Home Cooking: Thanksgiving Leftovers

With Thanksgiving arriving a week from today, I thought it was time to re-up this post from last year (even though we won’t be eating turkey this year):

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! 

14 thoughts on “Home Cooking: Thanksgiving Leftovers

      1. We don’t eat meat either so none of these delicious recipe for me either this year. They are all a happy memory for me though. The Waldorf Salad is delicious even without the turkey, and I can still make vegetarian/vegan stuffing, which was always my favorite leftover.

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  1. I do miss turkey this time of year. My favorite was Souplantation turkey vegetable soup. They also had stuffing so I’d fill a bowl with it, then pour the soup over the top. Delicious!!

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    1. I am going to miss turkey this year as well, although the vegetarian casserole we’re going to have will be good. None of the girls came to like turkey other than in the turkey divan casserole. Stuffing is still my favorite part of the meal!

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  2. I was really considering getting something other than turkey for Thanksgiving because I couldn’t find a small turkey. But then I saw this post and realized I’d miss having turkey on Thanksgiving AND all of the leftovers they’d bring. So I called around and found a 12# turkey. Bring on the leftovers!!

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    1. One of the downsides to not eating meat is no turkey, and no leftovers. Boo hoo! I’ve seen some interesting vegan products that mimic turkey, but there’s nothing like that here on the island, so we’ll go with our vegetarian casserole and still have a great day.

      So great you were able to find a small turkey! 12 pounds would be perfect for us too.

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