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How to Use Leftover Turkey?

Thanksgiving dinner is known for its abundance of food — must-have turkey recipes, various green bean recipes, and, of course, creamy, buttery mashed potatoes. We’re especially thankful for the Thanksgiving leftovers that extend the festivities into the weekend, especially the leftover turkey recipes. This section finds delectable ideas for the days following Thanksgiving, including Black Friday and well into the weekend. Substitute turkey for chicken in any recipe that calls for it!


Whether you choose a full roast turkey or the more petite turkey crown and turkey breast, there will almost certainly be some meat left over after the big Christmas dinner, whatever cut you choose. While the humble turkey sandwich has its uses, the versatility of this lean, mild meat means it can do much more. We’ve got plenty of ideas for using up cooked turkey and other leftovers, from creamy curries to stir-fries and salads.

Our Top Leftover Turkey Recipes

Fricassee with leftover turkey

Winter is the season of comfort, so why not make use of your Christmas dinner leftovers in this decadent turkey fricassee? It will keep the post-Christmas blues at bay with a creamy mushroom sauce and a splash of white wine. It’s ready in 20 minutes and goes well with pasta, mashed potatoes, or rice.

Tikka masala with turkey

Spice up your leftovers to create an entirely new dish that the whole family will enjoy. This fragrant turkey tikka masala, inspired by the nation’s favorite curry, delivers layers of flavor and gentle chili heat in a rich, creamy sauce. Rather than making a separate curry paste, we cooked everything in one pan, which means less cleanup.

Next level turkey & ham pie

Looking for a kitchen project to keep you busy over the holidays? This elevated turkey and ham pie is not only a fantastic way to use up leftovers, but it’s also a show-stopping celebratory dish in its own right. Make your sage-infused shortcrust case, then generously fill with cooked meats, herbs, and leeks in a creamy mustard sauce. This banquet-worthy dish will please a crowd and can be served warm for dinner or cold as part of a buffet spread.

Turkey ramen

The excesses of Christmas can often leave us yearning for something lighter. This warming and healthy turkey ramen, made with shredded leftover meat, noodles, shiitake mushrooms, and eggs, is ideal. If you have any leftover gravy, it adds a rich, meaty flavor to the broth.

Grain bowls with leftover turkey

Another nourishing meal to keep you going through the holiday season. These gluten-free leftover turkey grain bowls are bursting with nutritious ingredients like avocados, lentils, probiotic yogurt, and crunchy rainbow slaw. Warming spices like za’atar and harissa pair well with the zesty tahini dressing that ties the whole thing together.

Noodles with spicy turkey

With so much going on during the holidays, dinner preparation can be a bit of a rush. So having a few quick and easy dishes on hand, such as these spicy turkey noodles, is extremely beneficial. This quick stir-fry combines leftover turkey, noodles, spring onions, and beansprouts in a zingy soy and lime sauce and is ready in 30 minutes. We used a red chili to add some heat, but you can easily leave it out if serving to children. Add extra leftover vegetables like shredded sprouts or carrots to make it even more delicious.

Christmas leftover sandwich

We believe we’ve come close to creating the most epic Boxing Day sarnie. Hollow out a crusty loaf of bread to make this mouthwatering Italian-style muffuletta sandwich and layer all of your leftovers inside. Cooked turkey, stuffing, pigs in blankets, cranberry sauce, spinach, and crispy onions are all ideal ingredients for a Christmas leftover sandwich. Serve with a handful of crispy for extra crunch.

Leftover turkey casserole

This hearty one-pot turkey casserole is ideal for using up all your Christmas leftovers, including the trimmings. Add any hearty root vegetables, such as parsnips, carrots, or celeriac. This stew is deliciously served with mash or jacket potatoes and simmered in a flavorful honey and mustard stock.

Patties of turkey curry

These fantastically meaty turkey curry patties will up your lunch game. We will hit your taste buds with a wonderful array of herbs and spices with just one bite, all encased within a soft and crispy homemade turmeric pastry. These gorgeous golden patties are ideal for the days following a large meal, or we can easily freeze them for later use.

Roast potato, turkey, sausage & stuffing pie

Nothing beats a bubbling golden potato bake to welcome you home at the end of a long day. This simple roast potato, turkey, sausage, and stuffing pie combines all of the best parts of Christmas dinner into one dish. Put it together in 10 minutes and let the oven do the rest. This comforting dish, with a creamy mustard sauce filling and crispy, cheesy topping, may even outdo Christmas dinner.

Christmas pizza

Kids will love this festive pizza, topped with leftover meat and a clever scattering of stuffing. It may not be for purists of Italian cuisine, but it has won us over.

Turkey squeak and bubble

This turkey bubble and squeak cakes, one of our favorite post-Christmas fry-ups, are the perfect way to repurpose your leftovers. Cooked turkey meat is combined with brussels sprouts, potatoes, parsnips, gravy, and herbs in Joe Wicks’ quick recipe. These lean and crispy cakes, served with cranberry sauce, are a welcome change from some of the heavier Christmas fare.

Turkey Singapore noodles

Get your wok out and start sizzling. This vibrant turkey Singapore noodle dish is ideal if you have leftover brown meat from legs and wings, as it calls for shredded meat rather than diced chunks.

