For many people, the only meals better than Thanksgiving dinner are the subsequent leftover-inspired lunches and dinners (and, heck, sometimes breakfasts). From Ross’ “moist maker” on “Friends,” to internet-famous “stuffing waffles,” there are some pretty creative ideas out there for making the most of days-old turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and more.
That said, it isn’t always easy to use all those Thanksgiving leftovers in ways that are tasty, energizing and satisfying. To make sure you don’t waste any food this year, we’ve rounded up nearly a dozen creative ways to use Thanksgiving leftovers.
TURKEY, STUFFING AND MASHED POTATO “GRAVY BALLS”
Julie Andrews, RD, elevates meatballs by rolling cooked, chopped turkey with stuffing and mashed potatoes, adding gravy to hold everything together and then coating the balls in breadcrumbs for some extra crunch before baking them. Make a batch the day after Thanksgiving, then eat them atop salads or grain bowls.
Leftovers used: Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy
SWEET POTATO MUFFINS
No matter what kind of mashed sweet potatoes you serve on Thanksgiving, you can use them in these muffins. They make for a satisfying breakfast with a side of scrambled eggs or a schmear of cream cheese, but also work as an easy snack.
Leftovers used: Sweet potato casserole
30-MINUTE TURKEY CHILI
Chili is a cold-weather staple, and it usually takes at least an hour on the stove. By using cooked leftover turkey as a shortcut, Pullman cuts that cook time down to about 30 minutes, without sacrificing protein or flavor. Bonus: You can also add any canned pumpkin you have. Or try this kid-friendly version that features crunchy tortilla chips and creamy avocado.
Leftovers used: Turkey, canned pumpkin
DIY INDIVIDUAL TURKEY POT PIES
Chicken pot pie is a classic frozen meal, but turkey pot pie from scratch is definitely tastier. Pullman pairs cooked leftover turkey with lots of veggies (you can use leftover green beans, for example).
Leftovers used: Turkey, green beans
MAKE TURKEY ENCHILADAS
Put a Mexican-inspired spin on Thanksgiving leftovers with enchiladas. Try adding turkey to this sweet potato and black bean enchilada recipe. Go the extra mile and try topping it with cranberry sauce.
Leftovers used: Turkey, cranberry sauce
JAZZ UP TURKEY AND POTATOES WITH PESTO
No doubt about it, even Thanksgiving flavors get old after a few days. By adding pesto to cooked turkey and roasted (or mashed) potatoes, you can add a whole new taste profile to your leftovers. Try making turkey pesto pasta or a grain bowl.
Leftovers used: Turkey, mashed potatoes
LEFTOVERS BREAKFAST FRITTATA
Frittatas are the ultimate kitchen sink meal, and that holds true for any Thanksgiving food that might be left in your fridge. Kara Lydon, RD, cooks Brussels sprouts and butternut squash into hers, but cooked sweet potatoes and turkey would also taste great.
Leftovers used: Turkey, sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, butternut squash
TURKEY COBB SALAD
When in doubt, make a salad. Use turkey instead of chicken for this cobb salad and customize it with leftover staples like cranberries, pecans and sweet potatoes. Brussels sprouts or stuffing “croutons” would work, too.
Leftovers used: Turkey, salad greens, Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes
TURKEY SOUP, THICKENED WITH MASHED POTATOES
It’s common to cook chunks of potato in soup, but adding mashed potatoes to broth as a thickener is a genius hack. Give it a try in this turkey soup.
Leftovers used: Turkey, mashed potatoes
CRANBERRY BREAKFAST BREAD
Face it, cranberry sauce doesn’t have a lot of uses outside of Thanksgiving dinner. Instead of letting the leftovers sit in your fridge for weeks before throwing them away, bake a cup into banana bread.
Leftovers used: Cranberry sauce
BRUSSELS SPROUT PASTA
Pasta is the ultimate easy weeknight dinner, and a handful (or two) of veggies turn it into a nutritious meal. Follow the lead of Alexandra Caspero, RD, and add Brussels sprouts to lightly buttered pasta or zoodles.
Leftovers used: Brussels sprouts
Originally published November 2019, updated November 2022
Ready to take the next step? Unlock MyFitnessPal Premium to access custom goal settings, quick-log recipes, and guided plans from a registered dietitian. Premium users are 65% more likely to reach their weight loss goals!