit sauce); Goodbye Turkey casserole (a creamy turkey and rice casserole), and of course, a big pot of turkey noodle or turkey rice soup! 

13 thoughts on “Home Cooking: Thanksgiving Leftovers

  1. Easy turkey pot pie.
    1 pkg mixed vegetable
    Cream of Chicken or Cream of Mushroom Soup
    1 can of biscuits
    Turkey.
    Mix vegetables, soup and turkey. Season to taste and heat. Once mixture is hot, top with biscuits and bale in oven until brown. Serve immediately.

    Mama also used to cut the turkey up, cover with barbecue sauce and heat, then serve over toasted bread or on a roll.

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    1. Well, your recipe is easier than mine! Mine uses up extra gravy though (if you have it). Turkey with barbecue sauce sounds delicious too – will file this away for future reference!

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  2. Waldorf salad is a favorite of mine too. I LOVE Thanksgiving food, I find it so easy to cook it. Mostly because I don’t have to think too much about the menu. Everyone knows the menu. All sides ( except mashed potatoes) cook in a 375 F oven, so they all go inside while the turkey rests before carving. And we LOVE leftovers. Sandwiches and salads are my favorites, although that divan casserole looks like it’s worth to try.
    Thank you for the recipes!

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    1. I first had this salad at a restaurant, no where near Thanksgiving and loved it, so when I had my own leftovers I recreated it and it has become a favorite although a couple of the girls did not like the walnuts.

      I agree about the Thanksgiving menu – there are so many new recipes and variations put out every year, and yet my family always insisted on “the classics” so that’s what we stuck with.

      The divan casserole is very, very good – you can adjust the curry powder to taste as well (curry and turkey go very well together for some reason). Cranberry sauce is also a good side for the casserole if there are still leftovers.

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  3. All sound good. And if you overcook the turkey like I always do, it’s OK because they all have sauce, gravy, or dressing! Oh, and there are two separate bags of noodles listed for the casserole.

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    1. Thanks for catching the error – I don’t care how many times I proofread, there are still always mistakes. This was a big one, too.

      There are so many good ways to use turkey leftovers yet maintain all the good flavors and memories of the Thanksgiving meal. They’re in a class by themselves, and I’m sure there are other great recipes out there as well – I just haven’t found them yet.

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  4. My husband knows to expect hot sandwiches not only the day after we have turkey, but also after roasted chicken and roast beef! Such an easy meal.

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    1. Oh my, do I love a hot roast beef sandwich too. Especially a French dip – it shares the top spot with a reuben as my favorite sandwich.

      Have you ever tried a Hot Brown sandwich? I’ve had them in a restaurant, but never made them at home, but the combination of turkey, bacon, and a tomato on a toasted slice of good bread with either a Mornay or cheese sauce over the whole things sounds like something that wouldn’t be too hard to do.

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  5. These look great, and we’re still wading through the leftovers. Some good ideas! Truth be told, some of the turkey will probably end up in the freezer. But the pies are gone. Ha!

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    1. I am missing the turkey this year. I enjoy ham, but it’s just not the same. Oh well. Maybe we’ll do turkey at or near Christmas. Best leftover idea I read this year was to blend a slice of pumpkin pie with ice cream for a milkshake – I’d sacrifice a piece of pie for that!

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