Leftover Thanksgiving turkey is a great ingredient to cook with. Turkey goes with so many different fall and winter dishes, so it’s fun and easy to use up all that bird in your fridge with some leftover recipes.
Take Your Thanksgiving Turkey Leftovers to the Next Level
Thanksgiving is the gift that keeps on giving. You start with an incredible meal full of juicy meat, rich gravy, and a million side dishes. And then the next day you find your fridge still full of all those things!
Sometimes the leftovers can be daunting, and that’s especially true with the turkey. If you find yourself with a few pounds of turkey still in your fridge after Thanksgiving, then you’ll be in search of some ways to use up the moist star of the holiday meal. Thankfully there’s no shortage of exciting meals to make with leftover Thanksgiving turkey.
Cooking with leftover holiday turkey is one of my favorite traditions each year. I get a lot of satisfaction from cooking a whole bird, and then finding a bunch of different ways to use up the meat. It’s pretty cool that a few hours of roasting a turkey can get you celebratory meal on Thursday night, a moist sandwich on Friday, and comforting soup on Saturday. How fun is that?
Now let’s get to using up that leftover turkey.
Does It Matter How the Turkey Was Prepared?
We all know that deep fried turkeys have become the latest food trend. And everybody loves a good barbecued turkey. But does your method of cooking the Thanksgiving turkey matter when using leftovers?
For the most part, no. As long as the turkey is cooked, you can use it for any of these recipes. Roasted, fried, or barbecued, turkey is always delicious, and works in all of these dishes. That said, a barbecued turkey obviously has a more smoky flavor than other preparations, so take that into account when making any of these recipes.
Can You Use Chicken Instead of Turkey?
Yes! If you roasted a chicken instead of a turkey for Thanksgiving, or if you just have some leftover chicken in your fridge, you can absolutely use it. Chicken and turkey are interchangeable in all of these recipes (though don’t go to Kentucky and tell anyone that you made a chicken hot brown!). I would not, however, use leftover goose meat for these recipes.
How to Store Leftover Turkey in the Fridge
You can store leftover Thanksgiving turkey in the fridge for up to 4 days. There are two different ways for storing leftover turkey. If you have the fridge space, you can simply cover the turkey in plastic wrap, and place it in the fridge like that. Just make sure you thoroughly cover the bird, so that no air can get in.
If you have less space in your fridge, you can break down the turkey, and get all the meat off the bones. Then store the meat in an airtight container or bag in the fridge.
How to Store Leftover Turkey in the Freezer
You can also store leftover Thanksgiving turkey in the freezer for up to 3 months, in an airtight plastic bag. Make sure you remove as much air as possible from the bag before sealing it, to prevent freezer burn. Thaw the turkey overnight in the fridge before using.
10 Recipes for Leftover Thanksgiving Turkey
We're all familiar with the feeling of waking up the day after Thanksgiving and realizing our fridge is full of leftover turkey. Here are 10 of my favorite recipes for using up that extra holiday meat!
The classic choice. There’s something so nostalgic about using your leftover turkey for a cozy and comforting soup. If you’re going to make this dish, make sure you save the turkey carcass. There’s a lot of flavor in those bones!
This dish is fun because it’s probably unlike anything that was on your Thanksgiving table. It’s turkey, bacon, and cream cheese, stuffed inside wonton wrappers, and fried to golden perfection. And did I mention the whiskey glaze?
Shepherd’s pie is perfect if you have more than just turkey that you’re trying to get out of the fridge. This recipe also uses mashed potatoes and gravy, so you can really make a dent in the leftovers filling up your fridge.
Move over, chicken noodle soup. There’s a new sheriff in town! The richness of turkey meat goes wonderfully in a simple noodle soup. There’s really nothing more comforting than both the smell and taste of this dish.
Split pea soup probably isn’t as familiar of a soup option as turkey noodle, but it’s still a great way to use up extra turkey. This is a slow cooker recipe that develops rich, complex flavors from stewing all day.
There’s something classic about having a turkey sandwich the day after Thanksgiving. It just doesn’t feel right to let the holiday come and go without slapping some turkey on a slice of bread. This hot sandwich is a great way to use up leftovers, as it also has gravy and stuffing in it.
This is a decadent recipe, and a fun spin on turkey leftovers. It’s a pasta casserole with a very rich cream sauce, which goes perfectly with Thanksgiving turkey. If you need more rich carbs after the holiday, well … I don’t blame you. And this should scratch the itch.
Another pasta casserole with a creamy sauce, turkey tetrazzini has all kinds of Italian seasonings. But my favorite part? The combination of mozzarella and parmesan cheese. Those cheeses, mixed with turkey and spaghetti, are an unbeatable combination.
A staple of Kentucky cuisine, the Hot Brown is about as decadent as it comes. It’s an open faced turkey sandwich with tomato, bacon, and an incredibly rich, cheesy Mornay sauce. This sandwich has everything!
Bolognese is traditionally made with red meat, but using turkey is a nice way to make it lighter and healthier. Leftover turkey goes wonderfully with the tomato-based sauce, making for a hearty but healthy pasta dish.