Thanksgiving Leftovers Game Plan

The best part of Thanksgiving are the leftovers.

November 23, 2018
By: Katie Morton

Thanksgiving is all about indulgence and abundance, but an expansive Thanksgiving menu may also mean a fridge full of leftovers when the evening is over. Rather than simply reheat everything and experience dinner déjà vu for the next three days, why not get creative in the kitchen? The following recipes make use of your leftover turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce in unique, delicious dishes that will help you empty your fridge in no time flat.

1. Classic Thanksgiving Leftovers Sandwich

You’re going to need to fuel your tank after your early morning Black Friday shopping spree, and this turkey and cranberry sauce sandwich is ready to save the day. This tasty little treat is a pure smorgasbord of Thanksgiving goodness all sandwiched between two slices of warm, buttery bread. You can customize your sandwich with whatever ingredients your heart desires. If you want to recreate the recipe as pictured, melt Raclette cheese over roasted turkey, cranberry sauce, and a few sprigs of lettuce or spinach. The flavor explosion that follows is sure to have you looking like a real-life replica of the heart eyes emoji.

2. Cranberry Sauce Cornbread Muffins

These sweet, dense corn muffins are infused with tart cranberry sauce for a flavor combination that pairs perfectly. You can serve your muffins as a side dish during Saturday brunch or as a cozy afternoon snack that compliments your steamy mug of tea.


  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup yellow corn meal
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk or whole milk
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1/3 cup plus 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup cranberry sauce, drained if very thin


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two muffin trays with baking cups or lightly spray with baking spray. You can substitute an 8-inch square baking pan if you prefer.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, corn meal, baking powder, and salt.
  3. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, eggs, oil, and butter.
  4. Add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture, then mix to combine.
  5. Add the drained cranberry sauce and fold in. Gauge the ratio of cranberry sauce depending on the consistency (start with 1/2 cup, then addm ore if needed) and tang of your cranberry sauce (add more/less sugar depending).
  6. Fill the muffin trays about 2/3 full (a standard sized ice cream scoop makes this easy). Bake for about 18-20 minutes, or about 30 minutes if using an 8-inch square baking pan, until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
  7. Cool for 3 minutes in the muffin tray or pan before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

3. Turkey Tostadas with Pomegranate Guacamole

Ready to spice things up? These tostadas and guac add an unexpectedly spicy kick to your traditional turkey leftovers. Pomegranate is an unusual addition that works well alongside the Serrano chili.


For pomegranate guacamole:

  • 4 avocados
  • 1 Serrano chili, minced
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
  • 1 small tomato, diced (yields about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

For the turkey tostadas:

  • 2 cups leftover turkey, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1 cup salsa
  • 2 cups refried black beans
  • 4 tostada shells
  • 1/4 cup queso fresco


For the pomegranate guacamole:

Mash the avocados in a large bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Put in the refrigerator and chill.

For the turkey tostadas:

Warm a large skillet over medium heat. Add the turkey and salsa and sauté 5-7 minutes.

Pour the refried black beans into a small saucepan over medium-low heat and warm through, 3-5 minutes.

Spread the black beans on the tostada shells, and top with the turkey-salsa mixture, the pomegranate guacamole, and a sprinkling of crumbled queso fresco.

Tip: sprinkle a few fresh herbs on top of reheated leftovers to awaken the flavors in the dish.

4. Crockpot Turkey and Rice Soup

Chicken soup with rice is one of the ultimate winter comfort foods, so why not substitute your leftover turkey, throw in some egg noodles, and simmer up a pot of soup that’s guaranteed to fill your home with warmth and delicious, savory smells? This dish requires minimal prep work, which is perfect for those who are still entertaining company or braving the crowds at the mall on Black Friday.


  • 4 cups water
  • 4 cups turkey/chicken broth
  • 1 chicken bouillon cube
  • 3 cups cooked turkey leftovers, shredded
  • 1/2 cup grated carrots
  • 1 tablespoon minced dried onions
  • 1 cup cooked white rice
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 bag egg noodles, 6 ounces


  • Combine turkey, broth, water, bouillon cube, carrots, salt, pepper, garlic, and onions in crock pot. Cook on high 4 hours, stirring occasionally.
  • After ingredients have cooked about 4 hours, toss in egg noodles, cover, and continue to cook.
  • Prepare rice if needed (can use a rice cooker for this step, which cooks rice in about 40 minutes – just enough time to soften the egg noodles you just added to the soup).
  • Once rice is done, add into soup and stir. Your soup is now ready to serve.

5. Turkey Pot Pie Filling

Not only are pot pies easy to prepare, they are also popular among even the pickiest eaters in the family. Mix up a batch of pie filling and use it to prep a quick, warm, hearty meal that your family will love.


  • 2 cups green beans
  • 2/3 cup butter
  • 2/3 cup stuffing
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 3/4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 1/3 cups milk
  • 4 cups cubed cooked turkey meat, light and dark meat mixed


Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir in flour, salt, black pepper, celery seed, onion powder, and Italian seasoning; slowly whisk in the chicken broth and milk until the mixture comes to a simmer and thickens. Remove from heat; stir the leftover vegetables, stuffing, and turkey meat into the filling until well combined.

You may store in sealed contained in fridge until you’re ready to use for pies.

If you feel like your Thanksgiving menu was a bit scripted, now is your chance to bring fun back into the kitchen. Bonus: the prep-work is minimized in most of these recipes, with turkey already roasted and stuffing lovingly prepared. Now is the time to sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labor as you cook some special spinoffs that help cement this Thanksgiving meal as a lasting culinary memory.

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