Turkey leftovers are one of my absolute favorite things about Thanksgiving. I love them so much that I usually make an extra turkey just so I have enough to make all of my favorite leftover recipes.
Of course, the aroma and taste of a holiday tradition are what make it so special. But I also love that I can throw together easy dinners for at least a week after the holiday. With a flexible protein that is already prepped and cooked, just waiting to be transformed into a meal, dinner is simple and fast.
So that you can make the most of your holiday leftovers, here are 10 easy dishes to make with turkey.
Turkey Broth This is an absolute must-do every year at our house. When everything from the big feast is all cleaned up and put away except the turkey, it’s time to make the richest, most delicious broth you have ever tasted. Here’s how I do it: Carve as much meat as possible from the bird and place the carcass into a large stockpot. Barely cover with cold water. Optionally, add a quartered onion along with a couple of cleaned carrots and celery stalks. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and go take your feast-induced nap. OK, maybe not really, but do let it boil gently for 1 ½ to 2 hours. Strain broth. Pick meat from bones and reserve to use in soup. You could freeze it, but don’t bother. You’re going to want to use it right away in the soup I’m about to tell you about.
Turkey Rice Soup Dice two cups onion, two cups carrot, two cups celery. Heat 2 TBS oil over medium-high heat in a large pot and sauté the vegetables until they begin to soften. Add 2 quarts of turkey broth. Bring to a boil. Add about 1/2 cup uncooked wild rice. Return to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally for 40 minutes. Then, add about ½ cup white rice and cook another 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. I usually use a little salt and a LOT of pepper, but much depends on how you prepared your turkey to being with. Add in about 2 cups of reserved turkey meat. Try not to die from the ridiculous deliciousness.
Turkey Gumbo Gumbo is another excellent use of homemade turkey broth. It totally transforms your turkey into something decidedly un-Thanksgiving-y. Make a roux by combining ½ cup vegetable oil and ½ cup flour in a large stockpot; stir over medium heat for 20-30 minutes, until it looks like chocolate. Add in diced vegetables—a large onion, two green pepper, two stalks of celery, and a half pound of diced smoked sausage. Cook 10 minutes until vegetables soften. Add 10 cups of broth, ½ tsp. salt, ½ tsp. cayenne (more or less to taste), and a bay leaf. Simmer 1 hour. Add 2 cups shredded leftover turkey, 1 lb. sliced smoked sausage, and heat through. Serve over cooked white rice.
Turkey Tetrazzini This is one of those recipes that you truly can use what you have. No spaghetti? Use egg noodles. No broccoli? Use peas. No cream cheese? Use a little milk and shredded cheese. Don’t like mushrooms? Leave them out. Want some zing? Add Rotel. Here is my basic recipe, but use your pantry and personal tastes to make it your own. Melt ½ stick butter and sauté 1 lb. mushrooms. Sprinkle with ½ cup flour, ½ tsp. salt, and ½ tsp. pepper and stir until well combined and golden. Add 4 cups of broth and ½ block of cream cheese and continue to cook until thickened. Add 3 cups leftover turkey and 2 cups broccoli. Add 1 lb. cooked pasta and 1/4 c. parmesan cheese. Stir to combine, and pour into baking dish. Top with 1 cup panko crumbs and bake 30 minutes at 350.
Turkey Gyros Make a simple tzatziki sauce with 1 cup plain Greek yogurt, ½ cup sour cream or mayo, one diced cucumber, a squeeze or two of lemon juice, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Place leftover turkey and sauce onto warm pita bread. Top with your choice of lettuce, tomato, diced red onion, and feta cheese.
Turkey, Brie, Cranberry Grilled Cheese You know how to make grilled cheese so just replace your usual cheese with some creamy, rich brie, spread on a little leftover cranberry sauce, and layer in some sliced turkey. Works well as a quesadilla, too. Just replace the bread with tortillas.
Turkey Club Wrap Place turkey, bacon (either leftover—HA! Or from a package of pre-cooked bacon), your choice of veggies like lettuce, tomato, or avocado, and a drizzle of ranch dressing inside a large tortilla and roll it up. Cheese optional considering all the flavor happening in there already.
Cheesy Turkey Pockets Combine 4 oz. softened cream cheese, 1 TBS softened butter, 1 TBS diced onion or sliced green onion, 2 TBS milk, salt, pepper, and 2 cups leftover turkey. Unroll crescent squares. Pinch two together to form a rectangle. Place ¼ of the filling on each rectangle, and close dough around filling, pinching together seams to form a pocket. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes.
Shepherd’s Pie Have some leftover mashed potatoes, vegetables, and gravy too? Mix leftover turkey (2-3 cups) with the same amount of vegetables—green beans, peas, corn, broccoli. Frozen vegetables work great if you don’t have enough leftovers. Add a couple spoonfuls of gravy, just enough to bring everything together, and sprinkle in a little salt, pepper, and thyme. Pour into baking dish. Cover with leftover mashed potatoes, spreading all the way to the edge like a crust. Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes until golden brown and heated through.
Thanksgiving Pizza This pizza may sound strange, but it is SO delicious. The mix of flavors is just right. Combine ¾ cup cranberry sauce with ¼ cup barbeque sauce. Use a pound of store-bought or homemade pizza dough to make two crusts. Spread half the sauce on each crust. Top each with ½ cup turkey ¾ cup Monterey jack cheese, and 2 TBS diced red onion. Bake at 450 for 10-12 minutes until crust is golden and crispy. Other optional toppings: slivered almonds (yes, really), cilantro (after baking), banana peppers, a sprinkle of blue cheese, crumbled bacon.