Planning for Thanksgiving Leftovers

A lot of people don’t like leftovers, but nearly everyone looks forward to Thanksgiving leftovers. I’m almost more excited about the leftovers I have planned than I am about the main meal. In fact, I’m planning to buy a turkey that’s way too big for six people so I can have enough to feed my houseguests for three days and still be able to freeze chili and soup for later. If you’re stumped for ideas, here are 20 ideas and tips for planning for them.

  1. Thanksgiving dinner again (just serve the same meal you did on Thanksgiving, but in smaller portions)
  2. Turkey sandwiches
  3. Turkey quesadillas (add crumbled bacon and scallions for extra zing)
  4. Turkey and black bean soup  (I’m making a double batch this year. It’s simply amazing and freezes well.)
  5. Turkey chili (Any recipe will do. Use your favorite and freeze half for later.)
  6. Turkey casserole (substitute turkey for chicken or tuna)
  7. Turkey pot pie (Another good freezer meal. Cut the uncooked crusts to size and freeze with the pot pie filling.)
  8. Shepherd’s pie (For all those mashed potatoes, but you can also use turkey in place of the beef)
  9. Egg “McMuffins” (use up those leftover biscuits)
  10. Turkey stock  (great use for the carcass)
  11. Turkey enchiladas
  12. Curried turkey on rice
  13. Turkey burritos
  14. Turkey tortilla soup (So easy!)
  15. Sweet potato butter (Martha recommends serving it over biscuits)
  16. Melted cranberry sauce over ice cream
  17. Cranberry sauce on bagels and toast
  18. Turkey tetrazzini
  19. Turkey lo mein (Just replace the chicken and substitute the veggies for whatever raw veggies you have on hand.)
  20. Turkey fried rice (Again, replace chicken with turkey and throw in your green beans from Thanksgiving.)

Planning for Leftovers
If you want to make a few dishes that you can freeze and serve again later, plan to have the ingredients on hand and figure out how much turkey you need leftover before you buy the turkey. The Butterball calculator recommends a 9 pound turkey for my dinner for 6, with leftovers, but I’m thinking I might go for 12-15 pounds to ensure I have at least 4 pounds of turkey leftover for sandwiches, soup, chili, quesadillas, and maybe pot pie.

As I suggested before, decide in advance which main leftovers you plan to cook and add the ingredients to your Thanksgiving grocery list so you don’t have to run out the day after Thanksgiving. You’ll also be able to spend the next three weeks shopping the sales for those ingredients if you plan ahead.

Then, if you have more turkey than planned, you can throw together a few of the simpler dishes listed above with whatever you have on hand.

What If You Don’t Have Leftovers?
If you don’t serve a Thanksgiving dinner, you might not have leftovers, or might not be able to take home enough for all your ideas. So, create your own leftovers! Buy a turkey breast and roast it. Serve some for dinner, then use the rest just like you would regular Thanksgiving turkey.

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