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Statewide Food 0

Reimagining Thanksgiving Leftovers


OK, this is probably full-on blasphemy to many, but my favorite meal of the year is not Thanksgiving dinner. There, I said it! But I am a fan of repurposing the leftovers into some of my favorite meals and snacks. So, let’s talk about repurposing Thanksgiving dinner leftovers into other meals.

During back-to-school time, I shared some of my best tips for meal planning, which also work when it comes to planning for Thanksgiving dinner. I get to host my family for my favorite holiday, and while the main meal isn’t my favorite, it is for most of my guests, so creating a spread they love is important to me. But I sure pack all the meals for the rest of the weekend with foods I love and associate with the holiday.

Sandwich Ideas with Thanksgiving Leftovers

The quickest way we always use up leftovers is sandwiches. One of our main traditions is to see what kind of cheese and bread combination we can develop with the flavors of stuffing, turkey, cranberry sauce and green bean casserole, all stuffed between jalapeno sourdough bread from a local bakery. Toasting sandwich bread works as well, or smashing it all together in a panini press makes it feel “fancy.”

  • “Flag on the play” sandwich – piled high with all the leftovers. We usually watch football with our dinner and throw a flag for whoever has the craziest sandwich configuration.
  • Crescent wraps or turkey ring – Taco ring inside crescent rolls is one of our favorite meals from growing up. But you can do the same thing with turkey day leftovers. Lay out the crescent rolls with the long end in the middle, making a big circle like a wreath. Pile up the leftovers in the middle, fold over the points and tuck them under. Bake the ring and serve it with gravy or cranberry sauce on the side. You can also make these as individual pieces, one crescent roll at a time.
  • Open-face hot browns – this diner classic is easy to do with turkey, a slice of toast or a roll, and stuffing or mashed potatoes. Remember the big cheese slice on top before you place it under the broiler.
  • Turkey clubs or club salads with leftover breakfast bacon, adding those vegetables might do everyone some good!
  • Hammie Sammies – This is often a leftover Christmas meal for our family because my mom loves ham at the holidays. But we will sub out turkey meat with pepper jack or Swiss on sweet dinner rolls.
  • Turkey Melts – keep a little cranberry sauce on the side for a Turkey Monte Cristo.

Soup Spectacular Ideas with Thanksgiving Leftovers

A great sandwich is never complete without soup. Save the bones and carcass of your turkey once you carve it and place it in a crockpot. Let it simmer all night, and you have the best broth for soups the following week or through the winter, and you are sure to get all those extra bits of meat. Many soup recipes you cook with chicken can easily sub out turkey meat.

TIP: Make sure you strain your broth and check for any bones in the pieces of meat you gather before making your soup.

Give Breakfast the Bird with Thanksgiving Leftovers

One thing is sure: no matter how much they eat Thursday, they will wake up hungry. TIP: Don’t be afraid to add ingredients to your gravy or cranberry sauce. Pesto, barbecue sauce, crème fraiche, and Greek yogurt make easy add-ins to stretch those sauces and make them new. 

  • Breakfast Benedicts – make a stuffing cake patty and sear on each side or use a square of cornbread. Top with a turkey slice and a fried or poached egg. Sprinkle with a bit of everything bagel seasoning or a sliced avocado. Add a little hollandaise or cranberry sauce to round it out.
  • Next Day Breakfast – make a potato patty or breakfast hash, add spinach, onions and peppers, then top it with a poached egg.
  • Turkey and stuffing quiche
  • Stuffing waffles

Creamy Casserole Exchange with Thanksgiving Leftovers

Turkey is an easy substitute for chicken in any of your regular family recipes. TIP: As you put away your leftovers from Thanksgiving, go ahead and chop up your turkey in bite-sized pieces and freeze 2-4 cups of meat together in a zipper bag, with casseroles in mind. This is a typical amount you would use in any of the recipes below.

Leftover Ideas with Leftovers

If your family wants alternative ideas for Black Friday, check out this list.

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Keisha (Pittman) McKinney lives in Northwest Arkansas with her chicken man and break-dancing son. Keisha is passionate about connecting people and building community, seeking solutions to the everyday big and small things, and encouraging others through the mundane, hard, and typical that life often brings. She put her communications background to work as a former Non-profit Executive Director, college recruiter and fundraiser, small business trainer, and Digital Media Director at a large church in Northwest Arkansas. Now, she is using those experiences through McKinney Media Solutions and her blog @bigpittstop, which includes daily adventures, cooking escapades, #bigsisterchats, the social justice cases on her heart, and all that she is learning as a #boymom! Keisha loves to feed birds, read the stack on her nightstand, do dollar store crafts, cook recipes from her Pinterest boards, and chase everyday adventures on her Arkansas bucket list.

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