Your holiday dinner’s done, guests have gone home…and you’re left with a fridge full of food. It might be convenient and comforting to enjoy a repeat meal the following day. But over the weekend, you might wonder: what can you do with Thanksgiving leftovers–besides having the same old plate of turkey and stuffing again?
We’ve collected some of the best holiday leftover ideas to help you turn what’s left of your feast into new and exciting meals the whole family will love. But first, let’s cover a few key points that’ll help you enjoy them safely.
Food safety for Thanksgiving leftovers
To ensure your leftovers stay fresh and delicious, it’s crucial to store them properly.
For starters, you should refrigerate or freeze certain foods within two hours of cooking or serving–or within one hour if they’ve been exposed to temperatures above 90°F. These foods include:
- Cut fruit
- Cooked rice
- Other perishable items
For optimal freshness, make sure your refrigerator temperature is set to 40°F or below. And keep your freezer at or below 0°F.
When to toss Thanksgiving leftovers
According to USDA guidelines, cooked turkey is best consumed within three or four days when stored at or below 40°F. Remember, refrigeration only slows down bacterial growth; it doesn’t halt it completely. So eating or freezing leftovers quickly is key for both safety and taste.
If you’ve frozen extra portions, there are two main methods to thaw them: in the refrigerator, using cold water, or in the microwave oven. Thawing in the refrigerator is the safest approach, though it may take longer.
Once thawed, if you’re not going to finish the leftovers within 3 to 4 days, they can be safely refrozen.
How to reheat your leftovers properly
When reheating your Thanksgiving leftovers, use a food thermometer to make sure they reach an internal temperature of 165° F.
For sauces, soups, and gravies, bring them to a rolling boil. And always cover leftovers during reheating to prevent moisture loss and ensure even heating.
Now, with these tips in mind, let’s dive into some delicious recipes.
Best Thanksgiving leftover ideas
Cranberry salsa turkey wraps
Transform your leftover turkey into these tantalizing and healthy wraps. Using a blend of sweet and spicy cranberry salsa, tender turkey, and cream cheese, this recipe will redefine your family’s expectation of post-Thanksgiving meals. see recipe
Southwestern turkey bake
This turkey bake is a perfect solution for those wondering what to do with leftover poultry. Infused with spicy jalapeños, spinach, and sour cream, this flavorful dish is sure to satisfy both adults and kids alike. see recipe
Glazed cranberry sweet potato bread
This moist bread utilizes two Thanksgiving staples: mashed sweet potatoes and cranberries. Topped with a delicious orange glaze, it’s a sweet treat that perfectly captures the essence of the holiday season.
Spicy turkey quesadillas
This twist on a Mexican classic uses green chiles to add a lively kick to cranberries and turkey. The bold flavors are beautifully balanced with smooth cream cheese, creating a meal that’s unique, flavorful, and easy to make. see recipe
Thanksgiving leftover casserole
This casserole delightfully fuses all of Thanksgiving’s quintessential flavors: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce. You can make it your own, adding cheese and your choice of vegetables, if desired, to transform holiday classics into one mouthwatering dish. see recipe
Another delicious Thanksgiving leftover casserole
This casserole offers a slightly different, still creative way to use up leftover turkey, stuffing, green beans, mashed potatoes, and gravy in a casserole. The addition of cheese brings all the rich flavors together, creating a delectable dish you won’t be able to resist. see recipe
Turkey Hash This recipe will become a new favorite for coveted holiday leftovers. Using turkey, dressing/stuffing and gravy combined with some fresh new ingredients and some crunch, this hash is simply irresistible. see recipe
Leftover turkey soup
This nutritious, veggie-packed soup is an excellent way to use up both the meat and bones of leftover roast turkey. It’s also grain-free, gluten-free, and dairy-free, so anyone on a special diet can enjoy it, too. see recipe
Thanksgiving leftovers stuffed acorn squash
This dish masterfully combines all your favorite Thanksgiving elements in a unique and scrumptious way. Packed with cranberries, stuffing, turkey, and a medley of vegetables, these stuffed squashes are one of the healthiest and most delicious ways to use up your leftovers. see recipe
Turkey pot pie
Give your Thanksgiving leftovers a makeover with this pot pie recipe. Using turkey, veggies, fresh herbs, and a flaky, buttery crust, this dish is so inviting, you’ll want to eat it every day. see recipe
Wild rice soup
Craving a comforting, yet light meal after your holiday feast? Look no further than this healthy soup. It combines whole-grain wild rice, turkey, and a variety of antioxidant-rich vegetables in a delicious, creamy base. see recipe
With these recipes in hand, you’ll never be at a loss for what to make with Thanksgiving leftovers again. Have fun cooking up these delicious meals and savoring them with your loved ones. Here’s to extending the holiday cheer!