What can you make with Thanksgiving turkey leftovers?
It's the ultimate answer to the age old question, "What should we have for dinner?"
It's exactly why we ALWAYS cook up a larger turkey than we'll need on the big day. Because guaranteed leftovers are a guaranteed good thing.
You may be thinking, but that's too much meat for me and my immediate family to eat. Yes it is. At least in one sitting, it is.
That's where the beauty of this all comes together. This year, your Thanksgiving dinner will make more than just one meal; it can serve to make your family many meals!
Trust me, you'll thank yourself on that cold, winter night when making dinner is the last thing you want to think about. What are some ideas for using leftover turkey?
Having some turkey on hand in the heart of winter can be a true treat! Consider using it for these comforting favorites:
- Turkey Pot Pie
- Pulled turkey BBQ sandwiches
- Spicy turkey chili
- Turkey noodle casserole
- Turkey and wild rice soup
- Turkey enchiladas
and so much more! A quick internet search will result in many family favorite recipes.
But the trick with all of these recipes are you can't make them without turkey. Making a turkey is a lot of work! Why do it twice, when you could do it just once and make so many more meals throughout the year? The possibilities are endless!
Isn't making leftovers hard? I'm always exhausted after cooking dinner.
Not at all! It's the easiest way to make many dinners at once. And you don't have to freeze everything immediately. You can give yourself a day or two before freezing things away.
So how do I make leftovers from my turkey dinner?
Simple. Cook your turkey as you always traditionally do (we've got some tips, here). Serve your perfect Thanksgiving dinner and enjoy the moments of your meal. Reflect on your blessings and be grateful for all that is good. This year, it is more important than ever.
After your dinner; after you enjoy everything for the day, that's when you can take a little bit of time to make more meals for later.
The best part of making these future meals, though, is that you already did the cooking. All you have to do is package everything up. It's easy!
To do this, you'll need just a few storage supplies ahead of time. See our tips below.
Tips for Freezer Containers
- Decide which containers you'll want to use. We recommend freezer bags, plastic freezer containers, or glass containers (use with caution in the freezer).
- Consider what portions you'll use the leftovers in. A quart? A gallon? One pound portions fit in quart size bags.
- Consider what method you'll use to thaw/use the leftovers. Do you want a single ready made meal? Or an entire 1 - 2 pound batch of turkey to make a main dish for your family?
- Make sure you have these containers on hand ahead of the holiday, so divvying up your leftovers is quick, easy, and efficient.
- Have a sharpie, masking tape (or labels) ready to mark and date your containers
Once you have your freezer containers set, the rest is easy. Simply divvy up your leftovers as you hope to use them. Just be sure you have your containers on hand ahead of time so you don't delay freezing things too long.
What can you freeze?
Turkey - Shred the meat off of the carcass, then portion into your desired container. Either 1 quart or 1 pound portions are good for most recipes that you might use the turkey for later. Be sure to remove the stuffing and store separately!
Gravy - Pour into a clean ice cube tray and freeze in individual portions. Once frozen, store in a zip lock bag to easily add them to soups, rice dishes, or anything else.
Mashed Potatoes/Yams - If you aren't using meal portioned containers, use an ice cream scoop to make individual portions of potatoes. Otherwise, portion into your selected container. If using freezer bags, lay them flat (leave room for expansion when you fill the bag) on a cookie sheet in the freezer so they stack and store easier. Remove the cookie sheet after the bag has frozen to the correct shape.
Stuffing - Remove from turkey and portion into desired containers.
Cranberries - Freeze in small containers/portions as you will eat them.
Vegetables - Depending on how the vegetables were cooked, they may or may not keep well. Use your own discretion to decide.
Pie - Freeze in individual, pre-cut portions in containers.
Broth - Cook down the turkey carcass after you've cleaned the meat off for bonus bone broth! Freeze in 1 quart jars to enjoy on its own or use in soups throughout the season.
What shouldn't you freeze?
Greens and salads - It's best to eat these things fresh. They won't keep in a freezer.
Vegetables - Use your discretion to decide if the vegetables you have will keep. The texture may change depending on how they were cooked.
Green Bean Casserole - Unless you can remove the traditional crispy topping, this one won't freeze and reheat with the same texture. If you remove the crispy crunch, you can freeze the rest of the dish and add the toppings when you reheat it later.
When you have everything set in containers how you like, go ahead and mark the containers with the date you packaged them and what's in them so you know what everything is when you decide to use it later. This way, when you decide you want pot pie in January, you have the turkey already ready making for a SUPER simple, delicious, and healthy supper! :)
Have tips of your own? Share them below! We'd love to hear them! Thank you! Have a Happy Thanksgiving!
Photos by RODNAE Productions.