Turkey cacciatore with a twist

This Italian-style bake will please everyone with its cheesy breadcrumb topping and rich tomato sauce. When all the holiday-themed food becomes too much, our simple turkey cacciatore is just the thing.

Korean rice pot

With our quick Korean-inspired rice pot, you can keep things light. This nutritious bibimbap combines diced turkey, spinach, and shredded carrots on a bed of rice. Serve with fried eggs and nutty sesame seeds on top.

Turkey & potato curry

Do you need a quick and healthy way to use up your leftovers? This 20-minute turkey curry also includes potatoes and peppers in a light tomato sauce. Serve with naan bread, rice, chutney and your favorite curry paste.

Mini turkey & cranberry pies

If you’re in charge of any post-Christmas/pre-New Year’s Eve entertaining, these mini turkey and cranberry pies will please your guests – add a block of shortcrust pastry to your big grocery shopping list.

Moroccan turkey salad

Instead of heavy meals, try this light Moroccan-style turkey salad with fried aubergine, cherry tomatoes, harissa, and rocket. Finish with pomegranate seeds and mint for a refreshing burst, then serve with pita bread.

Thanksgiving turkey with homemade chapatis

This mildly spiced treat will add a retro touch to your Boxing Day spread. Get some roti flour and make these homemade chapatis with coronation turkey.

Slaw made from leftover turkey

Make a light, refreshing salad with leftover turkey, raw vegetable trimmings, and punchy lime dressing.

Quick and Healthy Turkey Veggie Soup

You can freeze our leftover turkey after the holidays so we can have meals like this all year. This soup is especially tasty on a chilly autumn or winter day. If you want to make the dish more filling, add some cooked pasta.

Turkey a la King with Rice

With our leftover turkey, we can make this dish. It’s a nice change from casseroles and very easy to make. Serve with rice, noodles, cookies, or toast.

How Long can you Keep Leftover Turkey?

The CDC recommends storing leftover turkey in the refrigerator for safety reasons because Clostridium perfringens bacteria, a common cause of food poisoning, thrives in cooked food at room temperature.
Before storing the turkey in the fridge, the CDC recommends slicing large cuts of meat into smaller pieces to allow them to cool faster. Meat left out at room temperature for more than two hours should be discarded.
According to experts, leftover turkey can be kept in the refrigerator for up to three or four days if stored in an airtight container. When reheating the turkey, ensure it reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit once more before serving.

Is it Possible to Freeze Leftover Turkey?

Tirbois recommends freezing leftover turkey in airtight plastic bags for up to three months. Before freezing the meat, he suggests removing the bones.
However, Malivert warns that reheating frozen turkey may harm its texture, causing it to dry out. When reheating, adding butter and stock can help keep the moisture.

When and How should Turkey be Thawed?

Suppose you’re dealing with a frozen bird weighing 12 and 16 pounds. In that case, Malivert recommends transferring it from the freezer to the refrigerator three days before you plan to cook it or on the Monday before Thanksgiving. Please place it in a large container in the fridge to catch any stray juices as it thaws.

Tirbois recommends 24 hours of defrosting per 5 pounds of meat because the size of the turkey can affect how long it takes to defrost. A 20-pound turkey, for example, would take about four days to defrost in the fridge.
If the turkey is still frozen in spots after several hours in the fridge, Malivert recommends leaving it out on the counter for up to two hours the morning of cooking. This is the most secure method of thawing a turkey.

If your bird is frozen when you need to start cooking, Tirbois suggests thawing it in cold water for about 30 minutes per pound. Place the turkey in a leak-proof plastic bag to prevent cross-contamination and water absorption, then immerse it in a sink or large pot filled with cold tap water. Tirbois recommends changing the water every 30 minutes to keep it within a safe temperature range.

Is it Necessary to Clean a Turkey?

The USDA recommends not rinsing a turkey. This is because washing the bird increases the possibility of cross-contamination and spreading bacteria, according to Tirbois. The water you use to rinse the bird could easily splash onto other surfaces in your kitchen, spreading dangerous bacteria. There’s no need to rinse the surface of the turkey; properly cooking it will eliminate any harmful bacteria.

If the giblets are still inside, you should remove them. Ensure the bird is completely thawed before reaching into the front and back cavities with your hands or tongs. Butchers usually wrap the giblets in paper or plastic. While we can discard the giblets, Tirbois recommends using them to add a rich flavor to your gravy.

How to Safely Handle Turkey Leftovers?

Allow your cooked turkey to cool completely before refrigerating it as soon as possible – within 90 minutes is ideal.
If you leave your turkey out all afternoon, it may become unsafe to eat. Remember this before you take your post-feasting nap.
We should consume leftover turkey within two days, so if you don’t think you’ll be able to finish it in time, freeze it in portions.
To avoid freezer burn, ensure your turkey is properly wrapped or placed in a sealed container before freezing it. Sticky labels are also useful for adding dates and descriptions to your frozen goods.
If you’re storing leftover cooked turkey in the fridge, place it on the middle shelf with the rest of your ready-to-eat foods. Keep raw meat and fish on the bottom shelf.

Conclusion

Most Thanksgiving hosts end up with an abundance of turkey leftovers. So, congratulations! If you’re sick of making the same dinner over and over, this bounty allows you to create many dishes. Shred or dice the cooked turkey to make a tasty meal for yourself and your family.