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12 Delicious Ideas for Thanksgiving Leftovers

When the annual feast is over, the guests have gone, and the warmth and compliments have been savored. What’s next? Leftovers! They’re almost as good as the celebration itself, with the added benefit that you can enjoy them at a leisurely pace, with no expectations−you’re now free to go wildly untraditional! We’ve got a cornucopia of ways to enjoy your delicious bounty. But first, whet your appetite with this video of our ultimate Thanksgiving Leftover Sandwichthen read on for more creative ideas and some foolproof  recipes.


It’s the queen of the leftovers, and amazingly versatile. Storing it properly will keep it moist and delicious: Remove all the meat from the carcass the night of Thanksgiving, then portion it out in either airtight containers of  freezer-safe bags; freeze what you won’t use within a couple of days to give you a stash for future recipes.

  • Take turkey to lunch in sandwiches and wraps, over salads, and in a host of comforting soups. 
  • The carcass and bones make a glorious stock, so even if you don’t have time right away you can freeze them and simmer them later. Use turkey bones as a substitute for chicken bones in an easy recipe like Golden Chicken Broth. Enjoy a mug of this soothing elixir on its own (as a great way to try out the trend of sipping bone broth), or make it the base for a healthy, soulful soup like Turkey Noodle Soup.

Turkey Noodle Soup

Turkey Noodle Soup Recipe


Some think the stuffing is tastier than the bird itself; you can agree or disagree on that, but there’s no doubt that it’s a prized leftover.

  • It’s fabulous served as an accompaniment to sunny-side up eggs, or used as base for a frittata. Savory Stuffing Cakes is a stellar three-ingredient recipe, or try these indulgent Breakfast Stacks (if your stuffing already has sausage in it you can omit the sausage patty).

turkey nachos cranberry sauce

Turkey Nachos with Cranberry Salsa Recipe

Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry sauce’s sweet-and-sour flavor makes it perfect for casual eats.

  • Perhaps the simplest is as a counterpoint to sharp Cheddar in a grilled cheese sandwich or on a cheese plate.
  • Or check out Turkey Nachos with Cranberry Salsa a creative incarnation.

Mashed Potatoes

Leftover mash can be repurposed deliciously for just about any meal.

  • Add extra milk or butter when reheating mashed potatoes to keep them creamy.
  • Top them with poached eggs for a comfort-food breakfast.
  • Stir them into broth for a base for simple creamy soups, or use them to top shepherd’s pie.
  • Mixed with an egg and chopped veggies, they make great pan-fried patties, as in this recipe for Crispy Mashed Potato and Scallion Cakes.

pumpkin dutch pancake

Pumpkin Dutch Baby Pancake


Hungry for more? Learn about 19 delicious ways to enjoy leftover turkey, how to make new exciting dishes with your leftovers, and how to love your leftovers. For even more holiday inspiration, visit the Whole Foods Market holiday headquarters for recipes, menus and gift ideas and crafts.

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Lauralee Hensley says …

Like your idea of stuffins. I will freeze left over turkey for casserole dishes later in the year. Like a layered casserole dish of Thousand Island Dressing, brown rice, drained sauerkraut, turkey, another layer of thousand island dressing, then swiss cheese.

Dixie Trelite says …

These are simple, innovative uses for traditional left over items. I've shied away from cranberry sauce for years because everyone expects to see on a holiday table but only a few seem to partake. This year I'll serve the glazed chicken wings the day after while everyone watches the big games! Thanks Sharon!!!

patti says …

Leftover cranberry sauce can be used to make turnovers / pastries. Mix cranberry sauce with cream cheese and ricotta plus some sugar. Use refrigerated pie crust, rolls (the kind in a can--roll flat first), or similar, spread cranberry-cheese mixture on half and fold the dough over. Cut slits in top and bake until golden. You can make a big one (strudel) or several smaller ones. Non Appetit had the recipe several years ago. Always a big hit.

Rona Baizer says …

Yum! My kids are going to love the Stuffins! And the cranberry glazed chicken wings are a great idea! I think I'll make mine a little spicy. And love the cranberry mustard idea. It'll be perfect on a sandwich with my smoked turkey. All great ideas. Thanks for sharing!

Linda Benton says …

I like to give our after -Thanksgiving turkey sandwiches a special twist. Using the freshest whole grained & nutty bread, I spread one slice of bread with low fat cream cheese, top it with a few thin slices of crisp apple, smear it with leftover whole berry cranberry sauce, add a piece of red leaf lettuce and the other slice of bread and Viola!-- A savory/sweet sandwich loaded with goodness.

Gwen says …

We skip the canned cranberry sauce in favor of fresh cranberry-orange relish. It's so addictively good, and easy with a food processor. Just follow the instructions on a bag of cranberries, and make it a day or two ahead to save your sanity and let it mellow. I've always added a grated apple to the cranberries and orange. It smooths out the flavor and stretches the portions too. For my sons, it's not Thanksgiving without cranberry-orange relish. As for turkey leftovers, Turkey Tetrazzini is de rigeur at our house. The Joy of Cooking's recipe gets raves every time. It's a little rich, so I serve tossed salad alongside and a fresh fruit salad with apples, pears, oranges and a few raspberries for dessert. I feel healthier already. Linda, I'll have to try your sandwiches -- they sound great!

Jodi Fischer says …

left over pumpkin puree? i like to mix 8oz with 1/2 gallon of softened ice cream and pour into a graham cracker crust (if you make your own just make sure to cook or chill the crust before pouring) can add cinnamon and ground ginger, brown sugar if you feel it needs it, can buy the crust and make it even easier). result -a pumpkin ice cream pie. it's lighter than pumpkin pie or cheese cake and so delish.

Mary says …

These look good.